Sunday, 30 December 2007

TV Picks of 2007 - 1 - Five Days

In the second of my series of blogs looking back to 2007, the first of my TV picks of the year is the compelling thriller which started the year off…

Five Days is the only British Drama that I have picked this year. While most of the other dramas shown on television, and this is especially true of the big flagship dramas shown by the BBC/ITV and Channel 4, have had the air of being done before. This drama, shown at the start of the year & repeated on BBC4 in April, took the whodunit/thriller genre and added elements that the writers don’t normally think of.

Essentially “Five Days” tells the story of the disappearance of a mother, Leanne & her children from the hard shoulder of a busy motorway (they are on their way to see Leanne’s Grandfather), with each episode set on a specific day. The first episode is set on day 1 (the day Leanne and her children go missing), the second is set on day 3, the third is set on day 28, the fourth is set on day 33 and the fifth is set on day 79.

This was an unusual way of telling the story, as was the decision to make the victims family a key part of the story. Normally in thrillers, the victims families are in a way the forgotten story, except if they have something to do with the crime. Here, they were centre stage, as the effects of the media storm around them were explored in detail.

David Oyelowo’s casting as Matt, Leanne’s partner, was good. His performance was excellent as Matt’s world crashed around him, his partner was missing while the press began to hound him over her disappearance in thinly veiled racist tones. Matt’s relationship with Leanne’s parents also was a key part of the story, with hints that Matt was tolerated but not really approved of. The appearance of Daf, the father of Leanne’s oldest child, Tanya (who pulled out of the fateful trip) casts new light on this relationship.

Another part of this drama is the appearance of media officers, and more crucial to the plot, the family liaison officer, who is the link to the two intertwining plots regarding the police investigation and the family reaction to what has happened. The investigating officers were excellently played by Hugh Bonneville & Janet McTeer, the characters again differed from bog standard got to have a character quirk normal TV detectives in that they just got on with the job in hand. McTeer’s character actually had shades of Jane Tennison running through her, especially during her retirement party in episode 5.

Overall, this is one of the most realistic dramas of this year. There are several twists and turns, with the ramifications and reactions of each event explored. To me, the final twist is one that did not become apparent until a minute or so before the final twist was revealed. A gripping drama, with an inventive narrative, “Five Days” is certainly an excellent drama.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Picks of the Year 2007

As is traditional at this time of year, we look back over the last year. Indeed, the BBC have already done so with their Sports Personality of the Year programme. The shortlist was truly awful, but the correct person won.

2007 will not go down as a great sporting year, and this will be reflected when I pick my sporting moments of the year in a couple of weeks time. Last year I wrote about Caitlin McLatchey winning Commonwealth Gold and the catalyst it was to Scotland’s most successful Commonwealth Games, St Mirrens 1st Division Championship win, England’s World Cup exit at the hands of Portugal, Scotland’s Euro 2008 qualifying win against France and England’s defeat to Australia in the 2nd Ashes Test.

I wil also be picking my moment of the year, but firstly I will be picking my television moments of the year. Last year I picked 5 programmes, this year its doubtful if I will pick as many. Apart from not having so much time on my hands this year, the quality of television programmes has been exceptionally poor. Added to the ongoing scandal regarding faking competition winners, which surrounds most of our programme makers. 2007 must be the worst year in television history. Thankfully the Shetty/Goody thing in Celebrity Big Brother may just have been that programmes jump the shark moment.

I picked Life on Mars last year, which returned this year. This year’s series wasn’t as good, the first half of the series was ok, while the characters seamed to forget previous events. The last 3 episodes, coinciding with the introduction of the mysterious DCI Frank Morgan, saw the show back to its best. Ashes to Ashes, the follow up show has a tough act to follow. I also picked Doctor Who last year, and again the first half of this series felt as if the show was on cruse control. Again it picked up half way through the run, the Human Nature/The Family Blood story is up there as one of the best stories since Who came back. The return of the Master was excellent too, though it did have a bit of a rubbish ending. Last year I also picked Fantabulosa, Low Winter Sun & What We Did On Holiday.

Before I go, I want to mention 2 programmes I would have picked, had I seen more of them. Spooks any time I have seen it this series has been excellent, with Hermione Norris excellent as Ros, youre not sure which side she is on this series. Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares has also been excellent, I would go so far as to say that it is the best reality show on British television. I do wish the update shows didn’t feel like a repeat thought.

As ever all comments are welcome. See you next time.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Trump Time!


Over the past week, the news has been full of stories regarding the donor crisis surrounding New Labour. Day after day the revelations have been coming. There are two things I have to say about this, firstly I am amazed that Wendy Alexander is still the leader of the New Labour group at Holyrood. I thought that she was toast reading the Sunday Herald at the weekend. Secondly, I can’t believe how bored I am with all the coverage. Actually bored is probably the wrong word, but I just feel completely unmoved by it all (I notice that the BBC's Political Editor, Nick Robinson is equally unmoved). In sharp contrast, the story which has got my nostrils piqued this week concerns the stramash surrounding Donald Trumps plans to build a golf resort, hotel and some holiday homes. Oh and also some houses too.

This story blew up last week when the Infrastructure Committee of Aberdeenshire Council blocked these proposals. The reasons given by the chair, Councillor Martin Ford, are.. . “It broke a whole raft of planning policies in relation to environmental protection, housing in the countryside and it had wider implications in terms of the council's whole approach to biodiversity conservation and the environment."

Now these seem like reasonable reasons for blocking a large development, yet supporters of the development have behaved incredibly since this vote was taken. Councillors have called for votes of confidence (and the resignation of) in Councillor Ford. The tone appears to have been set by George Sorial, who said after the proposals were blocked “It is our position that the council has failed to adequately represent the voice and opinion of the people of Aberdeen and the Shire who are ultimately the losers here”.

You would have thought that the Trump Organisation would dust itself off, amend the plans and appeal the decision. Yea right. The vitriol aimed at these councillors has been both terrible and yet suspicious, and it shows the ugly “Parcel o rogues” side of the Scottish psyche to itself. Sadly SNP politicians have been at the forefront of the attacks on Aberdeen Council, with the local MSP Brian Adam calling for Martin Ford’s resignation. The “calling in” of the planning application, to be investigated & discussed by the SNP government at Holyrood is the biggest slap in the face, and the biggest undermining of Scottish local government since re-organisation in 1994.

The SNP government have taken a huge risk over this, not in parliament because the move has been welcomed by all parties, but the perception of the government is at risk. If the proposals pass with amendments, the government will have done a skilful job. If however, the proposals pass unaltered, it will send a dangerous message to the world. Scotland is for sale. That will be a very big black mark for this SNP administration.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Data Protection

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new job. As part of the training, I did a short course on Data Protection. I mention this because parts of it came back to me last night after watching a report on Watchdog regarding various data protection breaches emanating from Her Maj’s Revenue & Customs department. The largest breach, the missing discs with the 25 million child benefit claimants is still at large, but these other leeks are perhaps more worrying.

The most interesting part of the training related to working conditions which would see a rise in security breaches. These include Autocratic Line management, over emphasis on performance targets, lack of an audit trail and low morale. Bearing in mind that politicians of both colours were engaging in race to see how many jobs they could axe from the civil service (sorry, they were identifying savings) during the last Westminster election campaign, you would think that perhaps that they would take some of the blame.

Err no, it would appear that it was some managers fault. In the mean time, there is no sign of the discs, the mistakes and breaches pile up, and the missing data has fallen off the news agenda.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

The Final Act

Today will be a big day in qualification for next years European Championship. Northern Ireland need a win tonight against Denmark to stay in the hunt (their last game is away in Spain), while all of England will be hoping for an Israeli win over Russia this evening. The main event though will be in just about 2 hours when Scotland play Italy, needing a win to qualify (Italy play the Faroes & France are away to Ukraine on Wednesday, this is Scotland’s last game). Its Scotland’s biggest game since the Netherlands playoff game 4 years ago, and the most eagerly awaited Scotland game since the England play off games 8 years ago.
The hype started when Scotland beat France 1-0 in Paris in September. Since then we have beaten Ukraine 3-1 (I saw highlights of this game in Malta, with German commentary, weird!), but lost 2-0 in Georgia. Glasgow was full yesterday of people with various pieces of Scotland paraphernalia, Kilts and Scotland tops. Incredible. I only hope that if we lose, we don’t take it badly. We do have a good record against Italy in Scotland, we beat them 1-0 in qualifying for the 1966 world cup. We drew 0-0 at Ibrox in 1992 (USA ’94) and more recently we drew 1-1 at Hampden 2 years ago (See picture).
I think that we can win, I only hope that Italy aren’t in the mood to sweep us aside. I suspect that we will only get a draw, which will mean us hoping for a Ukraine win on Wednedsay.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

A Small Tase of Timeshare!

Hi there.

Yep, it has been ages since I posted, well I have been away and had stuff to do when I got back. We were away in Malta last month, and it was not the best holiday that I have ever been on. Firstly, our flight was delayed by 19 hours, a computer had malfunctioned so one had to be flown in from Switzerland. Gee thanks a bunch British Jet (is it me or is that the naffest name ever for an airline company, just with the addition of the word British? By the time we arrived at our hotel (and the time that our hotel discovered what had happened to us, again thanks British Jet), our rooms had to be re-booked.

We stayed at Radisson SAS Golden Sands resort, and it was great. Except for the staff. They bungled our room allocation, giving us a twin bed monster suite, before giving us a double bed room (we had asked for a double bed). They bungled next allocation too, by not alerting staff that the room we were now occupying was occupied. I am not sure who got the bigger surprise, myself or Clayton, the staff member who thought he was entering a vacant room… at 12:35am! They also bungled the fact that Claytons 6am alarm call was not cancelled, or that Clayton had inadvertently cancelled our card keys, so that when I went upstairs to get Ange’s hat, I couldn’t get in. This held up the Malta tour that we had booked ourselves on (which the driver had no idea we were coming on).

The hotel bungled lots of things, but their attitude was good, compared to that of the Island Residence Club. They are the Timeshare arm of the hotel. We are toying with the idea of a timeshare, but this experience has put us off for the moment. We let them know about it, and they took the huff. Big style. Yvonne, the IRC manager ‘lost the plot’ completely, and Brian the ‘big cheese’ said our comments about how Anfi del Mar was miles better left him ‘depressed’. Aw diddums!

Though I wouldn’t say our experiences are the only factor. It’s a good hotel, but it’s just not a 5 star hotel/resort.

See You Later

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Brit-pop! Lets go!

All the recent nostalgia about 1997, with the anniversary of Labour’s election win, the death of Di, and the devolution referendum, reminded me that Brit-pop kind of died off at the same time. I had written a blog last year, which I posted on my Yahoo page about Britpop, which was my thoughts on a programme celebrating 10 years since the height of Britpop (it was originally shown in August 2005, but I was commenting on the repeat in July 2006). Somehow I had forgotten to re-publish it when I set up this site…

I was indulging in some channel surfing last Thursday, and came across a repeat of a programme called "The Story of Britpop", which was first shown on the 10th anniversary of the Blur "Country House"/Oasis "Roll With It" thing. It annoyed me.

It annoyed me, in that i disagreed with some of the opinions expressed, but it annoyed me also because it was, in some respects, a rewriting of history.

The view of the presenter, John Harris, was that these were new bands, doing what Brittish bands should be doing, writing about the urban experience in a way that harks back to the 1960's. I thought it was repeating the 60's and 70's, but with a modern twist. We had The Kinks, played by Blur, the Beatles played by Oasis, the stones played by Primal Scream. Glam was represented by both Suede & Pulp.

Pulp were my favourites, they wrote about things in a gritty, realistic kind of a way. Crucially their records also sounded interesting & inventive as well, which is where Britpop fell down for me. Not too many of the bands were that inventive with how they sounded, happy to borrow riffs from the Beatles, Stones and.. er ... Wire. This is why Britpop does not stand up alongside the youthquakes from 1963 (Beatlemania, summer of love), 1976 (Punk, new-wave and New Romanticissm)& 1988 (Acid house followed by Mad-chester), for while the other youthquake movements grew for 2- 3 years afterwards, Britpop alarmingly quickly desended into Dad-rock. For me, the best album of this period, and of the decade, was Dummy by Portishead, re-doing the past by puting a slow, hip hop spin on old school cinematic scores, and BOY can Beth Gibbons sing...

The other thing that got on my wick was the link between the rise of Britpop and New Labour. My theory here is that Britpop died on the 2nd of May 1997 rather that at the Downing Street reception quoted in the programme. I say that because for whatever reason, the main bands in this scene who released records after New Labour got in, released duff records, or records that just stiffed. Be Here Now, This is Hardcore, and the Sleeper one (Pleased to Meet You????) were all thought to be not as good as Morning Glory, Different Class and The It Girl. The first victims of the curse of Blair.

Britpop was dead, long live Bigbeat!

As for the legacy. The fact that most Brittish "indie" bands all sound the same. Nevermind, you know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention.

I think what I was trying to say was that Britpop was such a mixed bag, lots of bits were good, but there were some not so good bits to it. At least it killed off the New Wave of New Wave movement.

See you later

Monday, 10 September 2007

Losing it...

HI there. I haven't really had time to blog of late, and i am sorry about that. I did notice something in the Paisley Express which is one of the most ridiculous pieces of spinning i have ever seen.

One of our local MSP's (for the neighbouring constituancy of Paisley North as it happens) is Wendy Alexander, who will soon be taking over as the New Labour leader at Holyrood. You may remember as well that her party lost control of Renfrewsire Council to a SNP/Lib Dem coalition. Since then we have had to put up with the sort of backbiting that sore loosers normaly indulge in.

But to get back to the Paisley Express. Ms Alexander writes a colum for this organ, and today, while bemoaning the fact that another 2 town centre shops were to close (her column today was headlined SNP MUST DO SOMETHING TO STOP TOWN CENTRE ROT), she goes on to say -quote

"If Labour had been re-elected in May, it would have helped breath new life into the town centre by allowing it to share in a £50 million Town Centre Turnaround fund.

The Cash bonanza would have been used to aid the town centre's recovery..."

She goes on to outline various measures where this money would have been spent.

The question many of us would like to ask is, where was this money before the election, where was this money say, oh, 3 years ago when Paisley town centre started to go down the tubes. Would Paisley town centre be more worthy of re-generation than, say, some council buildings. Why was this money promised if a new Labour administration got back into Cotton Street. And how and why can Labour get a hold of £50 million now, is it our money that they forgot to tell us about? Answers on a postcard please!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Welcoming Sellik


Tomorrow the mighty buds face their toughese game of the season so far when Celtic visit. The two sides had contrasting games this week. We went crashing out of the CIS cup to East Fife, while Celtic came through an epic European Cup tie with Spartak Moscow, eventually winning on penalties. It’s the first time Celtic has won a European tie in this fashion (losing to Inter Milan in 1972 and Valencia in 2001).

We are overdue a win against one of the Old Firm, our last victories against Celtic date back to the 1989/90 season (1-0 at home in September ‘89, and 3-0 at Parkhead in April ‘90), lets hope that we perform better than we did at home last season, when our failure to turn up in the first half laid the foundations for a 3-1 win.

Oh and the title is a reference to how some of the Celtic support pronounce Celtic “sellik”.

See you later.

Monday, 13 August 2007

The Father of Indie is Dead


One of the television programmes that I will not be writing about in my annual pick of the year blogs will be the BBC’s latest rockumentry The Seven Ages of Rock. I saw a couple of episodes and found them an incredible mixed bag. The episodes on Prog-rock and Heavy Metal (which is not really my thing) I found interesting & informative. The episodes on Punk and “Indie” (which i am very much a fan of) were frustrating and taken from a particular viewpoint. The indie episode started from the viewpoint that “indie” was an invention of The Smiths, being a case in point.

I mention this now because at the weekend, arguably the father of “indie” music (if we must call it that) Tony Wilson passed away. As well as being a television presenter in the Granada region, he also started a record label with some money that he came into. The intention was that new bands would put out some singles on Wilson’s label before signing with a bigger operator, as had been happening with the previous independent record companies which had sprung up in the wake of Punk. All this changed with the arrival of Joy Division, and their manager Rob Gretton.
In an earlier blog, I had Tony Wilson as one of the 5 people/acts who really, really earned an outstanding contribution to music gong at the Brits. Apart from the acts that appeared on the Factory roster at one time or another (Joy Division, OMD, New Order, James, Happy Mondays to name 5), they lead the way for other independent record labels, which in turn helped their acts to thrive. Mute had Depeche Mode from the start, as well as Goldfrapp, Rough Trade was the home to The Smiths, while Creation was home to Primal Scream, the Boo Radleys, Teenage Fanclub and Oasis before it sold itself to Sony in 1995. As a result, the British music scene flourished in the late 1980’s, breaking free of the shackles of the major labels.

It was not just in guitar music that Wilson and Factory led. In 1981, New Order were touring the USA for the first time. Danceteria in New York made such a big impression on the Factory entourage that they began planning their own version in Manchester, much to the chagrin of Martin Hannett who was hoping that Factory would invest in Studio technology, particularly a Fairlight sampler (Wilson & Hannett fell out over this, Hannett returned to the Factory fold in 1988 to produce the Happy Mondays “Bummed” album). The result was FAC 51, or The Hacienda, which 6 years later was at the epicentre of the boom in Acid House.

Personally I am sad as a little individuality has gone out of the British Music scene. I’d have also preferred Wilson to find the next great thing rather than Simon Cowell.
See You Later.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Buds 1 Motherwell 0

Hmmm, as you can see, not the best start to the season.

To be fair to motherwell, the were excellent for the first half. They were first to every ball, first in the tackle. The winner was the most unexpected piece of football you will see all season, and the best goal I have seen with the naked eye for a long time. There were about 3 1-2’s before the ball found McGarry. Gee thanks for that one Mr Hendrie.

I know that it was only the first game of the season, but can our defenders please stop launching long balls forward. As we showed for (not long enough) spells in the second half, if our midfielders get the ball they are able to produce the same sort passing style that worked for Motherwell in the first half. The long ball tactic made us look one dimensional. No wonder Mark McGee changed his formation to a defensive one after 10 minutes of the second half.

Still should be a nice easy game next Saturday.

See you later.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Wrong Target


I was going to write about the St Mirren game on Saturday (there will be more on that later). However, a couple of stories appeared in the Paisley Daily Express yesterday, which quite frankly demonstrate what a hair tearingly frustrating place Paisley is. It also shows why it is such a hole.

On page 3 was a story headlined “FURY AT SALMONDS UNIVERSITY SELL-OUT” where the FM, Alex Salmond is critisised by all right minded Paisley Buddies, and Hugh Henry, for giving the go ahead for Paisley University to change its name to The University of the West of Scotland. Mr Henry, I should point out is my local MSP, and he is “Furious”, claiming that “The SNP made great play about retaining the name of Paisley in the title. Now we find that with no consultation and no publicity, Alex Salmond and the SNP have betrayed Paisley, its history and its heritage”

This is clearly humbug from a former minister who would have been bound by the position of the Scottish cabinet when they gave the mearger of Paisley University and Hamilton’s Bell College the thumbs up. I am also offended because this is really small beer compared to the shooting at the weekend of Andrew Devlin outside of Suzy Q’s nightclub in Paisleys Stock Street (pictured).It is one of the great failures of the New Labour led executive that the criminal gangs survived and prospered. Its no surprise that Mr Henry would want us to forget their failings on that front, but to pick on something so trivial… Scottish New Labour really have lost the plot.

Friday, 3 August 2007

A New Season Awaits


Tomorrow the football season begins all over again. Here in Scotland, we hope that the season will go on to conclude at next years European Championships, held in Austria and Switzerland. Crucial fixtures in the Autumn against France (away), Ukraine (Home), Georgia (Away), and Italy (Home) will determine if we get there.

In the meantime the domestic season gets underway. After last seasons dramatic escape from relegation, the mighty St Mirren begin their last season at Love Street with a visit from Motherwell, who have provided some happy memories of late for the Saints. On top of their 3-0 defeat in the Scottish Cup last year, St Mirren were undefeated against the Steelmen last season, culminating in the 3-2 win on the penultimate day of last season which sent Dunfermline into the Scottish League.

Of last seasons squad, the biggest losses are Kirk Broadfoot, who has moved to Rangers, and top scorer John Sutton, who has gone to Wycome. After the departure of Adam and Lappin, this leaves Van Zanten and Kean as the surviving key players from the 2005/6 promotion/championship side.

Gus McPherson has not been idle in the transfer window. He has brought in 4 players, Mark Howard from Cardiff, Will Hainning from Oldham, Gary Mason from Dunfermline and, prehaps the bigest coup, Craig Dargo from Inverness. Dargo is a former Scotland under 21 player, and has scored a lot of goals with Kilmarnock and Inverness. It will be unfortunate that he will not start against Motherwell, as he is a key player.

This season, I think that we will finish just outside the top 6, maybe about 8th. Gretna will fight it out with possibly Inverness for survival. As for the championship, it will be Celtic by 5 points.

Enjoy the rollercoaster.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

New Pearl of India No Less

Hullo, so where was I before last week and all the PC problems.

The other week there it was my birthday, and the purple rhino asked me where I would like to go for dinner. Sutherlands (posh Scottish restaurant) used to be nice (we haven’t been back for a couple of years), we’ve been to Minsky’s (ultra posh New York deli diner in the Glasgow Hilton) lots of times. I thought that it would be a good idea for us to go to a restaurant that we haven’t been to for years, The Pearl of India which the last time we went, oooh on Guy Fawkes Night 2004 was on Aitkenhead Road across the road from Hampden. It was small, but the best curry house that we’ve been to.

We booked the table for the Saturday, the day before my Birthday. We were surprised to learn that the Restaurant had re-located, and re-named itself New Pearl of India. It was now on Cathcart Road, across from the entrance to Mount Florida Train Station. We met up with our friend Fi and headed up there after a bit of shopping in Paisley.

When we got there, we were taken to our tables. The new premises are a lot more spacious than the old place, with a more modern feel. We started with the Popadoms/spicey onions/sauce combination, with Ange asking for Mango Chutney. Straight away the standard was set very high, excellent popadoms and spicy onions which tasted of onions.

For our starters it was a selection of Bhagis’, Pakoras and Chicken Chaat. Now Ange loves the sauce that covers the Chicken Chaat here, so at every opportunity she was asking for the recipe for the sauce, to no avail. Again the starters were excellent, though sometimes I do wish I had a bit more discipline when eating the starters, knowing when to leave room for the main course is a skill, especially here.

The main courses were excellent. A good curry is one where all the flavours can be tasted, and not be suffocated by spicy (chilli) heat. Clay Oven in Cash and Carry land in Glasgow was the last curry-house to carry that off, and the New Pearl certainly did it here. I had Lamb Jalfrezzi, which was excellent. Warm, but enough to let the flavours reach my palate. The rice was good too, but one of the things we came for was the Nan Breads, particularly their Peshwari Nan. This place does the best Peshwari’s that the Purple Rhino, and myself, have tasted.

The Purple Rhino and Fi both had mild curries which rather than be the blander counterparts, were all flavoursome with a hint of sweetness. Ange had her speciality, Chicken Makhanni Massala, while Fi had Chicken Pattia. We all shared a bowl of Chicken Chasni too. These particularly complimented the Peshwari Nan.

Afterwards, we headed back into town to meet up with Fi’s partner, Ferg, who had been at the Scottish Open golf tournament. A good night was had by all, and I would thoroughly recommend the New Pearl to anyone.

See you next time.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Oh Number 9


Sorry I haven’t been blogging of late. I have just been really busy with stuff, that and a touch of writers block. However, there’s nothing like a birthday to cure writers block, especially if it’s mine. Later on, I’ll be writing about the utterly magnificent meal that we had a week past Saturday. However, I have a little something to get off my chest.

Those of you who have looked at my Blogroll will have noticed a blog called Bloodbus, which is the factual account of a Glasgow bus driver. It is factual because dear reader, and I would plump your cushions up before I start, I have seen things as bad as those chronicled on Bloodbus.

Myself an my partner had got to Glasgow Central, thinking that we were living in a modern society when we found out that the trains had finished for the night at quarter past 12, half an hour earlier than they finish on Thursday’s and Fridays (go figure that one!). This meant a trip on the No#9 to Paisley, the “catch the dafties in the one net and put them all on the same bus” special. I don’t think the 14th was a full moon, but what we were about to experience, a full moon was the only explanation.

After we got on, the next stop was at Curry’s on Jamaica Street, where about 20 people tried to get on. There was no room for them, so the bus doors stayed shut. Someone on the outside tried to open the doors, and a crown of people tried to get on. The driver tried to get them off.. We didn’t move for a couple of minutes until everyone who had tried to get on, was back off. Not the only hold up of the night.

We got to Cessnock and the bus stopped again. This time it didn’t move. We were seated so couldn’t see why we had stopped. I thought that the bus had broken down because we had begun to move slowly. Then word spread, someone was standing in front of the bus. Sure enough we got confirmation that indeed there was someone, who wanted on, standing in front of the bus, not letting it go past until he got on. I believe there were people taking pictures on their camara phones for posterity (go on, try and search for in on you-tube, its bound to be there).

After about 5 minutes we were let go, either because the guy was too drunk, realising that he had no chance of getting on the bus, or that he heard that the police might be on their way. Either way we were on our way home. All we needed was a quick taxi once we got back to Paisley, which we got thanks to the Purple Rhino’s new pal Claire.

See you next time!

Monday, 18 June 2007

The Thrill of the Chase


Just a quick one, not one about my holidays this time, but a quick posting about TV, especially as I haven’t written about the TV for a while.

Actually, its more about The Chase, BBC1’s new(ish) Sunday Night drama. Its one of these horribly clichéd Sunday nighs shows where if its not about Doctors in the 1950’s, then it must be coppers in the 1960’s. This one is about a family of vets, who have lost their father, in suspicious circumstances.

However what lifts this programme from the bland to the annoying is that I feel that every male character is just poorly written. Their dialogue is clichéd, their characterisation is 2 dimensional. It is a pity as the programme itself looks quite interesting, if not a tad unchallenging.

Last night I also caught the South Bank Show featuring the guy who should have won Best Actor at the Television BAFTA’s the other week, Michael Sheen. It was an interesting interview, partially touching on his current work playing David Frost in the play “Nixon/Frost”, which is supposed to be turned into a film soon. A lot of the interview though centred on his excellent portrayal of our dear leader, Tony Blair, in the dramas “The Deal” and “The Queen”.

Finaly, I just want to say that I have been blogging for exactly a year now, starting on my yahoo360 page. Im not sure if I am any the wiser as to what I am doing, but I have enjoyed it. You can judge here if my prose has got better, or just more purple! Here’s to the next year.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Maspalomas 2007

Hi there

You know there was a discussion on blackandwhitearmy regarding what people were doing on Saturday the 12th of May, the date when the mighty St Mirren came from 2 down to beat Motherwell (at Fir Park mind) 3-2, only to hear that Dunfermline had lost at Inverness and that the mighty Buds were safe.

Me, I went to Playa de Ingles to a Gay Pride festival.

It was my girlfriend’s idea to go after hearing about it on the plane. I just thought why not. We weren’t sure what time the parade started so we headed there about midday, arriving at about 1 o’clock at the Yumbo centre, a kind of multi storey version of the Piazza circa 1988. After some wandering around we found out that we were about 3 hours early for the parade. But we also found out about the concert, which started about 8:30 in the evening.

We wandered to the courtyard area where the concert was due to take place and caught some of the sound checks, we caught the Jacob Sisters who threw the biggest hissy fit I have ever seen, and we caught Marc Almond and Bucks Fizz too.

After that we then went for some food. We went to this Chinese restaurant in the Yumbo centre, where the food was incredibly greasy. The owners even tried to ration ice cubes! Once we had finished we reckoned it was time for the parade, so we wandered outside the centre to find a spot for the parade, which soon enough came round the corner!

There was a high proportion of Scots at the parade, which was good. We have an image of ourselves as buttoned up repressed presbytarian types, which is far from the truth, given enough sunshine and hedonism. Sunshine really should be on the NHS (translate vitamin D12, the magic one that we can’t make ourselves!)...

After the parade we went to the top street and mingled with the participants in the parade, got some pictures, and then headed down to pick a spot for the concert, which I will write about next time. We thought about a first floor view until we realized that we would probably need to sit down at some point so we sat down outside Buddies Bar (yes, a Buddies Bar, in Gran Canaria of all places), got some drinks and relaxed waiting for the show. Except we got talking to a girl called Emma who was perhaps a bit too, um, open! Its not that she wasn’t good to talk too, but she was just a bit too frank about certain things, that’s all.

Anyway next time, I’ll be writing about the concert, see you then.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Spirit Of The Sea

So, what did we actually do on holiday during the day?

On the Tuesday, we went into Puerto Rico for some shopping, while on Wednesday we went to Anfi Del Mar for a tour around their timeshare apartments. We left there feeling sick, because it was so nice, and because we couldn’t afford it at that moment. Which brings us to Thursday (the 10th of May) and our trip on Spirit of the Sea – “The Dolphin and Whales search trip in Gran Canaria”

We booked this trip through our rep, we were to be at the boat for the 12:30 trip. We turned up slightly early and made our way to the boat. At this point I should warn you against the timeshare sellers, which are somewhat akin to Jawas. The favored trick is to offer you a free scratch card, which you open to reveal your prize. A blue star is usually a t-shirt, while a gold star is either a MP3 player, a Digital Camera or (more likely) a free holiday. When you win the gold star they insist that you travel to their offices, and they are insistent on this. On our way towards the ship one of these traders stopped us, and we went through the rigmarole. When Ange “won” he got stroppy when we told him that we had booked to go on the Spirit.
We left Puerto Rico and headed south west. The picture above shows us heading away from Gran Canaria. The yellowish tinge in the air is evidence of the Sirocco winds (the winds from Northern Africa)

After about 45 minutes traveling we slowed down. At this point I remembered to put some Suntan Lotion on. Not remembering to put it on would cost me later on (when I developed a pinkish tinge to my arms, I also felt a bit unwell). Our guide then started to talk about dolphins & their habitat. Then there were dolphins spotted… in the distance.

As we got closed, they began to swim around the boat, not in a menacing way but in a playful manner. It was really good to be this close to dolphins as they danced around the boat. The picture above is probably the best one that I took on this trip.

This one was taken as they danced around the boat. They were also dancing around the foam that the boat was making. I tried to see if I could get some pictures from the bottom of the boat (the boat had a glass bottom) but to no avail.

It just didn’t feel long enough. It felt like it was too soon before we were on our way back to Puerto Rico. The journey back seemed a lot quicker too. Hmmm maybe the sunburn was getting to me even then. Still it was a great afternoon, not even bumping into another one of those timeshare touts could ruin our day. I would feel really rubbish the next day though.

See you next time.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Playa De Amadores

The area of Playa de Amadores, as I have hinted at is a quiet area, though it does have several beachside restaurants. The day before we came back we went to the Europa Centre at the top of the hill, and discovered that as well as shops, there were some more restaurants and bars, the sounds of agitated football fans alerted us to this possibility. We are annoyed at this as we were not told about the nightlife, just the shopping here. Especially as the restaurants nearest our hotel, on the beach front, was such a mixed bag.

We ventured out to the beach on the Wednesday night, just to see what was on offer. The first restaurant we came across was Ciao Ciao, an Italian eaterie. We were put off going there because the staff would not give us time to make up our minds (Memo to restaurant staff: we like time to think about what to have, being hurried tends to put us off). So we walked along a bit and came across Restaurant Belize, who had a Tapas menu (Second memo to restaurant staff: we are not typical Brits abroad, we would actually like to sample the local delicacies).

The first thing that grabbed us was the size of the drinks, we were both given pint sized glasses, which were frozen before being taken out for the juice to be put in. As a result our Coke’s were ice cold when we got them. We ordered 3 Tapas between us, Albondigas (which is meatballs) Cheese Croquettes and Canarian Potatoes covered in Mojo Sauce. Canairian Potatoes are potatoes boiled in sea water and boiled until the water has dried up. The Mojo sauce is strange but very nice; it is supposed to be spicy but is not spicy at all. You can taste the cumin in it though. The Purple Rhino was wowed by the croquettes thought, mainly because they were covered in Tomato & Cream sauce. Not much else to say about the Albondigas apart from Mmmmmmmm…… This was followed up with a Bolognese Pizza which was excellent. The base was super thin and crispy, yet the middle wasn’t soggy at all. The top was excellent too.

A couple of nights later we went down to the beach again, this time we went down the right side of the beach. We went past a couple of restraunts that looked like they were closing. Just past the London Pride bar we came to Los Geranios Restaurant, which was completely different to the Belize. Again we got our large measures of soft drinks, super chilled. I ordered Salmon Ravioli, while the Purple Rhino ordered Lasagne.

At this point can I say that the Salmon Ravioli was really good, it was covered in a creamy tomato sauce (I had expected a white/cheese sauce). However it was spoiled by what happened regards my girlfriend’s dish. Ange received her Lasagne, and the top was burnt. Because the top was burnt she asked for another one, thinking that it had been in the oven for too long, the waiter said that he’d see what he can do. The owner/head chef then arrived and after asking why she didn’t like it. He then said that it wasn’t burnt, that this is the way that HE had been making lasagne, and that any lasagna that she would ask for would look like that. He then chopped up the lasagne to show that in his eyes this was not a burnt lasagne.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Basil Fawlty lives and stays in Playa de Amadores. And boy, did the toys get thrown out of the pram that night! His behavior, his rudeness and his attitude completely spoiled the evening for us. He especially didn't like the fact that the Purple Rhino had tasted Lasagne in 12 diferent countries, and none of them were burnt like that.

I started this blog talking about the Europa centre, which we were lead to think had only shops, but had some nightlife. Before shopping for food to sustain ourselves on the long trip home, we went for something to eat in an eaterie called Little Italy. We both had Lasagna, which was really nice but may have been devoid of meat.

No mention of our gastronomic holiday should pass without a mention for the neighboring hotel to us. When we were fed up of the second barbeque night we went into Gran Amadores and to their pool bar called “Scotch Corner”. There I had a Chili Baked Potato, while the Purple Rhino tucked into what she described as the best toasted sandwich she has had in years. We go away to try and sample different cultures and tastes and we come back raving about a toasted sandwich, strange!

See you next time, when i will be blogging about Dolphins!

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Mirador Del Atlantico

Hullo there, a couple of weeks ago we went on Holiday to Gran Canaria. This is the first of a series of blogs about the trip, and is about our experiences of the hotel.

Playa de Amadores is approximately 10 minutes drive from the resort town of Puerto Rico. The transfer to our hotel seemed to take forever and ever, as we seemed to stop at about 10 hotels before reaching our hotel. We arrived on the island at about 20 past 8 in the evening, but did not get to the Mirador Del Atlantico Aparthotel until about 10 to 11. When we arrived the place seemed to be deserted. We were hungry, tired (my partner had medicine to take) and nowhere was open for a late night bite to eat.
First impressions were not good. Our room had no Air conditioning, our beds were lumpy (the mattress comprised of 2 mattresses, a thick hard one and a thin soft one on top), and had poor quality sheets. I think we would have had a better sleep had these two deficiencies not conspired to make it more difficult to get to sleep which then make it difficult for us to get up!

The pool bar was ok, however as is the case on “Mainland” Europe, some things are bizarrely more expensive than at home. A small Pepsi Lite cost not that much less than a pint of the local Lager, a brew called Tropical (which was rather nice). We were also annoyed at the hotel closing the restraint and having a pool-side barbeque… 3 times in a week! (once would have been an event, and would have been nicer…)

One of the really good things about the hotel though was the entertainment, provided by Becky & Leanne, the best hotel entertainment that I certainly have come across. On the Tuesday night they had “top” hypnotist Peter the Great (pronounced Pe-Toor!). We were talking to this couple, just generally making chit chat, talking about hypnotists, and feigning ignorance of Pink Floyd (steam coming out of girlfriend’s ears at this ignorance I might add!) when Pe-Tor! started the lapdancing skit. He had 3 ladies, who were to imagine that they were hunky guys, and they were to give a lapdance to as many girls as they could find. He also had 3 guys, who were three gorgeous ladies. They too were to give as many lapdances as possible, this time to as many blokes.

I mention this one because I looked round at this point and saw this large guy running towards me, at which point I thought “Oh ”, and I got a lapdance. Sadly no pictorial record of this exists, thanks to my girlfriend rolling about the floor at this point. However, the guy’s wife captured some of it for posterity! (oh boy, memories indeed!!) One of the last set-pieces of the night was when the participants had been semi-taken out of their state, Pe-Tor! played snatches of music which sent them back to their state. Samba music stated them dancing, while the music to James Bond made them think they were spies. One girl came up to my girlfriend, looked mean and pointed her fingers (which were in the shape of a gun) in her face – she looked genuinely fierce!

On the Thursday night, there was a Parrot show, which featured performing parrots (pictured), while on the Sunday night we were treated to an excellent Flamenco show. My Girlfriend was a little disappointed they didn’t do “Carmen”, but it was still an excellent show.

There was, most nights Bingo & Karaoke too, my Girlfriend did 2 songs on the Thursday and finished off Sunday night with a rendition of “Big Spender”! She was superb, as always.

See you next time!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

First Thoughts on the 52nd European Cup Final

Hi there, as you may have gathered, I have some writers block regarding my blogs on our holidays. Regardless to say, hopefully, these should be appearing soon.

I used to be a big fan of the Radio 5 Live commentator Alan Green. Not that I am not anymore, just I am not so keen. That and more and more, I hear him say something that I just don’t get. For example, during the European Cup Final tonight (no, im not going to call it the bloody Champions League Final), I heard him say that the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had got his tactics wrong. If he did, and I don’t think that he put a foot wrong all night apart from taking off Mascherano, he has one man to blame for his sides defeat, one Pippo Inzaghi.

Liverpool did not do anything wrong during this match, however you cannot account for the goal poacher, the player who’s skill is to be in the right place at the right time. Green was also incredibly churlish about Inzaghi, by not crediting him with the first goal, “He didn’t know anything about it”. Well, sorry but I think he did. He wouldn’t have gone there if he thought there was no chance of a deflection, or more likely a spilled shot. It was always this sort of half chance that would decide the game, the sort of chances that the Inzaghi mold of striker usually thrives on. Inzaghi kind of reminds me of Ally McCoist, though I don’t remember McCoist being constantly caught offside or throwing his hands in the air.

Until Inzaghi’s first goal, Liverpool were dominating more and more of the game. They would have gone on to score the crucial first goal probably in the early stages of the second half. Instead Milan won, the second goal was equally crucial in that it sealed the game and was the best football of the mach from Milan. The 2 goals showed that being at the right place at the right time will get you anything.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

20 Years Ago

Congratulations to the mighty Buds in staying up in the SPL for next season, but more importantly congratulations for beating the curse of Blair. All this in the week of the 20th anniversary of our Scottish Cup win against Dundee United. I personally don’t remember much of the match, it was a tense nervy affair, with Dundee United perhaps beginning to suffer from tiredness after their mammoth season (their last game of the season was the 2nd leg of their UEFA Cup Final against IFK Gothenburg, which they would draw thus losing the tie 2-1 on aggregate).

It was a poor final, but my Dad, perhaps trying to wind me up, described it as one of the worst games of Football he had ever seen. Dunno what you guys out there in the blogosphere think but my three worst games are the 1990 World Cup final, the 1991 European Cup Final and the 9 in a row Old Firm game (?) in March 1997. Let me know what you think.
See you next time.

But Before I Talk About My Holidays

Before I write about my week in Gran Canaria, a sort of curate’s egg of a blog to tie some things up.

It was the Scottish Elections just before I left, with the SNP becoming the largest party in Holyrood, winning 1 more seat than New Labour. This has been enough to see Alec Salmond elected yesterday as First Minister. In the Local Council elections, the SNP & New Labour each won 17 seats each, the SNP have since gone on to form a coalition with the Lib Dems in Renfrewshire.

The result in Renfrewshire is a welcome one, New Labour in Renfrewshire had run out of ideas and clearly didn’t know how to regenerate Paisley town centre. They had also taken to having a “Nanny knows best” attitude, particularly to home-owners. I hope that this will change.

The Holyrood election results were historic, and that’s not a reference to the length of time it took some people to work out how to vote. As the campaign closed, New Labour and the SNP indulged in a “my list of celebrity/business backers is more than your list” type spat. I am still annoyed that there was no mention of how to remedy the chronic poverty problem we have in this country. Still, who cares when we are told that the Scotland manager and his backroom staff all back the union. Hey, you never know, that celebrity endorsement from B A Robertson could just have swung it.

I think the right party won. The party that had the more positive message, the more positive campaign, was the party which won the most seats. New Labour lost, partly because there were too many chefs (Gordon Brown, John McTernan and “wee Dougie” Alexander all sidelining Jack McConnell) which gave the impression of a mixed up message. Also the campaign itself was way too negative, there was no explanation of where New Labour got the figure of £5000 (An SNP led executive apparently would cost every family £5000, according to New Labour propaganda). In the end the scare tactics failed.

What happens next, I don’t know. New Labour had their chance, they had 8 years in power (plus the 2 pre-devolution years) in Scotland, and as I have described in other posts some things have changed for the better, but some things have changed for the worst. Just before I was eligible to vote, I thought that I would be a natural Labour supporter. Since then, I have remained a socialist while New Labour has cast aside the values which made it care for the normal working person. I just hope that the choices made 2 weeks ago are the right ones.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Just Back

Hi there.

Just a quick posting to say sorry i haven't been in touch. I have just returned from spending a week in Playa De Amadores in Gran Canaria, well i haven't just retuned but as I arrived home at 3am this morning you get my drift.

Once i get everything sorted, and once i catch up with a few things, i will begin posting pictures, stories and my thoughts on the holiday.

Adios for now!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

May 1st 1997

Hi there, a couple of weeks a go I wrote about the first election night I remember staying up for. 10 years ago was the first general election I voted in, and it saw a historic change in government for the first time in 18 years.

Since the 1992 election, the Conservatives went through a period where what can go wrong for them, would go wrong for them, starting with Black Wednesday, and continuing through the Back to Basics crisis. Labour had elected Scottish MP John Smith as its leader when Kinnock resigned, and spent this period quietly refashioning the party, installing a One Member One Vote mechanism to key conference votes. His leadership was more a steady as she goes kind of a leadership.

After Smiths death in May 1994, Tony Blair was elected as the new Labour leader. His reforms of party protocols were more dramatic & revolutionary. He campaigned for and won the dropping of Clause IV, and changed the name of the party from Labour to New Labour. His party also became more pro-business. It was against this background that on 17th March 1997, John Major announced that the General election would take place on May 1st.

To be honest I don’t really remember too much about the campaign itself, or much of polling day. I remember the Tories were pretty much doomed from the start, and that was before the election leaflets about Europe or the Neil Hamilton skirmish.

On the day itself, as I said I don’t really remember much. Scotland had lost 2-1 to Sweden in a World Cup qualifier the night before, so I was still digesting that. I went to vote at about 7:30 in the evening, got back and waited for the BBC results programme. I there was an Election Special of Have I Got News For You on that night, which strangely for an election night started before the polls closed (Satirical programmes like Have I Got News For You and Spitting Image used to start straight after the polls closed so that there is no undue influence over voters. This is also why exit polls are not announced until this time.).

I should confess at this point, I didn’t vote New Labour at this election, & I haven’t voted for them since. I felt that they were a bit too business friendly and were beginning to ignore the natural core Labour constituency. Instead I voted Lib Dem, mainly because they were honest about their tax plans.

So 9:55pm and the election results programmes start, within 5 minutes both the BBC & ITV election programmes were predicting a Blair landslide, a big landslide. The first couple of results kind of bore this out even thought they were safe Labour seats, the majorities increased substantially. Then New Labour started winning Conservative seats. Then the cabinet ministers started to fall (10 in all). From around midnight to about 3am, it was all a bit of a blur, and was very dramatic. I do remember the graphics that Jon Snow deployed, there was one which showed the conservative majorities as blocks, and they were being blitzed. Another graphic was one showing Conservative leaders and the respective landslide defeats that they suffered, this was shown by them having some sort of sand substance tipped on to them. At around 3:15am on the morning of the 2nd, New Labour won its 331st seat, confirming New Labour as the next government.

Time to go to bed, ah yes but I would have missed the Portillo moment. I think the most amazing thing about Portillo losing his seat is how dignified he was about losing, compared to say David Mellor who ranted and raved at James Goldsmith (the Referendum Party candidate).

It is amazing to think about how we enjoyed the ousting of a discredited and disliked administration, and of how much hope we all had for the future, even those of us who thought that we would have some more of the same. But you know what, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

See you next time.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

St Mirren 0 Dunfermline 1

Dunfermline threw themselves a relegation lifeline with a deserved victory at St Mirren Park. Tam McManus (left) scored the only goal of the game after 58 minutes, when he collected Scott Muirhead's deflected shot to fire home from close range. The capacity crowd of 10,251 were treated to plenty of endeavour, but little in the way of skilful play by either side.

Hi there, I was going to blog about the 10th anniversary since New Labour came to power today, and my memories of that famous election night, but I will do that one tomorrow. Instead its my take on the biggest game at Love Street, since the 2-1 win over Dundee which won promotion for ourselves. And as you can tell from the blurb at the top, it didn’t go the way of the (less than) mighty buds.

St Mirren pretty much lost the game in midfield, the Dunfermline middle men muscled the midfield of Brittain, Brady & Murray out of it from midway through the first half onwards. In the second half, while the St Mirren midfield went missing, the St Mirren defence started bombarding the Dunfermline defence with long balls.

Dunfermline soaked up this bombardment, and used the gift of continued possession to launch several quick counter attacks, the goal, and McManus’ two other chances came from these attacks.
While it is disappointing that once again we revert to these tactics when we lose a grip on games, I am not entirely sure if the manager is at fault here. However, I do think that he could have changed the pattern of the attacks, playing 2 small quick mobile strikers (Kean & brining on Corcoran) against the tall Dunfermline defence rather than persist with the little and large partnership of Sutton & Kean (Kean kept on coming back to midfield, that is how poor our midfield were).

We are still a point ahead of Dunfermline, but they have the momentum and crucially, the psychological advantage. Our next game is on Saturday at Tanadice (against Dundee United), while Dunfermline do not play again until next Monday (against Motherwell). I have a feeling that we will see how good Gus McPerson really is over the next 3 games.

See you next time…

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

9 Days to Go: A Quick Overview...

Like the title says, 9 days to go, and I have realised that I haven’t given some sort of overview on how the elections here in Scotland are panning out.

So far all the opinion polls place the Scottish National Party at about 5% points ahead of New Labour. There are several reasons for this; the SNP campaign is a steady campaign which so far has not hit any real controversies. This will change as newspaper editors begin to scrutinise the SNP manifesto a lot more closely. Indeed the Sunday Herald at the weekend ran with the news that the SNP had ‘dropped’ plans to regulate bus franchises from their manifesto; this coincides with the donation from Stagecoach owner Brian Souter (Bearing in mind the chaos that is Paisleys public transport system, regulation might be a good idea).

The other reason is that the New Labour campaign has been utterly atrocious. From ministers appearing on television and appearing not to know their own party policy, to political heavyweights venturing north to lecture the natives on the evils of independence (And they still haven’t told us where they get this magical “A vote for the SNP will cost every household £5000”), the New Labour campaign has been a nightmare. Yesterday they wheeled out “Football Legends” to persuade us to back the union and vote Labour. Yea, right, like thousands of us voted Conservitive in 1992 because Paul Daniels, Phil Colins and Frank Bruno were Tories, that made us all vote Conservitive… er no, that’s not going to make us forget the declining economy, the feral children running amok in our streets or the useless police.

As for the other parties, the Lib-Dems have improved from their bad start, where their leader failed to realise that it is wise to check that the microphone is switched on (or the faux-pas over Penilee playing fields), the Conservatives have been painting themselves as the true defenders of the Union, then in the next breath promising more powers for the Scottish Parliament. The rest, hmmm. The Greens have been talking about responsibility, while the Scottish Socialists and Solidarity have been squabbling amongst themselves. Actually, to be fair, the SSP have been doing all the goading on this one. Ah, if only they weren’t so pious.

Still, there are 9 days to go, and lots of votes still to be won if I am anything to go by. See you next time.

Friday, 20 April 2007

The Best Brittish Band Ever!

Hullo. I wrote this blog a while back, and somehow forgot to post it on this page. You may remember... ooooh it must have been February a blog about the Outstanding Contribution award at the Brits, where I listed who I thought deserved the award more that Oasis (or when I came up with the list the Eurythmics). I kind of ummed and aahd about whether I would put New Order into the list. Instead, I’ll just do a blog about them, even if there is already blog about them on some derelict space

In 5th and 6th year we were allowed to apply for bursaries, which was a kind of student grant for people in 5th and 6th year at school (6th year is the last year at secondary school, the next level on is either college/university or the wonderful world of work) I got mine for 6th year, after loosing out in 5th year, and I did what most young people do when they get some money, spend it!

My first couple of albums were a couple of old Erasue albums and the Pet Shop Boys Discography compilation, late 1980s Electronica going firmly against the fashion of the time which was grunge and heavy guitars, most of my contemporaries were into, randomly, Iron Maiden, Gun's and Rose, Metallica and a new band frome Seattle called Nirvana. One day while in town I spotted a copy of Substance 1987, New Order’s singles compilation, and I bought it.

I had liked a couple of their singles, Blue Monday and True Faith, and I had also been a fan of singer Bernard Sumner’s side project Electronic. The mark of a great band is if you listen to something and think that I have never heard that before. I did that lots of times listening to Substance. “Everything’s Gone Green” (track 2) was the first to get me, sound of some sort of drum machine being switched on, then this mad twanging melodious baseline. The whole thing settles down for the first verse which ends with the chant of “It seems like I’ve been here before”. There is an instrumental break at this point before the second verse, by which time you realise that there is some sort of electronic noise beneath the sound of the gutars/bass and all the reverb cymbals.

I liked what I heard, so I bought some more of their albums, buying 1989’s “Technique” (left)about a month later, followed a few weeks after Christmas 1992 by 1986’s “Brotherhood”. Then Regret came out, it was and still is a great pop record. In the mean time, I got a bit into Joy Division, buying their Substance 1977-80 compilation.

I like them because the songs sound inventive, and so different to anything that had been produced before. They also pull off the trick of writing upbeat, sweet records about pain and heartbreak. The artwork for their records is also fabulous, from the day-glo of Technique to the fusing of the ancient to the modern in “Power Corruption and Lies” (top), which is repeatedly voted one of the best album sleeves of all time. They deserve to have a film written about them, and sadly “Twenty-Four Hour Party People” isn’t it.

The are, and remain, my favourite band.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Elections But No Politics!

Hi there, after a few days of politics, I thought that I would write about something a bit different today. The shortlist’s for the Players Player of the year has been announced both sides of the border.

Here in Scotland, the nominees are Artur Boruc, Lee Naylor and Shunsuke Nakamura of Celtic and Aberdeen Captain Russell Anderson, with the winners announced on 22nd April.

In England, the nominees are Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs & Paul Scholes of Manchester United, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, Liverpool captain Steven Gerard and Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas. Again the winner will be announced on the 22nd April.

However, while it is good to celebrate the top performers, I feel that the spotlight should also fall on those players who perhaps did not play so well. I remember several years ago on the excellent Baker and Kelly-Upfront phone in show, still I believe the best football phone in show ever, Danny Baker asking for what he described as “your nomination for the anti-footballer of the year. Just a name and a reason”.

I think that it would certainly spice up the dull (and a bit too worthy) football shows. So what about it out there in the blogoshere. Anyone reading this nominate your anti-player of the year.

My nomination would be Tony Bullock, not just because he’s not as good as our other keeper, Chris Smith, but because there were points this season where you wondered why Bullock was in the team (I think he was in the team from the 1-0 win at Hearts in September till the 5-1 loss at Hibs just before Christmas). Outside of the buds, my nomination would be Barry Ferguson of Rangers, he’s not had a great season, had flattered to deceive and is just overrated by a fawning media.

Look forward to reading your comments. See you next time

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Open Letter to New Labour

Dear Mr Henry

We am writing in response to your letter of March 2007 (pictured left). I note that unlike the SNP, you have not asked me for my priorities and issues which will decide my vote come May 3rd. In case you are interested, my open letter to the SNP will be of some interest. The overall tone of the letter is that I feel that, to quote an old advertising slogan, “Britain is not working” and to paraphrase your own leader, the union must “evolve or die”.

You say that Scotland and Paisley South is changing for the better. No it is not! The gap between rich and poor has increased and Scotland is collectively poorer than it was in the 1960’s. Sure, employment rates are high, but most people are working at rates barely above the minimum wage. Combined with low inflation rates and “historically low” mortgage rates, this creates a false economy built on debt and credit. When the bubble bursts, we will all be in trouble. Indeed, inflation is rising, mortgage payments rise with interest rates, but wages don’t – you do the math!

You say that New Labour has invested record amounts of money on schools and hospitals. You have done this using PFI/PPP which is effectively a second mortgage on these properties. Why does your party try to keep the true costs hidden from the British public, by ruling that these costs are “off sheet”? Is it because they would cast new light on the Chancellors record, and interfere with his prudence rules? Also, the NHS needs to concentrate more on helping those in society with illnesses and disabilities outwith their control.

Crime is a shared priority. However, your new laws are not working. Anti social behaviour, especially in adolescents, is still rife. As I said in my SNP blog, there are gangs of children drinking on a Friday & Saturday night. Why is that still happening? The parents must take a share of the blame, as must the politicians. There is a lack of things for teenagers to do, or where to go, especially when the parents don’t care. After all, did you not promise to be “Tough on the causes of crime” too?

In the face of all this, the Scottish education system is struggling. Yes, you have allocated more money for schools, but surely that must go hand in hand with supported employment options? Students are leaving school, with good qualifications, even degrees, but cannot get jobs! Our education system must evolve too, to try and engage with young people. Hope is a strong emotion, and one our younger generations are sadly lacking. Ambition needs to be encouraged, and sustainable employment must be a long term priority.

I also agree we need more police on the beat, but the police need to be trained properly & thoroughly, and taught that ordinary members of the public are not the enemy. Improvements in the police force do not require just more police, but better policing too, work smarter not just harder. Anything more than a speeding fine or a parking ticket, or publicity orientated crimes and the police are not interested.

You also argue against the SNPs proposal to change the way we fund local government. As you have recognised with the additional bands, the council tax is unfair, in that it attacks people’s aspirations to a good house. The way I see it, there are flaws in both of your arguments. Perhaps the SSP/Solidarity system is fairest, I am not sure. What I am sure of is that the present arrangement of financing Local Government is unsatisfactory, and does not provide value for money. There should be some sort of graduated ‘scale’, to ensure that those who can afford it pay more, while the poorest in our society pay less. The balance of wealth in our country needs to be addressed, as our ‘false economy’ slides into a sea of personal debt.

However, therein lies another huge problem. We have to address the whole section of our society who simply do not want to pay their way. Nobody, if fit to do so, should be allowed to not work and live on benefits. Single parents should do voluntary work, or build up ‘work credits’, learning a skill in order to work at some point. We need to encourage young parents that they need to pay their way too, not just expect the state to pay for their family! Addicts should be in recognised treatment programmes, if they want to continue receiving benefits. Parents need to take more responsibility for guiding their children – after all, they are the adults of tomorrow, and if they don’t learn social skills and self respect at home, what chance will they have? It would be a helpful idea to have every child of primary school age required to be in a sport or recreational club/group – this way they would learn social interaction and teamwork at an early age, meaning less problems as they grow up. Thus, we start tackling anti-social behaviour at ‘grass roots’ level.

We have a lot of other sensible, common sense ideas, and we are both in that almost forgotten group – the ’30 somethings’ - workers, voters, mature adults who care what happens to our country, and have good ideas on what you, our elected politicians, should do to help our country evolve. Perhaps if you can put the ‘political game’ aside for a minute – you might see our point of view!
Call it ‘constructive criticism’ from the electorate.

Yours sincerely
Allan Moore, 31 and Angela McCormack, 35

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Explaining the Blast and other things

Hullo, just a quick blog today.

Bit of a nothing weekend, apart from the fact that I now know that St Mirren are doomed to relegation. How do I know this? Well in yesterdays Paisley Daily Express, there was an Interview with Tony Blair, who was here electioneering. Obviously after the stuff about education, health etc etc (unlike other news organisations who relegated the 34 dead in Iraq story behind the young couple split shocker story), Blair was asked about St Mirren, and he backs us to stay in the SPL!!!

Yep, we’re guffed!

The other thing I was going to talk about was my blast. For those of you not on yahoo, it is a kind of heading messagy thing that goes at the top of the main page. For the past 6 weeks it has been a quote from the excellent comedy panel show “Mock the Week”. One of the regulars is a Glasgow comedian by the name of Frankie Boyle, who was one of two acts worth watching on the now defunct BBC Scotland show “The Live Floor Show” (the other being the Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III, a spoof American preacher).

So the quote comes from the last round, which is an improvisational round where the comedians are asked to come up with the worst lines for any given situation, for this situation it was the worst line to be heard on Comic Relief night, this line – “Remember 20% of all money raised goes to a grinning African warlord wearing a necklace made from the bones of dissenting villagers...” was Frankie’s opening gambit.

I put it up because there was an element of truth about it, and I was getting really fed up of smug, rich, celebrities on the television telling us that we can help, as if the situation in Africa is ever as simple as that.

Rant over. See you next time!

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Open Letter to the SNP

Dear Mr Salmond

I write in response to your letter which I received last week. I am particularly taking up your invitation to let you know if your party is on the right track.

In 1997, there were several reasons why I did not vote New Labour, and I feel that some of these reasons may or may not be the reasons behind me not voting for the SNP come May 3rd.

At the moment, I feel that perhaps your party is conservative in its ambitions for what needs to be done. There are many things wrong with Scotland, but “Smaller class sizes, boost small business and create jobs, abolish the council tax, keep local services just that… and put more police back on the beat” only really scratches the surface. Also, I feel that your party may be too ‘business friendly’ You keep harping on about all the businessmen who have given you donations and support – concentrate on people like myself and my partner – we are the ordinary people on the street! I would like to think that our votes are as valuable to you as the ‘money people’.

My priorities would be a proper, free at the point of delivery health service, where all the doctors conduct themselves in a professional manner, in professional surroundings. Zero tolerance to violence and abuse is a necessity, but it cuts both ways – professionals should not be allowed to ‘abuse’ this protection! We want the patients to behave better, but who is monitoring the health professionals? Doctors and nurses can behave badly too. We deserve a quality health service. Lots of money is thrown at addiction services – yet we have situations where cancer patients have to wait for treatment – this is just simply wrong!

Public transport is another area that should be a priority. Paisley is Scotland’s largest town, yet public transport all but stops after 6:30pm. We are supposed to be more environmentally conscious, yet we are not encouraged to leave our cars at home, as public transport is so poor in many areas. I try to be socially responsible, yet the council cannot even empty my blue recycle bin when I use it!

Crime is another priority. “Tough on Crime and Tough on the causes of crime”, we should be hard but fair on criminals, as well as looking to eradicate the causes of crime, remove poverty, make underage drinking more difficult, and have more amenities for young people. We have neighbourhood wardens in Glenburn, but I still saw a crowd of teenagers drinking in the streets on Friday night and causing problems on the street. The wardens are not any more effective than the police at discouraging anti-social behaviour. Where are the parents? Do they know, or even care what their children are doing? The next generation seem to have no respect for anyone, and think they are above the law.

The law also needs to be less of an ‘ass’ too. There are too many vagaries and grey areas, which encourage criminal acts. The police are totally ineffectual – anything more challenging than a parking ticket or speeding fine they just aren’t interested. They seem to want people to choke our already burdened court service with things they could easily deal with.

As for the local council – what a group of useless, greedy people. Paisley town centre is sliding quickly into decline, while the council tell us they ‘plan to spend £7.5 million revamping it. Would it not be more useful to save it before it’s too late? Our 40 councillors spent almost a million pounds in expenses – while services are cut and council tax rises. This is crazy!

Another point – my partner and I are both homeowners and council tax payers. Yet the council will not assist us with anything, and make us pay for everything. We deserve the same consideration as tenants – we all pay our council tax! Indeed, they are constantly trying to find ways to make us pay more, like ‘management fees’ and ‘common charges’

The council tax system is totally unfair. I believe it should be largely based on ‘disposable income’, as should the benefits system. The system is still open to abuse. People should pay their way in society if they are able to do so. Why should I meet my drunken neighbour with his carry-out as I go out to work in the morning? Or listen to loud music and noise at night from a young, single parent on benefits, who has never worked, when I have work in the morning?

As you point out, in 4 years ordinary Scots have expressed their anger at the war in Iraq, their support to make poverty history (even if vulture funds will undermine this agreement) and their disgust at the thought of the next generation of American operated weapons of mass destruction being based not far from Scotland’s largest city, but we still feel ignored, patronised, belittled by “our betters” who come “north” and lecture us on what we should and what we shouldn’t be doing. These “betters” are the same people who have led Scotland backwards and have hindered our development. It is time to build a Scotland we can be proud of. I hope you find my suggestions helpful.

Yours sincerely

Monday, 9 April 2007

April 9th 1992

Hi there, yet another political blog by the way.

This is the 15th anniversary of the first General Election that I stayed up for, but not the first one I remember, that one was the 1987 election, which because our school was being used as a polling station I had the day off. Ironically the self same school will be my local polling station when I vote next month in the Hollyrood & local council elections. I don’t really remember much of that election except Thacher won her 3rd election on the trot.

Anyway, her successor, John Major waited almost 5 years before calling the n
ext election. When the election was called for April 9th, the Conservitave’s only trump card was the tax cuts which they had announced in the Budget. On the minus side for them, and the plusses for the Labour party was that Britain was going through a recession, the second worst in our history.

Strangely enough I wasn’t too confident of a Labour victory. I thought that surely it would be an end to 13 years of Conservative government. Funnily enough it was a grey day, not unlike it is today.

I should point out that though it was the first election that I stayed up to watch the results, I was still 15 months away from being eligible to vote. The way things usually go is that polling lasts from 7am through to 10pm, with the BBC/ITV (and Sky) announcing the results of their exit polls just after the polls close. Nothing really happens until the first results usually come in, usually from about quarter to 11. It is possible to know which way the wind is going by about half past midnight.

However, on turning over at 10, both ITV & the BBC exit polls showed that Labour, had not done enough to win the Election, but would be the largest party in a hung parliament. The polls had been pointing towards a Labour victory until the start of that week. The results when they came in didn’t look all that great for Labour either, they were holding on to seats (the inner city seats tend to get their ballot boxes to the count quicker, therefore they declare first) but with similar majorities from 1987. Then at about quarter to 12, Basildon declared.

Basildon was a must win seat for Labour, but the Conservatives held the seat. At that point myself, my parents and pretty much every Labour supporter in the country knew that the Tories would get back in. Sure we had the consolation of the Conservative party chairman (and architect of their election win) Chris Patten losing his Bath seat to the Lib Dem Don Foster, but we went to our beds knowing that we would have 5 more years of the Tories in power. By the time i awoke the next morning, Major still required 5 seats for a majority (
they won a 21 seat majority)

That election was a turning point, but not as the pundits predicted at the time. We Scots were angry at being tricked into voting SNP, but letting the Conservatives in through the middle to steal 2 seats. At the time the Conservatives were the only party not committed to any sort of devolution, yet they only gathered 25% of the vote in this election. As demands for home rule grew, other people were drawing their own conclusions, namely that socialism is a vote loser, and gee don’t those Lib Dems have some good ideas. So while Labour had fought its last election as the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats were fighting their first election as the Lib Dems, and would be more influential than they would realise.

After watching repeats of the coverage today, I’m amazed at just how much has changed, and at how quickly fortunes can change.