Monday, 3 January 2011

Jumbites: Another Year and Daft Commemorations etc.

Jumbites: Another Year and Daft Commemorations etc.: "A belated Happy New Year to you all – I meant to write something just after the bells on Friday night, but phone calls, emails, and visitors..."

Another Year and Daft Commemorations etc.

A belated Happy New Year to you all – I meant to write something just after the bells on Friday night, but phone calls, emails, and visitors kept me occupied. I wrote ‘visitors’ there – actually I only had one of the human variety – the other two were members of the rana ridibunda family, or marsh frogs. My human visitor had obviously left the back door open when he arrived, and those two had hopped into the porch. I had to show them the door, as I’ve never had them on a plate before, and I didn’t intend to start the habit in 2011.

As it’s the beginning of another year, I thought I’d steer clear of the political pages today, and have a look at a couple of more lighthearted topics.

I think I’ve commented before now on the fact that something or someone is commemorated on every day in the year, thus making the various card companies a tidy sum of money. I’ve also noticed lately that we seem to have surveys cropping up all the time, and all over the place – newspapers, magazines, on the street, internet etc. Undoubtedly, some surveys are beneficial for various reasons, but the majority of them seem to serve no useful purpose, apart from, in some cases, physical exercise in the form of a lot of folk having to scratch their heads in bewilderment. I had a look at some surveys that I consider to have been a total waste of time and money, and came up with some conclusions and questions of my own – obviously I had plenty of time to spare as well!

For instance, 42% of people regularly eat in bed – do they have a bed in the dining room, do they partake of grub after retiring for the night, or do they hop into bed every time they feel peckish? 45% of teachers say behaviour in their most recent or current school is inadequate – do they mean good or bad behaviour? I ask because what was once considered right and wrong seems to have become rather muddled nowadays. Then there’s the fact that 50% of women watch wildlife programmes on television. Any connection between that and the fact that there are more female inmates in our jails, I wonder. 53% of men aged 35 were adamant that redheaded women are the most passionate. I would imagine that not many of the 53% will be fit to take the survey next year – if they stick to the redheads, that is.

Most of us have heard of the old joke about the Grand Canyon being started by a Scot who was looking for a penny that he’d dropped. It seems that some of them across the Pond really believe that most inventions attributed to Scots were inspired by our fondness for money. For example, some are of the opinion that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to save him fares when having to visit folk, and that John Logie Baird thought of the television as a means of saving on cinema tickets. In that case, my New Year Resolution is very simple this time around – invent something that will help to keep my siller in my pocket!

I mentioned the fact that so many days are used throughout the year to commemorate something or other, but having looked at the subject again, I see that we in Britain are, thankfully, lagging behind America. Over there, January alone has 34 monthly observances, 33 weekly, and 118 daily ones. Incredible! It is Bath Safety Month, National Soup Month, Oatmeal Month; weeks to be commemorated include Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, Cuckoo Dancing Week, National Fresh Squeezed Juice Week; the days to be immortalised have the following amongst others -- Happy Mew Year for Cats Day, Tom Thumb Day, Balloon Ascension Day (not sure if there’s a Descent Day), and Bean Day, presumably followed by Windy Day, although I haven’t checked!

Back nearer home, and that advert of Asda’s supermarkets, where a satisfied customer pats his bottom pocket to infer that he’s saved money by shopping with them, actually turned into reality for a few folk last Wednesday afternoon in Linwood, Renfrewshire. Tills at the Asda store in the town crashed for around an hour at lunchtime – it seems that when any of their tills are temporarily out of action that staff and customers can haggle over, and eventually agree on, prices. Needless to say, the customer WAS, IS, and WILL be always right, so there would have been a few smug grins in the area that night.

I thought I could lay off politicians etc for a few days, but feel that I must mention the Chancellor George Osborne, who enjoyed himself with a New Year break at Klosters, the ski resort. I seem to remember that he used the phrase, “we’re all in this together” when calling for massive cuts to get the country out of the red at the 2009 Tory Party Conference. Tycoon MP Zac Goldsmith was sunning himself at an £8,000 villa in the Caribbean – this a couple of days before the UK is due to be hit with hikes in VAT and fuel duty. Not to be outdone, the Speaker, John Bercrow, hosted a star-studded champagne New Year’s Eve party on the Commons riverside terrace, giving MPs a prime view of the capital’s fireworks display. Among the guests was the Prisons Minister, Crispin Blunt, while another fireworks display was causing millions of pounds worth of damage to one of his establishments. Ah well, maybe the political world still has the weirdest stories to give us after all.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Ye Cannae Shove a Doggy Aff a Bus!

Just had a chinwag with the old geezer himself, Mr Claus – he's just covered Greece, and is now doing a few stops in Turkey, where he'll probably get accosted by the usual hooligans in the football fraternity there. He's quite relaxed about coming to the UK in a couple of hours time, as his sleds are bursting at the seams with the stuff that the councils crave – salt. A lot of the afore mentioned bodies were taken by surprise last year when we had the unexpected heavy snowfalls, and quickly ran out of salt for our roads. Lessons were learned, or so we were told. Plenty of salt ordered for this year? Yes, of course, we were told! However, some councils have announced that they will be rationing salt next week, will use more grit instead, and will have the gritting lorries out for fewer hours than previously. Are they using some of it in cooking their over sized birds over Christmas?

When S.C. reaches Glasgow, I would expect to see Tommy Sheridan waiting for him, in order to collect the few packets of porridge oats that he ordered, so as to get used to them before he moves into one of Her Majesty's cells next month, if press reports are to be believed. I'm sure we can now rely on the press to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – after all, it WAS Tommy who was found guilty of perjury yesterday. His performance in court on Tuesday was just about good enough to merit an Oscar, when he pleaded with the jury not to convict him, as he might have to spend Christmas apart from his wife and daughter. It wasn't the jury, the police, or the prosecution that's left him in his present situation – simply his own arrogance. He thought that folk could still be swayed by emotion, and not by fact – he was proved wrong.

The official ring belonging to the head of the Church of Scotland was stolen in a break-in at his home. Moderator of the General Assembly, Right Reverend John Christie, woke on Christmas Eve to find the front door of his Helensburgh home open, and the ceremonial ring gone. Thieves also stole Christmas gifts and other belongings including a wallet. I heard Rev Christie on radio this afternoon, asking that seeing it was Christmas time, the thief could hand the stuff back in the spirit of peace and goodwill etc. Maybe that would have happened if he had offered the culprit the offer of calling round for a nice slice of cake and a large glass of another kind of spirit. All take, and no give, it seems.

Scots should consider Isle of Arran cheese and Stornoway Black Pudding on their Christmas menu to cut down on food miles, according to the SNP. Nationalist MEP Alyn Smith has backed the National Farmers Union Scotland's 'What's On Your Plate' campaign, calling on shoppers to use local produce over the festive period. He said: "We have world-class produce in Scotland. Now is a particularly good time to remind Scots of the fantastic Scottish produce available.” Pity he forgot to give that advice to the party members in the Western Isles, who enjoyed their St Andrew's Night curry bash in Bangla Spice in Stornoway.

A little lost dog boarded a bus by himself and refused to leave as temperatures plunged to minus 11C. The frozen Cairn terrier, named Claus, was found cowering on the bus in the west end of Glasgow with icicles hanging from his fur. Passengers were astounded when the dog, aged about eight years old, boarded the First bus when it stopped on Dumbarton Road on Wednesday. He was so cold he found a warm spot in the corner and curled up. I suppose the “Grannie” song could be adapted:--
Oh, ye cannae shove a doggie aff a bus; Oh, ye cannae shove a doggie aff a bus; Ye cannae shove a doggy, he might be yer pal Shuggie's, Nae, ye cannae shove a doggie aff a bus.
Happy eating, everyone!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Have YOU Had Your First Senior Moment Yet?

Not much happening on the political front over the past few days, although it was nice to hear that the opposition leader in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, was released from house arrest on Saturday, after being detained for a total of 15 out of the past 21 years. Of course, if she tries to push her activism too far, and too fast, the military regime there would have no qualms about having her silenced, and incarcerated again. It should remind us in the west of the privilege that we have here in that we have free speech, which has been passed on to us because of the sacrifices made by our forefathers. We should certainly make use of those privileges, especially while our minds and memories are still active, and capable of lucid thought!

As I've now passed the three score mark in terms of years spent on the planet, I've gone through my apprenticeship in Senior Moments, or temporary amnesia, as some may prefer to call it. I can easily remember events of 50 years ago – the first stolen turnip from the neighbour's croft, the first stolen kiss – there was no difference in taste, as she had been partaking of raw turnip as well. Anyway, nowadays, I sometimes forget my best friend's name, or what programme I watched on telly last night. I am sometimes scared of what I'm going to say, and scared of the fact that I might have to stop talking altogether by the time I'm 70 – some have resorted to doing exactly that, just to be on the safe side. Some have turned to pills, believing all the hype about some tablets with natural ingredients etc. that can reverse this memory loss by increasing the blood flow to the brain.

All bunkum, I reckon! Most of our ancestors seemed to retain their memories well into their 80s and beyond, so why has our capability to do so disappeared? I don't reckon that the blood flow to the upper regions of our body has anything to do with it – it is just that in the past fifty years or so, most folk have been in schools, colleges etc. for longer than our forefathers were, thus leaving our brains with hundreds or even thousands of more facts crammed into them. In our History classes, we had dates rammed into us – remember 1066 (Battle of Hastings), 1215 (Magna Carta first issued), 1492 (Columbus landed in the Bahamas), 1914 (Outbreak of First World War)? In Geography lessons, we had to cope with an increasing number of names, as countries fought each other, overran each others' lands, which inevitably resulted in new names being given to those lands, thus leaving our brains with even more information to take on board. This was true in respect of most subjects, leaving our memories with far too much to cope with. Unlike computers, us humans cannot just add more memory capabilities when we want to. The only solution is to make more room for new information that is fed to us, which means that we should ditch all the useless stuff that has accumulated over the years. All those dates, the older names for countries, names of folk you never see anymore etc. should be ditched immediately. We should make some room for today's snippets of information to have some more storage space.

Of course, a lot of us have wasted our energy in our earlier years by beating around the bush, jumping to conclusions, trying to climb the success ladder, bending over backwards, making mountains out of molehills, and so on. Those needless exertions and worries are bound to have an adverse effect on our grey matter in later years. Having said that, so called senior moments are not necessarily the domain of the older generation. I happened to have an appointment with a doctor, 20 years my junior, a few months ago, and asked him to renew my prescription for a cream that I use to help alleviate arthritis pain. He said that he was going to give me tablets instead, as they were more effective in his opinion, and that he really couldn't understand why I'd been prescribed cream in the first instance. After looking through some notes, he matter of factly said to me, “Oh, I see that it was myself who suggested you have cream in the first place.” Years before that, whilst I was bricklaying, I had an apprentice joiner working with me for a few days, renovating a house. We only had 2 ladders on the job, and I recall a certain morning that I was using one of them to get materials up to the scaffold, when I heard him calling me, asking me if I knew where the other ladder was. It was difficult for me to explain to him, whilst keeping a straight face, that he was standing on it! Only last week, I had a new washing machine installed, but unfortunately the valve connecting the hose to the outside pipe was damaged, resulting in no water getting through, and so I had to phone a plumber. I got a hold of a guy who I guessed was in his forties, explained the situation, and got told that they were very busy, and that it might be a few days before they could send someone out to fix it – I was then asked if it was urgent. As my friends know, I am usually a patient fellow, so I calmly replied replied that I found that the laundry invariably seemed to turn out better if there was water in the machine. There was no reply – I think he was contemplating his first junior senior moment.

I think it's time to make a dignified exit, as my mind has started to wonder about how rabbits know which burrow to make for – they all look alike to me (the bunnies and their burrows).

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Time, Sandwiches, and Sarah Palin

It's been over a month now since I've added some words of wisdom to this blog, partly because of the lack of proper internet facilities in the hospital, but mostly because of the fact that I was too tired to concentrate. However, it has reinforced my belief that time is really what we make of it as individuals – a year ago last night, I celebrated my 60th birthday with my family and some friends; last night, I celebrated again, and reflected on the 365 days that have elapsed in the space of that year – because of my illness and the various treatments I've undergone, the year seems to have passed in a flash. On the other hand, if I'd been in touch with someone of the Brahan Seer's stature on the 4th of November 2009, and he'd have foretold what I was to endure over the future months, I'd probably have felt that every day was a burden, and longer than the day before. Anyway, last night was a cause for real celebration, as I'd promised myself that I was determined to have a few more birthdays annoying my grandchildren with my typical old man's eccentricities.

Back to the seedy world of politics, where we have a Labour MP and former Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, being thrown out of Parliament and his Party for breaking electoral law by making up damaging allegations about his main General Election opponent. I seem to recall that he was the one who submitted all sorts of claims for expenses, including panty liners, tampons, and nappies although the rules stated that personal items such as toiletries were not allowed, nor were items bought for anyone else, including family members. I also remember reading in a newspaper that “Mr Woolas rose to the rank of Immigration Minister in October 2008”. Well, I think we're all aware of the fact that some objects of a disagreeable nature rise to the top.

Other whingeing MPs are furious that the price of food and drink in the House of Commons has risen after the public subsidy was cut. This, despite the fact that many meals, such as shoulder of lamb at £2.95 and steamed fish with egg noodles at £3.90 are seen by the majority of the public as being cheap. It seems that their biggest beef is to do with a new £15 flat fee for up to 3 courses in the dining room overlooking the Thames. They seem to conveniently forget the fact that they can claim £15 for dinner if the House sits after 7.30pm. Like many thousands of others, I went to work in all sorts of weather for over 30 years with only a packed lunch to keep me going, so I'm sure it could sustain them as well, especially in their comfortable heated rooms and offices. Of course, on second thoughts, that would be rather a daft idea, as it would cost the taxpayer much more – they would each probably have to hire someone to cook eggs, ham etc. for the sandwiches, and possibly a French butler to spread the Danish butter on the Belgian bread.

Across the Pond, and it seems that a certain George W. Bush believes that Sarah Palin spoiled the Republican party's 2008 election campaign. He has criticised John McCain for picking her as his running mate that year, and is of the opinion that she is not qualified for such a post. It's rather difficult for most of us to suss out Ms Palin's aims or objectives – she has been heard to say that she would like limited government. What exactly does she mean by this? Is it some sort of government that will be limited by her own limited abilities? I think it's time for my sleeping draught, or have I taken it already?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Miliband, Trump, and the Lav-Nav

Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Party Conference on Tuesday could hardly have instilled even his most ardent supporters with too much confidence. Granted, he’s only been leader for three days but he took the easy option of walking a tightrope between advocating responsible policies, and trying at the same time to avoid upsetting his union backers.

It was easy for him to state that it was wrong for Britain to go to war with Iraq in 2003—we can never tell how he would have voted at the time, as he wasn’t elected as an MP until two years later.His two-faced and ruthless approach to politics can be gauged from the fact that he managed to talk his brother David out of launching a coup to oust Gordon Brown – he knew that David had every chance of succeeding, which would have scuppered his own chances of becoming leader, for a few years, anyway. By appealing to left wing activists and trade unionists, he knew that he had a better than even chance of defeating his brother in the ballot for the leadership. David’s wife Louise understandably views his behaviour in the past few months as a betrayal, as do many MPs and party members. It is difficult to see how he can unite his MPs in the months ahead. Of course, in Scotland, things are different, as he is viewed as a saviour by the Labour MSPs there, due to his leanings towards the left. They reckon that their vote will rise dramatically in next year’s Holyrood election. However, they tend to forget that the SNP are more leftist than right wing as well – as everyone knows, one of those parties will end up with the highest number of votes, leaving a lot of disillusioned voters who prefer other parties, but realising that their vote would be wasted, will vote for one of those two. Most of those will not want to see a Labour administration in Edinburgh, so will put their ‘X’ opposite the SNP candidate.

I see that Donald Trump is to receive an honorary degree from Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University. Ex-University boss Dr David Kennedy is furious at the decision, and is sending his own honorary degree back. He points out that there are many entrepreneurs in Aberdeen who are much more worthy of the honour. It’s a sad day for British educational establishments when they bestow honours according to a man’s wealth, rather than any worthwhile achievements of his.

A mother of one from Easter Ross in Scotland has been found guilty of benefit fraud, by claiming a total of £17,000 for 11 children who didn’t exist – she did NOT claim money for the one real child – maybe she forgot that he/ she existed. Some of the dates that she had down as the children’s birth dates were within a few months of each other, which suggests either a lack of scrutiny on the office staff’s part, or lack of knowledge of the human gestation period. The sheriff remarked, “It is quite appalling how one can claim to have this number of children when they don’t exist. It was something you did knowingly.” Quite! What words of wisdom from the beak!

With the Ryder Cup getting underway yesterday, it was heartening to hear of a hole in one – in fact quite a few holes in one, as the United States’ team waterproofs “did not repel the water” according to the American PGA.

A new device called a Lav-Nav is to help guide boozed up guys in the toilet to hit the target. When the seat is up, it uses the latest in sensory technology to shine a red light into the bowl with a target for the blokes to aim at. It makes me wonder if the inventors of this contraption have ever been a bit, let’s say sloshed, themselves. If they had been, they would know that having had a few too many, the aim would definitely be a few degrees to port or starboard of the red light!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Jumbites: Labour Party leader and Aliens

Jumbites: Labour Party leader and Aliens: "So Red Ed is not dead after all, but very much alive and kicking, after he came from behind on Saturday to beat his brother David in the Lab..."