Sunday, 31 December 2006

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

Thats great, it starts with 90 mph winds and driving rain battering the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. But I feel fine its only the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. Forget resolutions, look beyond the mistakes of the past and have the time of your life. Happy New Year!

2006 - 'twas a good year

Let's forget for a moment the bad things that happened this year such as Iraq, the uncertainties of Palestine & Israel or the fact that nutters on the bus/train/aeroplane/underground system might want to blow us up just for the crime of living in a way that they themselves would not wish us to, etc etc. Every year has news stories just like that so let us take the time to reflect on something more positive.
Here are my picks of the year...


2006 was the year that President Tony Blair, sorry I mean Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that he would have 1 more year before handing over the reins to someone else. About time too.
I admit it, I've never been a fan of Tony Blair not when he was in opposition and not whilst he has been in power so I might be a little coloured on this issue. My reasoning is not very educated but it goes something like this, I want my politicians to be angry enough to want to change the world for the better, I do not believe that they should grin like a Cheshire cat. I'm sorry but I don't. When he was in opposition I couldn't care less how wide his smile was I wanted someone to ask him some pressing questions like 'What he was going to change?' but I seemed to be in the minority at the time because he was quickly elected with a huge majority, partly because people liked him and partly because the previous government had been in power so long everyone wanted a change.
This huge majority should have afforded Mr Blair the luxury of telling us exactly what he believed in, but for the first few years of his rein anytime Rubert Murdoch's newspapers wrote a headline on the front pages Blair's government quickly spun a policy around the headline, which was good for the Rubert's media empire but less so for Britain. I was never a fan of Margaret Thatcher either, a politician that Tony Blair is supposed to have modelled himself on, but at least you could admire her. With her you knew what she believed in, and she clearly set out ways in which to she would achieve change, you can't say the same about Blair. The first time we really knew that Tony believed passionately about something was when he signed Britain up for the invasion of Iraq. Most of the British people weren't for it. As a result the House of Parliament wasn't too happy about it either but he acted like a President and signed us up anyway, and for what? The British army is overstretched, its fighting in too many places around the world, the country isn't any safer, probably even more radicals have even more reason to want to blow us up, and in his Prime Ministership he's withdrawn many of the liberties that we took for granted and that have made us proud to be British. Maybe 2007 will be a year that Mr Blair admits, just once, something, anything, that was his fault. And to say sorry like he means it. And actually really mean it. And then maybe he'll just disappear. Here's hoping.

The American elections when the Republicans lost heavily and Donald Rumsfield being replaced as Defence Secretary by someone, whose name I forget, who seems to have a more realistic notion of what the American army can and cannot do. Now I'm not one that normally gets all that excited about American politics but in this instance both events should go some way to pulling in George W. Bush's disastrous foreign policy. Which can only be a good thing.


Scotland beating England 18-12 at Murrayfield

Even against the backdrop of the Six Nations Championship and the four-year cycle of the Rugby World Cup, there is still a marvellous sense of self-containment about the Calcutta Cup match. Like an Old Firm game, its meaning does not depend on any bigger picture, for it answers all its own questions in 80 minutes of raw and ancient passion.

Yet it was a tartan tide of hope rather than expectation that swept through the streets of Edinburgh towards Murrayfield on that February afternoon. Three weeks earlier the Scots had beaten France 20-16 at the same ground, but that had been one of those asterisks internationals, compromised by an awareness that the French had been wretched opponents. But what unfolded against England was a very different kind of game.

Great matches are rarely things of exquisite beauty; more commonly raw and passionate affairs. It mattered not a bit that Scotland's 18-12 win produced no tries. As ever the English players were bigger, stronger, heavier, and better payed than their Scottish counterparts but this was a game in which the Scots' they played acted like men possessed. They smashed their English opponents with blue-shirted menace and defended as if their very lives depended on it.

One image? Try this. Seconds left on the clock, and England work the ball across Scotland's 22. A converted try can still win them the match, and the England flanker Joe Worsley looks odds-on to score it as he drives low and hard for the line. Between Worsley and the score, though, stands Jason White, the Scotland captain who will later be hailed as the Championship's outstanding player. White batters Worsley back in the tackle, reclaims the ball and guarantees a deserved victory. That crunching tackle along with many others he made throughout the game, and indeed the Six Nations tournament, made sure that there was no hard luck story in this instance which contrasts sharply with many stories of Scottish sporting history.

Scotland beating France 1-0 at Hampden

You had to be Scottish to understand it I guess. At the beginning of the year Scotland were drawn in a difficult group consisting of France, Italy and the Ukraine, strong footballing nations that even the best Scottish teams in the history of football would struggle to beat. And so the task fell to a Scottish team, still struggling to gain respectability again after the fiasco that was the German coaching experiment just a couple of years previous to qualify from the Group of Death for the Euro2008 tournament. At the beginning of the year the task looked difficult enough given that France, Italy and the Ukraine had all qualified for the World Cup in the summer whilst Scotland hadn't. By the end of the summer the task no longer looked just difficult, Italy were the World Champions and France were the runners up, it looked impossible. However sport is a funny thing. After two games played in the group Scotland were sitting alongside France with a maximum 6 points out of 6, whereas Italy had dropped points and had only managed 1 point from the same number of games.

Then on a ghastly, inhospitable October Glasgow evening came the Scotland Vs France game. In truth no right minded Scot expected anything from the game and everyone would probably have been more than happy with a 0-0 draw. However as the game got nearer people started to dream, voices would joke about the prospects of a 1 or 2 goal victory. Of course no one actually believed such things were possible, which is just as well because Scottish sport is littered with stories of when dreams were dashed after just a couple of faint moments of hope. But still a Hampden Park crowd fuelled by an unholy combination of adrenaline and alcohol recovering its roar gave the World Cup finalists of only three months earlier the rudest of awakenings. A similar concoction of ingredients had been responsible for a similar outcome back in 1989, but given the two teams' respective positions on the world football ladder, not to mention the fact that this was Thierry Henry possibly the best footballer of 2006, and Patrick Vieira we were talking about, this hearkened even further back. This was some decidedly old-school Scottish football, and the drama was only heightened by the game's reluctance to follow footballing logic.

Individual episodes have become marked in the collective memory: the opening strains of Le Marseilleise, when the unsporting booing made it clear that the Auld Alliance had been forgotten; Vieira's header from a free-kick being ruled offside by all of an inch as Scotland's midfield were dragged all over the park; Scotland not having one attack in the first 45 minutes of the match; the realisation that although Scotland hadn't conceded a goal yet but that if they had to defend like that for another 45 minutes then the second half was going to be very, very long indeed. But then the second half came and Scotland gingerly started to venture forward, yes they were still defending more than was comfortable but at last they were trying to do something with the ball and then came Gary Caldwell flinging himself to the turf twice in quick succession, first after muscling out Eric Abidal and prodding in the ball from Paul Hartley's corner into the French net, then in unfettered celebration amidst the bedlam. With 23 minutes on the clock we knew better than to believe in victory, far too many times before has the Scottish fan suffered just as they began to dream. But with that goal scored on 67 minutes something broke in the French, yes they still attacked and played their pretty passes around the pitch but the arrogance was gone. No longer did the believe that the victory was their due, they began to panic and that panic led to mistakes where it mattered when the ball was in front of the Scottish goal line and so 23 long minutes later the final whistle blew signalling that Scotland had beaten the French. And what's more Scotland were top of the Group of Death. Ok so Scotland then went to the Ukraine and lost but we expected that, and more, so many months before. It was worth it if only to see the general look of disbelief in Henry's face; and the bemused French coach Raymond Domenech lashing out at the tardiness of ball boys. Aren't the French players better than that. Weren't they, after exacting revenge on Italy the game before this, the best team in the world again? Surely a couple of excited 14 and 15 year olds boys not promptly returning the ball to the pitch wouldn't have stopped the Gallic superstars from concentrating on their task, would it?

Swimming In The Commonwealth Games
Now I have to be honest here and say that I've never been much into the Commonwealth Games. I've always kind of looked at like a poor man's Olympics, without the leading sporting nations of the USA, Russia Germany, France, China etc involved I tend to think something is missing. However this year the event was hosted by Australia, a country passionate about sport, so that undoubtedly helped but not as much the Scottish Athletes performing so well from day one of the event. Scotland isn't exactly renowned for its prowess in the pool but Scotland somehow managed to achieve not one, not two, not three gold medals but 6 golds, 12 medals in all in the pool helping to make 2006 Scotland most successful Commonwealth Games ever. And now as a result I have been enthusiastically converted and am hoping that Glasgow who has bidded to host the games in 2014 might just do so, but first of all they have to see off the bids from Halifax, and Nigeria.


2006 was a strong year for Scottish music, good albums from Belle & Sebastian and Mogwai, and new acts such as The View, The Fratellis and Paolo Nutini making their presence felt.


Scotland was declared a smoke free zone with the banning of smoking in public places, yes it was evidence of the nanny state in action but I don't mind, selfishly as a non smoker it suits me fine. I can now go to a pub and enjoy the atmosphere if I feel so inclined, not that I actually drink but I suppose I could have a pub meal, and enjoy it.


Yes I thought I would mention weather as good thing not once but twice, if only for the reason that we Brits tend to moan about the weather rather a lot and I thought I would try to look on it positively for once.

First of all there was snow this year, I mean real proper snow. Thick stuff, 18 inches of it and it all fell in one day in March, or was it April I forget. But I do remember feeling like a kid again. The last time I seen snow like that it was the 80s and I was a kid. Of course this being Scotland the snow melted almost as quickly as it had come, 3 days later and every last inch of it had melted to slush but that's not the point, for one brief moment Scots everywhere could have skied to work if only they hadn't sold their ski's two decades before when the snows stopped falling.

The second freakish event was the summer of 2006, it was warm, it was dry, it was long, it lasted late into autumn and autumn itself lasted long into winter. Yes it was probably a one off event caused by the Greenhouse effect and maybe it was a little selfish of us to enjoy it but maybe Scotland doesn't have much to fear from global warming. So maybe there will be higher sea levels, we've got plenty of mountains we can live in and snow in March/April with dry summer's sounds pretty good to me. People of the world - keep pumping the carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere. Please.

I'm joking, I've seen enough freaky weather to know its not good to mess with Mother Nature, that said some freaky weather can be enjoyable.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

I admit it, I'm a thief

In the interest of making extra money for a digital SLR I've taken on some extra work in Lochgilphead which is a tiny little place with next to nothing that resembles civilization as we know it and I'll be working there for the next two months, only coming home for the weekends. Which means no computer or internet access for me, and worse still no music that is held in my PC. How am I going to survive on local radio stations??? What possessed me to say yes to this job???
Since I will only have a computer at weekends I probably won't be blogging much and just when I was getting into some sort of blogging routine again - dammit to hell! So anyway I'll leave you with something to do in my absence and yes this is the part I stole. Thank you Tathiana. Actually she doesn't know I stole it yet, but if she's paying attention she will.
The task I've set you is this:
Direct your browser to
Then make a wish, for every person who makes a wish $0.10 is donated to a non profit organization. Doesn't sound like very much but a maximum of $50,000 will be donated, so get your friends to do it too.
Oh and wish for something original world wide peace and ending starvation has been done to death.

Have a good time, even if I am going slowly insane through lack of music. Actually I'll be back at the weekend this is just a short week, its the week after the new year that will be a killer.

Friday, 22 December 2006

Same Jeans?

I bought myself an early Christmas present this week. Nothing very exciting. It was just a couple pairs of jeans for work. One black pair, one blue pair. Same label on the back, came cut, same leg length and same waist width. I tried the black pair in the shop and they fitted fine and with that I bought both pairs and hurried off home to do the rest of the million things I had to do that night. The next day I wore the black pair and felt comfortable in them all day long. Today I put on the blue pair. At the time they felt a little bit on the tight side, so I took them off again and compared the label with the black pair just to double check that everything was the same apart from the colour. It was. With that I was satisfied and assumed that I was imagining the tightness or maybe my underwear had twisted round, so on went the jeans again. By this time I running late, the million things I had to do a few nights before had become a million and one things (isn't the festive season great?), so when the tightness was still there I didn't have time to change. All I could do was make funny faces and strange body contortions as I tried to adjust myself in my underwear as I ran down the stairs. (Now that was a photo opportunity missed)
16 hours later, unable to get home to change my jeans at any point of the day its safe to say I will not be having any of my own kids in this lifetime. Ah well the world is over populated anyway.
Strangely the relief that I was expecting to feel after I cut myself out of them didn't materialize. If those are the same size of jeans as the black pair then I am Nelson Mandela. Comfort fit? Comfort fit, my backside they are!

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Tis the season for giving

So in keeping with the time of year I thought I would share my pain.

I'm not sure if thats strictly how its supposed to go BUT I don't always like to play by the rules so you are just going to have to take what you can get.

Anyway, my pain, its been there since about 10 to 7 this morning when I woke to the sound of the radio playing Mika's 'Grace Kelly'. Well when I say I woke up I was really still in that dream state, vaguely aware that the radio was playing but apparently I was awake enough for the song to get deep into my subconcious because its been playing in my head ever since. Its not a bad song to be honest but the problem is I don't know all the words so I've been humming the parts that I don't know and thats been irratating for a few hours now. What I want to know is who the hell is Mika, he sounds a bit like Freddie Mercury doing the Scissor Sisters, which perversly seems to work for this song, until I hum around the words I don't know. Since Freddie is dead I know it can't be him so I did a websearch and found the Mika site, which was a mistake because I heard the song blasting out my speakers once again. Oh and I never did find out who Mika was.

Anyway I was sharing my pain wasn't I ....

Go on look it up, I know you are telling yourself that you don't want a song stuck in your head but at the same time you know you want to listen, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on , go on, go on, GO ON!!!

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

It used to be so simple....

....when you were younger you wrote a letter to Santa and, if you were lucky, on the 25th of December you found all that you wanted under the tree. Now that we have reached adulthood we find that we must battle with the concept of the secret Santa.

The secret Santa system is, inherently, a good thing. It is a mini-lottery whereby you buy a present for only one person in the group and only one person buys a gift for you.

The problem arises when you try to find out who is your secret Santa in order to deliver a briefing on a suitable present. Some people take it so seriously that you have more chance of breaking the Da Vinci code than you have of penetrating the veils of Santa secrecy.

Apparently its in the secret Santa rulebook that all participants bind themselves into the contract of secrecy under no less penalty than being hung, drawn and quartered should they ever reveal any details of presents before Christmas day. Actually, I think I'm getting confused here with the rules of freemasonry but the secret Santa circle can be quite strict. The first unwritten rule seems to be that no-one talks about what they would want as a gift, making gift buying for someone extremely bloody difficult, the second unwritten rule is that no-one talks about what they want. Sorry, wait a second, I think I might be thinking about that secret Santa club film with Brad Pitt in it, but the first rule definately does apply. The second rule is that you must smile and act graciously when your secret Santa hands over the most inappropriate of gift's. And they will do that because they have no idea what you would like or want.

If I am honest, even before adulthood I was always a complicated bugger to buy presents for. I wasn't one for writing letters to Santa and when people asked what I wanted I would usually answer with “Och, I don't really know.” It was a guilt thing. I preferred the concept of giving than receiving presents. I liked the process of choosing what gifts to buy for other people but asking for a specific gift for myself or even hinting at what I might like was alien to me, it went against my nature.

But I'm also a rule breaker and there are no better rules to break than those of secret societies so this year I'm going to break the habit of a lifetime. It helps that I'm also feeling rather selfish this year. I've decided just in the off chance that my secret Santa happens to read this blog ( that should be very slim, to nae chance, but you just never know) I thought I would share what I would like as my gift.

Dear Secret Santa,

If you happen to be loaded, and are of generous spirit and money is no object, and would like to give me something ( a lot of 'and's' in this sentence please excuse my poor grammar) that I can't currently give to myself then the gift to give me would be the gift of travel and (another one) some means to capture what I see. I'm not really one for luxuries and I'm a spontaneous kind of guy so first class travel on a open ended see the world ticket wouldn't be my style. I'm not one for waiting in airports or organising schedules, I'm quite happy for fate to intervene in my travel plans so something like a hot air balloon as a gift would suit me just fine. In fact the more I think about it the more it appeals, the thought that I would see the world in what ever order that the wind determined sounds rather interesting, as long as I didn't run out of gas whilst flying over an ocean or a hot dry desert but then not knowing what is going to happen each day would only add to the excitement I suppose.

Like all travellers I would also need a camera so that I can take an indecent amount of pictures with which I can bore the pants off of friends and family when I return home. If I return home that is, after all there is that problem of negotiating oceans and deserts .

Anyway assuming that I do return it would be nice to bore people silly with images that I can be proud of, for this I require a digital slr camera. I won't be too greedy I don't want one of those fancy £5000 Canon Digital cameras, basically because I'd be scared to drop it, and knowing my luck if I had something so expensive in my hands I would do just that whilst I was being carried by the wind over the Himalayas. I don't want to say Hello Mount Everest, bye bye camera, so with that in mind I would be quite happy if I got something about a 1/5th of the price. A Nikon D200 would be very nice indeed and i'm sure I could handle it without being a nervous wreck.

Alternatively, my Secret Santa, if you are not of well off means but would still like to make me happy then I have the perfect gift. My neighbour, below me, plays darts constantly. Well it seems that way but in all honesty its more like 45 minutes out of every 60 but nonetheless the 'thud, thud, thud' that echoes through the wall as the darts hit the dartboard is really doing my head in. So the perfect (no cost) gift for me would be for you to have a little talk with my neighbour and make him see sense, in a way that I have been unable to, that me slowly being driven crazy by repetitive thudding is not in anyone's best interests.

Thank you Secret Santa for taking the time to read this, may you get what you want this Christmas. Enjoy the festivities.

Signed selfish Scotsman.

You know that post might have been written in jest but it proved, strangely, rather liberating. Who knew that shrugging off years of “Och, I don't really know what I want” and surrendering myself to 'I want, I want, I want' brigade could be so much fun. Bring back the 80s! Greed is good!

So what do you want? Go on tell you your secret Santa. Just remember this, I'm not he.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Picasa Web Album

Since it appears that I am back to not being able to comment once again I thought I would take the time to see how web albums work through Picasa. I probably can't do that either but hey I can but try. If it does work, you should be able see the Isle Of Skye by clicking the link below.

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Do NOT Resuscitate! - A Story

Lonely girl buys puppy.
Girl with puppy meets boy.
Boy moves in with girl and puppy.
Boy and girl spend a day shopping leaving the puppy inside.
Boy and girl come home and discover that the puppy has made a mess in the kitchen.
Boy violently kicks dog for punishment and retribution.
Girl, eventually, 3 days later takes dog to the vet.
Due to broken ribs etc the vets bill comes to about £900.
Boy tells girl to put the puppy down.
Girl gives this serious consideration but decides in the end to give the dog one more chance.


What the hell is wrong with these people?

I tell you, that guy is one lucky guy. I don't care that he is 6ft 6 and almost a foot taller than I am, I don't care that he is built like a rock and I'm not. If I had seen him kick that dog I would most likely have kicked him in the balls with my steal toe cap boots until he cried like a baby girl. And if he then proceeded to try and have the puppy (with 12, 13, 14 maybe 15 years life ahead of it) put down I would have kicked him in the ribs, personally dragged his ass to hospital, laid him on a hopital bed and I would then ask a passing nurse for a sheet of paper on which I would have wrote 3 words on it- Do NOT Resuscitate!

This story probably makes me sound really violent, but really I'm not. I actually abhor violence and try to avoid it whenever I can. If someone was to punch me right now I would probably let them off with a firm verbal warning not to do it again. If that person was stupid enough to try to hit me again then they might get the shock of their life when I knocked them half way into tomorrow with a couple of punches. But I would stop instantly as soon as I thought they had learned that I am not an easy touch. However if I saw someone needlessly being violent to an animal, a child, a woman or even another weaker man I would be very tempted to intervene and probably would do so if I judged that wasn't going to make the situation worse.
I might be only 5 ft 7 and of slim build but i'm stubborn bastard, I can take a beating and get back up again and again. And if I have the right circumstances & motivation I can let someone else know that they have been in a fight. It takes a lot to make me angry. Its probably just as well too, because the world would not be a pretty place if I was angry all the time.

I have a question for you.
Why do women stay with jerks like him? If he can do something like that to a dog and show no remorse, it surely won't take much for him to do it to a child or even his girlfiend or wife.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Green Taxes and Posturing Politicians

If there is one thing I hate in life it's tax. I don't like anything that hurts my pocket not when I don't have much in it to begin with. But I'm a bit of a hippy at times, in that I am environmentally aware and although I don't want to go out of my way to do something that involves a lot of work on my part I also don't want to do unnecessary damage to the environment in which I live.

However despite these beliefs I'm not one of these people who believes that Green taxes are a good idea. The first reason being that governments get too used to receiving tax and once they have it they don't want to give them up. My second reason for not believing in green taxes is down to the way they are currently being implimented and how some are proposing to use them in the future. They are completely flawed.

Last week the British Chancellor Gordon Brown had a budget where he increased two taxes for 'green ' reasons. Firstly he put the price of petrol and diesel up, yet again, and in the second tax he added a £10 charge for those flying within the UK and a £40 charge for longhaul flights.
At first glance the tax on flying seems like a good idea after all flying is the biggest contributer of CO2. If you genuinely want to save the planet by reducing CO2 emissions and slow down global warming then the best way to go about is to cut flying and with it the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. One way to go about that might be to add a tax to make it less appealing to travel by air. I would be all for this if the Chancellor had been serious about that goal but really all he did was use the pretense of concerns for the environment to get a cheap easy tax. The UK is a small country and just about every airport in the land is seeking planning permission to add an extra runway because the demand for flying has increased so dramatically in the past decade and is expected to continue to increase.

This new tax on flying isn't going to change that and the Chancellor had no intention of changing it despite the fact that we are flying more than we ever have before. The reason we doing just that is down to the fact that flights are so cheap. You can get a flight from Glasgow to London, a distance of about 544 milles, for about £25. Probably about 95% of the UK's 60 million population live within that distance of one another. When compared to Australia, Brazil, Canada, or the USA the UK is really quite small and its cities are fairly close together, really there is no need to fly from one UK city to another. And yet its actually cheaper to fly from Glasgow to London than it is to travel by train or by car and its quicker too, no wonder we fly more than ever. You might think adding a £10 charge would make it less attractive to fly but not when you consider it takes 8 hours to drive from Glasgow to London and about £40 - £50 in petrol (over half of which is tax btw). Adding £10 to the cost of flying doesn't make one person less likely to fly, well not if they are in any way financially intelligent. If I was the Chancellor and my goal was not just to raise taxes as a nice easy money earner that few were going to complain about but because I was truly concerned about the numbers of people flying then I would have reversed the £10 and £40 charges. I would have made those who wanted to fly to cities within the UK pay an extra £40 and then put a token charge on those who were flying longhaul. At a stroke that would have put off many people from flying in the UK because it would then be cheaper to drive. Anyone that was on a budget would have thought twice about flying whilst anyone who doesn't care about money would probably have flown anyway whether the charge was £40 or £100. Charging £40 for flying longhaul is a piece of nonsense because £40 is nothing compared to the overall price of the flight. I flew to New Zealand for £765 adding £40 wouldn't have stopped me. If I was really concerned about the £40 I could have saved the money by spending one night less in the land of the long white cloud and in the process saved myself £40 by not needing a bed for the night and breakfast the following morning. I flew economy class and my budget was extremely tight but if I could find a solution to still fly to the other side of the world then anyone who had the money to fly business or first class and consequently spent £1000s on a ticket would hardly have noticed a £40 tax. Somehow I doubt anyone would be put off flying longhaul so why bother taxing at all, when clearly its been designed in such a way that no-one will be put off from flying? The answer seems to simply be to raise money that we might complain about yet in the end we will all have to pay the penalty of increased taxation if we want to fly abroad for our holidays or travel quickly and cheaply within the UK.

The increased tax on petrol infuriated me as well even though I agree in the principle that polluters should pay for the damage that they do to the environment. So if I agree with the principle why would I be annoyed in having to pay a little bit extra? Well I pay on average 92 pence per litre for diesel about 51 pence of which is tax. Only about 5 pence of that 92 pence goes to the owner of the petrol forecourt, the rest of the money goes to Shell. Thats a fairly high sum of tax going to the government but in truth I would be quite happy for that to be the price if I was rewarded with lower taxation for finding an alternative means of travelling that was less damaging to the environment. I originally bought my diesel van with the intention of using biodiesel. The diesel engine was after all originally designed to run on peanut oil which is low polluting but of course the numbers of people who use diesel engines meant that was never going to be enough production of peanuts to cope with demand so diesel oil was instead seen as more practical. However in recent years oilseed rape has been converted into biodesel which produces about a 10th of the pollution than ordinary diesel, however because diesel currently has larger economies of scale it is still cheaper to produce ordinary diesel than biodiesel. of course this could be solved be reducing the taxation on biodiesel. If biodiesel only has 10% of the harmful emmissions then surely it could have 10% of the tax. Not according to the the UK government which puts on the full 51 pence a litre fuel tax on biodiesel. It would actually cost me about 95pence per litre to run my van in an environmentally sound way. The chancellor 'talks' green but really his green tax is nothing but a fraud.

I could still save some money on biodiesel by producing it myself. I could buy a machine for about £650 and go down to my local chipshop and strike a deal with the proprietor and acquire his used chip fat oil at the end of each day and then use the machine to convert the used oil into clean biodiesel, but I would still be expected to pay fuel tax on every litre of diesel I made. I would save money by not giving any money to Shell, but it would take about 30 minutes of my time working in the shed in the back garden each and every time I wanted to produce some diesel and the fuel would only be ready for use after 8 hours or so. Whereas it would take me just 5 minutes to go down to the local forecourt and get some out the pumps. So how many people are going to manually produce clean oil? Very few is my bet. Green taxes? Pfft! What a lot of nonsense.

Real green taxes wouldn't punish everyone who travelled just for the sake of travelling, we all travel from day to day. It's a necessity of modern living. I do so for work on a daily basis. I can't avoid it. I need my van to carry my tools without it I wouldn't make money. If the taxes were truly green they would be designed in such a way that they would be temporary tax until people changed their ways and there would be incentives for changing their ways with real alternatives that rewarded people for changing their behaviour.

The next proposed green tax in the UK is the introduction of a tax per road mile travelled, with one rate for urban driving and a lower rate for rural driving. Sounds good in principle but until there is a green alternative it will only become another tax that people cannot avoid. Which will only mean that the money earned will only become another tax that the government will get used to having and will be reluctant to give up.

If you read this far down I apologise but at least you now know I really do think too much.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

A, B, Cs of 2006 (part 1)

The end of the year is coming fast and its about now that every radio station, man, woman and dog seem to come up with their ultimate music list of the year and I'm not going to be any different. Well actually I am. I have to be an awkward sod and add my own twist. I'm not going to make a list of my best 10 albums of the year or the best 50 songs of the year basically because I'm fickle and my musical tastes change with my mood. So instead I'm going to make a list from A - Z with each letter of the alphabet represented by one artist or band that I have played alot of in the year 2006. This does not mean that the artists or bands have had an album out this year, the only rule is that I have played their music rather excessively this year. The following list is not going to be a comprehensive means of showing my most played music because lets face it none of us pick our music by the alphabet. So why do the list this way then? Well most of the lists of 2006 are going to have the same bands and artists cropping up again and again so I thought that doing a list this way would at least throw a few different names out there. Most of the bands and artists you will have heard of but maybe, just maybe, you'll rediscover some music you haven't listened to for a while. After you've read this list why do not do your own?
So anyway let's begin....
A - I was tempted to make Aberfeldy my A band of the year because for a period of 3 weeks this year I couldn't get enough of them. Something made me this listen to Vegetarian Restaurant and that sent me on a path of rediscovering the Aberfeldy back catalogue. However that 3 week period wasn't enough to win it. Other A acts I could have opted for instead could have been Annie Lennox, Angus & Julia Stone, Arcade Fire, Athlete or the Arctic Monkeys but instead I would have to say A would be for Augie March. I have to admit I'd never heard of Augie March before this year but for much of the year I've been exchanging music with an Australian friend and she sent me a live version of One Crowded Hour and because Augie March wasn't being played on the radio I was able to play them on my own terms without it being spoiled by being overplayed elsewhere.

B - Belle & Sebastian could have been the B band but for unfortunate circumstance. They released a new album this year which could be their best yet but I haven't quite made up my mind on that yet. Belle & Sebastian are a weird band for me in that I didn't really like their music when I first heard them, in fact it took me many years before I was won round, now I go through periods where I won't play them for months and then out of the blue I will suddenly be in the mood to play them all damn day and I'll just spend the day listening to everything they've ever played. However todays not that day so instead the B band is Bell X1. Again I hadn't heard of Bell x1 until they released their 3rd album this year but after listening to a couple of tracks of that I then downloaded every Bell x1 song I could get my hands on. They are a little bit Snow Patrolesque and do come from Ireland but I hear they are much better live. Which in all honesty wouldn't be hard. I've been to see Snow Patrol twice, once before they hit the big time and once after and I was disappointed both times. You would think after it took them 8 years to make it big that they would have the live performing thing worked out but they do seem to produce decent studio albums. Perhaps I'm being unfair judging Snow Patrol on 2 performances but feedback from friends has suggested the same thing whereas Bell X1 seem to get far better reviews. I've never seen them live myself but I do like their albums.

C - C was harder to decide on than I initially thought. There was Camille who mostly sings songs in French, which threw me a little when I heard her album for the first time especially when I instantly liked it. I've not had to speak French in about 8 or 10 years so its a little bit rusty to say the least so most of the time I have no idea what she's singing but she does sing so beautifully that it doesn't seem to matter. Other C's that I have listened to a great deal this year include Cat Stevens (someone should tell him he needs to release something new), Cerys Matthews, Clare Bowditch, Che Fu, Chuck Berry and Crosby, Stills & Nash but C has to be Camera Obscura because I fell in love with the lead singers voice in a big way this year.

D - D could have so easily have been Deathcab For Cutie, Damien Rice, Dallas Crane, Delgados, Distillers, or Duke Special but then a few months ago I checked out The Decemberists again and I definately went through a phase of playing The Decemberists.

E - Every year seems to be a year where I play Elbow, Ed Harcourt and the Eurythmics a little bit too much and this year was no exception. This year though was a year I discovered Eagles Of Death Metal but still E has to be Elbow.

- F was a tough one. I didn't realise there was so many F bands - Faithless, Fischerspooner, The Feelers, Foo Fighters, Fly My Pretties and Fat Freddy's Drop are all bands that I played a lot this year but I would probably say it was the Fratellis that I played the most this year because they just sounded different to all the other acts that made their presense felt this year.

G - Gym Class Heroes, Goldfrapp, Gnarls Barkley (for that damn infectious Crazy song), Goldenhorse, Grandmaster Flash, Gomez, the Guillemots and Gun's 'N' Roses were all G's that I played this year but it might just be that it was Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly that I played most often during the latter half of the year.

H -Hollie Smith, Howling Bells, Holly Throsby, Hard Fi , The Hussy's and Hunters & Collectors seem to all be H's that I remember playing frequently but it was most likely Handsome Boy Modeling School that was the favourite H of the year, it might be a couple of years old now but I still can't get enough of Rock n Roll Could Never Hip Hop Like This part 2.

I - Idlewild? Interpol? Idlewild? Interpol? It's a toss up - Interpol.

J - J was a hard one, I'm tempted to say anything but Jack Johnson. I swear after just a few years air play I am all Jack Johnsoned out, I don't think I can take any more. But I definately had a lot of J favourites this year I had phases for listening to Jem, James Dean Bradfield, Jesus and Mary Chain, Johnny Cash, Jim Noir, James Dean Bradfield and Joanna Newsome but perhaps suprisingly my J pick was Juliette & The Licks. I'm usually a bit of a snob when it comes to actors thinking that they can be musicians but the past couple of years I've been surprised at how much I like and play this band.

K - Kaada, King Creosote, Keane, Kanye West, Kaiser Chiefs, King Kapisi, the Klaxons, Kubb, The Knife could all have been contenders but it was probably The Killers that I have played more than most.

L - Louis armstrong, Lacuna Coil, Liam Frost, Little Birdy, Lily Allen, Lostprophets, Le Tigre, Little Man Tate, Lloyd Cole & Lior well all amongst this years favourite L's but everybody knows (like how I did that?) the most played L must be old smoky voiced Leonard Cohen.

Ok I'll do M - Z another day

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

What A Day For A Daydream

It's beautiful out there. Gorgeous. Lots of wind and rain leading to flooding everywhere. It's good weather for ducks or so they say. But who are 'they', and how do they know that ducks love the type of weather that involves driving rain that comes down from the sky at such vicious angles? If I were a duck I think I'd probably prefer to paddle about in a pond with the sun on my back warming my feathers, but what do I know, I'm not a duck.Anyway, I cheated, the pictures above were not taken today. There was no way in hell I was going to stand outside taking pictures of ducks. It was too wild for such idiotic behaviour. The photos were taken about 18 months ago in Wellington, New Zealand. I was in New Zealand for 3 weeks and the only time I had bad weather was the 2 days I spent in Wellington. It was weather much like today actually and you don't want to be in Wellington when the rain starts, it's not called the windy city for nothing. The rain gets blown in from the coast and then funneled through the streets by the tall buildings consequently you get soaked through to the skin in minutes. Ironically when I was in Wellington the only time it stopped raining was for about a 30 minute period when I was standing over this duck pond.

Disclaimer: Today's post title was brought to you by a song once played by The Lovin' Spoonful, it was either that or Travis's Why Does It Always Rain On Me, I thought this was at least a bit more positive.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Language ( I wrote this better the first time but sod it)

As the world continues to get smaller day by day the individuality of the way people speak is becoming less apparent. Before the days of the influence of radio, television and the internet people used to speak differently depending on the town or region that they lived in. In Scotland for example the people of Aberdeen spoke differently from the people in Dundee, who again spoke differently to those who lived in Edinburgh and they spoke differently to those living in Falkirk who in turn spoke differently from those who stayed in Glasgow. They all spoke English with different accents, and they all had their own unique Scots words and phrases used only in their town. Despite the fact that each town was a mere 30, 40 or 50 miles from the other they had each, over many centuries, grown unique identities.

Today that uniqueness in speech between town and region is somehow being slowly diluted. There is something sad about that loss of identity. I like watching human behaviour, each individual has they own unique characteristics and it can be interesting to people watch to see these characteristics play out in real life mode much like a scientists watching chimpanzees interact in the wild. People do quirky things, and its entertaining. It’s the same with languages. Language is a powerful tool and there is no one right way to speak. There is the Queen’s English that ‘one used to have to learn if one intended to work for the BBC’ and then there is the English that you learn from the area you have been brought up in. Each form of English has their place.

Language is a constantly evolving beast, the words don’t change very often but they way we use them and the order we use them changes frequently. If I were to move to Edinburgh tomorrow I probably wouldn’t understand what the locals were saying to me. Not because they don’t speak English, they do, its just because they have their own unique phrases local to the area that I’m not familiar with. It might take me 2 or 3 weeks, maybe more, before I would feel confident that I was understanding the locals. This despite the fact that I’ve lived a mere 40 miles away from Edinburgh for most of my life. For example an Edinburgh person might say something like ‘You’ll have had yer tea then?’, someone from London might think that they are being offered a hot drink made from teabags, whereas a Glaswegian listening to the same question might well interpret the same line as ‘Well you’ll have had your dinner so I won’t bother offering you something.’, thus the Glaswegian would reply My mither knows you mither and if ye don’t make me some grub tonight after bringing me all the over here she will be made aware of yer inhospitable rudeness AND I’ll kick ye in the baws fer guid measure ye stingy fuckin’ bastid. Who dae ye think ye are not offering food tae the big man?’

Language can be fun for its differences. Differences in accent and colloquial speech should be celebrated. Well most of the time anyway. Lately though I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. The rise of ‘ned’ speak. Neds are a species of Scot that traditionally have lived in certain areas of the West of Scotland. You can recognize Neds by the clothes they wear but mostly by the way they speak. Neds speak with an accent that makes even me cringe but not only that they speak like they don’t have a High School education.

I lived the first 6 and half years of my life in areas that Neds were traditionally prevalent but if I dared to speak like them I got a ‘quick clip round the lug’ (Scottish for, quick slap in the ear) for my sins. However lately when I hear Scottish youths speak no matter what part of Scotland they are from, whether it the West of Scotland or the North East of Scotland, I hear Neds everywhere. It used to be insulting to be considered a Ned now it seems it be a right of passage. What’s worse is these children are actually passing their English exams (well some of them are) despite the fact that they are talking like lazy 9 year olds. Not only that they are not using perfectly serviceable Scottish or British phrases that have used for centuries but instead replacing them with American phrases instead.

I have many American friends and I have no problem with Americans using Americanisms. They are after all American, although I must admit I find the use of ‘mom’ instead of ‘mum’ is a little bit grating to my ear, not to mention ‘like ohmigod!!!’

It’s Americanisms with Scottish or British accents that I just cannot abide. It’s so wrong I can’t possibly tell you how wrong it sounds.

I personally can’t do accents, the only accent I can do is my own, which I don’t happen to like very much, thankfully I only hear it on rare occasions. I would love to be able to do other accents but my attempts to do an Irish or Geordie accent have all ended in failure. So instead I admit to taking phrases that I hear when speaking to people from the UK, America, Canada and Austrailia and trying them on for size in my own conversations sometimes. However I never intend to use them on a regular basis, but thanks to MTV that’s seems to be what’s happening everywhere I turn. Imagine hearing the following conversation

"Hey! How are you?"
"I'm good, thanks. You?"
"Yeah, good. Like ohmigod, that is, like, a ginormous bruise!"
"Yeah, I did it last week, tripping over this humungous rock in the middle of the … er, sidewalk."
"Go figure!"
"I know, I know, stupid. I had to be hospitalised."
"You are kidding me!"
"Nuh-uh. But hey, we're going to be late. Are you good to go?"
"You bet."

Now for those of you who have been blessed with having seen the Glaswegian export that is Taggart imagine the above conversation in a Glasgow accent. Now scream.

Americanisms are everywhere. You hear them spoken by newsreaders in London, teenagers in Skye and a huge variety of unexpected people in between. Propagated by American TV, music and film, they are ever-present in our day-to-day interactions.

The problem is not just that Geordies and Glaswegians sound like numpties (Scottish word for fools/idiots) when they say "enough already"; it's that colloquial American is the linguistic equivalent of the strip mall, slowly but surely homogenising English in the way that car-friendly shopping centres have made clones of cities around the world. Something has to be done. We've put on American English like a big collective verbal uniform

Yes, yes, I know: languages are always evolving. But we seem to have joined our hothoused planet in a process of accelerated change.

Now before I finish this post I thought I’d give those of you not in the know an introductory cookery lesson in Ned Speak. Unfortunately due to my upbringing I’m not overly familiar with Ned speak myself so I did steal the following from the BBC, oh how Auntie has fallen in 80 years.

This is your introductory cookery lesson for all you fat, pie-eating Jabba the Huts oot there that couldnae make themselves a cup of tea and huv tae phone in a takeaway when thur burd’s at the bingo. Nae more sittin’ stuffin’ yir fat coupons full of chippy grub anymore, for over this lesson we‘ll be gettin‘ gastronomic ned-style.

And tae start the course, where better to go than the land of posh nosh,
France. Today we’re going to make Coq au Vin (pronounced Cock ‘o’ Van), so called because it wiz invented by some French cock who drove a van, awright?


First of all ye huv tae get yirsel a cock. Nae funny business here, awright? We’re talking the feathered burd kind awright? An don’t start nobbin’ yir dinner or nothin’ like wee Barry tried last week at the party. The first rule of cookery is hygiene. So wash yir hands and try no tae drop any fag ash on yir grub.

So whit you do is get the chicken and ye get yir chib oot ’n’ ye cut its heid aff. Ma wee flick knife is the business for this bit, ye know? Then ye peel some garlics and shove them right up the chicken’s arse man. Mingin’, ye might say, but it says in this book it tastes lovely...
just don’t go trying tae get a winch afterwards, unless yer feedin’ it tae her as well.

Then ye get a cheeky wee bottle of red wine, and ye can use whitever label ye like, but being a traditionalist ah stick wey the Buckfast? As long as yer no huvin’ jellies for desert you’ll be awright, ’cause as the Airdrie boys will tell ye, Buckie and jellies don’t make for romantic dinners. Leave yir blade in the kitchen though? Just in case.

Now you probably only need a hauf bottle, so, if like me you’ve had a bit of foresight, you’ll have got a full wan instead and you’ll be huvin’ a wee shnifter while yir waiting on it cookin’. Just don’t get maukit drunk, fall asleep, and burn the hoose doon.

Right man, I’m getting bored ae this, so tae cut a long story short, you pour the buckie over the burd, wack it in the oven and wait aboot an hour or two.

Awright. That’s it fir the cookin’ lark fir wan week. Cheerio, and if yer cookin’ fir yer burd, make sure she does the dishes and you get yer nadjins for yer troubles. That’s all fae the glaikit chef.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you all, here ends the lesson of the importance in the differences of language. Sometimes it’s best not to understand a word. And if this doesn't upload this time I will surely give up, I can only be so stubborn at 1 :30am.

I Can't Help Feeling That Blogger Doesn't Like Me

It doesn't let me post comments. I don't know why. And it didn't upload the longass post I wrote earlier today but it does let me write short bitchy posts. Nice! It's trying to paint me as bitter. And it's doing a good job of it too dammit.
I may need to go back to writing my posts in OpenOffice.
Oh and Girl, stop showing off!

Ok What The Hell Is Going On?

Everytime I try to make a comment its says user account (mine) is not found. That's new. Annoying too.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Right Place, Missed Opportunities

....Photographically speaking.

The day began with a drive past the farms at Robroyston, it was there I spotted a hawk sitting on a fence post at the edge of the road. This was an unusual enough experience on its on because the only time I've previously seen a hawk is when its been flying about 500 feet over my head. I was amazed when the hawk didn't seem to be bothered by the traffic that was passing its hunched shoulder by just a few feet. By the time I got there though it decided it was time to move, but it didn't move away from me, it flew in a parallel direction, alongside the passenger side of the van for what seemed like 30 seconds (although in all reality it was probably closer to 5). I could have sworn at the time when the hawk finally decided it had enough of low level flying and that it was time to move upwards for better prey spotting that we first exchanged eye contact, but that might have been my overactive imagination.
What I do know for sure is that as much as I was enjoying this moment it was also annoying me knowing that my camera was close by just sitting behind my feet but still unreachable because I had to keep my hands on the steering wheel. So I have no image to share just the proverbial fisherman's 'it really was this big' story.
After that experience I came across a red squirrel. Red squirrels are native to Britain but they are getting rarer every year as they cannot compete with the American grey squirrels that were introduced little over a 100 years ago. The grey squirrels have a virus that although harmless to other greys are deadly to reds and the greys are also more aggressive eaters, so when the greys move in the reds tend to move or die out. For years I've seen grey squirrels in huge numbers here but I had never once seen a red squirrel in the area, so when I spotted one I just sat and watched for a while. With careful observation I noticed that any time it felt in any danger it would hide away but would always return to a favourite tree. So I went back to the van and got my camera out and went back to the tree and sat on a very damp rock and tried to remain as still as possible until the red squirrel decided to come back again. Of course when it did so it spotted me right away and was not happy with me being there. It's amazing how something so small can make so much noise.
I wasn't going anywhere though, it could make as many clicking noises as it liked but I was going to continue to sitting on my damp rock no matter how uncomfortable it was. Eventually it decided that I wasn't a threat and it got closer and closer and eventually I got a picture. Unfortunately even with the zoom it wasn't quite close enough but I was determined to sit it out and get a better picture. Slowly but surely the red got used to my presense under the tree and continued to get closer and just when I thought I was about to get a good picture 3 kids ran out of godknowswhere making so much noise doing so that every living thing in the vicinity hid, including the damn squirrel.

Whatever happened to kids should be seen and not heard?
To top it all off, on the drive home a fox thought it would try to outstare the headlights of the van. Eventually it saw sense and moved off the road before I ran it over but again it was another opportunity missed.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Note To Self

When you have stitches in your head do NOT under any circumstances put on a tight T-shirt because it will bloody hurt. Alot.

Sometimes I do some really foolish things.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Yesterday's Post ,Today

Work that one out if you can.

It's quite simple really.

Yesterday was St Andrew's Day, and with St Andrew being the patron Saint of Scotland and I had intended to have a Scottish theme to yesterday's post but then I got myself into a bloody mess and didn't really have the time. So I'll write it up a day late instead, besides I've always been a procrastinator anyway.
The Irish have St Patricks day which involves wearing something green and drinking a lot of Guiness. The Guiness company have done quite well out of hijacking St Patricks day, but here in Scotland we don't really do much for St Andrew's day. In recent years there has been some movement to make it a national holiday but even if it was a day off from working most people would probably only use it to go Christmas shopping or something. The problem with it being so close to Christmas is that most people are saving up for all the Christmas parties that start in the next couple of weeks so its hard to get excited about a St Andrew's Day. That made coming up with a theme for this post difficult so I finally just decided to go with a Scottish music theme by mentioning bands and a song worth checking out.
So here they are in no particular order, download them at your leisure.

The Fratelli's new band this year that seemed to come from nowhere to have one of the best debut albums of the year. Unique sound and very energetic, and would be a great band to see live. Softer track to listen to Everyone Knows You Cried Last Night

The Skid's
A punk rock band of the late 70's & early 80s that in truth I had forgotten about until U2 & Greenday got together and remade The Saint's Are Coming

Son's & Daughter's
Folk/Rock with Scottish accents. Another unique band that are great live. Track to listen to is Monster's if only for the line 'compassion's just a word in a dictionary on your shelf'.

Arab Strap If you have ever wondered what a Scotsman (no not me) sounded like when drunk then you have to listen to this duo because thats exactly what they sound like. Some bands specialize in singing love songs, not Arab Strap miserable cunts that they are (and I say that in the nicest possible way) they sing anti-love songs. Strangely it works, possibly because he does sound likes he's drunk. The song to listen to is The Shy Retirer, partly for that authentic drunk sound I was talking about and partly for the 'you know i'm always moanin' but you jump-start my seratonin'.

Belle & Sebastian A little bit twee but sometimes twee is ok. If You Find Yourself Caught In Love

Paolo Nutini
Another debut act this year. At 19 years of age he has all the ingredients that would make it so easy to hate him, he is good looking and he has talent and a voice beyond his years. I haven't figured out why I haven't been able to hate him yet other than for the reason of not getting a ticket for his shows that sell out incredibly fast. Last Request

Camera Obscura.
This was a band I heard a lot about from friends who had seen them live but I didn't pay much heed until I heard them for myself and then I went through a phase where I just played everything they had ever performed basically because I thought that the lead singer's voice was gorgeous and I couldn't get enough of it. Books Written For Girls

Biffy Clyro
Before there was the Arctic Monkeys there was Biffy Clyro. Justboy.

The Corries.
I have a rather ecletic taste I like most types of music but I was never that keen on Scottish folk music basicly because most of it is (excuse my French) embarrassing shite. Most Scottish folk music seems to me to talk about 'roamin' in the gloamin' and I have no clue what that means but then neither do the Englishmen who write that crap. Not only do the songs have no real relevance to Scotland but most of the singers are bloody awful, where they find them I do not know but it makes for painful listening. The Corries though were different, they clearly enjoyed performing and knew how to work an audience, they could make you laugh, they could make you cry and they could make you sing along. So many bands today could learn a thing a two by watching an old show of The Corries in action. The Corries were a duo who mostly did small venues in the middle of nowhere but no matter where they were they made sure that the audience had fun. Yes they sang about Scottish history, but there was none of this roamin' in the gloamin' crap, they were much more than a folk singing duo they were also a comedy act too. And of them was responsible for writing the now adopted Scottish anthem Flower Of Scotland which seems apt for St Andrew's Day

Jesus & Mary Chain.
I was listening to this band for 2 years before I even knew they were Scottish. They were unlike any Scottish I heard up until that point. Just Like Honey

KT Tunstall.
Genuine nice girl, great live act and incredibly ballsy. She never gave up on her dream despite being turned down by the industry for 10 years and remained true to herself and her music and was rewarded for it when she made finally made the breakthru. Girl & The Ghost

Scottish Indie band there seems to be a 1000 of them around now but Idlewild showed them how it was done. Love Steals Us From The Loneliness

Anyway thats enough, maybe next year i'll add more.