Saturday, 27 January 2007

From Football To Dreams To The Enigma Of House Prices To Umm Poetry

You are probably familiar with the American Dream and Martin Luther King's dream. Dreams - we all have them. From the little boy playing in the street to people in power with a lust for yet more power.

People with a lust for power will say anything if they think it will get them closer to their ultimate dream. Take the British Chancellor as an example. He's a clever guy, supposedly one of the most intelligent men in British politics today. Having never met the guy myself I can't confirm or deny this but I do know one thing for an intelligent man he can say some rather stupid things at times. The reason for saying such stupid things can only be explained by one thing and that is his dream and the closeness of fulfilling it. As he inches ever closer to getting his life's desire it seems that Gordon Brown (the Chancellor) will say anything if he thinks it will help him achieve his dream. It's the worst kept secret in British politics that GB has harboured ambitions for the top job. Being able to hold the post of Chancellor for 10 years would make a lot of politicians happy but Mr Brown has always wanted to be Prime Minister and living next door to his dream position has done nothing to quench his thirst. Over the past year it seems that as Mr Blair gets ever closer to retiring from the position of Prime Minister that Mr Brown is becoming increasingly worried that he might be too Scottish for the job. So instead of taking part in debate and showing the electorate that famous intellect of his, he has been talking football and said things like he supports both Scotland and England, and that the Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland in 1996 was one of his best moments.
Can it be true that he really supports Scotland and England at the same time? Umm, no. That's like saying you're a fan of both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. It's not allowed. What about the Paul Gascoigne goal then? That was a goal that had every Scots man, woman and child who had any interest in football holding his or her head in their hands whilst saying the words "Fuck, not again!" in unison. It was a beautiful, great goal if you were an Englishman. However if you were Scottish it was a living nightmare. Not only had Scotland moments earlier just missed a penalty that would have equalised the match but then England went down the other side of the pitch destroyed the defence and humilated the goalkeeper and all before the ball had hit the back of the net. Yes every Scotsman could recognise the sublime piece of skill that it took to score that goal but no Scotsman could truly say that they enjoyed the moment. Scots wil accept losing to any country but England. Its just our thing. We know we aren't very good, and don't expect to win every game against every nation we ever play against but if we beat England thats ok. We don't pretend to understand it, its just who we are. It's inbuilt in our psyche. And Gordon Brown calls himself a future Prime Minister? Pah!
When he says he says such statements other Scots just think he's let lust go to his head whilst I doubt any Englishman truly believes it would be credible for him as a Scotsman to like that Paul Gascoigne goal even if he himself was jumpng up and down with joy.
The thing is, he doesn't really need to say such statements.When Mr Blair finally does walk out of number 10 Downing Street its almost guaranteed that Mr Bown will walk in, as they aren't any other real suitable candidates for the job. Mr Brown has been a lucky Chancellor in that he got the position as the economy was on the up and has since been able to keep the economy ticking over due to the British dream of home ownership. It house prices that have been the real story behind the success of the British economy of the past decade. House prices have been crazy in recent years, people are willing to mortgage themselves to the hilt ie pay 5, 6 or even 7 times they annual salary (recommended level for a mortgage is 3.5 times the annual slary) to become part of the British dream club of home ownership. As a result prices for homes have reached silly prices, and just the other day I heard on BBC Radio 2 (one of the few stations I can hear in the back of beyond) that a garage in London is for sale for £100,000, thats US $199,000. Ouch! Thats a hefty price to pay for somewhere to put your second hand car.
Me, I can't even dream of getting on the property ladder
because I am a property loser. I am to real estate billions what Donald Trump is to modern hairstyling. I missed the boat. I am not going to risk paying for something for 25 years at the cost of 7 times my annual salary.
Every day there seems to be
two stories about house prices and they appear to say the exact opposite of one another. "Knowledge is power,'' Sir Francis Bacon said, although I should point out he was an idiot. What Sir Francis forgot to mention was that too much knowledge is about as helpful as Jade Goody on the board of the Commission for Racial Equality.
On the one hand, I have read a story this week that says house prices in Scotland will continue to rise at 15% a year until the end of time. By my calculations, this would means that in 2025 a three-bedroom semi in Carmunnock would cost approximately £5.6m while a one-bedroom flat in the West End would be the same price as the Island of Mauritus.
On the other hand, I read another story which suggested the property price-equity yield ratio (or was it the price property-yield equity ratio?) was tanking.

I had no idea what this meant. An estate agent quoted in this story was able to explain. "Don't worry. Keep buying houses. In fact, I've got a lovely studio cupboard in Dowanhill - six foot by 10 foot - and it's yours for only £300,000." You see what the problem is: which story should we believe, the one on this hand, or the one on that hand? Fortunately, on special occasions such as this I am able to use my left foot to scratch my head as I think. Especially when I think about property prices.

But that shouldn't worry Gordon Brown because under his direction of the economy and the British obsession, sorry, I mean dream of home ownership most people have down quite well, House prices have risen by 120% in less than 6 years and whilst prospective first time buyers can no longer afford to buy, people who do already own one house are buying a second to rent out at inflated prices to those who can't buy. The British public don't really care what their politicians think about football as long as they don't lose their dream of owning a home or two. They aren't going to forget who helped them get rich but they might well tell him to take a hike if they think he's not being entirely honest. On a week that just saw Burn's night come and go, Gordon Brown would have done well to remember the Robert Burns poem about the importance of a man's honesty.

A Man's A Man For A' That

Is there for honest poverty
That hings his head, an a' that?
The coward slave, we pass him by -
We dare be poor for a that!
For a' that, an a' that!
Our toils obscure, an a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, an a' that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine -
A man's a man for a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
Their tinsel show, an a' that,
The honest man, tho e'er sae poor,
Is king o men for a' that.
Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an stares, an a' that?
Tho hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
His ribband, star, an a' that,
The man o independent mind,
He looks an laughs at a' that.
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an a' that!
But an honest man's aboon his might -
Guid faith, he mauna fa' that!
For a' that, an a' that,
Their dignities, an a' that,
The pith o sense an pride o worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a' that),
That Sense and Worth o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree an a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That man to man, the world, o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Too Lazy For A Title

So much has happened in the world while I've been working away from home. So many events that I feel I could comment on....
For example...
  • The Doomsday clock moving forward .. eh, people are eejits maybe its about time they blew themselves up and just got it over with already.
  • David Beckham signing for LA Galaxy on a 5 year $128 million contract. Yes thats right I said $128 million, despite the fact that he's in the twilight of his career and hasn't played at the top of his game for years. The world is full of eejits I tell you. America could probably get a hospital wing for that type of money, one that could treat people with more money than sense. Or failing that if the money had to be spent trying to encourage Americans to like soccer then it could have been used to buy a player (or two, or even three) on someone younger and who still has the talent and hunger to give some sort of return for the investment, and if the experiment of trying to buy soccer an American audience failed they could then be sold at a later date and some of the investment could have been recovered.
  • Scotland's national team losing a football manager to club football just as respectability was being won back after a few good results, and the French coach accusing the ex Scotland manager of putting "bank account before country". He might have a point but I couldn't possibly comment as in the space of a few weeks I went from enjoying Scotland being at the top of the tough qualifying group (don't get me wrong that wasn't going to last forever but it was nice to finally have a coach that understood the Scotland players' abilities and limitations and who was able to utilise that to some effect) and Celtic my club team having a 17 point lead over Rangers (for those that don't know - they are rivals) - to Scotland losing the manger to Rangers. Life was good - its about to change. Yes Scotland are still sitting on the top of the group but they haven't played anyone lately, and Celtic do still have the 17 point lead but this years championship was all but won, call me greedy but I was looking forward to having a nice lead next year too. Now it looks like there might actually be a challenger - geez!
  • Racism on the UK (Z-class) Celebrity Big Brother. You know what - I just don't give a damn, I don't watch it and I don't intend to. If anyone measures the state of racism in Britain by the over hyped Big Brother then they need their head examined. Racism should be measured by the way the British government has dealt with asylum seekers in recent years and the way it has handled the war on terrorism. That is a bigger story and its not pretty.
I feel I could write about all those events and many others that I haven't mentioned but I cannae be bothered, so I won't. Instead, since it looks like after the accident I had at the weekend that I won't be buying a Dslr anytime soon, I thought I would just share some of the past photos, some from Scotland and some from New Zealand. Yes thats right, I'm feeling creatively lazy tonight.

Saturday, 20 January 2007


After a brief second or two, which he used to assess the situation he now found himself in, he heard himself say just one word.
And the matter of fact way he said it seemed kind of inappropriate at the time.

Hmmm, bad start. Perhaps I should give you some background information before continuing this story.


It was a wet night, a very wet night. The rain had been coming straight down and to the side like all afternoon and it wasn't for letting up. But it mattered none. It had been a long week and finally it was Friday and the chance to go home was upon him. First he got himself cleaned up. Then he got his things together before throwing them in his vehicle. He then sat himself down in the drivers seat, making sure to click the seatbelt into position before putting a cd, he had deliberately made the previous weekend with this drive in mind, into the cd player (more about that cd later). And off he set on his 3 hour journey home.
Only he didn't get very far. Perhaps 15 minutes down the single track road he spotted something small and white on the road (a rabbit perhaps) about 150 yards ahead. Not wanting to add to the road kill that he saw on this road on a daily basis the driver decided to brake nice and early to allow whatever animal was dilly-dallying on the road to notice the vehicle that was coming towards it and move out of the way.
Sometimes though being considerate for the life of others doesn't pay. And so it proved on this Friday night. When he gently hit the brakes he was driving at just 33mph, which at the time he didn't think was particularly fast. But unbeknownst to him both left wheels were driving through a shallow river of water that had formed on that side of the road due to the heavy rain. Hitting the brakes caused the vehicle to aquaplane across the surface of the road and so he found himself over correcting the slide, resulting in the wheels on the right driving on the soft sticky verge. Not wanting to risk driving off the verge and tumbling 150 yards below he tried to move the vehicle back to the left but he foolishly left his foot on the brake pedal and with the right rear wheel having nothing solid to grip onto the vehicle overturned and landed on the driver's side. His heavy rucksack, which felt like the weight of another person landed on top of him.
After a brief second or two, which he used to assess the situation he now found himself in, he heard himself say just one word out loud.
The matter of fact way he said it seemed inappropriate at the time. The calmness out of place considering the events that had happened just moments before.
After taking a few seconds to determine that the vehicle was no longer moving anywhere it was time to get out and warn any traffic that might be coming up behind or coming round the corner in front, to prevent one accident from causing another. The problem was getting out. The drivers side was a no go being that was the side that the vehicle was lying on. The windscreen wasn't broken so that left the passengers door as the only escape. One problem with that, doors are heavy. Heavier still when they have gravity on their side. The driver discovered under such circumstances its not possible to open the door as normal by just pulling the handle. Before escape was possible he had to first discover a way of pulling the handle and pushing the door open at the same time, time was not on his side since this single track road was as busy as some of the main roads found in the region. A little gymnastics was called for. He used one hand to pull the handle and both legs outstretched to push the door open and his free arm to first support his weight and then inch upwards and out. It was only once he was out and safely on the ground and able to prevent other cars from driving into an accident not of their making that he realised he forgot to switch off the engine and had left the cd player on.

How do I know that this all of this happened as it happened? That numpty was me. Yesterday.

Why I typed this story in the third person I have no clue. It seemed like a good idea at the time but in hindsight it looks kind of pretentious so I won't be making a habit of it.

Anyway back to the story, as you can see from reading this I am unhurt. I managed to climb from the wreckage with only a small 1 cm long scratch on my finger to show for it. Disappointing really seeing as I just lost my 6 years no claims bonus. Bugger indeed. I could have at least have got a war wound for my trouble. Ah well, it wasn't to be.

I'm thinking of getting the damaged side of the van spray painted with large letters ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE followed by ..... at least my underwear stayed the same colour as they began the day in tiny lettering. Oh and they began the day, clean and white just in case you were wondering.

I could always go for NOBODY EXPECTS ... the white rabbit. Except that's not very Monty Python like. Oh and the rabbit, I don't know what happened to it. I didn't hit it, but neither did it hesitate and stare into the headlights like other rabbits tend to do.Maybe their was no rabbit, perhaps I imagined it and the crash was for no reason. Ah well, thats life!

Back to the cd. I just had to laugh at the songs that were playing through the speakers, songs that I had chosen myself not realising at the time of making the cd what was going to happen. It might be my sick sense of humour but I just found the music my ears were being subjected to amusing and entirely appropriate for the situation.
Blue Oyster Cult - Don't Fear The Reaper - this song was playing as I was crashing, that moment when I knew the van was going to overturn and wasn't entirely sure if I was going to remain on the road or if I was going to go rolling down the hill and end up 150 yards below the road. Strangely though it all seemed to happen in slow motion and I didn't fear anything I was ready to accept my fate, whatever that was.
After managing to climb out the passengers side of the van I recognised the opening chords of Scribe's - Stronger. At this moment I was still reflecting on how I managed to get out of the van with nothing but a small scratch on my middle finger to show for my ordeal so with the combination of this song blaring out of the speakers and my mood of relief I couldn't help but reflect on the old phrase 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Then when I heard the first verse of the song begin and those first few lines going on about the 'I made it through the rain and the cold', 'if I could turn back time and change the road that I chose', and 'mistakes that I made' the song somehow seemed right for the moment, of course the rest of the lyrics in the song
Blu Cantrell - Make Me Wanna Scream. As a perfectionist I'm normally the type of person that would be angry with myself for making such a foolish mistake especially when it involved wrecking my no claims bonus and damaging my 18 month old van when I had still 2 and a half years of payments to make. I should have at the very least wanted to scream out. On this occasion though there was no anger, no shouting, no screaming, no throwing my hands up, no losing my cool - just an appreciation for the comic timing of the song.
By the time Lovin' Spoonful's - What A Day For A Daydream started to play I was seeing irony everywhere even when there was none.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Whispering In A Foreign Language

If I ever find myself writing a book I want that to be the title. I don't know why, it spoke to me is all, I like it. Anyway I don't have a book in me so ignore that sentence that you just wasted 3 seconds of your precious life on and get back to why this post is titled so. As you may have noticed by my lack of posts over the past week I am still working away from home where civilization barely exists. In this place if it weren't for the people I was working with I would probably be going out of my mind. Its a beautiful place but I don't ever get to see it. When I get up for work in the morning its dark and when I finish work its also dark. All I seem to do is work, eat, sleep. I never ever get to see the light and I'm one of these people who needs a little bit of light in his life. As I'm unable to draw on the light of the sun I'm having to draw light from wherever I can get it in this hellish 2 month long job.
That light is found in the people I am working with. I am currently working with a a few Scots, an English guy, a Kiwi, an Australian, an Indian and a few Poles, oh and a guy from Chile. They are all really nice friendly people and luckily for me they all speak English, but I have noticed that the Poles do tend to whisper in Polish. Why they feel the need to whisper I do not know. British education is pathetic when it comes to teaching languages, there has been no real effort to teach French, German or Spanish to a a good enough degree that Brits could be considered bilingual. I don't know what the take up in Polish lessons are in India, or Chile but I'm guessing its not very high. So I'm thinking the Poles could talk as loud they like in Polish and no one but themselves will understand. They could probably talk about how working in this country is crap, they could moan about how dark it is all the time, the lack of towns, how they can't get a decent radio signal or whatever and no one would be offended because we don't understand. Well the Kiwi might understand but she's a bit of a show off and likes to fit in with everyone and has thus learned, with the help of the Poles, a few words and phrases here and there but if they didn't want her to know what they are saying I'm sure they could talk in a dialect that they hadn't helped her with and no whispering would be required. In truth I don't think it has anything to do with not wanting anyone else to know what they are saying but the whispering is a little bit like when the others are sitting with their ipods plugged into their ears and I can hear enough of the sound to wonder what the music is but its not quite loud enough to decipher it because it mostly sounds like morse code. Part of me wants to know what the tune is and the other part of me just wants to turn the ipod's down so that I can't hear the incessant 'ddddtdtd tttdddtdtdshd dddttdttttd' . If the music was loud enough for me to hear in full, even it wasn't very good and I didn't like it, I wouldn't be as irritated as when I am listening to 'ddddtdtd tttdddtdtdshd dddttdttttd ddddtdtd tttdddttd dddttdtd'.
The whispered Polish is the same, if it was loud enough to hear it would be just like background noise and easily ignored but because its quiet my ears seem to persist in trying to make out repetitive sounds - for what reason my ears want to do this I do not know. I have no hope of ever learning any words in Polish because it might as well be gobbledegook in morse code for all the sense it will ever make to me. How the Kiwi does it I will never know, with me it goes in one ear and out the other. I can't even make out repetitive words.
Anyway whispering in a foreign language has no point to it unless it is the name of a book written by moi, that would be a great autobiography in the making if only I wasn't such a boring bugger.