Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Trigger returns!

Yep, he's back! All shiny and new looking. When Trigger went away he was somewhat filthy after our adventure together up north, so not only did 4th-Dimension do a remarkable job on him, but he was cleaned and polished too, to look his best for our reunion. I should have been working hard yesterday, writing new scenes for a current film script I'm working on, especially as the deadline is this coming Monday and I'm only a third of the way through it! But the sun was shining, and the thump thump thump of Trigger's engine was too hard to resist, so off we went round the roads of joy in East Lothian. Great to be back together.

I also had another reunion with a certain person yesterday, this time in the evening at a restaurant in the city, together with one of my closest friends, Andrew, and a fine bottle of Chianti.

Chianti always takes me back to 1994 and Florence, Italy, where Andrew and I, together with a mix of other close friends, enjoyed a weeks jaunt to Tuscany. What a joy it was, visiting historical places such as Sienna and San Gimignano (trying saying that after a bottle of Chianti!), a small town made up of varying sizes of towers, and in the past the taller the tower, the more wealthy and important you're standing. Not much has changed there over the centuries, nor in man's need to boast about the size of his . . . well, whatever.

Sienna was an incredible experience, and for those as old as me reading this, will know what I mean when I say it was a Mr Ben moment. We had purposely timed our visit there for the world famous Palio di Sienna horse race. A brutal, sometimes fatal, bareback horse race around the Piazza del Campo in the centre of the city, where thousands of spectators cram in to watch. We waited in the heat for around 6 hours to watch the few minutes that was the actual race! That said though, the entire day was thoroughly enjoyable. Sienna is very much a preserved medieval city and on the two days that the Palio is run, on 2 July and 16 August, the town is decorated in medieval insignia, and the people wear the costumes of the period. It is very colourful, and a little surreal, stood watching this in 20th century jeans and t-shirts.

The modern version of the Palio dates back to 1656 and has been run every year since. Seventeen Contradas, or areas of the region, participate, but not all race on the day. I had chosen to back Tartuca, the tortoise, on the day, and I still have the flag tucked away somewhere as a memento of the day, just as Mr Ben would have after his adventures. The twist to the whole thing is that it is the horse that wins, not the jockey, so if a horse loses it's mount, which frequently happens, it can still go on to win. And it is quite brutal; on the day we were there one rider was trampled and had his leg virtually severed, and at the end of the race a spectator ran out to congratulate the winner, only to be hit and killed by the excited horses.

Florence was our base, and for me, by far, it is my favourite Italian city. In fact I'm tempted to say my favourite European city. I have been fortunate to visit Italy numerous times, and a similar group of friends returned years later to base ourselves in Rome and travel south to Naples and the Almafi Coast.
Probably the most energetic visit though, goes back to 1998, when I was there with my best friend Pauline. We landed in Verona with our mountain bikes and cycled north and east in an arc that took us through the Dolomites and eventually to Venice. An Awfully Big Adventure, as Pauline named her journal at the time.

But I digress dear readers. Last night the reunion was with my ex-wife Lorraine. It was a most enjoyable dinner and conversation, at times quite heated in strong debate, but above all it was a terrific expression of communication between good friends. Considering the company it was also nice to be able to relate a story of someone new in my life, that has currently been pulling my heart strings. I can sense a widening of eyes and renewed interest in this ramble by those who know me, and who know it has been some time since I have shared a passionate moment with anyone. And you may, or may not be keen for more details.

But that's for another day when I may, or may not, tell all to you.

I'll end today on a note of good news. Which is rare these days. Maybe there's a market for a good news paper? I recently retreated from my daily dose of TV news programmes, and from purchasing a daily newspaper (which is also good for the environment) as it was all stories of murder, death and financial collapse. Maybe love entering my life, regardless of how brief it may be, and Trigger returning has given me a thirst for happier times.
The good news I speak of is that next year will see the last Big Brother series on UK television! There is a glimmer of hope that as far as the dumbing down of TV content goes we may well have reached the bottom and could be on the way back up.

Miracles do happen occasionally.

Friday, 21 August 2009


Noun; 1. the action or process of serving. 2 an act of assistance. 3. employment as a servant.

The word meaning "to perform some sort of work" was first recorded in 1926 in that context, though in others, such as worship, or to serve ones country, dates back, approximately, to the 1100's, maybe even further.

Then of course there is the "news service", with Reuters probably being the most famous organisation of such. Founded in London in 1851 by Baron Paul Julius von Reuter, who had previously set up a telegraph office in Aachen in 1849.

Nowadays the word is attached to our everyday use of computers online, and our "service provider".

Some liken the term of someone being in service to others as a redefining of slavery, especially when we talk about the sweat shops of Asia producing our goods that we can't do without. Slavery was certainly done away with in an act of Parliament in 1807, though it took until 1833 to roll it out across the whole British "Empire" at the time.

But I digress, and then some.

My opinion on the word today is connected with the service one receives in a retail environment, be that public transport, a shop or restaurant. Wherever I am likely to be spending my hard earned mullah at the time.

I'll start with an excellent example; Browns restaurant in George Street, Edinburgh. An establishment I enjoy frequenting often. Situated at the west end of George Street, and surrounded by several other eateries, I cannot truthfully say that Browns offers the greatest menu. It hardly ever changes. However, the quality of the food they do serve is first class. Simple in it's presentation. Nor are the prices such that it is the least expensive of choice. It comes down to one simple thing. I say simple, but increasingly hard to find. An art form to an extent, that requires careful training. And that simple thing, as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel at times?

Good service. A smile, a warm welcome. Advance notice that here you are going to be adding 20% for a tip as opposed to a measly 10%.

On just one occasion at Browns over the years have I complained, politely, about a dish that had been served to me. There was no further explanation needed. It was whisked away and a replacement brought in it's place, followed a few minutes later by a further apology from the manager, and that my views would be carried on to the next staff training. Having run a retail deli and coffee shop myself I know the value of good staff training, as did my customers. And complaining also requires the same politeness from yourself that you would expect in return. Ranting and raving like Victor Meldrew I have found seldom gets the best result.

And having a menu that seldom changes is not such a bad thing is it? How we pour scorn on those who dare to relocate our staple items in the supermarket because of some science they have convinced themselves of, that means this is a good idea, and in no way would irritate anyone. Or the decor inside, or layout of, your favourite pub, and how it used to be so much better the way it was. Why fix something that's not broken?

And that's Browns. They've got it right. They know when to let a good thing be. In film making they say that a film is never finished, it is simply abandoned. Many a film can suffer from too much tinkering in the edit, as I have seen. Brown's don't tinker. It's reliable. Seldom disappointing.

And then there's the other end of the spectrum. The polar opposite of all that Browns represents for me. Let me give you an example; rail travel in Scotland. A large organsiation, partly public funded, and with virtually no competition. This latter element I believe goes a long way to answering the question of why the service on Scotrail is at times so abysmal. This is of course, as the title of my blog warns, only my opinion.

On occasion I travel by train in pursuit of my outdoor activities of mountain biking or hillwalking. One of the regular jumping off points is Aviemore in the Highlands, a veritable playground of forests, lochs and mountains. On the three and a half hour journey home I often look forward to ordering a hot cup of tea from the trolley that plows it's trade up and down the aisle of the coaches. However, increasingly the train is made up of two trains joined together, and no way through between the two. So if said trolley is in one section, and you're in another, tough! I often ask, knowing the answer before I even utter a syllable, why can't the trolley transfer through at a station stop down the line? "Against company regulations". I picture in my mind the executives laughing round a table somewhere as they condemn us to dehydration. I must be fair here though, as I did have one journey on this route a number of months ago where I could not fault the service. But that was one very attentive gentleman and not indicative of the service as a whole, sadly.

It takes so little thought and imagination to consider how to improve, be that in personal service or in the efficiency of a product. You've paid your money, is it too much to ask to receive just that little something extra, that costs nothing, to bring you back again, and who knows, recommend it to a friend.

I have written to Scotrail many a time, but I always get the same excuse of "we're looking into it" and "your points have been noted". It feels like they've been "looking into it" since Stephenson's Rocket first took to the rails in 1829!

I could well be waiting as long again for my cup of char!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Where were you?

There's always some hot political topic going on and the most current one is whether the Lockerbie terrorist Megrahi should be allowed out of the Scottish prison and allowed to go home on compassionate grounds because he's terminally ill with cancer.

I'm all in favour of showing compassion. I have long been interested in Buddhism, and had a lucky opportunity and privilege in 2004 to make a film with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. But the case of Megrahi is quite different, and enormously sensitive.

I remember the day, 21 December 1988. It was a Wednesday. I know the day of the week because I was running a physical training night for the Boys' Brigade company I was attached to. I arrived back at my flat to my then new girlfriend Lorraine, when she said a plane had crashed into a petrol station. I recall I had heard an unprecedented amount of sirens going off in the city. We both had no idea of the enormity of what had happened.

On the 4th January the following year I was journeying down to Manchester, driving south on the M74. As I approached Lockerbie, which runs closely alongside the motorway, the traffic slowed, as everyones morbid curiosity got the better of them. I was no exception. On my right was a trench, where houses must have once stood, the size and shape of something enormous. It was a jaw dropping moment, to think that an aircraft, a 747 jumbo jet, had plummeted from 36,000 feet and hit this little town, devastating the lives of families on the ground, as well as those of the victims in the plane.

Then the conspiracy theories started, as they always do in events such as these, and there have be no shortage of events since I was born in 1963: there was the JFK assassination on 22 November 1963; space shuttle Challenger exploding on 28 January 1986; Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997; the Nine Eleven terrorist attack in 2001; and more recently the London bombings on 7 July 2005.

I think these surface generally because no one wants to believe that such a terrible thing has happened by some random event. The people's inherent distrust of their government means they must be involved in it somehow.

And these events leave a mark in most people's memories. They can recall what they were doing that moment. I've already told you about the night of the Lockerbie disaster. Space shuttle Challenger, when I was coming up for 23 years old, exploded on a Tuesday. I had just returned from work early to watch the launch live on TV. What followed seemed unreal to me at the time.

When Diana died I was sitting in a coffee shop the day after in Fortrose, just east of Inverness, with my girlfriend at the time, Pauline. People in the coffee shop were talking about "Diana". We thought it was someone local. On the drive home that same day we noticed many flags at half mast, but still the penny didn't drop, until we arrived home and turned on the TV. On Saturday 6 September I remember closing my deli that I owned, as a mark of respect on the day of her funeral. The thing I remember most about that day was the ten minute walk home around 1pm. All the way home there was not a single car on the normally busy road. Not one.

And the most famous terrorist attack of them all to date: 911. I was ill and was sat at home watching TV. I went through to the kitchen and came back through to see this image of one of the twin towers with smoke bellowing out. I thought a disaster movie had just started. Just as when I saw the Challenger disaster this seemed very unreal, and just like the Challenger disaster it was on a Tuesday (I can already hear new conspiracy theories starting!). I was glued to the TV all day. When the towers came down early on, I was truly speechless. It was so incredible, so unbelievable, it was obvious conspiracy theories would abound after this. And of course there was the attack on the Pentagon and flight 93 that crashed. I threw a video tape into the VCR almost immediately and still have these tapes to this day.

Influenced by that day, in 2006 I made a short film called Where Were You? You can see this 7-minute film on my YouTube channel, by highlighting, copying and pasting this link into your browser address line;

All these tragedies have one thing in common: the anger felt against those that perpetrated them is real and tangible. The question is should we not look at these from outside the box? What on earth drove someone to feel this was the only way to get their issues noticed? Should Bush have got the terrorists round a table and attempted to get to the bottom of it, instead of putting the wagons in a circle? Were these terrorist events, though tragic, a missed opportunity to put a peaceful end to these events.

So should Magrahi be allowed to return to Libya? Is he in fact really the guilty one? That is a different question to the former. One could argue that we have convicted criminals in prison who are also terminally ill just now, and who will die there, so do we allow them to go home?

Hilary Clinton and Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, do not seem to see eye to eye on this, with Hillary saying leave him where he is. MacAskill is said to still be considering matters, but there are those that believe Megrahi will be home within days.
In 2004, during filming, the Dalai Lama said; "the answer to our problems with our aggressors is to adopt a non-violent approach". Is, then, keeping Magrahi in prison until he dies, a violent act? Or is allowing him to go home to die true compassion?

It will take a wiser man than me to decide.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Taken for granted

How amazing life is now. Faster. More convenient. How we take so much for granted.

I recall February 1971 when the UK decimalised its currency. I remember someone brought a 50p into primary school, the only coin since then not to have changed it's appearance or size. How amazed we were. During the change over you had a period of time to exchange your old coins into "new money". I used to save my sixpences, then known as half a shilling, slightly bigger than an American dime, and worth 2.5p in new money. I'd then go to my local post office in Ballachulish, where I lived at the time, and exchange pairs of them for a shiny new 5p piece. This new coin was the same size and shape as the old shilling, about the size of the current 10p piece, and the original 10p piece was the size and weight of a two-shilling coin, a "two bob bit", as they were known. My favourite coin though was the old "threepennny bit" (pronounced "threp-nie bit"). Brass in colour, and the oldest coin in our money at the time, being first introduced under Kind Edward 6th in 1547, and worth half the value of a sixpence, with twelve sides and about the size of a modern 5p piece, pictured above.

But I digress. 1971 was also the year that my parents bought their first colour television. What a bizarre thing it was, almost unnerving, this colour window to the world outside, and unlike the plastic ones of today it's body was made of wood laminate, and, horror of horror, you had to get up and go over to it to press the buttons to choose which of the three channels you wanted to watch! Now it's all Hi-def, and 1080p. hundreds of channels etc. Home video machines came out in 1970, but were very expensive. I was in high school before we got one, and it was well used, I can tell you. Like the microwave we took any excuse to use it. But now it's all DVD and BlueRay, and VHS is going to obsolete soon. Like the old coinage system going back five hundred years, it will be a short matter of time before no-one will remember it as it goes the same way as film for your camera and vinyl for your music. Ahh, the days of the Kodak Instamatic and the "separates" hi-fi system!

Yes, most things now are better quality, though let's not start the argument on vinyl verses digital. I could add my own rant here about film photography verses digital, but I'll save that for another day.

We take so much for granted now. Mobile phones: no longer do we have to hunt for a phone box in working order. Space travel: no longer science fiction. We have a "space craft" for goodness sake, that goes up routinely and flies back like a plane! And a space station! In 1971, with man still flying to the moon in a rocket 360 feet (111m) tall, these kind of things still belonged to Buck Rogers!

Yes, it all seems to have improved in quality and efficiency as time has gone by, and in an exponential curve.

Except shopping. To an extent anyway.

In the past ten years since the end of the dot-com boom bubble bursting, we've all become quite accustomed to "shopping online", be that Amazon, Ebay or any of the myriad of companies online now. Yes, it is convenient to just browse anything you want, and click, click click, it's yours, delivered to your door.

But this relies on courier companies to get them to you, and don't they always turn up during the day and leave a card because, surprise surprise, you weren't in, but you can collect your parcel from their depot conveniently located on the next planet! Or arrange redelivery using their automated system on the telephone. Then you get it and it's the wrong size, or colour, or is entirely different from what you thought it would be. So you send it back. More expense and frustration. They send a replacement by courier, but you're not in . . .

I order online, but I keep it to the simple things, like books and CD's, but even that is frustrating me now. It not only costs you more due to postage and packing than it would do in the shops, but if you do save money it will most likely be despatched from China and take until next year to get to you!

And you wont be in!

So I started "going to the shops" again to buy such things, and despite the crowds, what fun it is. I can touch the item, try on the shirt, flick the tactile pages of a good book. I realised how much I had taken these businesses for granted and had diverted my buying to the internet. And getting off my butt and going out to shop was also better excercise than two-finger typing.

I'll "go to the shops" more often now. Before they go the way of vinyl, film or the threepenny bit.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Touching The Nerve

Occasionally I need to throw myself into the Scottish wilderness to find that space I crave and to clear my head of the chaos of modern life. I had such an opportunity this weekend with my two best friends, Pauline and Andrew. Our destination? The mountain of Braeriach, third highest mountain in the UK, surpassed only by Ben Macdui and Ben Nevis, and a trek through the mighty Lairig Ghru in the Cairngorm.

We had traveled the night before to stay in Aviemore YHA to get an early start on the following morning.

Friday morning welcomed us with warm sunshine and blue skies. Our route took us through the Chalamain Gap, a boulder strewn ravine used for centuries as a route between the Lairig Ghru and Glenmore. It is a spectacular scramble over boulders the size of camper vans and you feel as if you are passing into the land that time forgot. Thus began our glorious weekend in the Scottish mountains.

From the Lairig Ghru the path starts its relentless climb to the summit of Braeriach, but we had the weather on our side, and settled in to a steady pace. Once you are onto the summit of Braeriach, you then stay high and follow a ridge around glacial bowls created 10,000 years ago, taking in Angels Peak, Cairntoul and Devils Point, and for good reason it is my favourite route in this area, which I last walked some 25-plus years ago.

We had made good progress up Braeriach and within a couple of hours we were stood on the summit. Snow has only completely melted five times in the last century on this mountain, and some of the patches that linger are the longest lying patches in Scotland. We had no sooner arrived than we were treated to some great wildlife. First, a rare treat, as not just one, but five Dotterel, an arctic bird by origin, which spends all year in our Scottish highlands. As it ran in short bursts it ducked its head down and it's spindly legs moved quickly. But it ran so smoothly as if it were on tiny rails. A comical sight. On the adjacent hill were a herd of wild reindeer, and Andrew, known for writing his own material, cracked what could be categorised as a joke; The weather had clouded over a bit and rain had just started to fall. At that moment I asked Andrew "where's the reindeer", to which he replied, 'falling on your head darling"!

Our trip was to treat us to many sites of Scottish fauna, such as the reindeer and dotterel already mentioned, plus frogs of every size, Ptarmigan birds, Meadow Pippets, and not forgetting . . . midgies! Millions of them! The fauna was equally enthralling, with the heather in vivid pruple, bright blue Harebells, the rich orange/red trunks of the Scots Pine, and the lush rich greens of the ferns.

Our walk following the edge of the ridge was excellent, and very relaxing. We enjoyed the views down to the glistening rock faces that looked almost prehistoric in their reptilian scale-like textures, and the rivers snaking through the glens into the distance, like lines of mercury as they reflected the sunlight. Our conversation put the worlds to rights, with healthy disagreements at moments, the details of which I'll keep to myself.

Our campsite on the two nights were in idylic settings, the first at a small lochan called Loch nan Stuirbeag below Cairntoul, and the second at the Pools of Dee in the Lairig Ghru, and each night the landscape was floodlit by the almost-full bright moon. Unfortunately, both nights, though we were camping high, were infested with billions of midges. So many in fact, that in combination with a midgie head-net the available light was somewhat diminished, and my bright blue top turned grey, so vast were they in number!

Our second day was short and took us to the summit of Devils Point, where Andrew just had to see if his new acquisition of a mobile phone, his first since the day they were invented, would get mobile reception. It did, and depsite only having had the phone for 3 days had already joined the rest of society in the addiction sweeping the world, that of texting! It was at this point that I had a moment of getting my phrases a little mixed up. I wanted to ask Andrew if his phone was set up to do predictive text, but instead it came out as protective sex! The wonders of modern technology!

What our leader and organiser Pauline, aka Mountain Ninja, thought of the two of us, I dread to think.

Our route took us steeply down into the Lairig Ghru once more and past the Corrour bothy, where we met an American ex-military man on a three-month tour of Scotland, then on to the Pools of Dee.

On the way Pauline extolled once again her knowledge of the great Scotish outdoors, and related a story to us as we stood beside three enormous wind-carved stones next to the path;

Clach nan Taillear, litereally "Stone of the Tailors";

Named after certain tailors who for a wager attempted to dance, during the hours of a winter day, at the “three Dells” - the Dell of Abernethy, the Dell of Rothiemurchus and Dalmore in Mar. They danced at Abernethy and at Rothiemurchus and had crossed the most exposed miles of the Lairig when a blizzard overtook them in Glen Dee, and they succumbed as they vainly sought shelter behind the stone that is their memorial.

On arrival at the Pools of Dee, the highest point of the Lairig Ghru, the heavens opened and for fifteen minutes, the time it took for me to get my tent up and kit inside, there was a deluge. This then brought out Victor Meldrew in me for a moment, as I had a rant about the rain, as one does. Pauline and Andrew just let me get on with it, having witnessed this many times on a variety of subjects that constantly touch a nerve with me.

On the last day our team only had a five-hour pleasant trek from the Pools of Dee back to Aviemore. The sun shone all day, which increased the intense pleasure of meandering down through the ancient Caledonian forest of Rothiemurcus, with intense smells of the sweetness of the Scots pines and the sharpness of the Juniper bushes, an enslaught to the senses.

As a species it is our meaningful connection with other people that can change our view of life, transform our opinions. Every time I share these wilderness experiences I connect with something greater than myself. I understand that need for love and why we make alliances, and why we grieve so much when they go. And we worry about things that the majority of time are not worth worrying about, distracting us from our true path. To use a lesson that I learned in my motorcycle training as an analogy here, and which was also mentioned in a great book, The Uneasy Rider by Mike Carter; when negotiating a corner if you keep your eye on the huge potentially problematic tree on that corner, you will hit it, with disastrous results. Better to acknowledge it is there, ignore it, and keep your eye on the road ahead and all will be well. Mike Carter also says in his book, which I find personally quite poignant; we all have bad memories, regrets, but slowly we create fresh memories, like splashing a new coat of paint on: what lies beneath will always be there, but that's no longer the first thing you see now.

Before our train home we indulged in some culinary delights of cullen skink soup, french toast with crispy bacon drizzled in maple syrup, followed by scone and cappuccino, at the Ord Ban restaurant at the Rothiemurcus Centre. The restaurant was busy, but I think Andrew's brain hadn't quite twigged that we had renentered civilisation, and he let rip an impressive loud burp!

I think Pauline is planning a solo trip next.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dating sites

What a strange concept dating sites are. There's no denying they are popular, and the author here has dabbled. I know that will come as a huge surprise to everyone that I am single, but that's a long story.

Against my better judgement I once went along to a so called speed dating event. I would be interested to know the success rate of these events as from this person's point of view I would say it's probably somewhere in the region of zero! I should say that a fee is charged for you to attend, so the evening is a success for some involved.

The evening started with registration, and I was given an expensive badge, carefully peeled from it's backing, supplied by WH Smith is my guess, with my first name written in some unidentifiable font with a Magic Marker. I then proceeded downstairs to a private function room with bar where my first observation was that all the men were of roughly the same age, with the same receding hairline and all wearing black from head to toe! The main difference was in the waist size of the trousers we were wearing.

All the men were there first, all behaving in their own particular way. I picked a spot to quietly observe them. Gradually a number of women arrived, again roughly the same age group and dressed for the occasion, care taken in their choice of apparel. Mr Confident was on his feet, sliding his way silently to the bar, sidling up beside his first prospect. Hang on, I thought this was an organised event, not a free-for-all. Clearly Mr Confident was an experienced Speed Dater and knew to try and make an impression early.

Next I observed Mr Shy, sitting there on his own, his skinny frame almost hidden by the ceiling pillar beside him. Knees together and sitting upright, sipping his drink occasionally, never turning his head to do the unthinkable and observe any female entering the room. Just the occasional movement of his eyes daring to steal a quick look, wondering how Mr Confident was getting on, and why wasn't he like that.

Next up, Mr Slick. Boy this guy thought he had it in the bag! He did a once round the room, circling the central bar, checking out the competition. None, in his opinion, a sly smile crossing his face. He saunters up to a female, and though I didn't hear what he said, it was probably something along the lines of; "Hi, I'm fabulous, would you like to touch me".

Mr Beige makes his entry. I call him Mr Beige, even though he was dressed all in black like everyone else, but I imagine this is his only other outfit besides his beige wardrobe of cardigans and slacks. I suppose I could have been more sarcastic and called him Mr Interesting in an ironic fashion, but that would just be cruel.

Of course I'm no God's gift by any means, and I could say I was there merely for research, but actually . . . OK, I will say I was there merely for research. Makes me sound more interesting.

And the list went on; Mr Portly, Mr 1970's, Mr "I'm married and trying to start an affair", etc. The scene was set. The first bell sounded, the gates were up, and the runners were off. Twelve girls, twelve guys, each with just four minutes to chat and measure her ring finger.

And the girls? Well, a wide mix would be the PC thing to say. Ranging from the genuinely interesting and intelligent to the desperate and how big is your wallet never mind your package. Here's some of whom I met;

A charming girl first of all, just straight from work I imagined, though quite where she'd left her pole I had no idea. Cheeky smile and not looking for anything too permanent I guessed. Then there was a woman my own age, dressed in much the same colours as the men, who really just needed someone to talk to as she proceeded to tell me, and every other man that evening, about her ex-husband. A right cad as it turns out.

The questions asked are rather mundane, such as, what films do you like, do you travel, do you like going out for a meal, do you have any kids, do you want any (somewhere I heard a fire alarm going off), and the straight-to-the-point question, which I actually was asked as a first question from an oriental lady; "how much money do you earn?" The worst question, which everyone tries to avoid, is, what do you do for a living? Aaaargh! Surely you can ask me something more creative than that such as, what did you last buy your mother and why? Well, you know what I mean.

Then it was the twins. Now these two were very funny. Both from Poland and sitting near each other, I chatted first with one, then other. To my surprise out came a piece of paper; "I am coming from Poland, where are you coming from? I likes sunshine, do you? I look tonight for husband, what do you look for?" It may have just been me but I'm sure the juke box was playing the chilling violin music from the shower scene in Psycho! The bell went to change!

Then it was the next twin. I hoped for better. Out came a piece of paper; "I am coming from Poland, where are you coming from? I likes sunshine do you? I look tonight for husband what do you look for?"

All too soon it was over. I then chatted a while with the only person I was remotely interested in that evening, the bar tender. She thought the whole evening was quite comical and assured me that they are not all like this.

I decided this was the wrong approach for me, so I had the tattoo "desperate" surgically removed from my forehead, and subscribed to one of the dating sites. I'm not too sure what your sixty quid for six months really gives you, as the majority of the site works for free. Unless you want to know what your prospective partner thinks is her perfect match. You can't see that without paying. And you're limited to the number of profiles you can view.

After creating a profile of myself and posting a picture that I though was of me at my best (I ditched the idea of me in Speedos, circa 1982), I entered the details of my preferred partner and trawled through the matches. One hundred and eighty six profiles later, and eyes like dogs balls through staring at the screen 'til 1am, I had emailed seven women.

I was encouraged by the fact that every woman was looking for the same kind of man; caring, understanding, thoughtful, non-smoker, comfortable in his own skin, wants kids but number undecided (there's that fire alarm again. Strange). I did receive positive replies, and went on to meet a few, but with no long term success I'm sorry to report (one woman, a dedicated golfer, turned up in a completely matching lime-green golf outfit!). A number of women wrote to me as a first contact, but after replying I heard nothing more. Some say that some send lots of emails out and then wait for the replies, as they know most men are desperate. An ego-stroking excercise maybe. But my experience has been a positive one, but to date, ladies, I'm still available for some dates, but number undecided.

Maybe I should get a dog.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

News from A & E

There seems to be a great deal of interest in the aftermath of the motorcycle accident last week, and so here is an update.

4th Dimension in Surrey rushed to the scene, actually, to my house, on Thursday 30 July, and took Trigger into triage . . . well, OK, the back of a van.

Off it drove at high speed rushing Trigger to casualty. Well they stalled at the traffic lights if truth be known.

Current reports are that my trusty steed has been stripped down to the chassis and is currently going through a laser alignment test. All replacement limbs have been ordered and those parts that can be saved are currently being re-sprayed. More news will be forthcoming on Monday 10 July.

What impresses me about this company is their attention to detail. This was a low speed crash, with no other vehicle involved, and yet they are being very thorough with it's repair. At the end of it's treatment the bike is taken out on their bespoke test track before being returned.

And me? Well, I'm fine, just missing Trigger! As far as injuries are concerned I thought that I had escaped unscathed. However I have a pulled tendon behind the right knee and a slightly weak ankle. I haven't told Trigger though as he's got enough going on just now and I wouldn't want to worry him and slow his recovery.

Some close friends are now more worried than ever about my adventures on the motorcycle, and one close friend has a colleague who's son lost his life recently in an accident. But in my defence I could be knocked down crossing the street, and riding my mountain bike on the roads is way more dangerous. I have more near misses on a bicycle than I ever do on Trigger. But I am aware that on a few occasions on deserted country roads during my trip away I messed up some corners due to avoiding road debris or white road markings at the last minute. But this has had a positive result as I have now made contact with Lothian & Borders Police to enroll on their motorcycle training course.

Of course now that Trigger and I are having this distance relationship the sun is shining! Typical. I only hope that Trigger's homecoming is bathed in sunshine.

Now, where did I put that bunting?

Monday, 3 August 2009

Coming up . . .

It's been a week since I last blogged but it's been hectic catching up on everything. That said I'm not doing a good job of that. Just had one of those days where I had more than enough to be getting on with, but did none of it. The longer the day went on the less I did. Bizarre. I think we all have those days when trivial things get done rather than the important things. There's a saying that writers have the best decorated homes because they'd rather do that than write.

I concur.

Anyway, enough of the preamble, I'm here to have a rant today!

Is it just me or have broadcasters discovered that we have all lost our ability to remember anything? I am aware that dementia is a growing issue, but I'm convinced that it does not affect all the television watching population!

What am I going on about, I can hear you shouting? OK, well, I'll tell you.

Almost every programme now, before a commercial break, will tell us what is coming up next, then when we return a few minutes later, because we all have the memory capability of a goldfish, we're told about what happened before we went to the commercial break!

But to make matters worse, the BBC are now doing it! And they don't have commercial breaks! During breakfast today I had Heir Hunters playing in the background on BBC1. If I'd have timed it right I could have watched just 4 minutes of it and known the whole programme! These were the four slots that told us what had gone before and what was about to happen. Why then should we bother watching?!

There was a great series on recently with Ben Fogle and James Cracknel called Race To The Pole. Great series, except they adopted annoying thing number 2; the first 5 minutes was all about what the programme was all about! And they did it every feckin week!!


I also wonder if I'm not the only person at the end of The Apprentice to keep my finger hovering above the off button at the point when the narrator says; "Sir Allan's search for his apprentice, continues". You just know that after that they're going to spoil the whole of next week's programme by telling you all about it! Annoying thing number 3!


However, as I work on the fringes of the industry I can enlighten you for one reason why this is happening; it's all to do with available budgets. The more they repeat and put fillers into the programmes, the less content they need to fill, and thus less budget.

Well, in a break with this annoying habit and dumbing down, I'm not going to tell you what's going to be in my next blog, or for that matter what's going to be in it.

Sorry, did I just repeat myself there!?

And if you can't remember that then watch TV; it's designed for you!