Monday, 27 June 2011

11 Years.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Ursula was an oddity. She was my lovely G's mother too which is how I came to meet her in the first place all those years ago. A woman with an occasionally wacky, always distinctive sense of dress and a huge stride that virtually made you run to keep up with her, she was the kind of woman that stood out in any crowd, normally for the wrong sartorial reasons as colour co-ordination was never her strongest suit, but that must have come in very handy for her husband and children when she needed to be found. Having come to the UK in the early 60's from her native Switzerland to complete her training as a nurse, she met and married a Scotsman and never went home again except for regular holidays.. Despite having lived here for 35 years she never lost her Swiss accent or that same Swiss bluntness of approach. She never quite mastered English either which could be inadvertently hilarious, often at the most unfortunate moments. It's never a good thing to burst out laughing when a woman is angry and in full flow no matter how mangled the phrases coming out of her mouth. She loved to speak the Swiss-German dialect of her homeland and shared it with her daughter who learned it at her knee and came to cherish it in the same way. The regular and long phone calls to her sister back home left her enthused and flushed with pleasure every time.

Ursula's grasp of English could be highly entertaining, with her sometimes odd take on pronunciation { thoroughly was 'thuruffly' in her eyes for many years} and often managed to misremember a phrase in a way which still retained enough of the original that you would get the message but be rendered helpless with laughter. So, a phrase like  'without batting an eye'  would come from Ursula as 'without flapping an eyebrow'.  She found incidents like this confusing and would watch the resulting paroxysms of her family  -and much later me - with a disbelieving stare. If you asked Ursula a question there would normally be a slight delay in her response which added a certain frisson to talking with her given that you never were quite sure what kind of response you were going to get.  I always believed that no matter how long she had been in this country, she translated the English she heard back into Swiss-German, thought of an answer, translated it back into English and then delivered it to you. I think it was this that led to the 'close but not quite' replies that often came back in such hilarious ways. She loved the crosswords which she did to improve her vocabulary but - although I would never have told her - she was an inveterate cheat and constantly looked up the answers when she thought no-one was looking. She was an avid communicator though and loved to sit and chat. She made family occasions like Easter and Christmas - traditional Swiss Christmas - truly special with unforgettable meals and an incredible attention to detail. She loved walking and she and her husband walked - or in her case marched - the hills and mountains of Scotland for many years, sometimes dragging a breathless G and I behind them.

Ursula and her husband were very involved in the church and in village life. She was a great singer and used her beautiful singing voice to great effect in the church choir. She was a Kirk elder too and I often wondered how the elderly parishioners she visited took this kaleidoscope of colours coming charging up the garden path to hammer on the door like a police squad on a raid. How did they cope with her grasp of English. It would seem they did well for she was well liked and respected for her efforts over the years.

She loved movies that were 'nice', had dashing male leads and happy endings. She hated science- fiction and couldn't watch a film where there was even mild violence. She had a penchant for silly board games and loved 'Pictionary' where clues are drawn to be guessed by your partner before the other team get the answer. She was such a hopeless artist that her birds had four legs and ears and most of her attempts were illegible and obscure, or she would pretend not to understand the clue so Ken, her husband, had to follow her into the hall to 'explain' - which was a euphemism for a little kiss most of the time. Often the Lovely G and I would be left waiting to carry on with the game while those two fifty somethings had a snog in the hall. If you couldn't work out her unintelligible scrawl you were likely to get a punch on the arm in her frustration with you and we laughed so much during those games tears ran down our faces.

Ursula and I had issues initially. When I started seeing G I came with baggage, had previously been married and separated and was seen as a threat and not to be trusted. Our relationship was tense to begin with and could be taught with friction. Over the years though we came to understand and appreciate each other. She saw that I wasn't out for what I could get and I saw that she was more than the sum of the resistance I encountered. Slowly our defenses came down and we found that we could both lay our reservations and prejudices aside and that we actually had a lot in common. We came to have the strongest of relationships and would often choose to spend time together because we enjoyed it so much. We could banter and poke fun at each other and we could laugh at ourselves.

In her late fifties she developed a slight lisp. Quickly it progressed to slurring of words. Some of those narrow minded people you always find in every small village gossiped that a drink problem was probably the cause. She ignored them with Germanic determination even though it hurt. She began to have light choking episodes and over time these became more frequent and more serious. She knew I'm sure, what was wrong before everyone else did. After all as a child she'd seen her own mother suffer similar symptoms. It was her deepest and secret fear and she knew what the future held even before motor neuron disease was diagnosed. With startling speed things moved on and this dreadful, deceitful, wicked disease took firstly her song and then her speech.  For a while she communicated via notes in her illegible hand until it was clear even this effort was beyond her. Eating and drinking became impossible, her body wasted and she became unable to walk and to have a normal life.  Her husband nursed her for two long, increasingly difficult years, watching her become completely debilitated and seeing the woman he loved slip out of his grasp no matter how hard he tried to prevent it. She fought with all the strength and courage of the bear at the root of her name but ultimately it was in vain.

She died 11 years ago yesterday.

We miss her.

So liebe Urseli, this song is for you.

 I always think of you when I hear it.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Sunday Post

Hullo ma wee blog,

This weeks poem is from Sheila K Cameron.

An absolute favourite of mine.

Two Inches Tall.

You'll need the sound on and - if you can - a set of headphones would be perfect.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Hullo ma wee blog,

I wake slowly not wanting to be released from the warm and comfortable oddity of knowing I'm in bed and  asleep. As I come slowly up through layers of gentle awareness and away from the dream state, layers of sound come to the fore; raindrops softly pattering the velux window across the room; slow drips from the underside of the window frame hitting the metal flashing at the joint of the red pantiles of the roof. Beyond these sounds comes a stir of wind and an early birds sing-song, close yet muted by distance and the rain, the kind of gently dropping rain that I hear my father's deeply distinctive voice in my head call  'just a wee smirr' in that broad Scots dialect he used. I smile with the memory and let my mind follow the sound out of the window through the rain and I concentrate on the birdsong as it warbles and undulates across the garden from the branches of one of the plum trees there. The sound moves up and down, a plaintive, thoughtful, appreciative hymn to a morning not quite started. Further out others take up the call. The jackdaw's caw from the mature trees beyond the next door cottage is for once not abrasive, but softened too in the air by distance and gentle rain. From the roof of the cottage a gull joins into this almost Disneyesque call to morning. In my minds eye I see it throw back its head and stretch its wings as it does so. Small birds cheep and the hens across the garden fence cluck from within their roost, eager to be out. I hear a birds scuttling feet on the roof tiles just outside the window.

I am awake.

My eyes open and register the soft grey of approaching dawn, the colours of the room undefined in the gloom, straight edges of the door and furniture still blurred and indistinct. The duvet is plumped around me and I see the outline of my Lovely G at my side. Beyond her lies Jess, visible only as a few blobs of ginger and black against the white of the duvet as her mainly white coat is also swallowed up despite the gently increasing palette now developing from shade. My movement has disturbed her slumber too, but not quite to the point of being awake. {Jess isn't an 'early bird' kind of cat} Still in her dream state she twists and stretches, ending up lying on her back, eyes closed, rear legs up and the pads of her back paws pointing to the ceiling. Her tail twitches languorously between her legs and she stretches out a paw beyond her head, splaying the pads and showing its claws as she does so, the other paw held close to her chest like a child with a doll. A deep sigh emits from her chest and slowly, slowly the outstretched paw relaxes until it rests on the duvet beyond her nose. Her tail starts a twitch but stills as she falls back into a deep sleep, one rear leg giving a minuscule spasm which lifts it a couple of centimetres before it too sinks slowly back to its former place. She snores, a small sound that brings a smile to my lips as I ease out of bed and silently collect my clothes, leaving both sleeping bodies behind.  I take one last look in at them before pulling the door closed behind me and turning to head downstairs to the computer and the luxury and comfort of an early morning coffee.

I can't take the grin from my face as I open the door to the kitchen.

Magic. Pure and simple. Magic.

Listening to this: An early morning favourite wakener.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Sunday Post.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Brooklyn Cop..

Built like a gorrilla but less timid,
Thick fleshed, steak-coloured, with two
Heiroglyphs in his face that mean
trouble, he walks the sidewalk and the
thin tissue over violence. This morning,
when he said "See you babe" to his wife,
he hoped it, he truly hoped it.
He is a gorilla
to whom "Hiya honey" is no cliche.

Should the tissue tear, should he plunge through
into violence, what clubbings, what
gunshots between Phoebe's  Whamburger
And Louie's Place.

Who would be him, gorilla with a nightstick,
whose home is a place
he might, this time, never get back too?

And who would be who have to be his victims.

Norman MacCaig, April 1966.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Beautiful Bewilderment

Hullo ma wee blog,

Shouldn't journeys end like this - an advert for a mobile phone company.

Or how about this to start your day off {providing you're not running late for the train}

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Sunday And A Cat On A Lead

Come on! Hurry up a bit!

Hullo ma wee blog,

Sunday was a nicer day than Saturday with it's steely skies and sometimes heavy rain showers pushed  thumping into the garden on boisterous winds. Even though at times Saturday looked bright and reasonably fine and even if the garden really needed a good dowsing to help the growth along, it was wild enough to make us want to stay indoors.

You want me to go down there ?

Sunday started off the same way but got better as the day went on until the by the afternoon it was settled enough to make us feel like shaking the house from our heels for a bit with a little walk somewhere nearby. Jess had been a constant companion to us over the past day or so and seemed keen to get out of the house too so we decided to take her for the walk with us. She's been out with us on a regular basis and although she's kept on a leash, she's quite comfortable and doesn't appear stressed by a new environment in any way. We've had a few strange looks from people coming across a couple taking a cat for a walk but so what!

Yeah, OK then, but don't rush me.

We took the car for a few minutes drive to the top of Pease Dean Nature Reserve with Jess sitting quite the thing on G's lap looking keenly out of the window at where we were going until it was time for her to get out and join us on a fairly short walk, but in a place she'd never been before. Apart from a couple of times when she baulked at the level of moisture underfoot she went fairly charging along at our sides and had a great time exploring this new and exciting place. When we stopped to sit at a bench on route she happily flopped down in the grass in front of us until we moved on.

Try and catch my best side will you?

Soon we were ready to move again and decided that probably she'd come far enough - she's a bit of an old lady now even if she doesn't look it. She certainly doesn't behave like it! And anyway, it was all up hill on the way back and I thought getting Jess back was a good excuse for refraining from too much of a good thing.

Thinking deep thoughts.

Not A Picture of Jess.

Soon we were almost back at the car. I don't know about Jess but I was looking forward to a drink when I got home. 

Try and keep up Mum - for goodness sake!

Listening to.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Childrens Hearing.

Hullo ma wee blog,

 Unfortunately not every child gets the safe, secure and nuturing upbringing they deserve. Too many are raised in chaotic conditions where abject poverty, neglect and addiction  are the norm, leaving children at risk for their welfare, their future and sometimes their very lives. This is a post about Children's Panels which are lay tribunals set up under Scots Law to hear cases for the protection, care, guidance and treatment of children at risk between birth  and age of 16. {or 18 in some cases.} This process which puts the child's interests before all else is unique and  has been a worthy feature of the Scottish legal system for many years.


On the day of a Children's Hearing, the three of us making up a panel - always a mix of sexes to prevent any kind of all male/female bias creeping in - get together beforehand to have a short pre-hearing meeting to discuss the information contained in the reports that have been provided. These will be at the least - unless it's an emergency hearing called at short notice - a social work compiled child and family background report and a school report but could also include reports from health visitors, specialist medical practitioners, residential homes reports or any other agencies that the child or family are involved with. The families attending will also get copies of the reports involving them at the same time. Any serious compromising of the length of time to consider reports, especially if it compromises the families right to have ample time to consider and potentially to seek legal advice, would almost certainly ensure that we would decide only to 'continue' - postpone until another date could be arranged - so the families rights would not be infringed. {a sure-fire winner at any appeal} The sometimes hefty reports the panel have access to are provided seven days before the hearing to allow us to read and absorb the information and consider elements of risk relating to the child's situation and potential next steps that need to be taken to improve or remove the risks to the child. These measures, if we decide to put any in place after a discussion of the case with those involved at hearing, are legally binding on the child and supporting local council authority and can include conditions dictating an action that should be taken by the child or by any of the professionals who are supporting, such as varying where and how the child should be educated, where and with whom the child should live, who, how often and under what protective circumstances the child should have contact with and what treatment, controls, support or guidance should be provided. This effectively means that there are a wide range of measures that can be put in place to protect a child who is at risk either from their own actions or the actions {or neglect} of others. Normally we will hear three cases in a sitting with each of the cases allocated an hour for discussion and during the sitting each of us will chair a pre-allocated case unless one or more of the members has not had the separate formal training to chair tribunals. If this is the case the trained members will chair more than one case ensuring that due process is followed and writing up the formal record of decisions and the reasons which are given to the child and other relevant persons { normally the parents and local authority professionals but can include others such as foster carers etc}  used by following panels in future reviews of the case and in the event of an appeal being made against the panel's decision - any appeal would be heard at court and not by another panel. The reasons written therefore have to clarify the consideration of risk by the panel and the thought process used to come to the final decision and explaining why the panel consider this to be in the child's best interests.


The family enters to take their seats from the waiting area along with the professionals attending. The professionals at a hearing are normally Social Work and School as a minimum but could include many others such as Lawyers, Health Workers, Family Support Workers, Foster Carers or representatives from Secure Facilities. This is the first time the child and family has been called to a hearing. The child is a boy of about 9 years old and he sits beside his mother, head down. Father isn't in attendance even though he should be but I know we'll deal with that in a moment. Opposite the family and professionals, across an oval beechwood table sits the three person panel that makes up the tribunal that is a Children's Hearing. Today there are two men and one woman. I'll chair the hearing for this case. During the session there will be three cases and although each is scheduled for an hour this is flexible based on needs and circumstances - we take the time needed for the family -  and this is the first case of the day. Each of us will chair a case as we are all experienced members, trained to fulfill the procedural and legal obligations chairing a hearing brings. The room is bright and airy, the decor subdued pastel and there are framed paintings done by young children on the wall; a child on a chute; a child in a swimming pool or sea wearing a rubber ring; an unidentifiable animal or bird in garish colours. In the corner there is a small table with a box of crayons and some sheets of paper to draw on, a book and some stuffed animals. There's always a box or two of tissues around within reach of an emotional child or adult.

 As the kerfuffle of a group of people coming in and taking a seat takes place I try to observe the child without making it too obvious. He is small for his age and as he sits back in the chair his feet barely touch the floor. His head is still down and his body language is very closed. His hands are clasped in his lap and he has made a hand wringing gesture twice when he did sneak a glance around him. Even though he's done this he hasn't looked in the direction of us in the panel sitting across from him. He takes a deep breath and blows it out through pursed lips. He looks what he is. A stressed and scared wee boy.

I call his name gently across to him and when I have his attention I smile and ask how he's feeling. I get a  fairly blank look in return for a second and he looks to his Mum who is still getting herself sorted out.

"Hello ****** you must be feeling pretty scared just now. After all this is the first time you've been to see us at a hearing....."

I now have his full attention but he's not about to say anything just yet.

"Has anyone spoken to you about coming to see us and what happens at a children's panel?"

I got a head shake in response, but he also says " A bit."

"You've got to find this all a bit scary, coming into a room full of strangers,especially if no-one's explained about what happens in a hearing to you."

He's still staring at me.

"How would it be if I told you a wee bit about it while everyone's getting sorted out. Would that be ok?"

I get a nod and he leans forward a bit.

"Well first of all I bet you've heard from pals at school that a hearing is where boys and girls get sent if they've been bad.  Maybe you were told too that a hearing will decide you are to be taken away from your Mum or Dad and sent away to live somewhere else."

His eyes are huge and there is a tremble in his lip. He wrings his hands.

"Well you're not here because you've been bad, so don't worry about that. That's not the only reason that children come to see us here.  Don't worry either that anyone's going to take you away from your Mum and Dad, OK?. That's not going to happen. We would only take a boy or girl away from their Mum or Dad if we had to because it really wasn't safe for them to be at home and that doesn't happen very often. {A white lie - it's reasonably common for us to see children who simply aren't safe at home, but  he doesn't need to know that and this isn't one of those situations}  We're people who think children are very important but we know that at times, things might happen that can upset or worry you and sometimes things happen to children that make them feel unsafe and scared. Sometimes things happen, and people - even Mums and Dads - don't know what to do to make things better. If we hear about someone where this is maybe happening we ask them to come and talk to us to see if there's anything we can do to help make things better so that you're not worried or scared anymore.  A hearing is just is a meeting to talk about what's happening and to help decide what needs to be done to help you and who would be best able to do that. So it's not just boys or girls that have been bad that come here.

While we're having the chat about things it's my job to make sure we talk about everything we need to so I will ask different people to speak and I will probably ask lots of questions. If you feel you can talk to us about anything then you'll be able to tell me what it is. I'm also here to make sure that you understand what's being said and you get a chance to talk if you want to. After we've all had a talk me and my two colleagues will say what we think would be the best thing to happen, then I'll explain what this will mean. Before you go away today I'll make sure you know what's going to happen next and why we think this is the best thing to do. Are you OK with that?"

He nods.

"Do you feel a bit better now?"

He nods and I get a glimmer of a smile.

"That's good. Let's get everyone started then will we?  I'll watch out to make sure you're OK when everyone's talking."

I sit back a bit.

"Now then ladies and gents. Thanks for coming to the hearing today for ******. First let me introduce the panel and then I'll ask each of you to introduce yourselves before we begin......."

See you later.

Watching this.

The Sunday Post.

Hullo ma wee blog,

This Sunday's post is;

Aunt Julia.

Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
I could not answer her-
I could not understand her.

She wore men's boots
when she wore any.
-I can see her strong foot,
stained with peat,
paddling with the treadle of the spinningwheel
while her right hand drew yarn
marvellously out of the air.

Hers was the only house
where I've lain at night
in the absolute darkness
of a box bed, listening to
crickets being friendly.

She was buckets
and water flouncing into them.
She was winds pourling wetly
around house ends.
She was brown eggs, black skirts
and a keeper of threepenny bits
in a teapot.

Aunt Julia spoke Gaelic
very loud and very fast.
By the time I had learned
a little she lay
silenced in  the absolute black
of a sandy grave
at Luskentyre. But I hear her still, welcoming me
with a seagulls voice
across a hundred yards
of peatscapes and lazybeds
and getting angry, getting angry
with so many questions

Norman MacCaig, March 1967.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Silence Of The Bams.

Hullo ma wee blog,

{A wee tale of less than political correctness - and swearing}

I'm just sitting minding my own business perched none too comfortably on a hospital waiting room chair reading a book and well......I'm waiting. Hospitals make you do that don't they?. They never seem to run to any discernable timescale that I've ever come across and Accident and Emergency Depts are even less connected to time than other parts of the health service in my experience , which thankfully isn't enormous if I have to be absolutely truthful. Don't worry by the way,  it's not me that's injured - apart from having a numb bum that is - it's a pal who has just recently - 48 hrs ago - had a 2nd operation on his leg which was injured and supposedly repaired more than a year ago. As you can tell, the first operation doesn't seem to have been a success so they had another go and we've just been sent here straight from our local doctors surgery where he'd gone to complain of increasing pain in his newly re-operated-on leg. The doctor had a quick look, gave a very concerned look then sent us straight to A+E with a note that probably says "You better have a look at this because it doesn't seem quite right!"

So, for what seems like a couple of hours, we've been sitting here being reminded that time can pass exceedingly slowly, especially when you're in pain. Just as my buddy twists to try and find a more comfortable position for what seems like the hundredth time, a nurse - who looks like she's about ten years too young and a couple of feet too short for the green scrubs she is dressed in - comes in and calls out his name. Lurching to his feet with an intake of breath and a grimace, he makes to follow the wee slip of a lass who has just proven that although tempis might not fugit in hospitals, nurses - no matter how short - certainly do because she's disappeared just as fast as she appeared in the first place. As I watch him hobble off  after her I hope it's not going to be too long before he's been seen and comes back with a fix for whatever is causing him the pain. As the thoughts pass across my brain I notice the double doors to the seating area slide open and a new arrival make his entrance.

Coming around the curving barrier designed to stop our fine Scottish weather from inflicting even more injury to the poor souls waiting in the A+E Dept, I see a man in his mid twenties, slightly smaller than medium height, thin to the point of anorexia. I see too he's what's colloquially called a 'jakey' around here. This helpful accreditation of social status is marked by his dirty white trainers, cheap, stained, grey and white tracksuit in some thin to the point of surreal, shiny material. Its a cheap look, which he thoughtfully emphasises by having his neck weighed down by what are probably fake gold chains and that always-essential-for-the-well-dressed-jakey-about-town,  the de-rigeur headgear of an oddly skewed baseball cap aimed to show he's a quirky, happy-go-lucky-carefree-kind-of-guy which is firmly clamped down onto lank, greasy brown hair. But this isn't just a case of 'the clothes maketh the man',  not that his baseball cap doesn't also fetchingly match the once-upon-a-time whiteness of the items arrayed below it.  Partly too it's that his teeth are ruined by drugs and his fingers are the colour of tobacco, he's got a face like a ferret who's just been hit by a bus and sneaky eyes that could laugh one minute and turn without warning the next. Even smiling like he is you can't help but take a dislike to the guy. He's the kind of nutter that, no matter how much you try and shrink into yourself or pray that he'll pick somewhere else, will invariably come and sit beside you on any mode of public transport. The kind without awareness of anything or anyone outside his own alcohol or drug fuelled existence and his own wants and needs at this particular moment. This one is the brand of Jakey that elicits an almost audible sigh of relief from your fellow travellers on the bus or train when they realise it's you and not them singled out for the treat that's no doubt about to be unleashed on your senses if your lucky and your person if your not.

He moves slowly through the seating area with an exagerated care which at first almost seems endearing and thoughtful until you realise it's the correctness of someone who is going to fall over if all his concentration isn't used to make sure that his feet are placed correctly and he minds his balance. As he slowly weaves through the seating area and feet are withdrawn from his path to help him on his way, he comes towards me and my fellows in waiting at the end of the room followed no doubt by the best wishes of those he's just passed by. As he comes, passing close by someone, he glances at them, smiling and happy within his own wee, perfect, narcotically skewed world. He is a Jakey's Jakey. A Jakey of near perfect Jakeyness. But is that all he is?  As he gets closer I'm not doubting for a second that we're all going to find out. Perhaps that is a Jakey's true purpose in life. To validate your own paltry existence by coming and buggering it up every once in a while. Perhaps his right to free expression is enshrined in the European Court Of Human Rights legislation. Jakeys of the world unite! I shudder. Why me???

"Hiya!" His words probably sound ok in his own mind  but come whining out over loud and heavily, oddly niaive, childish and creepily cheerful. Some people ignore him, some give self conscious or wary smiles in return. His high volume "Hullo Doll!" to a pretty young woman makes her shrink back and protectively pull away an injured limb from his advance. He sways, staggers and almost does a pirhouette before ending up hanging over someone else at an incredible angle before righting himself. Gravity defied by narcotic induced suppleness.

"Aww, fur F***k's sake man", he says out loud. "Nearly landed oan ma f***in' erse there. Ya f****in numpty ye!"

He giggles and teeters on towards us as I feel my hackles rise but luckily he stops about ten feet away and drops heavily onto a seat next to a very studious looking middle aged man who has a large, improvised and quite bloodstained bandage wrapped around his head and over one eye. Blood has dripped down onto a very neat sportsjacket and a nice tie.The impact of Jakey's arrival has sent shock waves of pain through him but  'Jakey' seems completely oblivious to the man, who is probably quite grateful as it gives him the chance to return the favour by ignoring him too and trying to refocus and zone out the pain again. Watching the poor man's discomfort I realise I'm doing that ' thank God it's not me' routine in my head and feel guilty.

 'Jakey' begins to fumble in his pockets. One at a time they are turned out showing an amazing amount of stuff can be carried in sportswear, most of it highly inappropriate; cigarettes, matches, lighters, a tobacco pouch, a can of irn bru. Where the hell is he keeping all of that stuff? He continues to pull out small pouches of what may be white powder or tablets, careful not to be too obvious about it but too far gone to realise everyone can see what he's doing. Out comes a bar of chocolate and a packet of condoms. I mentally congratulate him for his contribution to a resposible society on the condoms until I realise that they are probably for another purpose entirely.  As each pocket is emptied and thoroughly examined only to come up short of what he is looking for, he makes small noises; "Naw"  "Nup"  "Nu-hu"  "Aww fur f***k's sake"  until eventually he finds what he has been looking for and holds up a state of the art mobile phone like he is offering some treasure to The Virgin Mary. "There ye are ya wee f****in beauty!"
He presses the 'on' button of a piece of kit I could only dream of owning, ignoring the large poster just behind his head which has a red circle with a mobile phone crossed out and the words 'NO MOBILE PHONES' in large red letters underneath it and agressively thumps in numbers. He puts it to his ear.
"Where the **** are you? You were supposed to f****in' meet me ya wee f****in'  B*****d

I squirm. I don't know how much of this I can take.

There's a moment or two of extended 'conversation' from this muppet to the obviously equally chemically retarded individual on the other end. It's completely littered with the same effin and jeffin I've already heard and is being held at about double any kind of volume that could be described as appropriate. My tolerance threshold is getting nearer when a wee old lady dressed in an immaculate purple jacket and skirt suit - my mother would have called it a 'combination' - her face carefully made up below an equally well turned out hairdo leans forward and says firmly but politely, "Excuse me son!"

There's no response other than a turning away by the Jakey so, as he's out of reach and she seems too frail to get up, she lifts her walking stick and reaches out, pointing it towards him........

Oh, Please....don't.

She pokes him in the thigh with the tip of it...........REALLY HARD.

Aw no......

Even before she's had the chance to say anything he's whirled around ready for action, experienced no doubt from dozens of drunken, drugged up tussles. I can't sit back if he's going to give her abuse. Aw bugger!

 "WHIT THE F*** ?????

It comes to me that this is the bit where we'll find out if he's just a Jakey or if he's a Bam.  A simple jakey is low down the pecking order of nutters and is a drunk or a junkie, a bit troubled and a bit of a chancer, untrustworthy, often a bit of a character and sometimes a problem, but usually they can be dealt with by reason or just bravado.  Sometimes Jakeys aspire to be Bams but a Bam is really a different beast. The problem with Bams is that there are different kinds and you never quite know what kind of Bam you've got until the last moment. Low grade Bams can be aggressive but mostly verbal. The kind that shout and swear and might do a bit of facing up but normally wont go any further. Medium grade Bams will be aggressive and will have a go with fists and feet if they think they have a chance or maybe have some pals looking on. A true Bam will have a go regardless of odds or any other consideration. Not nice to meet. The very worst is the Uber-Bam. He'll go off pretty much without any kind of provocation and will probably come equipped for any eventuality, maybe with a knife, Scottish weapon of choice and inner city heritage. We do like our traditions us Scots. You dont want to meet a true Bam or an Uber-bam under any circumstances, unless maybe you're a policeman with a stab vest and an angry man team behind you. Escape routes should always be considered before tackling any kind of Bam. Herds of Bams should be avoided as should lone female Bams, especially in the breeding season which runs from Jan 1st to Dec 31st. Bams are trouble at any time but especially after dark, it's as if they go a bit loopy when the moon's out or something. Even what appears to be a single Bam can have companions or worse - relatives - lurking nearby. Bams can be unstable in other ways too. You never know what's going to trigger them or how quickly it's going to happen. It's kind of a 'light the blue touch paper and run' thing, but you don't know where the lighter is, how long the fuse or where your escape hatch might be.

The very worst thing about Bams is they come in all shapes and sizes. You simply never know.

None of this goes  fully through my mind as I watch the little old lady stab the Jakey with the end of her walking stick. I'd probably best try and protect her honour by stepping in front of the Jakey and turning to give her a bit of a talk about not treating people like that before turning on him as his protector to point out that he'd brought it on himself, maybe the phone should be used outside etc etc. Kind of reverse psychology or cowardice depending on your point of view really, but I'm not over proud when it comes to potential self-preservation.

Just as I press down on the arms of the chair to launch myself up a large figure leans forward from his chair to insert himself into the frame. He speaks with an incredible level of threat in his voice.

" She said ye shouldny be usin' yer f***in' phone in here. There's a f****in' great sign behind yer heid ya **** ye! An ahm f***in' sayin' that if ye dinnae pit that f****in' phone away ah'll f***in' stuff it right up yer f***in' a***. Now shut the f*** up and crawl away the f*** back intae yer flea ridden junkie hovel ya smelly **** ye. RIGHT!"

The jakey winces and seems to shrink. {I don't blame him} "Aye aw right big man. Nae problem. Ah didnae see the sign like." The phone disappears and Jakey sits carefully back in his chair. A moment later the man leans forward  to the Jakey again.

"HAW YOU!. Are you still here? Ah thought ah f***in' telt you tae f***in'  f*** off? Ah'm no f***in' gonny tell ye again."

He leans back and looks at the old lady.
"Aw right ma?"
She smiles and nods and they both sit back. An absolute hush lies over the room.

 I sit back too.

 Now that.......

That's a Bam.

Jakey gets up and with a remarkably improved sense of balance leaves the A+E dept. Just outside the door a taxi is dropping a passenger and he climbs straight in and the taxi departs.

A couple of minutes more and my buddy appears at the end of the room. As I join him he smiles and says, "Awright?"

"Absolutely fine mate, absolutely fine. Shall we go?"

I'll ask him how he's doing when we're in the car.

See you later.

This felt appropriate for the story.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Take the Long Way Home

Hullo ma wee blog,

Last night the Lovely G's wee brother Leonard aka 'Leen' came to stay overnight. Not so unusual perhaps but this was a bit different as Leen is on the final leg of a round Scotland cycle trip raising money in aid of Motor Neuron Disease research,  as the disease is one which has affected at least two generations of the family. Recently made redundant, Leen took the decision to do something positive for others and set himself a goal of raising a thousand pounds for his chosen charity. By the time he gets home to his girlfriend tonight, still sticking conscientiously to the coastal routes he's followed all the way, he will have been away almost three weeks, cycled 1300+  miles in almost consistently atrocious wind and rain and will have exceeded his fundraising target by 70%. While by his own admission it hasn't always - or even often - been fun, I'm sure it's something he'll be able to look back on and enjoy in retrospect and is something he can be proud of always.

We're certainly proud of him. And look on the bright side. Wind keeps the midges away!

Well done Leen. What an achievement. Inspirational!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Scotsman Shouts 'FREEDOM' To The World.

Hullo ma wee blog,

I am, as my mother would have said, like a dog with two tails........

I'm back in the land of the internet, unleashed once more by the arrival of a new computer since the departure of my last one to the computer graveyard. It had done it's stuff but came to an accidental and somewhat premature end. Thankfully, due to my Lovely G's prediliction for almost completely comprehensive insurance cover, I'm now in the possesion of a brand spanking, highly upgraded, sleekly beautiful, new toy. The keyboad is great, the sound is wonderful and the speed - oh, the speed - is breathtaking. The memory is mind-boggling in it's enormity and I'm enjoying uploading all the essential wee bits and pieces I'd stored from my last one and looking forward to being more inspired and productive than I've been of late.

I promise I'll look after this one sweetheart.


Must go - I've got things to play with at the moment - Oh but it's nice to be typing with a big grin on my face!

See you later.

Listening to.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

A Bird in the Bush is Worth........

Hullo ma wee blog,

There are at least thirty sparrows in the flock that sweeps down to litter the driveway at the front of the house this morning, cheeping and jostling for position as they enjoy a dust bath. When fright takes them they leap into the air together and disappear in a whirr of wings into the safety of the hedge a few feet away simply to return to their dusty squabbles a few seconds later. A solitary blackbird is one of the bathers, large and plump by comparison as she goes about her morning ablutions with feathers puffed, short beats of spread wings against the ground. Two or three jackdaws strut self importantly beneath the old pear tree pleased, even though they are too large to cling to the feeder full of seed hanging from its low branch,  to have mastered the secret of the upward lunge with its solid thump to release a tiny spew of beady treasures to be jumped on by those waiting just below.

As I sit at the kitchen table tapping this post I'm joined by a tapping from the window by the sink. Without looking I know its the male blackbird, his unique sound signature made by raking his beautiful yellow beak through the seeds on the window tray followed by a stiff legged double hop to settle those most wanted in a layer at the top to be gathered with an eager series of short pecks. The pattern will be repeated again and again until he is stuffed full of seed or scared off by something inconsequential.  I know the crafty beggar is a flighty character and will be watching me with a glittering eye, ready to take flight at the first sign of my interest. Only once or twice in the last months have we contemplated each other through the glass from close up for a careful moment before he's indignantly fled. I suspect I was more impressed with his looks than he with mine.

Through the still unopened vertical blind to my left I hear the birds in the back garden; the gruff caw of a jackdaw; the quiet cheep-cheep of a group of chaffinches and the tinkling bell-like notes of a pair of pigeons coming in to land. I hear the sound of wings at the low table where the enameled ashet* of water sits gleaming white and rimmed with blue. The water will be cold from the night's chill and I find myself wondering if it's appreciated as a refreshing early prize when it's so cold.  Now though it's time for me to finish blogging  and take the tub of seed from the corner behind me out to the garden.

There are hungry mouths to be fed.

*Ashet is an oddly Scottish word for a dish and comes from the days of the Auld Alliance  when France was both a military ally and  main commercial trading partner. Ashet is the Scots phonetic rendering of the French  assiette. For the same reason a leg of lamb is a gigot, but pronounced by Scots with a hard 'g' at the beginning as opposed to the softly accented 'gigot' of modern French

See you later.

Listening to

The Sunday Post

The dwarf with his hands on backwards
sat, slumped like a half-filled sack
on tiny twisted legs from which
sawdust might run,
outside the three tiers of churches built
in honour of St Francis, brother
of the poor, talker with birds, over whom
he had the advantage
of not being dead yet.

A priest explained
how clever it was of Giotto
to make his frescoes tell stories
that would reveal to the illiterate the goodness
of God and the suffering
of His Son. I understood
the explanation and
the cleverness.

A rush of tourists, clucking contentedly
followed him as he scattered
the grain of The Word. It was they who passed
the ruined temple outside, whose eyes
wept pus, whose back was higher
than his head, whose lopsided mouth
said Grazie in a voice as sweet
as a child's when she speaks to her mother
or a bird's when it spoke
to St. Francis.

By Norman MacCaig.
June 1964.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

La Garriga - Things That Make Me Smile.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Sometimes it's nice to get away from a world that often seems to be petty, self obsessed and too narrow minded for it's own good. It raises my spirits to see people do things for others without thought for what's in it for them or do things that simply make their community and therefore the world a better place. I was reminded of that this morning when blogger pal Jono over at e-clecticism posted the newest release from the 'Playing For Change' organisation - a group who I feel fits this concept perfectly simply by showing that music unites us all and by inference that we are the same the world over if we just stop for a moment and realise it. They do this by sending a recording around the world and getting local musicians to add a layer to it as it goes. The results are wonderful.

Unfortunately I couldn't get any sound on the posting, but as I obviously like 'playing for change' I headed through to the youtube version. It's a great version of 'The Rolling Stones' track 'Gimme Shelter'. Another clip there also caught my eye. It's called 'La Garriga is playing for change' and is a wonderful version of one of my favourite songs from old musicals. The intro below the post simply says " La Garriga Is Playing For Change Too  and doesn't pretend to copy the initiative of the organization "Playing For Change", it's just a tribute made with all the resources that we have. We just want to support these idea and talk with the universal language that anyone understands: music."

It continues;

"La Garriga is a little town 35 Km far Barcelona (Catalunya). Maybe we don't have extraordinary cathedrals or fountains or great business buildings, but we have extraordinary people, this video is just a little proof of it. Enjoy it!"

I did enjoy it La Garriga - and you have started my day with a smile.

Thank you.

Listening to

Friday, 3 June 2011

Where the Bodies are Buried.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Sorry to have been ignoring you over the last week but in my sad life where very little happens it's been a hectic few days. From a holiday weekend that saw us go from a concert to a jaunt to the remotest west highlands, to a couple of full days of childrens hearings and all the preparation needed for that and a night in Edinburgh at an event with my sister-in-law, I feel my hands have been quite full. Add to that the insurance company taking away the carcass of my old laptop to confirm it can't be repaired before parting with any of their cash forcing the lovely G and I to have an extended period of sharing computer access and before you know it several days have slipped by without me posting a single solitary thing.

Wednesday night saw me in Edinburgh with sister-in-law K  to attend the launch of Christopher Brookmyres latest novel 'Where The Bodies Are Buried'.  Christopher - or Chris as his publishers are now marketing him - is one of my favourite Scots authors, a scathing, irreverent and hilarious satirist who's tongue-in-cheek-boot-firmly-applied-to-the-establishments-posterior style has often had me creased with laughter, often in places where I should know better like waiting rooms or on aeroplanes. The event, held on the eve of his latest books publication, marks his first foray away from his previous satirical genre into what is described as a more serious mainline crime thriller style, took place in Edinburgh's historic old town, just off The Grassmarket, in a candle-lit and dungeon-like small venue beneath one of the areas oldest buildings.  A glass of plonk kicked off an hour of readings and chat with the man followed by a question and answer session about his writing, life, the universe and everything. From the couple of readings he did it seemed to me that he  has created some credible, grounded characters who are still capable of raising a smile while working within the dark, more realistic backdrop of Glasgow's underworld he has created.

A first for me, I stayed around at the end to stand in line and buy a pre-release copy for the man to sign while we chatted for a moment. I'm looking forward to getting to grips with it soon. I might even let you know how it goes.........

See you later.

Listening to


The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...