Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Sunday Post.

The Spell Chequer.

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
It's letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Martha Snow.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Dear Santa......

Dear Santa,

Are you the good guy we think you are?

 Sure, Christmas is great and all that - but are you really the benevolent character we all take you for? You certainly have some incredible housebreaking skills and all this do-goodery is a great cover story for some good old-fashioned burglary or a multitude of other nefarious activities. Your P.R. skills are also certainly up there with the best considering we spend so much time and effort these days telling our children to avoid strangers except in safe environments like school. Heck we’ve even turned our schools into virtual mini-prisons to keep out unsafe adults – an example of creating anxiety in our kids where there is almost no risk - yet we happily tell them that you will come into their bedrooms at night and leave them presents – if they’ve been good. We even tell them not to be afraid if they wake up hearing someone in their room and that they should just pretend to be asleep and not to look at you { that’ll work very heavily in your favour in any potential ID parade you clever old rascal }

And that disguise? Genius! You’ve made a disguise out of the most identifiable and high visibility clothing you could possibly wear, making sure that even CCTV Camera’s won’t be able to pick out any identifying personal features. With all that bulky clothing you could be anything from the most obese burglar in history to a complete anorexic with access to industrial quantities of padding. You’re supposed to be old but you might not be – you certainly aren’t as old as the stories suggest. What an incredible feat! Way to go sunshine!

There are some weak points in your strategy though, which I’m sure you must be aware of; all those mince pies and sherry have to slow you down a bit { and make me veer towards ‘the most obese burglar in history’ theory } and the getaway vehicle not only isn’t the fastest option you could have come up with but is also stand out conspicuous in all but the most rural areas. Despite this, probably due to the laxity of our police and the ineptitude of air traffic control staff over the holiday period, you’ve managed consistently to evade detection. Yes we have all seen the photos of Santa being given a parking ticket or the videos on ‘Youtube’ but these aren’t you are they? This is yet another genius stroke in the master-plan. You’ve generated – spawned even – a whole slew of impersonators with which to confuse and convince society that it’s all a fantasy. Absolute bloomin’ genius mate. Well done indeed.

Yes, you’ve created a cover story perfect for the most gullible or sentimental elements of our society, built it up over a significant period of time { clearly a master of planning and organising } and woven it around the most fantastical garb that hides you in plain sight. Your transport appears ridiculous but evades the most elaborate detection systems modern technology can produce. You telegraph the time of your crime yet create a perfect alibi by ensuring multitudes of lookalikes may be culpable – some of them who don’t even get dressed up because they’re in their own homes – and at the appointed hour you do your stuff and apparently disasppear like you’ve just gone up the chimney.

Or is the there an even more elusive side to the story? Are you simply an extra savvy entrepreneur who's moved to the Arctic Circle because of tax breaks, lower environmental standards and an abundance of cheap elf labour?

Whatever the truth I'm still waiting for the flamethrower I've been asking for for the last three years. This year Santa, please – get your act in order. There are so many places I'm planning to visit with my new toy.

See you later.

Listening to:

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Fair and Balanced View.

An essential fair and balanced view

I'm becoming more than a little unhappy with the BBC. It seems more and more obvious lately that the powers that be within what is supposedly an independent, objective news organisation are aligning themselves more and more closely to the established government line, to the detriment of fair and balanced reporting.

For several months I have been annoyed by the political discussion show "Question Time" chaired by David Dimbleby. The panels are increasingly weighted on the side of government argument with one Cabinet minister, one Tory MP, one LibDem MP and as often as not a celebrity supporter of Conservative policy with a token Labour voice or independent panellist. On top of that I feel that Mr Dimbleby's chairing leaves much to be desired when it comes to objectivity and the ability to provide a fair and open discussion. Often he will question the antiestablishment voice on the panel again and again in supposed "clarification" when he rarely does this to other panel members and he's much more likely to interrupt any non-government speaker or curtail the time allotted to them to answer a question. I've also found him irritatingly dismissive of clear and sensible questions from the audience pertinent to the discussion at hand for no explicable reason. He also allows Tory and Lib-Dem {or is that Con-Dem} to veer off piste, usually prefaced by the "Of course, we inherited this terrible position from the previous govt who failed to......" or "What the previous govt failed to do was ...."  before waffling on about some twaddle which clearly the party want on the agenda but certainly isn't a direct answer to any question put to the panel. And OK, to be fair ALL politicians are prone to this nonsense - but it's the role of a good chairman to keep the panellists in line and stop this infuriating and insulting rubbish out of it. The question is usually "What are you going to do about" something or "Do you feel this is the right way to deal with" something. When asked this, all we want to know is what you are doing about it and why - not what the other party have failed to do or what they have done that's "made things so very much worse than they first appeared". To be honest if you didn't know exactly what was going on then your a bloody poor opposition - and if you couldn't find these things out then you can bet your doing just as much you want to keep hidden too.

 I'm beginning to wonder why I watch the damned program.

Even the main evening news on BBC1 the other evening contained what I consider to be biased reporting and subliminal messages elevating the position of the government both in national and international issues regardless of other relevant points of view. For example; a news item showed the three main party leaders visiting a factory together in support of a jobs initiative. The first shot showed the three leaders entering the factory floor together while a voice-over explained that David Cameron and the other two party leaders had visited the factory. The narrative continued explaining that "Mr Cameron" was leading an initiative to improve jobs and apprenticeships in British industry. The next 3 min went to great lengths to explain "Mr Cameron's" visit and each shot showed only the Prime Minister and not any of the other party leaders. David Cameron was heard to ask questions of workers on the shopfloor and was shown posed in statesmanlike poses amongst the workers as he listened attentively to them. The voice-over continually referred to him as Mr Cameron, something I don't remember happening before when the previous prime minister was referred to as "Gordon Brown" or simply "the Prime Minister". It seemed obvious to me that the whole tone of the article was designed to increase David Cameron's stature in the public eye and though he was visiting with the other party leaders in this instance, to focus on him as being the only relevant person.

Almost the next item in the news was about "Mr Cameron's" position on the euro financial crisis. As the newsreader read the article a photograph was displayed behind her – a compilation of two images – one of Angela Merkel the German Chancellor, the other of the Prime Minister, but in this instance these head and shoulder portraits had been manipulated so that her figure appeared slightly below that of Mr Cameron and his arm appeared to be wagging a finger at her. It seemed to me that this was designed to give the impression that he was on the higher moral ground and was reprovingly warning her off. Interestingly, when you looked closely at the picture it was clear that this hand was in fact not David Cameron's but hers.

It may be a sign of modern times or it may just be a sign that I'm a grumpy old so-and-so but I'm really disappointed when at almost every news program I can pick out something that is being emphasised in a particular direction with no balancing point of view. I'm no intellectual but I'm no idiot either and I resent being treated in a manner that offends my sense of justice and appears to assume that I haven't the ability to smell bullshit when it's propped directly beneath my nose.

Okay – rant over.

See you later.

Listening to:

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Sunday Post

Cockburnspath, Scottish Borders


I'm waiting for the moment
when the train crosses the border
and home creeps closer
at seventy miles an hour.

I dismissed the last four days
and their friendly strangers
into the past
that grows bigger every minute.

The train sounds urgent as I am,
it says home and home and home.
I light a cigarette
and sit smiling in the corner.

Scotland, I rush towards you
into my future that,
every minute,
grows smaller and smaller.

 Norman MacCaig.
January 1989.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day - A Poem for the Boys

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - an Excellent Film

A poem for Remembrance Day.


Lie in the dark and listen,
It's clear tonight so they're flying high
Hundreds of them, thousands perhaps,
Riding the icy, moonlight sky.
Men, materials, bombs and maps
Altimeters and guns and charts
Coffee, sandwiches, fleece-lined boots
Bones and muscles and minds and hearts
English saplings with English roots
Deep in the earth they've left below
Lie in the dark and let them go
Lie in the dark and listen.
Lie in the dark and listen

They're going over in waves and waves
High above villages, hills and streams
Country churches and little graves
And little citizen's worried dreams.
Very soon they'll have reached the sea
And far below them will lie the bays
And coves and sands where they used to be
Taken for summer holidays.
Lie in the dark and let them go
Lie in the dark and listen.

Lie in the dark and listen
City magnates and steel contractors,
Factory workers and politicians
Soft hysterical little actors

Ballet dancers, 'reserved' musicians,
Safe in your warm civilian beds
Count your profits and count your sheep
Life is flying above your heads
Just turn over and try to sleep.
Lie in the dark and let them go
Theirs is a world you'll never know
Lie in the dark and listen.

In loving memory.
Sam Robertson  - Bomber Command, 1944-1945
Thomas Hughes - Royal Flying Corps France, 1914 -1918
Sam Robertson  - Royal Scots Fusiliers, Gallipoli and Ypres 1914 -1918

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Old Dogs. New Tricks

Having worked for a company for 32 years I was made redundant in 2009. Hurt and angry at the time I proved they failed to fairly apply company selection procedures during the process and won damages from them. At the time I was confident about the future. We had good insurance cover to protect us financially and I had many years of experience working for one of the UK's most respected companies in an area which was both high pressured and had many transferable applications for the skills I used. Things were getting tough in the job market but I was convinced I would be back in a job in a fairly short time. I had bags of experience, bags of drive and lots of technical skills. I wanted to work. I wasn't one of those workshy wasters who would live off benefits. The next few months carefully removed all of my conceits. Not only didn't I get a job, I didn't get any interviews either despite applying for hundreds of jobs. 

The introduction to benefits through jobseekers allowance and the joys of JobCentre plus and its institutional bureaucracy, while giving me the occasional chance to post a rant or make fun of the ludicrous side of the situation, soon took its toll of my good humour and tolerance. The lack of any improvement in my situation and the absence of any hint of potential jobs soon began to erode my self-confidence. The absence of interviews or indeed responses to applications across that winter though made me even more determined. Surely something would come my way?

For the last few years of my employment I had volunteered in the children's hearing system and my employer had been given an award for their support of my participation. I found this role really rewarding and realised that ideally I wanted to take my career away from big business towards this direction but unfortunately, I also realised that financially I couldn't afford to do this because of the commitments of mortgage and modern life. Now, with a redundancy package and solid insurance protection behind me, I wanted to make that move so much of my efforts went in that direction.. Despite my best efforts this continued to bear no fruit so I was forced to combine job applications back into my previous employment arena. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of applications elicited no response, not even the acknowledgement that they had been received. Those who did respond listed lack of formal qualifications, failure to meet specific criteria and worryingly, lack of recent employment history. This final comment more than any other caused me some real despair and certainly many sleepless nights. Despite that, I rewrote and rewrote my CV numerous times, tailored each application to the specifics of the job advert and continued hammering home application after application, sometimes eight or 10 a day, week after week, month after month.

When I started applying for jobs I looked for salaries around the earnings I'd been making. By the end of the year I'd reduced my expectations by 20%. As time went on and more and more applications disappeared into the void those expectations reduced and reduced 25%, 30%, 40% and finally 50% but still there was no sign of any takers.

Finally, a week ago I had an interview. This, in the area of social services that I so desperately wanted to get into, was for part-time work, but by this time all insurance cover had ended and I have never been entitled to any financial benefits beyond 26 weeks of unemployment benefit long since ended. The interview seemed to go well but as is the way with these things, you can never tell.

Last night, I got a phone call from my interviewer offering me a job. Not just the part-time job had applied for, but a full-time job in recognition that I have the kind of potential they are looking for. I was stunned, in fact I still am. Finally, someone other than family and friends, believes in me. Two bloody years of Purgatory but finally somebody believes in me.

At last. 

Once all the checks have been done to allow me to work with vulnerable groups and once my references have been received I will be back in the land of the working and finally my working life will be moving in the direction and  in the kind of area I want. I will be working with people suffering from autistic spectrum disorders.

Time for this old dog to learn some new tricks!

See you later.

Listening to.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Sunday Post.

Wanting to go,
all the leaves want to go
though they have achieved
their kingly robes.

Weary of colours,
they think of black earth,
they think of
white snow.

 Stealthily, delicately
as a safe breaker
they unlock themselves
from branches.

And from their Royal Towers
they sift silently down
to become part of
the proletariat of mud.

Norman MacCaig.
September 1982

photo: Alet Les Baines, Languedoc, France by Alistair.

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 ...