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BLOGGING BACK TO HAPPINESS...

 

Woop, ah, oh, yeah, yeah. Sorry, got caught in a timewarp/continuum/black hole/not really sure about sci-fi terminology for a moment there and forgot where I was. I'm here. Back to blog (is that a good title for an album, or is that just me? Oh. Right. Oh well...)

I have been absent for some time owing to spending too much time footering on Facebook, trying to resist buying bags of Giant Chocolate Raisins (this deserves capital letters) on sale at the till in M&S. I mean, Giant Raisins! That's too cruel a temptation when I'm queuing there to buy my all-butter croissants and vanilla joghurt - wow, I hear you say; what a cosmopolitan shopper you are! Oh, yes, I'm living the Vida Loca alright...just without Ricky Martin.

But the main reason for my absence is that I'm spending most of my free time writing and have published three of my books for young adults on Amazon for Kindle. I am now an ebook author and I couldn't be more excited! The first time I typed my name in a search on Amazon and my books appeared I was beside myself with ridiculous glee - go on, try it and see how delightful it is. Okay, maybe you won't be all that delighted but I'll know you've looked and that's all it takes to make me happy. That and some Giant Raisins, obviously.

And just so you're not tempted to unfriend me, 'footering' is a real Scottish word and not a euphemism... 

 

ANOTHER DAY...

 

...another shopping experience. Now, I don't want to seem obsessed by Morrisons but why do they insist on making their carrier bags see-through? Yes, I know you're supposed to take your own bags these days and I do take mine. I take them and leave them in the car, necessitating the trip through the self-serve aisle to get some more.

But see-through?? Who thought that was a good idea? You leave the shop and everyone can see you bought cheap baked beans and haemorrhoid cream. You may as well hold them above your head as you go, shouting "I'm skint and I've got piles." Perhaps you could put it to music and sing.

And why do shop assistants end their transaction with the words; "See you later," instead of "Goodbye" or "Cheerio"? Hell, I'd even take "Toodle-pip" in lieu of this empty promise. So far, I've resisted the temptation to reply; "Okay, it's a date! Where do you want to meet? Shall we say seven 'o' clock?"

Right, enough moaning; I'm off to have cheap beans on toast and sit on a nice, soft cushion... 

 

 

OFF MY TROLLEY...

 

I have just returned from a punishing assault course into the bowels of hell or, as some people would call it, a trip to Morrisons.

My first challenge was to equip myself with a shopping trolley from the long, snaking lines shackled together like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in that film I forget the name of. I didn't want one of the hulking great fit-three-kids-and-a-month's-supply-of-Pampers jobs; no, I wanted one of the small, cute compact-and-bijou ones which you then try to cram with three multi-packs of crisps and a month's supply of wine (or is that just me?). I put my £1 coin in the slot, pushed it into the metal thingy in the handle and pulled the long metal thingy which chained it to the next trolley. Nothing happened. I tried to pull my coin back out. It stuck. I had another few goes with both parts and ended up cursing like Muttley from the Wacky Races.

During this wrestling match, I was disturbed to note that the trolley I chose had a sign stuck to the handle which read:'Please Do Not Take Me Away From Morrisons'...surely a Country & Western song in the making? While I appreciated the irony - I couldn't even take it away from the trolley next to it, never mind Morrisons - I felt uncomfortable with the concept of an inanimate object adopting a method of communicating with me. Especially one which appeared to be agarophobic.

Eventually, another shopper came to my aid, I got my coin back and managed to liberate a trolley and persuade it to accompany me inside. And there, in the central isle, I only just managed to avoid injury from a customer participating in a peculiar type of trolley dash which can be observed in supermarkets up and down the country. The game consists of two people: a customer - usually male, middle-aged, overweight; and a shop assistant - usually female, early twenties, physique of a twiglet. The rules are these: customer stops assistant and asks where the baked beans/sun blushed tomatoes/pickled gherkins are. Assistant says "Follow me." and takes off at a trot. Customer then attempts to keep up with assistant while manoeuvring huge trolley filled with three kids and month's supply of Pampers or balancing basket over-filled with beer, crisps and cheese slices while avoiding knee-capping elderly shoppers who can't get out the way in time.

Finally, I braced myself for the talking till at the self-service aisle. Most supermarkets manage to restrain their talking tills and have beeps with the odd 'Unfamiliar item in bag' whereas Morrisons have the robotic female voice prompting you endlessly to "Please put the item in the bag...Please put the item in the bag..." After the fourth or fifth time I was telling her that I was indeed putting the effing items in the effing bag and she should effing lighten up and lay off me.

I left before they called security...

 

 

 

OOH...MATRON!!

 

I have just spent the best part of two hours adding more of my stuff onto this site; and for stuff I mean highly desirable original, hand-crafted items made by my own fair hand. My PC still hasn't buckled down and behaved itself. I may have to bring Super Nanny in. (I was very disappointed to discover she's not a really, really big goat).

My last scribblings here were about my Mum's drama in Barcelona and since then I have been looking after her as she couldn't move around much to start with. I have discovered that nursing is definitely not my calling. I had visions of being Barbara Windsor but sadly have ended up more Hattie Jacques, hence the title.

I also seem to have missed November out entirely and Christmas is just four days away. What happened? I may have a mad, last minute present rush and buy everyone chocolate raisins.

And then eat them all myself.

See you in 2011...probably at Weightwatchers...

 

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR...

 

I've recently returned from ten days in Barcelona. "Well, get you, you international globe-trotter, you!" I hear you say, (yes, I can hear you through my PC. So just be careful...) but I feel duty bound to point out that this visit wasn't planned and was executed in rather a hurry.

My mum was on a Mediterranean cruise (now she really is an international globe-trotter) with my aunt, my cousin and her friend and the Friday before she was due home she was in Barcelona, where she fell and broke her hip. Ouch. She was taken to Sant Pau hospital where they decided to operate on the following Tuesday. My cousin was with her so I flew out to join them...and ended up there for ten days.

The hospital was brand new, next to the medieval one from 1401, and the doctors/nurses were fabulous but hardly anyone spoke English so we brushed up our skills at charades by copious miming. And of course, that great British way of speaking English loudly and slowly.  That and a handy phrase book got us through although I'm unsure if I accepted a marriage proposal from a vending machine.

Hospital food is a bit of a lottery at the best of times but it doesn't exactly fill you with confidence when your meal arrives and you lift the lid from the dish and peer inside, then mime "What is this?" to the nurse who brought it, and she peers inside at the food and mimes "I've no idea."

The 'wish' bit comes in because I've often said I'd love to go to Barcelona and see Goudi's work, especially the Sagrada Familia (the big groovy cathedral he spent 40 years on) and there I was finally looking at it...mostly from the big picture windows in the hospital corridors. Next to the amorous vending machine.

I did get to see it close up, and other Goudi extravaganzas, and I loved the city as a whole but next time I wish for something I'll be very careful about the exact wording...and I'll probably add a disclaimer.

 

BOOKING YOUR FACE...

 

Has it really been six months? My, how time flies when you're eating chocolate raisins and watching Scooby Doo. I have been distracted by something I always said I wouldn't become involved in...no, not the Moonies...I joined Facebook. 

I think I've sussed out how it works. You join, give them all your personal details including blood group and next of kin, upload a profile photo of a model ten years younger than you, and then amass as many friends as possible by inviting complete strangers to view all your personal details and ogle your profile photo. Six weeks later, one of them will turn up on your doorstep in a gimp mask and flippers and you'll think...'hmmm, maybe should've blocked that one...'

Not contented with simply tempting strangers, I have also acquired a virtual farm and an odd purple pet called Elvis who dresses like Slash. Except right now he's dressed like Indiana Jones. Well, it is coming up to Hallowe'en, got to let the boy have some fun. I'm convinced the designers have figured out some way to leak cocaine through the screen as you play these games because I can't find any other reason for my addiction.

Possibly I'm just replacing the chocolate raisins addiction with another addiction? Well, I can't have that. No way.

I'll have both addictions simultaneously.

And change my profile photo to a hippo.

 

HERE I AM AGAIN...

 

I know, I know, it's been a while but my PC has been playing up again and I had to have it bitch-slapped around the room a few times before it finally behaved itself and let me online long enough to type this.

I've been busy in my absence - I haven't just been sitting around eating chocolate raisins and watching Scooby Doo, you know. ('though obviously that's been a part of what I've been doing).

I've written a manuscript for a children's book, called 'One Bad Syrup' and rewritten my animation script called 'Handbag Blues' and am sending them out to publishers, producers etc to find someone who's interested.  My plan is to have 'One Bad Syrup' published, 'Handbag Blues' produced into an animated film and also I'm going to win the lottery.

Well, as far as plans go, I think mine is pretty damn good...it's not exactly world domination, but I don't have that urge very often, basically because the admin involved would be horrendous. 

In fact, forget the world...I'm off to dominate some chocolate raisins... 

 

WHITE VAN MAN...

 

...is alive and well and careering along the by-pass outside Irvine.  Let me explain.  This particular white van overtook me and then dawdled along in the next lane so I had plenty of time to read the outside of it.  It was a company of 'lawn specialists' (I think that means they go on Mastermind with grass as their subject) and there was a list on the back door of all the things they could do to your lawn if you wanted to let them loose on it.

And top of the list was 'scarifying'.  No, I'm not making this up.  That's what it said.  And while I was pondering the mechanics of this service - did they bring along a scarecrow...or a large dog who hadn't found a tree in a while...or did they simply show the lawn a photo of the driver first thing in the morning? - someone drove up behind the van and it suddenly swerved back into my lane in front of me without signalling.

I'm just sorry it didn't have one of those signs on the back that say 'How's my driving?  Phone blah-blah-blah...' or I would have called up and said; "Your driving??  It's blinking scarifying!!"

For 'blinking' insert the adjective of your choice...

 

LOW TECH LADY...

 

Okay, I'm sure some people might struggle with the 'lady' bit but to them I'll just say; "**!%** and *%%$**" and "I spit on your grandmother's slippers!" (an old Scottish curse).

Well, it's another new year and I'm trying to be upbeat and enthusiastic but I realised again today that it's probably just as well I don't have access to fiirearms, otherwise you'd see Trevor MacDonald with a photo of me behind him saying something along the lines of 'Mad woman...genocide...Marks and Spencer...assaulted four policemen in struggle...'

The reason for my raised blood pressure was the absurdly mis-named 'fast lane' in the aforementioned great British institution, where you are encouraged to bring your basket of ridiculously-priced goodies with the lure of a speedy checkout experience.  And I'm sure it would be a speedy process if everyone in the queue used that old method of paying which is so unpopular these days, what's it called again...oh, yes...money.

But no.  The elderly lady (and I use that word loosely) being served took forever to pack her groceries neatly into her 'Primark' carrier-bag which she'd brought to save paying for a posh M&S one, and then it was time to pay.  I sighed inwardly and waited for the inevitable rummage through the handbag for the purse, but no, it was to be far, far worse.  She rummaged endlessly and finally succeeded in producing a little plastic wallet, the kind that holds credit cards, and then she proceeded to rummage through that for a debit card.

And then the traditional ritual of the card machine began.  I'll summarise it here:

1 - Customer inserts card.

2 - Customer then says "Ooh, no, that's wrong, isn't it?", removes card and inserts it upside-down.

3 - Entire queue stares at machine for 30 seconds, silently willing it to be the right way in.

4 - Checkout assistant says "No, it's not connecting.  Try taking it out and putting it back in again."

5 - Customer takes card back out, holds it uncertainly for a few seconds then puts it back in.

6 - See number 3.

7 - Checkout assistant frowns, leans over and removes card.

8 - Checkout assistant turns card upside-down and inserts it the way customer had it the first time.

9 - See numbers 3 and 6.

10 - Checkout assistant smiles and says "That's it now.  Enter your PIN, please."

11 - I'm going to gloss over the numerous attempts to remember the correct one, the trial and error involving her cat's date of birth, her old Co-op number, her inside leg measurement, her own date of birth trebled and divided by the number she first thought of, because by this time I was convinced my brain had turned to guacamole and was seeping out of my ears.  The temptation to grab the nearest French stick and set about her was terrifyingly strong.

So, I'm starting a campaign to bring back money.

Either that or I'll be stockpiling weapons in the garden shed...

 

DOGGONE IT...

 

I'm scared my braces have transformed me into a female version of that Bond villain with the metal mouth (I think he was called 'Jaws') and I'm worried that I will misuse my new power to frighten and intimidate.

The other day I was driving round the one-way-system in Kilmarnock - the same one where I had my strange Mr Spock experiences - and I was behind a small hatchback car with a cute collie-type dog in the back.  It was turned away from me with it's head on the back of the seat, facing the driver, but when I pulled up behind it at the lights it turned and stared straight at me.

"Aw," I said, (out loud, sadly) "What a cute doggie." And I smiled at it.  And that's when everything went horribly wrong and it turned into Hound of Satan.  It's hackles went up and it snarled, barked and generally went berserk with rage.  I winced and tried to back away, then realised I couldn't, because I was in a car, and felt a bit silly. 

I then had to drive behind it until I changed lanes and it still slavered at the mouth, trying to claw it's way out of the car to get to me.  My last view of it was it twisting around to see where I'd gone, and I speeded up, just in case it was thinking of leaping over the back seat, pushing the driver out of the way and trying to follow me.

So now I have this power...I may audition for the next poncily-titled Bond film and scare the living daylights out of Daniel Craig...

 

FANGS FOR THE MEMORY...

 

No, I haven't become a vampire (can't stand the sight of blood and I'm vegetarian) but two weeks ago I had fixed braces attached to my teeth and I have realised two important facts:

The first is that I should be marketing these things as a dieting aid as I was unable to eat much at all to begin with, due to the sheer agony, and now it's not much better, due to the sheer awkwardness.  On the plus side, I am now eating daintily, nibbling delicately like a tiny mouse whereas before I was chomping enthusiastically like Mr Ed.

The second thing that occured to me is that no matter how technologically and scientifically advanced we are as a planet, when you go to the dentist it's still basically someone poking around in your mouth with a sharp stick.  And of course, their assistant on the other side alternately showering your mouth with freezing cold water and hoovering up your tongue every few seconds.  And where do they learn that language you are forced to speak when your mouth is crammed with six tonnes of cotton wool?  You can't even understand it yourself, and you're the one speaking it.

Ah well, it'll be all worth it when I have a nice straight set of gnashers.

I'm off now to liquidise some chocolate raisins and suck them through a straw...

 

I SEE A SIGN...

 

Well, more than one, actually, and they're on the back of buses.  It's seriously difficult to avoid reading these signs (and I've tried) as they're slap bang right in front of your face if you're stuck behind the bus in traffic.

The one I saw the other day read: 'Would you like to drive this bus?' and I thought, well, I can't right now as I'm driving my car, but maybe at the next set of lights I could park up quickly, nip aboard, elbow the current driver out of the way and have a go.

And I won't be stopping for any passengers.

My other favourite is for adult further education and it reads: 'Are you having difficulty reading this?' before it gives you the number to phone.  Call me pedantic, but I would have thought that if you had difficulty reading then you would have difficulty reading the sign which was asking you if you have difficulty reading.  Am I making myself clear?

The only sign I want to see on the back of a bus is one which reads: 'Don't worry, the driver of this bus will signal before stopping and will never, under any circumstances, pull away from a bus-stop without warning.'

Maybe I'll have to write it myself.  Pass the felt-tipped pen...

 

STRANGE SIGHTS NUMBER 342...

 

A man in a shellsuit badly negotiating a pedestrian crossing at a shambling trot.  In his right hand he held a closed umbrella and in his left hand he held a mobile phone which was clamped to his ear as he had a shouted  conversation.

What made the sight so bizarre was that in his left hand, as well as the phone, he also held a dog's leash, which had a Staffordshire Bull terrier on the other end. (I know, it's unusual to see someone in a shellsuit with one of those...they usually have Toy Poodles or Yorkies...) 

The leash was short, the dog was jumping about and barking and the man was bent almost double trying to speak on the phone, a bit like a drunk Quasimodo, but probably not as articulate.

It was at that moment myself and everyone around me experienced incredible ESP as we simultaneously found the desire to shout "Swap the phone to your other hand, you stupid -"

Alas, the thought went unspoken and he was last seen lurching past Tesco, still shouting and still bent double.

I just hope he didn't try to put the umbrella up at the same time...

 

 

CARPET CONCERNS...

 

On Monday I saw a large white van driving through Kilmarnock, covered in writing (I mean proper sign-writing, not someone scribbling on it in felt-tipped pen) advertising what the guy driving it does for a living. 

He's a Carpet Whisperer.

That's kind of like a horse whisperer but without looking like Robert Redford and without the horse.

The writing was all about the amazing things he could do to your carpets should you so wish, but the bit that got me was where it promised 'cleaner, healthier carpets'.  I was immediately worried and concerned for my own floor coverings as I was unaware that they could fall ill and need to be made healthy again by a man in a large white van.

I felt so guilty.  How could I have missed the warning signs?  My carpet going off it's food, looking a bit peaky, seeming rather listless...I had ignored the cries for help and now it was sick.  I just hoped it hadn't thrown up before I got home and made it a nice cup of camomile tea with honey.

I also wondered just how white van man heals carpets...does he lie on them whispering soft, encouraging messages of hope or does he go all Hattie Jacques as Matron and advance with a large spoonful of castor oil and some firm talking?  Sadly, I'll never know, as I didn't have time to search all through the writing for his contact details before he whizzed past.  Maybe it was a carpet emergency and he had to hurry.

So now I'm eyeing my rugs carefully and murmuring endearments as I pass by.  I may start apologising for walking on them.  Well, really, I mean, would you tread all over your granny if she was sick in bed? 

Don't answer that.

Just remember the next time you stagger home drunk and slump onto the floor...your carpet may have a touch of flu and be rather bad-tempered.  If it rolls around you and tries to squash you like one of those big, mean snakes then don't blame me.

Just give it a good talking to and call the Carpet Whisperer...

 

ON YOUR BIKE...

 

Yesterday I was behind one of those posh Land Rover type things, heading down the by-pass towards Irvine and I was bemused by the sight of two bicycles standing on it's roof and two more strapped across the back window. (I was in my car, by the way, in case you think I'm an exceptionally fast runner, or something)

I thought you were meant to use bicycles as transport, not transport them around.  I imagined the driver opening up his garage to get the posh Land Rover type thing out and noticing the four bicycles, looking a bit forlorn and depressed.  "Hey, fellahs," he would say to them, "You look like you need some cheering up.  How about we go for a spin in the posh Land Rover type thing?  C'mon, it'll be fun!  I'll buy you some ice-cream when we get to the beach..." 

I presume the ice-cream swung it for them, because there they were, travelling along without their wheels even touching the ground.

I'm willing to bet the same person who drives their bicycles around is also someone who pays 300 quid for a gym membership, drives two miles to get there, does four miles on the walking machine and then drives the two miles home again.

Has the world gone mad?

Or maybe it's just me.  Pass the medication...

 

HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW...

 

No, I haven't suddenly gone bald, I just like a bad pun.  I was thinking about hair and how weird it is.  You don't think it's weird?  Loads of thin strands all coming out of your head?  Straight or curly or wavy strands?  And where is it before it comes out of your head...is it all stored inside, wrapped around your brain?  Does this mean you have a hairy brain?  Weird, definitely.

Some time ago I was in a department store, wandering around the haberdashery department (now there's a great word: haberdashery.  Who thought that one up?  "Hey what can we call somewhere that sells buttons and ribbons and stuff...I know...haberdashery!"  Makes perfect sense).  Anyway, I was in an aisle and I could just about see over the top of the shelves - I'm 5'10" so the top must have been about 6 feet high - and then I spotted the top of someone's hair in the next aisle and did a double-take.  The hair was jet black and was encased in a lemon chiffon scarf.  It moved towards the end of the aisle and I followed it, expecting to meet another tall woman.

I didn't.

Instead, I met a small woman with a huge beehive hairdo (think Amy Winehouse meets Marge Simpson) and the scarf was wrapped around it and tied under her chin.  My gaze travelled down from the hair to register that she was in her late fifties/early sixties and then I looked back up, unable to tear my gaze away.  The really frighteneing thing is it had obviously just been dyed and styled (yes, deliberately) and the scarf was there for protection.  Either that, or she had been cryogenically frozed in 1962 and just defrosted. Either way, I was a bit worried as it was a windy day and I had a mental image of her going outside, being caught by a crosswind and taking off.  She could have become an airline hazard.

I feel better now I've shared that with you.  I'm off now to eat some chocolate and give my hairy brain a rest...

 

STRANGE SIGHTS NUMBER 261...

 

You're wondering what the previous 260 were...?  You really don't want to know.  Trust me.

Today I saw an Irish dancing seagull.  Now, I don't mean an Irish seagull who was dancing the Fandango, for instance, I mean a Scottish seagull who was doing some Irish dancing.  He was like the Michael Flately of the seagull world, and I was well impressed.

Okay, okay, I'm not that daft...?...I know he was doing that weird thing birds do when they stomp around the grass to make worms come to the surface.  It's just that with his long legs only bending at the knees and his wings dangling down each side of him as he stomped up and down...I could swear I heard an accordian in the background.

My dealings with seagulls haven't always been so pleasant.  A few years ago I was eating a bag of chips in a seaside carpark at Saltcoats, on the Ayrshire coast (what a wild, decadent life I lead) and I couldn't eat them all so decided to put the remainder on the grass for the birds and throw the bag in the bin.  The bin was about four yards away from the car and I checked the sky and surrounding rooftops carefully before I got out onto the grass.  All was clear.  Not a bird in sight.

I emptied the handful of chips that were in the bag onto the grass, threw the bag into the bin and turned to go back to the car.  And that's when someone snapped a clapper-board shut and Alfred Hitchcock shouted "Action!"...

If you were at Saltcoats seafront that day, then I would like to apologise now for the sight of a grown woman waving her arms in a deranged version of Semaphore, whilst shrieking madly and zig-zagging about the way people do when they're being shot at by snipers.  I finally made it back to the car and took off like The Sweeney (but without the sideburns and swearing) (well, without the sideburns) while about forty seagulls fought over my chips.

Maybe now I'm on a better footing with seabirds...maybe now I will see one doing the Fandango...and if he's wearing a bunch of fruit on his head like Carmen Miranda then he can have my chips any day...

 

PC OR NOT PC, THAT IS THE QUESTION...

 

Well, it's been a while...and that's because my computer crashed in a truly spectacular manner (and I don't mean doing 200mph in a Porsche Spyder or anything remotely exciting like that).  It just went completely doolally, if that's the correct IT term, and I had to get a man to come and take it away and give it a good talking to.

Now it's back, but I'm still not convinced all is well with it.  It does grumble away to itself from time to time and I'm worried it's reading all my files and working out ways to blackmail me.  Either that, or I'll wake up one morning at 3am and it'll be standing beside my bed with a picture of Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining' on it's monitor and a large breadknife in it's CD-Rom drawer.

So if you never hear from me ever again...please call PC World and sue them for me...

 

DOCTOR WHO...WHAT...WHERE...?

 

As I was watching the good doctor the other night I realised that I have my own personal Tardis.  No, I haven't nicked a Police Box (highly ironic if I could) and I must say that they've exaggerated the size of that thing big time.  I saw inside one in Glasgow once and there was only room for the telephone (black bakelite with a dial), the rather portly policeman who was sitting beside it on a folding chair and the flask/Tupperware container his wife handed him as he left the house that morning, containing his oddly-tasting tea and his cheese sandwiches.  Thinking about it a bit more, you could possibly squash in two David Tennants and half a Billie Piper but they'd have to take turns with the chair.

No, I refer yet again to...music.  Wandering round a shop in Irvine listening to their choice of customer-browsing music and pondering the philosophy behind it when suddenly I heard 'The First Record I Ever Bought'.  That's not the name of the single, by the way, it was The Sweet and 'Little Willy'.  I was a glam rocker at nine years old.

And before you could say "Little Willy?  Was that like Chuck Berry's Dingaling?"  I was transported back to 1972, wearing orange flared corduroys and eating banana Angel Delight.  It was a strange, unsettling experience.  I immediately left the shop and headed for ASDA.  They still make banana Angel Delight, but I passed on the cords.

All it takes is two bars of Neil Young and I'm back in my student flat in Glasgow o/d'ing on patchouli oil and spaghetti hoops.  Boy, I had wild student times...

'Sweet Child 'O' Mine' by Guns'n'Roses places me in a pub in the same city surrounded by big poodle hairdos, skintight lycra trousers and way too much eyeliner - and that was just the men.

It's probably just as well the Tardis doesn't exist, due to the dangers of upsetting the time/space continuem (is that a word?) and plunging the whole planet into a wormhole which would destroy all living matter but if I could actually travel back in time I would certainly try and change those corduroys...

 

BACK IN BLACK...

 

Well, more like black with pink paisley pattern but anyway, have been absent for a while, unable to access website due to a problem with cookies.

Now, the only problem with cookies I want to have is whether to eat a chocolate chip one or a chocolate-covered one.  And, if I'm honest, I'd want both.  I don't want to associate the word with some weird computer problem or it may become forever tainted in my head and spoil future cookie experiences for me.

My theory is that pc-related words should all be horrible.  Like 'boils' or 'diarrhoea' or 'stewed prunes'.  That way you could phone the helpline and say something like; "My diarrhoea won't run and my boils are interfacing badly with my stewed prunes."  Then they would know you really had a problem.

My cookie problem just went away by itself.  At least, I hope it's gone and not just lurking someplace else waiting to pounce when I'm least expecting it.  My general mistrust of anything operated by a circuit board/electricity is liable to go into overdrive and I may assault the toaster with my mobile phone. 

But wait, no, it's okay, not everything is electrical...my coffee pot goes on the cooker...so, I think the best thing for me to do right now is go and have a large cup of coffee and some real cookies.

Chocolate chip and chocolate-covered.

My, I am a devil... 

 

COULD YOU RUN THAT PAST ME AGAIN...?

 

On my links page I've put an address for a wonderful site called 'Kiss This Guy' which is not a dating service but a place to discover misheard lyrics to popular songs.  I've never recovered from the disappointment on learning that Queen weren't singing about saving someone's life from pork sausages on 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

And then there was the time when I was happily singing the Roberta Flack classic 'Killing Me Softly' and reduced a workmate to tears...of laughter.  Apparently the line is 'Strumming my pain with his fingers' not 'Strumming my face...'.

Someone I worked beside in Glasgow used to sing the Leonard Cohen song 'Hey, That's No Way To say Goodbye' with the second verse having the lines 'Let's not talk of love and chains and things you can't untie'.  She misheard the 'love and chains' bit and for years had got out her guitar and entertained people with 'Let's not talk of lavatories and things you can't untie'.  She argued that Leonard was so obscure sometimes that he could easily be singing about toilets...until she got the sheet music and read the correct lyrics. 

My mum sings a lot and she doesn't let the irritating concern of correct lyrics stop her finishing a song.  What she doesn't know she makes up or converts from other songs.  My favourite of hers dates from a good while back when there was a dreadful song in the charts, I can't remember who sang it (my mind has blanked it out on the grounds of maintaining good mental health) but the chorus was 'I've been to Paradise but I've never been to me'.  Very deep, I'm sure.  'Though not so deep when my mum happily sang 'I've been to Paradise but I've never been to Leeds'.

I think I prefer her version.

All together now: 'You picked a fine time to leave me, loose heel...'  

 

AGE SHALL NOT WITHER YOU, YOU KNOW...

 

My, how times change.  Not so long ago my mum wouldn't admit her age if she was tortured by the Gestapo.  Now, she's a bit more relaxed about the whole thing and she'll happily tell you her age...but then she has to kill you.  Hey, swings and roundabouts...

Nowadays you get to know the ages of total strangers on a daily basis, usually by means of an old sheet tied to a railing over the by-pass daubed with watery paint and, if you're really lucky, some incredibly bad spelling or a school photo of the birthday boy/girl with buck teeth and an afro perm.

I don't mind this compulsion to embarrass your nearest and dearest in front of local drivers but I do wish the same people would come and remove their rain-soaked bedlinen after the big day is over.  Near where I work, someone called Senga has been 50 every day for a fortnight.

And then there's the accident factor as cars slow down and drivers try to read the messages.  I wonder how many last words will be: "Hey, there's a sheet tied up there...something about Seng -"

Incidentally, Senga is Agnes spelt backwards.  I think this is a Scottish thing, I've never encountered the name anywhere else but here and it doesn't apply to other names as far as I know.

Or maybe I'm wrong.

Best wishes,

Alegna

 

TASTE THE DIFFERENCE...

 

Well, you know, taste is a funny thing, especially when it comes to music.  No-one will ever admit to having bad taste in music.  You can argue Metallica to Val Doonican and no-one's ever going to say "You know, you are so right!  I have abominably bad taste in music and I shouldn't be allowed out to a record shop by myself.  Do you want to buy some Michael Bolton albums and a Westlife T-shirt?"

I play music in my car and although my VW Beetle is 36 years old I have super-duper (that's a hi-fi technical term) speakers and the bass can sometimes loosen your fillings.  Music can be rather distracting while driving...witness the number of people stuck at traffic lights which have turned green, singing inanely away to themselves and drumming on the steering wheel.  At least I assume they're singing along to music...maybe they're just deranged and having loud drumming conversations with themselves.  Either way it's not good.

Miles Davis is now banned from my car for this very reason.  I can't recall the number of times I've found myself in Tesco's car park thinking 'Hang on...I'm meant to be in another town seven miles away...what happened?'

My super-duper speakers also caused me some confusion while listening to The Stones.  I suddenly heard a strange rattle coming from the engine and panicked a bit.  It was insistent and regular and I worried briefly about loose gromits and broken doo-dahs (some technical motoring terms) until I finally identified the noise as... Mick Jagger on tambourine.

The main bonus for me 'though, is suddenly seeing someone walking along beside my car in complete time to the music I'm playing.  You haven't lived until you've witnessed an elderly lady and her portly Jack Russell terrier striding along smartly in time to 'Anarchy In The UK'. 

Yes, I like Miles Davis, The Stones and The Pistols...but also Matt Monro, David Cassidy and The Carpenters.  What does that say about my taste in music?

Answers on a postcard...

 

 

IT COULD NEVER HAPPEN...COULD IT?

 

I'm not talking about Armageddon or aliens landing and taking over or anything heavy like that.  I'm talking about people in TV and films and those annoying little things they do that would never happen in real life.

Like saying to someone "You're my mother/brother/cousin" etc etc which characters on screen do horribly frequently in a clumsy attempt to establish relationships.  People almost never do this, certainly not in my world, anyway.  I like to think most people I know remember who I am and if I'm related or not.  Especially when it comes to writing out a will.

Another classic is when someone (and this is usually a woman) gets out of bed, wraps the sheet around their body and takes it off the bed with them.  Have you ever known anyone do that?  I haven't, and I would be wary of trying it myself, not least because the sheet is normally tucked in around the bottom of the bed so you would only get two steps away before you're yanked back or the sheet is whipped off.  What would you do then?  Grab a pillow-case and pull it over your head on the principle that if you can't see anyone then they can't see you? 

The one TV/film cliche I really can't stand and which makes me cringe all over (yes, really) is when a character is looking for somewhere private to go and open a letter/look at a secret message/think deep thoughts/cry quietly without ruining their make-up etc and they go into a toilet cubicle and sit down fully-clothed on the seat.  Eeeuuw! My toes are curling just thinking about it.  You just wouldn't, would you?

Anyway, enough toe-curling for the present.  I'm off to wrap a sheet around me, go sit on a toilet and call my mother to tell her who she is.

 

OH, I DO LIKE TO BE BESIDE...A NICE WARM FIRE...

 

Sadly, I'm not one of those hardy souls you see striding around in shorts and a tee-shirt at the first ray of sunshine each year.  Nope, I'm still wearing my thermal vest and muffler as I type this and I won't take them off until I see the tar melting on the roads and there's a hosepipe ban.

Last Monday was a bank holiday (always makes me imagine small branches of Barclays etc queuing at the airport with their suitcases) and I went to Troon, which is a lovely seaside town in Ayrshire.  It was mobbed.  But then, it was a nice sunny day...until I stepped out of the car and the force ten gale whipped the air out of my lungs and flung a handful of sand in my eyes.

Gasping and blinking furiously, I staggered off along the seafront, determined to enjoy myself as I'd driven eight miles to get there and I wanted to get my petrol's worth of fresh sea air.

As I surveyed the scene around me I was reminded yet again what a resourceful, nation we Scots are, and I witnessed the spirit that drove us to travel the world and invent loads of useful things...the quiet desperation of people with a day off work, refusing to bow down to the elements and bravely ignoring the first signs of frostbite. 

Windbreaks were in evidence along the sand, small oases of calm in a hostile environment of slippery seaweed, razor-sharp shells and small children with plastic spades. (hey, they can give you a nasty whack on the ankle).  For the uninitiated, windbreaks are curious things, possibly only seen in Britain, consisting of a length of gaily-striped canvas with four wooden poles attached which stick in the sand and keep the whole thing upright. 

When you're planning a trip to the beach you roll your windbreak up and put it in the boot of the car beside the equally stripey deckchairs, the tartan flask and the Tupperware container with the cheese sandwiches.  When you get to the beach you unroll it and then realise you've forgotten to bring a hammer.  Traditionally, the solution here is to use one of your father's size 11 shoes to whack the poles in.  This is the same father who, a short while later, will be esconsed in one of the deckchairs with a hanky tied at each corner and balanced on his balding head.  His trouser legs will be rolled up too.  There is no escaping this.  It is what fathers do.

Once the windbreak is upright, a family of four can huddle satisfactorily inside, drinking oddly-tasting tea from the flask and nibbling limp cheese-and-sand sandwiches while ducking nervously away from hovering seagulls.

I saw all this and more last Monday.  I saw people in the sea.  I saw people eating Mr Whippy ice-cream.  I saw dogs chasing sticks.  I saw children burying someone alive.

And then I hurried back to the car and put the heater on.  Brrr!

 

TO BOLDLY GO...

 

I thought I would share with you my Mr Spock experiences, for no reason other than possibly to disturb you as much as I was disturbed.  I'm like that.  I like to share my pain.

These two separate incidents both concern the aforementioned Vulcan, two small vans and the one-way system around Kilmarnock town centre.

The first incident occured as I found myself behind a small works van with two windows in the back door.  There were two men sitting up front and a load of equipment in the back and as I crawled along in the tea-time traffic my eyes slowly adjusted to the gloom in the back of the van and I noticed a third man all squashed up amongst the tools.  He was wearing denim dungarees, smoking a fag and he was the spitting image of Mr Spock, right down to the pudding bowl short fringe.  And he was staring at me.

I think I made some sort of girly squealing noise and tried to look away but I couldn't.  Partly because he was hypnotising me and partly because I was afraid I'd run into the back of the van and I didn't want to have to swap insurance details with Mr Spock, thank you very much.  Finally, to my great relief, the van turned off and headed in a different direction.  He stared at me until he was out of sight.  If it hadn't been for the ciggie I'd have sworn he was a blow-up doll.

The second incident was horribly similar and may have been the same van for all I know, but this one was empty in the back and I could see right through to the driver's seat.  There was only one man, the driver, and here comes the bit that freaked me out.  I could see him in silhouette and he had two huge pointed ears, rather like a cross between Spock and Yoda.  Spoda?  Yock??

Anyway, I was transfixed and more than slightly horrified.  What sort of weird person was this?  And how did he get a hat to fit him?  I tailed him through town, desperately trying to see him properly, and then I cracked and swerved into the next lane for a closer look.  We approached the lights.  They turned to red.  We both stopped.  

Taking a deep breath, I turned and looked right in the van.  And saw an ordinary guy with a German Shepherd dog in the back, it's head on the back of the driver's seat and it's ears sticking up behind him.  I was relieved and disappointed at the same time.  I could have sold him for a fortune at a travelling circus.

Maybe it's the one-way system or maybe it's just me but I swear there's more going on in Kilmarnock than meets the eye.  It's life Jim, but not as we know it... 

 

TRUTH IS STRANGER...

 

Who wrote 'The pen is mightier than the sword'?  I can't remember his name but I think he died in a stabbing incident.  Once something is down in black and white it seems to have a life all of it's own, and although it may sound fine in your head...

You would think people would have learned from the classic 'Ears Pierced While You Wait' debacle, but no, it seems not.

Ayr Bargain Bookshop once sported a luminous yellow sign in it's window declaring '100s Of Books Reduced'.  Fine, but how are you supposed to read them, with a magnifying glass?

Argos in Irvine displayed a photo of a large brown settee, advertised at an attractively low price if you like big brown settees.  It was described as 'Chocolate Sofa'.  Now, that is just silly.  It would melt when you sat on it and then you'd feel compelled to eat it and end up weighing twenty stone.

I do feel amply qualified to comment on this kind of thing as I live in a small town which recently boasted a dog grooming parlour proudly entitled 'Doggy Style'.

You couldn't make it up.

 

CHILDHOOD ASPIRATIONS...

 

Some children decide they want to be a doctor, a policeman, a vet, a train driver, or, more likely nowadays, a Big Brother/X Factor winner.

I wanted to be Dora from 'Follyfoot'. (a TV show about a rest-home for horses.  Yes, really)  I was in love with Steve and all the horses and I wanted to be Dora with her feathery haircut, her maxi-coat with the furry collar and her loon pants.

Such is the thrall of children's TV that my hopes and dreams for the future sprang from it and propelled me into a world where cheap imports from the Eastern Bloc shaped my outlook on life.

I was also in love with Uncle Dimitri and all the horses from 'White Horses' (a TV show about...er...white horses) despite the bad dubbing and unlikely plotlines.  Uncle Dimitri was dark and brooding and strode around in tight jodhpurs and black boots waving his whip at various teenage girls.  No, I'm not making this up; this was considered suitable viewing for children.

On the negative side was 'Belle & Sebastian' which boasted a small boy with an intensely irritating vocal range and a large, white, hairy dog.  I was ever hopeful that Belle would get peckish and eat Sebastian (he would have made a small but satisfying snack and it would have shut him up) but sadly it never happened and he whined on and on.  I definitely wasn't in love with him.

And I don't even want to talk about 'The Singing Ringing Tree'.  I'm still in therapy for that.  And I run screaming from any adult under five foot tall.

My first love, 'though, was Captain Scarlet.  I thought he was real and I fear he has influenced my taste in the opposite sex ever since.  I'm now attracted to small, dark, wobbly-lipped men who walk strangely.

On the positive side, a few months ago I was heading out and stopped to check my reflection in the mirror.  I admired my feathery haircut, my maxi-coat with the furry collar and my loon pants and I realised...I've made it.  I have arrived.  I am Dora.

Now...where's Steve and all the horses?

 

STICK 'EM UP...

 

Okay, I'm back after a real coffee (none of your instant stuff here) and a Tunnocks Tea Cake and I'm slightly concerned that this blogging lark may be addictive.  In ten hours time I may have to be prised away from my keyboard, heavily medicated and given some plasticene to play with.

While I was downing Colombia's finest (the coffee) and Scotland's greatest (the teacake) I realised that I haven't seen any good car stickers for a while.  I did spot one in Kilmarnock (did I mention that I'm in Ayrshire, Scotland?) a while ago on the back of a wee green car driven by a woman.  It read 'Ex-Husband In Boot'.

A few years back there was a trend for stickers declaring whatever/whereever you loved, only the word 'love' is replaced by a little red heart (yeeuch - that's got to have started in America...'I (red heart) NY', anyone?).  I was behind a car in Glasgow that had one of these which said 'I (red heart) To Donate Plasma'.  The vehicle in question was being badly driven by an elderly man (braking suddenly for sparrows on the pavement ahead, slowing down way too soon for traffic lights etc) and I could only assume he would be donating some fairly soon.  I kept well back.  At the risk of appearing terribly selfish, I want to hang onto my plasma for as long as I can, thank you.  And I'm only about 40% sure what it actually is.

I don't get all those 'Baby/Child On Board' ones that seem to be constantly in front of me.  If they're meant to make you slow down and keep back then they'll have the opposite effect on me.  I'll be driving right up close to check they're not lying and they really do have a baby/child in the car at all times.  If they really do want other drivers to slow down and keep back then a sticker with 'Pre-Menstrual Woman On Board' would do it for me.

The worst ever has to be the one which says 'Tiny Person On Board' and this is awful for two reasons: One - it is unbearingly, nauseatingly, reprehensively twee.  And, Two - it suggests they're transporting a pygmy.  I'll be tailgaiting them at 60mph trying to get a photo.

And my favourite so far?  One I saw outside Ayr racecourse which happily read: 'I Swerve And Hit People At Random'.

And, no, it wasn't on my own car.

 

I BLOG THEREFORE I AM...

 

       I've decided to start a blog.  It seemed like everyone and their dog has one and I wanted one too.  I'm not saying that's what I'm like in general, you know, coveting things other people have.  If you had Chicken Pox I wouldn't want that.

So now I've got one I feel rather cool but also a bit sad as I'm sitting typing this instead of being out there in the big wide world...but then, if you're reading this you're not out there either so that makes me feel a bit better.  We can be cool and sad together.

Basically, I'm going to be rambling on, talking to myself and regurgitating any old cobblers that appears in my head.  Any typos which appear are all my own work, I refuse to use the spell-check thingy on my computer, I don't trust it since I worked beside an admin worker who used it to check the report she typed for her boss to use at an important conference.  That afternoon her boss found herself standing before a large audience and  talking about the problems of wheelchair access to pubic buildings.

I don't trust machines in general, especially the ones that talk to you.  I find it oddly disturbing that road signs are now springing up (overnight?  Put there by aliens?) which not only tell you what speed you're doing but feel it necessary to either chastise you or thank you.  This makes me uneasy.  I'd much rather have a policeman pretending to be Dirty Harry with a speed gun.  Even if he makes gun noises while he's doing it.

One of my most frustrating experiences was renewing my passport recently and having to update my photo.  I went to the Post Office (yes, we still have one) and entered the photo booth.  I then completed the age-old ritual of pulling the curtain across then finding a gap at one side then pulling it back and finding a gap at the other side then spinning the seat down and then back up and then down etc etc.  So far so good.  I then sat down and put my money in the slot and that's when things started to go horribly wrong.  It spoke to me.  It had a vaguely posh female voice and it said something like "Please insert the correct money."  I thought I had.  I'd put three pound coins in but one had been rejected and, unknown to me, was lying in the rejected coins tray which was cunningly disguised as a metal plate on the front of the machine.

I pressed buttons in vain while the voice carried on urging me to insert the correct amount.  My frustration grew until I shouted back "I have entered the correct money, you stupid - ".  At that point I remembered where I was, pulled back the curtain, and found a queue of people studiously avoiding looking at me in that quaint British way we have.  To cut a long, painful story short, I finally discovered the rejected coin and was guided patronisingly through the rest of the process by posh woman's voice.  When my photos came out I looked Eastern European/Mediterranean/much darker than my usual peely-wally complexion (it's a Scottish thing).  When I complained to the guy behind the desk he said the machine was rubbish and they were getting a new one next week.

The voice on my mobile phone is another worry for me (goodness, I am ranting on now, amn't I?  Once I get going there's no stopping me) it used to be a robotic female voice with no discernable accent and made me think of Rosemary the telephone operator in Hong Kong Phooey, which was kind of comforting when I was being told my remaining balance was £2.27.  Suddenly, Rosemary's gone and I've got Amy Winehouse telling me my remainin' balance is two poun' twenny sevn.  It would drive you to drink.

Actually, it's driven me to coffee and a chocolate biscuit.  I will be back, fuelled by caffeine.  You have been warned...

 

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