Every now and again I like to bring you up to date with what is happening in the Scottish Parliament. Just so you don't feel left out, and to let you keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening in
Britain North. With the start of the new parliamentary year it seems a good time to give a flavour of what's high on the agenda.
Let's not bother with the independence debate, or the state of the economy or any of those dull, regular things. No, to get a real feel for what it is that keeps our back benchers awake at night, one only
has to look at the subject matter of the members' debates which happen with all too predictable frequency.
So, in the first week back we have seen (or heard) (or not) two debates already. Incisive oration on the hot subjects of the day. Rapier-like dialogue on the top issues. Forensic analysis of cutting edge Motions (and I use the term advisedly here) to make a Scot proud.
"What?" I hear you cry. "What were these wicked issues?" Well, I'll tell you.
On Tuesday, George Adam (SNP) kicked off a debate to mark a "community event" three months previously which in itself commemorated the Renfrewshire Witch Hunt of 1697. And as if that wasn't exciting enough, on Thursday Annabel Goldie (Scottish Conservative - yes there are a few) used her allotted time to mark the 10th anniversary of "BBC Scotland’s flagship drama, River City".
It's Fathers Day* and for the first time in 49 plus 4 years I have no-one to give a card to.
Dad died on 30 November 2011. His last three months were spent in hospital but he had been really pretty ill for several years. Multiple issues around his heart and lungs were not made easier by a huge daily intake of prescription drugs, an appetite which allowed for about 400 calories a day and, latterly, a tendency to self-medicate with alcohol.
This last was the cause of some real tension between us in the last year or so, mainly because I hated what it was doing to him and, more importantly, to the Mater. I'm not proud of some of the arguments we had, or the entrenched positions we took. But I am, if nothing else, my father's son and I know my faults too. But now, six months later, it is easier to see past those last couple of years, and I can get on with remembering him how he really was.
If you only knew the Pater in the past few years of his life you didn't really know him. He was never a good patient and he hated becoming increasingly reliant on others, and increasingly tied to home. He had been in the navy in his youth and was used to commanding ships across the oceans. Despite being ashore almost 50 years, that time remained incredibly important to him, and always fresh in his mind. Frequent (and frequently repeated) stories generally started with "Did I ever tell you about the time ...". He didn't like it when the family used to point out his similarity to Uncle Albert in "Only Fools and Horses".
But he came ashore to be with his family. He and the Mater knew each other since nine years old, and were married 55 years. He was a great Dad to me and WeeSis - firm sometimes, but fun more often, with a wealth of stupid songs and silly jokes that I have shared with my own Boys (and most of my friends and colleagues). And, despite some misgivings about being too young, he just adored being a Grandpa. He was a master builder of sandcastles, a finder of great picnic spots and a teller of preposterous stories. He was clever, funny, loyal, a good provider, a great host, busy, capable, stubborn, a decorator, a gardener and a fixer. And he had an infuriating gift for finding the perfect parking spot.
Most importantly he taught me everything. Not everything I know, just everything that's important. He taught me that it's important to think and to have an opinion. He taught me that you should make your own way in the world. He taught me the importance of friends and family and home and honesty. And he taught me that when the chips are down, no matter how far, you can always rely on your Dad.
I miss him.
* Just for once you can place the apostrophe wherever the hell you like (or not). It all makes sense.
Some excitement chez nous today as we have a new iron.
Being the careful type Mrs WeeKeef reads over the "before first use" bit of the instruction leaflet to find that one should wipe the sole plate with a cloth dipped in methylated spirit. WTF? Who has meths nowadays? Last time I tried to buy that I had to sign away my life in triplicate.
Undaunted, Mrs WK used vodka. Resourceful woman, my wife.
It is important, every now and again, to look around you at the environment you take for granted. Do a bit of a reality check. Cast a new eye over things. Sometimes you might surprise yourself.
For example, I have been doing a bit of shuffling of this here desk and have realised that I have a bag of teeth sitting next to the computer screen. I know why they are there, and it is logical to me, but it is probably not "normal".
I know what an episode of CSI Edinburgh would make of it.
The third Scottish Parliament of the modern era has come to an end. The Braw Leader is packing up his tartan pencil case and hoping to be back after the hols, and we have 43 days of full on electioneering before getting to cast our vote for the next bunch.
I can feel my vast readership flinching at the prospect, but I want to encourage you to take part. Voting for a government is the most important thing you can do with your citizenship. All over the world, people are fighting and dying every day just for the right to be heard. Less than a hundred years ago, people in this country were fighting and dying for that very right.
So don’t just switch off. Pay attention. Read some of the enormous pile of dead trees landing on your doorstep. Listen to the news. Check the papers (but not the opinion polls). Talk to each other.
I’m not telling you how to vote, but I am asking you to make good use of the gift of democracy. Open your brains and your ears and your eyes, and make an informed decision.
Don’t vote that way just cause your Dad or Mum did.
Don't vote that way just cause you always have.
Don't vote that way just cause you like his/her looks.
Don’t vote that way just cause you hate what his/her party has done in the past.
Don’t vote that way just cause you hate what his/her party is doing elsewhere right now.
Vote how you vote because that person or party or philosophy makes sense to you overall.
And when it’s done, and the next generation are parking their posteriors at Holyrood for the next four (maybe five) years, keep your brains and your ears and your eyes open.
If you backed the winning team, be a critical friend.
If you backed the losing team, provide constructive criticism.
And if you decided not to vote at all, shame on you for squandering Democracy. You forfeit the right to say anything about how the country is run for the next four (or five) years. You cannot complain to me (or anyone else) about how things are going. You don't get to take part in discussions down the pub. Because it is your fault.
So don’t come running to me when it all goes horribly wrong.
I don't mean to be churlish, but I can remember a time when Comic Relief meant Red Nose Day.
This time round there are so many actors/comedians/extras hitting us with schemes to hire them, sponsor them or, in one case, tattoo them that it feels more like Black and Blue Month.
Of course I will do my bit, but it's getting beyond a joke.
One of the dubious joys of the new(ish) job is the return to a regular commute by bus. It's not a long journey and we are well served by a variety of routes and operators in our part of the forest, so one can't complain too much. Plus, the enforced hiatus provides an ideal blogging opportunity.
So I thought, dear reader, that I would give you a little look round at my current situation. In particular, I thought I might share the latest helpful notices displayed by First, our bus company d'jour.
Apparently, if I want a bus to pick me up at a stop I should indicate this to the driver by extending my arm. During the journey I am advised to hold on AND watch my step. And when I wish to alight I should press the bell once and remain in my seat until the bus comes to a complete stop. Thank you, Mr/Mrs/Ms FirstBus for those helpful instructions. Heaven knows how I've managed all these years without them.
All of this, of course, is designed to improve my safety and comfort. Which begs the question - why the Perkins is it all printed on a series of banners so pink I can feel my retinas blistering as I speak?
I may have hinted elsewhere that I feel the catholic church needs to drag itself into the modern world a bit. So it is ironic, in the light of yesterday's missive, that the church in America has given its approval to a new iPhone app.
Sold (!) under the name "Confession" it allows believers to seek divine forgiveness through the semi-divine Steve Jobs. From what I have seen it appears to be a bit of a Select-a-Sin multiple choice affair, rather than a free text input job, so there will be little scope for entries such as "Yesterday I coveted my neighbour's wife's ass. LOL x"
But the biggest disappointment is that they didn't just go ahead and call it "iConfess". *
* Thanks to Gordon for the joke!
One month ago I bought an iPhone4. It is, perhaps the most astonishingly wonderful thing I have ever owned.
In short, I love it ... and I think it loves me back.
It's never a good idea to get me started on the issue of apostrophes and their misuse. We could be here all day.
It's bad enough that our erstwhile nation of shopkeepers now litters our pavements with A-boards announcing the joys of Carrot's, Lettuces's and Todays Special Offer's. Casually lazy officialese fills forms and instructions with desperate examples of a tentative grasp on basic English grammar.
But I am genuinely outraged by today's Newsletter from none other than the senior staff team at Boy 3 (of 3)'s school. In two A4 pages it is at the very least disappointing that our educators manage to (mis)use apostrophes to denote plurals in no less than three instances. Upcoming "disco's" indeed!
It's simply not good enough and I therefore propose that the current Head Teacher be replaced by Bob the Angry Flower.
Next time on the Apostrophe Channel - what the hell are Americans doing calling their offspring names like k'Tel, N'MiBeeyA and A'choo? It will all end in tear's.