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fortynine + one up

The (later) life and times of WeeKeef

On the move
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If you're looking for me, I'm over here :-)


They're back
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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".

Jeezy Creezy!

I don't know much about late 17th century mages in the burgh of Paisley, but any right-thinking person who has seen the weekly offering from the fictional Glaswegian district of Shieldinch  will certainly agree that River City should be burned at the stake.

As for the standard of future debate up Holyrood way?  Well, in the words of the Weegie soap's Roisin - "Aah dinna kein whitt tay thunk oannie mayr".

Fathers Day
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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.

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Once again the armchair revolutionaries are up in arms and I find myself a bit sad that there's so much anti-Jubilee grumbling going on.  Her Maj has been on the throne for 60 years and that is historic whichever way you look at it.  

You might like the monarchy, and you might not.  Me?  I'm for a monarchy (just not necessarily this one, all the time).  But in 200 years people will look back and agree that, whatever else, this is a notable point in the history of these here islands.  

So, if you don't want to take part this weekend, that's fine.  If you can't find it in you to have a sense of occasion for something that will only happen once in your lifetime, that's OK.  
But try not to be churlish. You're not really being oppressed by a boat pageant.  Enjoy the sunshine.  Do something else with the holiday.

Have a drink.

Get a sense of perspective.  

Cheer up.

Salt and Sauce
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I never describe myself as a sports fan, because I am not a fanatic in the true sense.  The amount of brain power which goes into remembering names, dates, scores, horses' dams, refereeing decisions, etc could be better put towards finding a cure for cancer IMHO.  But I do enjoy watching a good game, or skilled people giving their absolute all.  And I certainly have an eye for an "event".

And so I am sitting watching the Scottish Cup Final between Hibs and Hearts. The first for 116 years.  If you care at all, you know how big a deal this is.  If you don't care at all, you don't care at all.  And that's fine.  But I have some close friends and colleagues (and even some family) who are just about puking with nervousness and excitement today.

If you live in Edinburgh it is almost impossible to be entirely neutral today, so I will, just for this once, pin my colours to the mast and admit that I am a Hearts fan for the day.  Why?  Well, for two very good reasons.  First, it is the chosen team for Boy 3 (of 3), who was there last time the Jam Tarts won in 2006, and it was the chosen team for my grandfather - my Papa - who is long gone (1964) but was a lifelong Jambo.  Second, most of my mates when I was growing up were Hibs supporters, and I have always been a bit cussed!  It is NOT because Hearts are currently a goal up.

Just to complete a big day of football (or soccer as I love to call it to wind people up!), I will also be supporting Chelsea later.  Why?  Well, because my Singing Uncle was a Chelsea fan man and boy.

Right, half time and Mrs WeeKeef has made scones.  

Surrendering to France
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Up until this year I had only been in France twice.  The first time was a short visit to Paris - and the last trip the Ex and I ever made together.  The second time was a week in a picturesque little cottage in the rural depths of Normandy which is probably the one and only holiday which will ever involve me, Mrs WeeKeef and all 3 Boys.

Having survived both rather well, the Gallic destination came up in the holiday discussions for this summer and I was astonished to learn that, though she has been to the country many times and speaks the lingo rather well, Mrs WK had never been to Paris.  Tickets were immediately booked!

Over the past couple of years we've got into the habit of visiting the Ma-in-Law either side of our "away trip", using the south coast as a staging post for further adventures.  It works out rather well, and we always manage to do a few interesting bits and pieces in the south too.  This year's highlights included seeing Eddie Izzard live on the roof of the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill - excellent if a little surreal, what with the audience sitting in pedalos on a fake beach on top of this 1930s building, listening to Mr I rabbiting on about the history of the entire universe.


Boy 3 (of 3) and I also had a splendid day out at London Zoo.  I hadn't been there since 23 July 1972* but it was still quite familiar in lots of ways, and it is a very rare treat for me and the Boy to do something like that.

And then there was Paris.  Ah, Paris - what can you say?  Expensive - yes. Busy - yes. Scary in parts - yes.  Rude waiters - yes. Suicidal traffic - yes. All of that.  But we did our regular tourist-mode thing and in the space of 4 long days we saw pretty much all the major city centre sights - Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Louvre, Seine, the Marais, Pantheon, Sorbonne, etc etc etc.  The hotel was good, the food was good, the weather was good, and the company was splendid.  By the time we got back to England late on the Sunday evening, we were exhausted.

And by the time we got back to Scotland we had done 27 rail journeys - mainline, underground, undersea and funicular.  Sustainable tourism R us!

Paris was one of those places I really wasn't bothered about seeing because I thought the hype would be greater than the event. Now I've been twice I can assure you, the hype doesn't even come close. Save up (lots) and go.

More to come ...

*  The day after Chi Chi the Giant Panda had died.  This is true.

Off the rails
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From tomorrow, Edinburgh's busiest and most iconic street will close (again) for almost a year.

This is not for your travelling convenience.  It is not to improve journey times across the city.  It is not to expand and enhance the sustainable transport choices in your city.  It is not even, Council Leader Jenny Dawe "... a first step in getting the works moving forward".

It is simply an attempt (probably doomed) by a shitty contractor to put right a shitty job done on a shitty project for a shitty management company owned by a shitty council.  For a shitload of money.

Come next July we will actually be no further forward at all, and we will probably have the same lot of arseholes re-elected to systematically destroy our city for another 4 years.

I'll probably be late for work tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next day.  And th......

Working for the Man
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I don't talk much about work for all sorts of reasons.  But there I was, merrily going along in the middle of May when my boss approached me with the sort of question that starts "How would you like ..." but doesn't end with a question mark.

In short, I was on a special mission.  And it is a strange thing, but I got a similar call in May 2007.  It seems that I am the "go-to" guy for our illustrious leaders when rights are to be wronged.  Well, it's good to be asked, I suppose, and the fact that, after working flat out for eight - ten - twelve hour days for the best part of two months, the whole thing was hijacked at the last minute by a higher power is not my fault.

Frankly, it would be quicker, easier and a lot better for all concerned if we just banned soccer altogether.  And religion.  But that's unlikely to happen anytime soon, I guess.  Still, one can always aspire to a second enlightenment in Scotland.

The upside of all those long hours was that my flexitime credit was much enhanced and I was almost immediately able to put it to good use in foreign.

More to come ...  

Introducing ... summer
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What?  I’ve been busy.  No, honestly, it’s been quite a hectic couple of months and, much like last summer, I’ve been ignoring the need to chronicle the latter life and times etc etc.  Sorry.

Perhaps the best thing I can do to make up is to let you know what has been happening, then elaborate a bit.  Here's the Top Three:

1.  Working for the Man
2.  Surrendering to France
3.  Adventuring in Music
Interested?  More to come ...

Flat out
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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.


You say you want a revolution
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For some days, weeks and months the more churlish amongst us have been complaining that they don't give a rats ass about the Royal Wedding.  As predicted by yours truly some 6 months ago, there has been a noticable upsurge in rediscovered Scottishness and/or Republicanism, and not a few friends, family and colleagues have spent a fair amount of time and effort protesting that they are not going to waste any time or effort over it.

They must have had a pretty miserable time watching (or rather NOT watching) so many people being happy today.

As for me, I have spent much of my extra day off plumped on the couch with Mrs WeeKeef, taking in some history, laughing at the nobs and the plebs in equal measure, and generally being OK about the whole thing.  Highlights include:

  • laughing at Princess Beatrice's hat
  • swearing loudly and vehemently at that arse Simon Schama
  • filling up at the beauty of (some of) the music
  • applauding the bit with the Aston Martin
  • discussing whether our future Queen is hot (she is)
A pretty good return for the 67 new pence of my taxes which have contributed to the event, I think.

The Girl with the Pain in the Arse
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I don't often give up on books or films half way through, but there are always exceptions.  I've tried and tried to like Doris Lessing, for example, but I just can't.  And don't even get me started on Baz Luhrmann: first up against the wall come the revolution! 

So I'm a little disappointed to have had to give in as far as this evening's entertainment is concerned.  It seems almost everyone I know (especially those of the female persuasion) is reading Stieg Larrson's Millenium series - "The Girl ..."  I'm told they are gripping books, and very well written, etc, etc.  Massive sales, and all that.  So while browsing through our local HMV recently Mrs WeeKeef (having read the books) comes across a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for just £7 and we decide to give it a whirl this evening.  

Oh  -  My  -  God.  Life is too short.

I don't know what it is about Sweden.  Look up Ingmar Bergman and you will find that "... his major subjects were death, illness, faith, betrayal, and insanity ..."  No shit!  And he was good at it too, but very few people would select old Ingmar for a fun evening in with the Ma-in-Law to finish off the Easter hols. But it is my (admittedly limited) experience of other Swedish fare that the entire country seems to have latched on to this success as a good idea, and is going to stick with it for ever and ever. 

I lasted about an episode and a half with the Kenneth Brannagh version of Wallander on the TV recently before getting completely hacked off by the unrelenting bleakness of it all and vowing never to watch another minute.  Goodness knows what it was like in the original version.

For this evening, I managed an hour of long silences, 10 watt light bulbs, windy white landscapes, grunted conversations and sexual violence.  Is everyone in Sweden really that lonely, cut off, miserable, gloomy, alcoholic and (I'm sorry) ugly?  If so, it is no wonder they are reputed to shag each other senseless and then commit suicide in their lemming-like droves.*

The point is - characters in this movie - I don't care.  I don't care who you are, I don't care where you came from, and I don't care what happens to you.  I don't have to like you to stick with your story, but I do have to care about at least one of you.  And I really really don't.  Sorry.

Right.  I'm off to listen to some ABBA to cheer myself up.

* Yes, I know lemmings don't really do that.

Biting comment
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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.

Massive election
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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.

on’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.

Digging deep
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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.


Cheer up!
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I was a little concerned to notice that the tag cloud over there --> suggests that, in my 70 posts to date, I have grumbled 24 times but only mentioned Mrs WeeKeef 21 times.  This would seem to imply that my life is a bummer, and that the tediousness of it all outweighs the joys of being married to the woman with the sexiest pronunciation of the word "cinema" in Christendom.

This is most certainly not the case!

I shall, as spring is busy springing, endeavour to spread some of its joys through these here pages.  As a start, here is a picture of a pretty damn happy fieldmouse.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Admit it - you're smiling now.

You cannae shove your Granny
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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?


Thou shalt not
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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!

Seal of APProval
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One month ago I bought an iPhone4. It is, perhaps the most astonishingly wonderful thing I have ever owned.

  • It was and will continue to be too expensive - but it's only money.
  • It incorporates everything I've previously hated about modern phones, such as a camera and a music player - I was wrong.
  • It is rarely out of reach and has me checking my networks every couple of minutes - but I'm just being sociable.

In short, I love it ... and I think it loves me back.

I blame the teachers
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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.


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