Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Only 208 Days Till Christmas

Imagine my surprise the other day when my local Spar was selling these special edition packets of eight, two-fingered Kit Kats at the knock down bargain of 50 pence. I quickly rounded up my Big Issue pennies and bought all they had figuring they would make perfect Christmas gifts for all the people who know I'm unemployed and who would sigh and cock their heads in grateful sympathy come Christmas morning.

Four fingers later I realised why the price had hit rock bottom - they are truly, TRULY disgusting. Oh and they're only two days shy of their sell by date. They'll still make great gifts though. Now if only Nestlé could come up with a pizza flavoured Kit Kat...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Hunting Highs And Lows

Last week I wrote some nonsense about not getting out enough and ever since then I’ve hardly been in at all. Paris, Rome, New York and London are just a few of the cities I’ve avoided visiting in order to fulfill a healthy calendar of golf, football and big budget movies set in a galaxy far, far away.

Along the way I’ve enjoyed the highest of highs and suffered some serious lows but through it all I’ve kept a smile on my face, a song in my heart, a bluebird on my shoulder (pisser removing the staples by the way) and have emerged on the other side with only a nervous twitch and a sizeable underwear laundry bill as side effects. Here, in summary then are ten days in May. (Good title for a film, that.)

Monday 16th
High: On a lovely sunny day in Scotland (no, really) I played golf with my pal Gordon at the Falkirk Tryst Golf Club and had the match sewn up with four or five holes left to play.

Low: Needing three closing pars to shoot a 68 I bogeyed 16 & 18 to scrape home with a round of 70 and saw the dream of a 69 fade into the distance yet again. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Tuesday 17th
Hardly got any sleep last night tormented with the 69 that could’ve been and dreaming about the 69 yet to come.

High: Went to visit my pal Grace, an old friend from high school who I haven’t seen for ages and who offered me not one, but two cups of coffee and three chocolate chip cookies. Called her up later to arrange another visit soon but the line was busy… or the phone was off the hook.

Wednesday 18th
High: As a generous birthday treat from my folks, I had a round of golf on the Old Course in St. Andrews, the home of golf and venue for this year’s (British) Open Championship. Shot 78 in the pissing rain and freezing wind and was pretty pleased with my smug little self.

Higher High: Just before we started our round on the Old Course the starter said to us, “Oh by the way, you might see Jack out there today.” No, not Jack Bauer, Jones, Nicholson, Lemmon, Black, Rabbit, Hammer, Sprat, or Anory but Jack BLOODY Nicklaus. Sure enough as we were playing our approach shots to the first green, there he was teeing off on the 18th, or rather backing off his tee shot as my Dad scampered across the fairway to retrieve his ball. Classic!

Low: There are no lows on a day when you play the Old Course with Jack Nicklaus.

Thursday 19th
There I was sitting impatiently in the cinema on opening day waiting for “Star Wars III – Revenge of the Sith” to begin when I suddenly thought, “Hey, this is the last time I’m EVER gonna see one of these for the very first time!” Immediately every fibre in my being became alert and ready for what was to come… a bit like when I get a whiff of pizza. Despite some ropey dialogue and indifferent acting, the scale and spectacle of the film are breathtaking. I loved it. And Anakin becomes Darth Vader? Who knew?

High: Was three holes up and one under par after 11 holes of my first golf match representing my club.
Low: On the 12th hole, I suffered a complete mental and physical breakdown with my golf swing and allowed my opponent to draw level with one hole to play.
High: Watched my opponent smash his drive out of bounds on the 18th and I then hacked my way to the green to secure a fortunate one hole victory. And they say golf isn’t life in miniature.

Friday 20th
High: In between the rain showers, I managed to cut the grass, do the weeding and trim the daffodils without the loss of any major appendage.

Low: Ran out of beer and then burnt the pizza I’d made (i.e. taken out of the freezer) for dinner. Inconsolable.

Saturday 21st
High: I ordered concert tickets last week to go and see sublime singer songwriter Maria McKee in Glasgow at the end of June and they arrived safely today. Can’t wait, her new album, “Peddlin’ Dreams” is fantastic.

Low: The English FA Cup Final was on television and despite not supporting any one English team, I was rooting for Manchester United to win. (Sorry Russell.) They outplayed boring, boring Arsenal but then lost in a penalty shoot out. Comforted by the thought that tomorrow will bring footballing triumph and glory.

Sunday 22nd
Low: After 9 months, 37 games and 87 minutes, my football team, the mighty Glasgow Celtic, were only a matter of minutes away from securing their 4th Scottish championship in 5 years. Three minutes later, they’d conceded 2 goals and handed the title to their bitterest rivals Rangers. This calamity was almost on a par with Friday’s pizza trauma and I can only thank the Lord that there is no wife, child or pet in my life to bear the brunt of the wrath and mayhem that ensued.

Monday 23rd
Wake realising yesterday’s football catastrophe was real after all.

High: Thank the Lord (again) that I’m unemployed and don’t have to suffer the plight of Celtic fans today in workplaces the length and breadth of the country. Go back to sleep and then go and play golf.

Low: Turn up at my weekly five-a-side football game to find we’re three players short. Invite some local Sighthill kids to remove their Burberry headgear and lay down their crack pipes long enough to make up the numbers. Watch a ten-year old dance his way round me with the ball and then end up on my arse trying to kick the wee shite into next week. My football humiliation is complete.

Tuesday 24th
Low: Consider a visit to the Emergency Room to nurse the gash on my knee caused by a wee, ten-year old shite’s football boots.

High: In a dimly lit rehearsal room in Bonnybridge, a strange and unexplainable phenomenon unfolds. (Fittingly, Bonnybridge is officially Scotland’s UFO capital.) For the first time in over six years all four members of The Signals are gathered together in the same room, instruments in hand, ready to unleash some face-melting rock. And unleash they do.

The fingers of Young Bill Hay dance frantically over the fret board as solos and (not so) long forgotten riffs emerge as if by magic. Behind the kit, Handsome Doug Grant is attempting (and pulling off) drumming gymnastics with a degree of difficulty that Keith Moon would be agog at. And Ole Donald Campbell is throwing arrogant, rock guitar stances, one foot atop his amp while his bass thunders into the night.

Three hours fly by in an instant and we emerge into the cool midnight air ecstatic, surprised and not a little shagged out hoping that the mother ship will beam us straight to our cribs. The Signals are back and that’s official!

Wednesday 25th
Low: I wore a suit today for only the second or third time in over two years. I really despise wearing suits.

High: I wore the suit because I’ve had confirmation of a new job (which I’ll finally believe and write about in a couple of weeks when it starts) and today I visited the offices of my new employer to get my photograph taken. Thankfully the job does not involve having to wear a suit ever again.

Higher High: Witness the greatest televised football match I’ve seen in a decade as Liverpool overcome a three goal, first half deficit to defeat AC Milan in a penalty shoot out in the final of The Champions League. It had everything and I’m over the moon (to use football parlance) for my golfing chum Russell and my brother in law Alastair, big fans both. What a night!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Market Research Consumer Survey Type Thing

Why are you here?

By that, I don’t mean why are you here on this planet, living, breathing, existing, procreating, dying, reincarnating etc. (because we’ve all watched “The X-Files” and understand the origin of our species, right?) but rather why are you here at this moment, on this web page reading these words that I typed? The answer may fall somewhere in the category of “don’t get out enough” but I’m looking for a bit more detail than that.

It’s endlessly fascinating to me (and that in itself should tell you how deep I’m into the “don’t get out enough” category) as to why people start blogs, how they promote them (if at all) and how other people discover and read what they’ve written.

My guess is that the vast majority of bloggers start up a blog (the personal, journal type blogs) because they just want to type something. It’s easy, it’s liberating, it’s modern and it’s free, not counting the monthly internet provider subscription and the medical bills for all the RSI treatment. But here’s the thing. What good is writing something in a public medium if no-one ever reads it? Are you typing stuff for you or for other people?

My experience (and I’d be interested to find out if anyone agrees) is that even the most private, anonymous and deeply personal blogs are crying out (sometimes literally) to be read, and not only read but acknowledged as read.

I like to get a little crazy at times and wantonly hit the “Next Blog” button to see where it’ll take me - a bit like Jodie Foster’s journey in “Contact” – or I’ll click on a link on another blog but I rarely feel the urge/have the energy to linger very long in one place or leave a comment. Sometimes all the button-hitting and clicking bring me full circle to the place I started which then makes me think that the blogging community isn’t as big as is often stated. Maybe there’s only about a dozen of us out there?

Anyway, my point (and I did have one I think when I started this) was to try and understand how it is that you came to be reading this… if you haven’t already clicked on “Next Blog” about two or three paragraphs ago. If you have the time and/or energy and/or inclination, could you peruse the options below and leave a little comment (the corresponding option number would do) to let me better understand.

As an incentive for your time and effort, all feedbackers and commenters, anonymous or otherwise, will go into a little wooly hat for the chance of winning a stunning and unique prize yet to be acquired or indeed, assembled using sticky back plastic and a Fairy Liquid bottle. So here we go…

Dear Neil, I am here reading these words what you typed because…

1. I am your oldest friend and bass player in The Signals and it was my idea that you start this blog thingy in the first place.

2. I am a member of your immediate family and you told me I had to visit this site every day, or else.

3. I used to work/drink/play golf/go to school/go on holiday with you and every time I hear from you, you bore the tits off me telling me I should read your blog.

4. I used to go out with you but you keep pestering me so I check this blog in the hope that you’ve disappeared/been arrested/turned out to be gay.

5. I met you on your travels and you told me you were a famous and talented writer but I’ve yet to see any evidence supporting this claim.

6. I saw you leave a comment on someone else’s blog in a shameful attempt to try and get me to click on your name and in a moment of weakness I did.

7. I saw your blog linked on a site that I actually do admire and clicked on the link by mistake.

8. I clicked on “Next Blog” and found your site entirely by accident and what a happy day that was.

9. Someone (who is no longer my friend) told me that I just had to check out your witty and wonderful website.

10. Some other quirky twist of fate that you haven’t thought of brought me here. (If you chose option 10, a short explanation would be appreciated. Thanks.)

Happy Birthday Big Al

A very happy birthday today to my (and the kiddies) pal, Big Al. (He's the one on the right with two, somewhat bloodshot eyes.) I’m sure the powers that be at neilwritestheworld.com would love to negotiate a lucrative Signals-type deal for the collected works of the Allan Hendry Band (I & II) so name your price and have a great day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Last Night I Had A 69...

...or would have done had I not bogeyed two of the par 3's. It sure is frustrating when you think you're going to enjoy a wonderful night full of magic numbers only to find out that your limp-wristed stroke lets you down. Pisser.

Anyway, the evening wasn't a complete disaster because hidden away in the late night scheduling of Channel 4 was a fantastic programme attempting to reunite the cast of “Grange Hill” circa 1986 to perform their top 5, anti-drug hit “Just Say No”.

For those unfamiliar with the work, “Grange Hill” was essential kids television viewing in the late 70s and 80s; the every day highs and lows of attending a typical UK High School. A bit like “Saved By The Bell” but without the canned laughter, or the geeky characters, or the fake beaches, or the crap acting. Actually, it was nothing like “Saved By The Bell” and it’s frequent hard-hitting storylines about bullying, obesity, drugs and strange things you could do with a curly-wurly often created much controversy within Thatcher’s Britain.

So it was great to see Zammo, Ziggy, Roland, Faye et all back together once again on stage in a night club karaokeing their way through “Just Say No” to an audience of drunk twenty somethings who had little or no clue who they were. Best of all was the revelation that when they went to America in 1986 to promote their anti-drugs campaign and meet Nancy Reagan at the White House, more than a couple of the teenage cast were already intimate with the wacky backy, the weed, the margarineuana or whatever the hell the correct young person’s vernacular should be. Yep, I sure am “down” wiv de kids y’all.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Let's Hear It For The Boys

I’ve been reminded recently of the yawning chasm between the sexes when it comes to the little things in life (toilet seat etiquette), the important things in life (control of the tv remote) and the essential things in life (sport on television).

As a practicing Renaissance man, I’ve made it my mission in life to build bridges across this chasm or at least establish some kind of rudimentary communication process with tin cans and a very long piece of string. My efforts in this quest, this crusade, this pilgrimage if you will (can you tell I’m longing for a new Indiana Jones film? – I watched ‘National Treasure’ yesterday and it was pants) are not helped by rogue members of my gender who strive to keep the battle of the sexes raging until, if necessary, the twelfth of never… oh shit, I used that one the other day didn’t I?

Anyway, an example of this despicable and reprehensible behaviour hit my in-box the other day (okay it was more like three years ago but I was desperate for something to write) and shook me to my core. Of course I’d normally dispatch such bile straight to the trash and refuse point blank to give it the oxygen of blog publicity so while I would never ever condone the following, it did make me laugh out loud.

We always hear "the rules" from women. Now here are the rules from men. (N.B. these are all numbered "1" on purpose.)

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us bitching about you leaving it down.
1. Birthdays, Valentines, and Anniversaries are not quests to see if we can find the perfect present yet again!
1. Sometimes we are not thinking about you. Live with it.
1. Sunday = sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.
1. Crying is blackmail.
1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work. Strong hints do not work. Obvious hints do not work Just say it!
1. We don't remember dates. Mark birthdays and anniversaries on a calendar. Remind us frequently beforehand.
1. Most guys own three pairs of shoes - tops. What makes you think we'd be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?
1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.
1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.
1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us. We refuse to answer.
1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
1. Let us ogle. We are going to look anyway; it's genetic.
1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.
1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.
1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions, and neither do we.
1. The relationship is never going to be like it was the first two months we were going out. Get over it. And quit whining to your girlfriends.
1. ALL men see in only 16 colours, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a colour. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.
1. We are not mind readers and we never will be. Our lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little we care about you.
1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.
1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.
1. You have enough clothes.
1. You have too many shoes.
1. BEER is as exciting for us as handbags are for you.
1. I'm in shape. ROUND is a shape.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Soap Gets In Your Eyes

Why is it that no matter how old you get there are some things you just can’t leave behind; way, way behind in the dim, distant and cliched past where they belong? Like bad haircuts or your first girlfriend’s phone number (27925), or that dream when you’re standing in the middle of the school playground in nothing but your underwear… and not the cool Calvin Klein ones either but instead, something from Marks & Spencer’s “funky” leopard print collection that your Mum bought with loving pride.

Oooh, I know that Neil’ll just love these.”

I did as a matter of fact but that’s beside the point. The point is that some things (good, bad or jungle patterned) are going to be with you till the day you die and with me it’s going to be nicknames.

Now I’m a lucky boy because not only have I been honoured with one nickname from my ex-work colleagues for the past fifteen years or so, I’ve also had another, separate nickname that I acquired at High School many years previously.

Nicknames are a curious form of recognition and acceptance, often bestowed in a loving way between close friends (predominantly male) without fear of misunderstanding or hidden agendas. If chosen, agreed on and confered in quick time, it’s remarkable how quickly they become a hardened and permanent part of the vocabulary traded between good friends and colleagues.

Of course, there’s always an exception to that rule and when, some years back, I shared a house with two other guys, “Annoying Wee Shite Who Makes Too Much F#cking Noise In The Morning” was perhaps not snappy enough to catch on in the affectionate way I intended.

The origin of how a nickname came to be can often go astray as the years drift by. Indeed there are many acquaintances from long ago whose real names I can barely recall but whose nicknames will stay with me always; “B#stard Girlfriend Stealer” springs instantly to mind. Explanations of nickname origins are rarely as entertaining as the mystique of wondering how a person procured a title but here anyway is an account of my experience.

Picture the scene. I’m sitting in the coffee room on my first or second day in a new job within the Bank trying to avoid conversation by chain smoking furiously. (Ah, those were the days.) A colleague sits down next to me with that eager, desperate-to strike-up-a-conversation look on his face.

David: “So Neil, what do you do in your spare time?”

Neil (mind racing, don’t mention the stamp collecting or the leopard underpants): “Well, eh, I play a bit of football and I’m in a band.”

David: “Oh really, a band? So what kind of stuff do you play?”

Neil: “Oh you know, we write a bit of our own stuff and do some Springsteen, Bryan Adams, U2…

David: “U2? Brilliant! And what do you in the band?”

Neil: “Well, I sing and play guitar a bit…”

David: “What, like The Edge?”

Neil: “Eh, well no, not exac…”


And so it stuck. As nicknames go, The Edge is pretty cool and I like it a lot but it’ll never completely dethrone the original effort from High School. I don’t remember the exact conversation (mainly because I’ve tried very hard to forget it) but I was telling my pals about how my Dad got his nickname at school and before I could shut myself up, it was out.

Neil: “So you see chaps, interestingly it went from ‘Sutherland’ to ‘Suthers’ to ‘Suths’ to ‘Suds’ and ended up as ‘Soapy Suds’. Oh golly, what have I said?”

Assorted Pals: “Soapy! Soapy! Soapy! Soapy! Soapy! Soapy! Soapy!

And there you have it. Not, after all, an amusing bath-time incident with soap on a rope but a happy accident from a gibbering fool. It only remains for me to salute all I can recall who have had the honour of being… eh… honoured with a nickname to last until the twelfth of never… ‘cause that’s a long, long time.

So here’s to Big Al, Big Mac, Big Rab, Big Stevie, Wee Brian, Wee Davie, Wee Kev, Wee Duggie (inventive stuff, eh?) Fat Boab, Fat Controller, Baldie B#stard, Tommy Tomato, The Corner, Heavy Tops, Ducks Arse, Dannie, DC, CJ, BA, M2, BMG, RHDD, Gads, Robo, Danger, Joansie, Woody, Cocky, Coby, Cliffy, Gogsie, Gorry, Marshy, Tattie, Sharpy, Shuggie, Shaky, Smithy, Smash, Leesy, Manny, Nelly, Smiler, Gobber, Panda, Pongo, Plug, Ned, Spud, Crof, Prof, Papa, Noss, Foxy(?), Maggie(??), Gladys(???), Beano, ‘Onest, Xavier, Hammy, Blousie, Busby, Bhuna, Kirky, Happy, Poochie, Chomper, Horse, Bully, Nipola, Gabby, Shagger, Duey, Louis, Bertie Big Nose, and last but not least Handsome F#cking Drummer Who Got All The Burdz.

You know who you are and I love you all… in that manly way without fear of misunderstanding or hidden agendas.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

May The Fourth...

...be with you! Ho, ho, ho! Only fifteen days to go!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Problem Solved

Take a flight to Dallas. Hire a car. Head north on Interstate 35 to Oklahoma. Turn west on Interstate 40 at Oklahoma City. Cross the State line back into Texas. Continue on another 70 or so miles and you're there. THAT'S the f#cking way to Amarillo.