Saturday, October 29, 2005

Things That Make You Brake Sharply

Have I told you about my wee brother before? No, not the technical genius one who designed this site (and others) and is available for all manner of freelance internet work - but the other one; the li’l iddy-biddy youngest one.

He lives in sin in Texas with his charming fiancé Kathryn, a southern girl with a penchant for Dr Pepper (diet) and crab claws, and he works in the market research business. (He was the one who told Nike that signing up Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods would be a step in the right direction.)

Anyway, I suspect he might be extending his sphere of influence back across the Atlantic if this Edinburgh billboard is anything to go by. Oh yeah, and his name is Keith.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hayle Two Tha Cheef

I was going to post yet another little Scotrail story that I read about yesterday but the anonymous contributor to the previous post beat me to it. If you missed it, it was about yet another railway station announcer, in Glasgow this time, who apologised for the late running of a train “because a passenger was inconsiderate enough to have a heart attack.” How did THAT model employee make it past the crack team of recruiters in HR I wonder?

So I won’t be posting that story. Instead, let me direct your attention to this classic little George Bush video clip which was sent to me by a very special secret source deep in the heart of Texas. Enjoy y’all.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


So there I was, waiting on the railway station platform for my train on Tuesday evening, when the Scotrail announcer, clearly the worse for drink, spews out the following sequence of declarations…

5.33pm: “The train approaching platform 4 is the 17.34 service to Glasgow Queen Street. Regular passengers will notice that the trains are running on time this evening. We apologise for any confusion this may cause.”

Sure enough, the train rolls in on time and the passengers try and clamber aboard, which is difficult to do with split sides having laughed so much at the unexpected emergence of a sense of humour in a Scotrail employee. The train departs.

5.35pm: “Emm, spoke to soon. The next train on platform will NOT be the 17.37 train to Dunblane (MY train incidentally) as it is still at Edinburgh Waverley. ‘Pologies.”

5.37pm: (Different announcer because presumably the first guy has been wrestled into a strait jacket and bundled into the back of van, never to be seen again.)
“This is an announcement for passengers waiting for the 17.37 service to Dunblane. This train is running approximately 11 minutes late.”

I light a cigarette, unravel my sleeping bag and settle in for a long night.

5.39pm: (First guy again, presumably having broken away from his captors, stormed the announcing booth and locked himself in.)
“The delayed 17.37 service to Dunblane is now approaching platform 4 and is NOT 11 minutes late.”

And sure enough it arrived. If I didn’t know better (and I don’t) I’d think the entire rail service was just a giant kids toy being fought over by two 40-something deities who’ve got nothing better to do in their celestial heaven than play with their engines to make up for the fact that they haven’t got goddess girlfriends.

Sounds like a case for me and Agent Scully. Mind you I could make that argument for ANYTHING.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ti-i-i-ime Is On My Side, Yes It Is

Another Tuesday, another newspaper column, another glossary of terms to flesh out the potentially obscure stuff.

Time, as Jimmy Greaves* would no doubt say in that quaint cockney* way of his, is a funny old game son. Last year when I was jobless and off gallivanting round the world, the days drifted by slowly and my biggest daily decision was whether to climb out of bed in the morning or the afternoon or, indeed, at all. Now I’m back home and working full time, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to meet deadlines or enjoy the important things in life – like sneaking a quick afternoon nap in the office toilets.

It’s been over two weeks now since I’ve had a day off and the cracks are beginning to show. Life’s testing little moments which I would have shrugged off in the past are now conspiring to push my patience levels to intolerable limits. Why is it, for example, that when I’m trying to catch a train at the height of the rush hour, the man in front of me in the queue ALWAYS wants to buy the most complicated season ticket possible? He’ll then try to pay for his ludicrous request with some kind of credit card that either won’t swipe through the machine or is rejected altogether.

“Holy Sugar,” I hiss quietly to myself through gritted teeth as I watch this farce unfold. “Can’t you see I’m trying to get home in time for Richard & Judy*? AND I haven’t had my afternoon nap!”

Then, of course, Mr. Season Ticket causes more queue carnage when he single-handedly cripples the automatic ticket barriers trying to insert his outrageous purchase. But don’t get me started on automatic ticket barriers at railway stations or I’ll end up huddled in a corner swaying back and forth and mumbling incoherent phrases like “wibble*”.

So in the interests of retaining what’s left of my sanity, I’ve hatched a cunning plan*. This coming weekend heralds the end of British Summer Time (I know, I thought it ended during that wet weekend in July too) and we’ll all be given that most precious of gifts - time; an extra hour to be exact and I for one am determined not to waste it on frivolous indulgences such as The X Factor* or trying to track down Ulrika’s* phone number.

I’ve drawn up a comprehensive list of ways I can utilise my extra hour most productively and come Sunday you will find me doing one or more of the following.

1. Cleaning the house. A bit mundane I know, but when I tripped over the remnants of last year’s Christmas tree recently, I realised it had been a while.

2. Scouring the Yellow Pages for a cleaner after I tear up the instruction booklet for the Dyson* vacuum thingy in frustration.

3. Ensuring my cd collection is in strict alphabetical order. (It’s been almost a week since I checked this and I’m starting to get a bit twitchy.)

4. Going to the gym*. Of course I’d have to lose what’s left of my marbles and actually JOIN a gym first so that might something of a hindrance.

5. Shopping for belated “Sorry I forgot your birthday because I was too busy queuing at a railway station” greetings cards for everyone I’ve neglected in the past few months.

6. Tracking down the home address of Mr. Season Ticket and posting a selection of bus timetables through his letter box.

7. Using the extra hour of darkness to dismantle and remove the automatic ticket barriers from all major Scottish railway stations.

8. Christmas* shopping. Nah, just kidding.

And when I’ve finished with that little lot, it’ll be time for an afternoon nap.

Jimmy Greaves: Famous English footballer turned infamous television football pundit who described everything – football, life, bananas, you name it – as “a funny old game son.”

Cockney: Person from the east end of London famous for being either a cinematic chimney sweep or an annoying, Union Jack shorts-wearing tourist.

Richard & Judy: Television chat show couple who are actually married… or is he her son, I can never remember? He’s famous for shoplifting and she’s famous for flashing her tits at awards ceremonies. Essential viewing.

Wibble: Famous catchphrase of Edmund Blackadder (Rowan Atkinson) in “Blackadder IV” when he was pretending to be mad.

Cunning Plan: Famous catchphrase of Baldrick (Tony Robinson) in every Blackadder episode ever.

The X Factor: Crap reality talent show, somewhat like American Idol, which you have to avoid because once it catches your eye, you can’t look away. Deadly viewing.

Ulrika: Ulrika Jonsson, former morning show weather girl, famous for doomed relationships. (She announced the end of her latest marriage at the weekend.) Still an RAF* though! Google her and see.

Dyson: Multi coloured, nuclear powered Dalek-like machine that sits permanently in my kitchen cupboard humming menacingly and plotting world domination.

Gym: Mythical, modern day torture chamber where, apparently, seemingly heterosexual men go to “work out”! Isn’t that right Dave?

Christmas: Festival and celebration of goodwill to all men, women and children that begins sometime during September. Apparently.

RAF: A term of endearment and adoration when describing the opposite sex, much used and loved by male training instructors working for a major Scottish financial institution, circa early 1990s. (There’s an air force base near St. Andrews in Scotland called RAF Leuchars; pronounced ‘Lookers’. Gettit?)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

More Things That Make You Go Mmm

In the (very) cold light of day that is a wet, windy and miserable Scottish Sunday, I’ve been reviewing my rant from Friday and have decided I was quite wrong to say some of the things I did – it was, in fact, 14 straight days in a row that I worked, not 13 as stated, so apologies to those of you who took me too literally.

While I’m at it, I should probably also say that I was probably as much to blame for the near punching incident at the football last Monday as anyone else. So when the teams “square up” again tomorrow evening, I’m sure everything will be all sweetness and light. Probably.

To all you sensitive Ipod Nano owners who threatened to kick me up and down the football park on FRIDAY night (even although you were on MY team) I’m quite sure you don’t flaunt your digital music desires like the arse I saw on the train last week.

And to all of you involved in the train/railway station debacles, I thank you for giving me a starter for ten for my newspaper column this week but you still make me want to shout “F#CK RIGHT OFF!”

Friday, October 21, 2005

Things That Make You Go... F#CK RIGHT OFF!!!

Today will be the 13th straight day in a row I’ve worked and God only knows the last time that happened. When was it again… oh that’s right, NEVER! What I lack in energy and good humour/humor, I more than make up for with excessive sarcasm and a deep longing to unleash extreme violence. (Mmm, maybe that’s why I nearly punched a guy at the football on Monday? Nah, he was a dick.)

So if you have a masochistic urge to cross my path and test my patience, don’t be predictable and go for the obvious sharp poke in the arm. Opt for one of the following fun pastimes instead and see how long it is before you’re counting the cartoon stars orbiting your peripheral vision.

1. Choose the height of the rush hour to stand in front of me at the railway ticket office and ask for the most complicated season ticket possible. Then hand over some kind of debit/credit card to pay for it and when that gets rejected, scramble about in your wallet for another card, oblivious to the queue carnage building up behind you.

2. Watch me walk to the far end of a railway platform and then announce casually in a language only vaguely resembling English that the train will, in fact, now be leaving from a different platform… “Oh and byraway, yous’ve only goat wan minute tae get there. ‘Pologies.”

3. Forget to shower for at least a week and then stand beside me on the train with your arm in the air holding on to a luggage rack whilst reading your paper like you haven’t a care (or a nose) in the world.

4. When on the train, make a big deal of inserting your white Ipod earphones into your flappy ears and then continuously fondle your Ipod over and over again in your boney hands in case someone didn’t notice that you have a shiny, new Ipod Nano and white Ipod earphones… and shite Phil Collins taste in music. HA!

5. As the overcrowded train pulls into the station, push past me and all the other people waiting to get off so you can save yourself approximately five seconds at the automatic ticket barriers.

6. Come up with the notion that automatic ticket barriers at railway stations are a good idea.

7. Ask me three times what kind of coffee I want and then serve me something different.

8. Shrug and sigh when I hand back the drink you got wrong after asking me three times.

9. Serve me in a shop, give me back the wrong change and then look at me as if I’ve just burnt down your house with your children inside when I query the error.

10. Say no to drugs, study hard, become a lawyer and then talk f#cking bollocks to me for four months as you “sort out” my mortgage.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What Became Of Your Lamb, Clarice?

Spooky. I was getting a lift home from my pal Bruce last night after playing football (I say ‘playing’, but I almost got myself into two separate punch ups during the match… which was nice!) and he asked me why my newspaper column had been moved to a different day last week.

I explained that it was because the other Tuesday columnist also wrote about football last week so frankly my dear, they’d had enough of all the football writing for one day thank you very much.

Bruce sniggered in that girly way of his and said, “So what controversial subject matter will you be pontificating about tomorrow then… religion? Tee hee hee hee!” Arse!

And you know – from a certain point of view he was closer to the mark than he imagined. Read on now and see if you can spot the (very) tenuous link…

Regular readers of this column (Hi Mum!) will be perceptive to the fact that it’s never going to win any awards for investigative journalism. Indeed up until now, my concept of a sensational exposé happened during the week I was reading my “Household Management For Men” manual and I uncovered the revelation that bed linen should be changed and washed at least once every two weeks. Unbelievable!

But that hasn’t stopped me sniffing out potential stories of scandal, corruption or menacing threats to our very way of life. I can’t say too much at the moment but in the coming weeks I shall be fleshing out my suspicions that Katie Holmes may be pregnant.

However, this week I begin with an important, but little-known issue which came to my attention when an inconspicuous e-mail landed in my in-box. I was on the point of deleting it when my finely-tuned writer’s eye noticed that perhaps the message was intended for someone else.

“Dear Mr. McIntosh,” it began and in a flash I sat bolt upright in my chair, senses tingling at the prospect of having stumbled across a story of Watergate, or at least Holyroodgate, proportions.

The e-mail continued, “I'd like to ask if you would be willing to write an article on head collars for dogs for your Daily Record spot.” I had my doubts about whether many dogs would actually read the story but the conclusion of the message made things much clearer.

“We have a lovely 12 year old Rottweiler German Shepherd cross called Harray. He is very strong so on the occasion when he is on his lead, we use a head collar. Frequently people assume this is a muzzle and he must be vicious! I am losing patience with this! Maybe you would be willing to educate people via your article on this subject. Thanking you in anticipation!” Ms. M Wilson, Inverness.

Well, Ms. M Wilson of Inverness, I am only too happy to educate people because curiously enough, this is a subject very close to my heart. You see the closest I’ve ever come to obtaining a criminal record (not counting Barry Manilow’s ‘Bermuda Triangle’) was because of an alleged biting incident involving two German Shepherds I was supposed to be looking after. (I didn’t bite THEM; THEY bit someone else, allegedly.) Needless to say my lack of knowledge at the time about muzzles, head collars and all things dog related could have cost me dear.

In the past few days then, I’ve been redressing my ignorance by conducting some intense internet research on the matter. In true Woodward and Bernstein style, I’ve also been consulting with an authoritative source who, for the purposes of this report, wishes to be known only as Deep Throat Lozenge.

Sure enough my investigations have revealed that head collars for dogs are distinctly different from muzzles in both application and appearance. Head collars, invariably, are made up of two straps which go around the dog’s neck as well as the nose and mouth. They attach to a lead under the chin giving the owner more control when walking a large, powerful animal. (Deep Throat Lozenge was at pains to stress to me that this is the key distinguishing feature.)

A muzzle on the other hand is more of small mask or cage-like arrangement, specifically designed to deter biting, and wouldn’t be out of place if found on Hannibal Lecter during precarious prison transfers.

So there you have it. A head collar is NOT a muzzle and I for one will be thankful for the information the next time I’m asked to look after someone’s dogs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting with Deep Throat Lozenge to discuss the Katie Holmes issue.

NOT a head collar!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Stop Press

A young girl, who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth, was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coastguard spokesman commented, "I'm afraid this sort of thing is all too common".

(The Times)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More Of Tomorrow's News Today

For reasons that are slightly complicated to explain, the newspaper column detailed below will, I’m told, appear in tomorrow’s Daily Record rather than today’s.

I’d love to tell you that the prose is so controversial and earth shattering that lawyers have been poring over the text all day to ascertain whether it constitutes a danger to the public well-being of the.. um.. public. But that would be a blatant lie so I won’t.

I’d also love to tell you that the prose is so funny that reading it could cause serious damage to your health but that too would be slightly off the mark so I won’t.

Instead, let me just say that the reason for the delayed publication is so innocuous that it’s not worth spending another sentence talking about so I won’t.

Incidentally, if you’re not Scottish or not living in Scotland as you read this, then the so-called humour (or should that be ‘humor’?) may be a bit too parochial so I’ve tried to supplement your understanding and enjoyment with a handy glossary of terms at the foot of the page. Enjoy, or as we say here in Scotland, laugh ya b@st@rd or I’ll gub ye!

It’s a long time since I’ve been to Hampden* to see Scotland play in a World Cup* qualifying match. I think the last occasion was during the 1980s* when the team was full of names I actually recognised and we routinely handed out drubbings to such footballing minnows as Spain and Sweden. At the time, Kenny Dalglish* was still scoring wonder goals and you could just about see the game from the back of the uncovered terracing* whilst dodging a constant stream of super lager* trickling down towards the pitch – at least I think it was super lager?

So after all the recent hype about how we’re on the brink of qualifying for the next year’s finals – as long as forty eight permutations of other results go our way – I thought it was about time I rejoined the ranks of the Tartan Army* and offered my support to the campaign. This conviction was cemented last week when my Dad called and offered me the chance of a free ticket for Saturday’s game against the mighty Belamoldovskia*. And they say I’m a part time supporter!

The autumn sun was splitting the sky as I strolled towards the ground amidst a sea of tartan and ill fitting, lycra* replica shirts. Business was brisk among the touts and flag sellers although I had my doubts about one chap’s ability to offload his wares.

“Get yer ‘see you Jimmy’* hats here,” he screeched above the bustle of the crowd. “Guaranteed to get female attention.”

I could well imagine the “attention” being along the lines of “Hey look at that d#ck in the ‘see you Jimmy’ hat” so I decided not to take up his offer. Besides, I was already wearing one.

As the minutes ticked down towards kick off, the deafening PA system cranked up a notch with every passing patriotic song. By the time Mel Gibson* took up the microphone to deliver his ‘freedom’ speech from Braveheart there was a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. Before I could stop myself, the words were out. “Dad,” I gulped. “There’s real buzz about the place.”*

The game started with a flurry as the navy blue shirts swarmed forward and Kenny Whatsisname should have opened the scoring within ten seconds. Breathless, I sat back down in my seat knowing it was only a matter of time before the first goal arrived. Sure enough, a deafening silence announced the fact that the crafty Belamoldovskians had somehow breached the Scottish defence and stuck the ball away in the old onion bag*. When another of their shots crashed off the crossbar minutes later, we knew it was going to be a long first half.

Things picked up considerably at the interval though when the newly crowned Miss Scotland* took a break from her hectic schedule of securing world peace and tottered on to the pitch to present a set of new car keys to a lucky competition winner. Calls for her to replace Christian Thingmyjig in the crucial midfield holding role were only partly made in jest.

As the game resumed, the sun disappeared and dark, brooding clouds rolled over the stadium. Rain and hail* thundered down on to the pitch and the Scots, embracing the familiar conditions, managed to string together more than five passes during their best spell of the match. The optimism was short lived though as Lee McSomebody succeeded in blocking a teammate’s shot on the goal line and in doing so, ended our World Cup dream; for this year at least.

We’ll be back; better, stronger, faster than before. All we need is a proven goalscorer. Now whatever happened to Kenny Dalglish?

*Hampden – Scotland’s national sporting stadium situated on the south side of Glasgow where once upon a time, crowds of over 100,000 packed the terracing to roar their heroes on to inauspicious, nil-nil draws*.
*World Cup - This soccer tournament is the BIGGEST sporting event in the world bar none. Unlike the World Series, this event actually includes countries from all over the WORLD, i.e. Planet Earth.
*1980s – The greatest decade of them all. But you knew that already.
*Kenny Dalglish – The greatest footballer of them all.
*Terracing – Ancient architectural stadium design based on the culture of the Aztecs and Incas where people had to stand – on their own two legs – for around two hours to see a match.
*Super Lager – Like lager only ten times stronger, ergo, super.
*Tartan Army – Not a real army with guns and tanks and weapons of mass destruction, but something altogether more terrifying. The collective name for Scotland’s greatest export, their football fans.
*Belamoldovskia – Fake, Eastern European country that I made up for comic effect to underline my ignorance about who Scotland were playing. Funny, eh?
*Lycra – Material that should be banned from the physique of any Scottish football supporter over the age of 20. Not at all flattering.
*Mel Gibson – William Wallace
*“There’s a real buzz about the place” – Infamous catchphrase of former Celtic captain Paul McStay, the utterance of which inevitably sparked a catastrophic downturn of fortunes for his team.
*Old onion bag – Stereotypical television commentator euphemism for the goal net into which the ball is kicked for a goal. Obviously the conscious use of it in this article is entirely deliberate and therefore ironic and therefore even funnier. Right?
*Miss Scotland – Like Miss World but probably not as bonnie*.
*Rain and hail – One of the four seasons in each Scottish day.
*Draw – The outcome of a sporting event where nobody wins… and nobody loses. NOT popular in America.
*Bonnie – Pretty. Or “purdy” if you’re the President of the United States.
*‘See You Jimmy’ hat – National embarrassment, the background of which would be too painful and take too long to explain.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Spammers GTF

Funny thing – when I was young, I loved spam; tasty meat-like substance straight from a can. You didn’t even need cutlery ‘cause you could tear off a chunk and just chew.

But those were innocent childhood days when rationing was a fun game to play with coupons and we spent many a happy night sheltering in underground stations while Fritz and his bombers tried to lay waste to Glasgow and democracy above us. And when the dust settled and the sun came up we’d emerge and play among the ruins with a hoop and a stick or try and sell fake silk stockings to American pilots.

Now I hate f#cking spam and the spammin’ spammers who propagate it, trying to lay waste to democracy and decent minded peoples everywhere.

So if you’re one of those kind and discerning individuals who occasionally leave a comment or two here, there’s a little extra word recognition typing exercise for you to master before you publish your wise words. Apparently it keeps the spammers at bay (I read about it somewhere) so apologies for the inconvenience and don’t let it put you off. Together, we’ll be liberating Paris by the Spring.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

My Brother Made Me Do It

This is a post to a blog about a newspaper column which appears in today’s Daily Record which is all about blogs and blogging and bloggers.

I know; my head hurts too and not just because of the after effects of God knows how many bottles (and a pint?) of Stella on Saturday afternoon/evening/night.

About a year ago, my brother Stuart – a fabulously talented teacher who does amazing things with the internet which I only pretend to understand – sat me down and said to me earnestly, “Neil, if you want to be a writer, you really should get yourself a blog.” I could tell he was trying to bamboozle me with his hip techno-speak but I resisted my initial urge to deliver a swift right hook across his chin – an inalienable right of elder brothers everywhere when talking to a younger and smarter sibling.

“Tell me more,” I said through gritted teeth, trying hard to forget that this was the brother who discovered Paul Weller and Elvis Costello whilst I was learning the chords to the latest Status Quo classic. (If you’re under 25 years old and don’t have a clue who I’m talking about, think Franz Ferdinand versus... em... Status Quo?)

It turns out that “blog” is shorthand for weblog, a growing phenomenon on the internet whereby writers create their own webpage or on-line journal and document anything and everything that takes their fancy. Very few of these wordsmiths, or “bloggers” to use the correct terminology, are professional writers but instead, are just ordinary people with something to say. Their numbers are certainly growing. Recent reports estimate that in the past year alone the number of bloggers in the UK has doubled to almost 2.5 million.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Blogger. Sounds a bit like trainspotter. People – men mainly – with too much time on their hands and no-one to talk to who rarely get out in the fresh air because they’re cooped up all day chatting on-line about gigabytes and downloads. Sure, there are lots of blogs ranting on about ordinary things like cats or cars or computers but the blogging community also contains a wealth of insightful, informative and humourous writing.

In the days following the recent bombings in London, some of the most dramatic and honest accounts could be found on the blogs of ordinary commuters who experienced the ordeal first hand. One of the most famous blogs,, attracts over 55,000 readers a day and is a straightforward, but brilliantly observed narrative about what it’s like to be a mother for the first time.

And the good news for parents is that a large percentage of blogs are written by their children seeking an outlet for their creativity and inspiration. Imagine that; kids reading and writing in their spare time. Voluntarily.

So I’m here to tell you that bloggers are people too. I know this for a fact because on Saturday I met up with a crowd of them in a bar in Glasgow’s Merchant City (see how trendy we are?) and boy can these people socialise.

Rarely have I met a group of more outgoing, articulate and funny people and eight hours went by in a flash, fuelled, admittedly, with a fair amount of cold beer and red wine. Topics of discussion were many and varied and even the Doctor Who debate centred mainly on the attributes of Billie Piper rather than the technical specifications of the Tardis. Oh and before you assume it was a boys only club, half of the gathering was made up of women; the real flesh and blood kind too.

So Stuart thanks very much for educating me on the whole blog thingy (and Paul Weller) and I’m glad I didn’t punch you out. This time. I know you’re a web genius who is available for all manner of freelance internet work and if I find a way to advertise your talents in a more public medium I’ll let you know. Meantime, check out for a selection of cracking reads.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

And Then Gordon Said To Svetlana...

…something very funny about how some country or other is the most efficient at making kitchen appliances or Ipods or some such thing. You really had to be there but trust me, it was hilarious.

Trouble is, I WAS there and I know I had a good time but supping up lovely Stella Artois for eight straight hours is not gonna get me hired by the CIA for my photographic memory.

If you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about (and let’s face it, why would you) click here on these coloured words that are underlined and set off on a blogging journey that might take you who knows where.

I’ve gotta go to my bed now after working all day (okay, all afternoon) but come back on Tuesday to see if I’ve remembered any more. Doubt it though.

Oh, and if anyone can tell me why I had a baby - yes a BABY, not a ‘babe’ - on my lap in the pub last night, I’d be much obliged.