Saturday, December 31, 2005


One of the many great things about having very young nephews is that you can spend an inordinate amount of time in the Early Learning Centre playing with toys whilst pretending to be looking for Christmas gifts. The day I was there earlier this month, they had a whole train set laid out and it took me more time than in should have to muscle the pesky kids out the way so I could get a shot. One little girl ended up running crying to her mummy, but in my book, if you lay your Barbie doll across the tracks then you deserve to get what’s coming to you. I tried to explain that losing a couple of limbs wouldn’t really be painful for Barbie but she wasn’t having any of it. Tough shit kid – life can be a bitch.

Anyway, for my youngest nephew Fraser, I selected a fantastic quarry tunnel to supplement his train set and you can see here the unbounded joy in his face as his big brother Joe helps him rip off the wrapping paper to reveal the treasure trove of wonderment. He was so excited in fact, that he literally peed his panties; not the most acceptable of social graces, the blame for which I place squarely on the shoulders of the parents. The father particularly.

So here you can see the quarry tunnel in action and the look on his face is either one of blissful happiness or excruciating pain as his little fingers get caught in the trap door mechanism. I’m sure it was the former but I was surprised that his father didn’t leap into action to soak up the blood.

Later the same day we were all sitting around the family dining table sipping our 33rd British cuppa tea of the day when a curious look spread across the features of young Fraser.

“Mmm, now how I can procure more of that good train stuff from my gullible uncle,” he thought as he stroked the furry dolphin in his lap. “Sure, I can turn on the cute looks and recite the alphabet in French. Backwards. But what if I kidnapped his favourite spy Austin Powers and strung him up over a tank full of sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads. Then I could demand a ransom of one HUNDRED pounds and buy as much good train stuff as I like. Mmmwwhoarghahahahha!”

What he doesn’t know, of course, is that my favourite spy is once again James Bond so the tables will be turned and he’ll be the one that ends up with egg (and jam and butter and beans and what not) on his face.

Just before I left Englandshire to return home, I was lucky enough to get a ticket (AND a backstage pass) to see Fraser’s Rod Stewart tribute show at the local Caesar’s Palace. Here you can see him being escorted from his dressing room surrounded by a team of no-nonsense security guards and warming his tonsils with a gutsy rendition of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’. I called out to him requesting an autograph but he just blanked me and got one of his heavies – Tommy I think it was – to give me a swift kneecapping.

Thanks a lot kid. Next year I’m keeping all the chocolate buttons for myself. Mmmwwhoarghahahahha!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Happiness Is...

…going drinking in the big city with two of your best pals and sitting in a bar which is managed by your cousin so you get a ton of free drinks and then you get the last train home to another bar which locks its doors and lets you drink as late as you want, after which you walk back to the house and make home-made kebabs and find that ‘Tin Cup’ is on one of the movie channels and then you collapse on the most comfortable couch in the world, only to wake up feeling surprisingly good and then you type it all up in one sentence and pre-date it to try and cover the fact that you forgot to type something yesterday because of all the drinking and kebab-making and frantic debate about whether a certain girl from the past had a hairy arse or not.

But that’s a whole other story requiring an even longer sentence which is probably best left for another time…

Thursday, December 29, 2005


So, I arrived at my sister's in Englandshire on Christmas Eve to be greeted my little nephew Tommy and his cheeky, Bob Hoskins-like Cockney accent. "Awight Neil. Cuppa tea mate?" "Yes please," I replied as politely as possible, fearful he might string me up on a meat hook if I looked at him the wrong way.

"Listen Neil. I've been reading that bollocks you've been writing lately about people and their scarves," he continued, lighting a cigar as he spoke, "and I'm 'ere to tell ya to get over yourself. THIS is 'ow we is wearing them these days, awight? So get with the programme or get the hell off my manor! And a jolly 'oliday to yow too Mary Poppins."

Thankfully, the next few days passed peacefully as I did his bidding at every turn and bought him chocolate in all its forms wherever I could find it. But you can see the menace in his eyes in this second photo when he caught me looking at his brownie the wrong way. "Do you feel lucky punk?" he seems to be asking, daring me to even think about stealing a bite.

On Tuesday, I did indeed get the hell off his manor as I moved north to visit one of my brothers but on Wednesday there was a knock on the door and there stood Tommy. "Wot the 'ell are you doin' 'ere? I fawt I'd got ridda you. Out the way and let me play with my cousin Fraser."

And so I sat quivering, watching them play with their little trains for hours. Occasionally, they would look at each other, glance at me and start giggling in unison. As they 'pretended' that the little toy driver had fallen out of his cab 'by accident', I could tell they were thinking of me as Thomas the Tank Engine drove back and forth over the sprawled body of the little toy driver.

By the way, check out my Mum's bling and the obligatory British cuppa tea.

Tomorrow, Fraser.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Snowman

When it’s Christmas and you can’t think of anything to write about, you take comfort from the fact that you can always just post a bunch of pictures of your smiling nephews on your blog to fill up a bit of space.

But then you realise that your digital camera is from the dark ages of 2001 and refuses to talk to any other computer in the land apart from your own. Which is 300 miles away.

AND, you also remember that you’re a complete f#ckwit when it comes to technology so you fart about with your mobile phone during a family stroll in the snow and you somehow end up taking a photo of your youngest nephew Fraser when all you were trying to do was check the time.

AND as you try and delete it, you end up spending £300+ in text messages sending it to everyone in your address book.

But luckily it somehow arrives in your in-box so you cut and paste and rename and reformat and do the hockey cokey and turn around and before you know it you’ve managed to upload some grainy image to your blog, and that’s what it’s all about. Hey!

Probably more of the same tomorrow. And the next day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wow, What A Lovely Gift

The story that I wrote for the newspaper this week suggests that I didn’t like or appreciate the gift I received from a secret Santa colleague at work. Nothing could be further from the truth of course as it will come in very handy in the future whenever I can’t think of things to write about. Which is most weeks as it happens. I genuinely don’t know who purchased the gift but I’m very grateful for it and the story that follows is obviously fabricated for comic effect. That was the intention anyway.

Last week, during the twelve hour food and drink binge that constituted our office Christmas ‘lunch’, there came the time to open presents received under our not-so-secret-Santa gift exchange programme. In the past, this has always been one of those grin-and-bear-it moments for me when I end up with something that was either intended for someone else (chocolate penis anyone?) or was picked up at the local petrol station at the last moment (jumbo-sized sponge and a disposable barbeque).

This year however, I was more hopeful. For weeks now I’ve been dropping obvious hints that I’d quite like one of those new fangled iPod thingys and was confident my Santa would be able to stretch his or her £10 budget in a creative way to meet my needs. Then, as one of Scotland’s foremost fashion leaders, I would be able to write about the iPod trend in this column and let you know whether I think it has any future or not in modern society. (I think not.)

As the gifts were distributed, my excitement increased to near pants-wetting levels as an iPod-shaped parcel headed my way. It was heavy and rectangular and it didn’t rattle so I shut my eyes, tore off the wrapping paper and uncovered… a book!

“Wow, a book!” I exclaimed through all the grinning and bearing and as I turned it over I was praying it would have a title along the lines of ‘An Idiot’s Guide to Surviving in Modern Society Without an iPod’. My grin didn’t slip an inch as I casually announced, “Wow, the Best Book of Useless Information EVER. Thanks very much Santa.”

As I excused myself to go and conduct a ten minute weeping session in the office toilets, my mind was racing about the long term consequences of this injustice. What was I going to write about now? How would the general public be able to make an informed choice about this iPod phenomenon if I wasn’t there to guide them through it? No way could I now just assault the senses of readers with these obscure facts published in handy, easy to follow subject headings.

Like the chapter dedicated to The Beatles for example. Who in their right mind would want to learn that at the end of ‘A Day In The Life’, an ultrasonic whistle, audible only to dogs, was recorded by Paul for his Shetland sheepdog? And would people really be sent rushing to their CD collection if I was to tell them that at exactly 2.58 seconds into ‘Hey Jude’, you can hear John say in the background, ‘I f***ed it up’?

Then there was the chapter covering injuries and illnesses. I could just imagine the torrent of supplementary questions I’d receive if I was to reveal that in 1992, 5,840 people checked into emergency rooms with ‘pillow-related injuries’. Or the fact that breast reduction is the most common plastic surgery performed on American men.

As well as the short and snappy facts, this chapter contained cautionary tales which are also best left unrepeated. Like the story of the woman in Germany who came home to find her husband in the kitchen shaking frantically with what looked like a wire running from his waist towards the electric kettle. Intending to jolt him away from the deadly current, she whacked him with a handy plank of wood breaking his arm in two places. Until that moment, he had been happily listening to his Walkman. Didn’t I tell you iPods have no future?

So no, I won’t be bothering you this week with any trivia from my secret Santa gift. Instead, let me tell you about the new book I’m writing. It’s called ‘An Idiot’s Guide to…’

Monday, December 26, 2005

Whit's THAT Aw Aboot? 2

Boxing Day. Whit’s THAT aw aboot? Boxing? Day?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Thank You Santa

I must have been a real good boy this year 'cause I got socks! And a golf hat. AND Cadbury's chocolate buttons. Life is good.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Maybe Next Year

I had a whole week’s worth of blogging exclusives mapped out in my head but the week came and went and there was hardly time to scratch my arse never mind spank my penguin. Or type stuff.

The disclosures were going to tell of my recent discovery of an ancient blog; some 2,000 years old written by a simple man called Joe. Admittedly, my ancient Aramaic is a bit rusty but translating the worn parchments has been a revelation of biblical proportions – an insightful insight into the lives of an ancient people living in ancient times but enduring similar day-to-day stresses and dilemmas to those we still experience today. Things such as…

· How securing last minute travel and accommodation deals at this time of year can be a real bitch.
· Having to grin and bear it when unexpected visitors arrive unannounced dragging with them their precious pets and bringing crap gifts that they’ve obviously picked up as an afterthought at the trading station down the road. I mean frankincense for Christ’s sake. What is THAT all about?
· And why is it that your moody wife, who’s always complaining of headaches, doesn’t have a reasonable explanation as to why she’s knocked up.

Joey tells it all in far more lyrical and articulate prose than I can replicate in this short time slot so I’ll make it my project for 2006 and publish the Nazareth diaries in full this time next year.

Meantime, I’m hopping a flight in a few hours so it only remains for me to wish you all a very happy Christmas. Oh, and please don’t rob my house while I’m away.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Spanking The Penguin

Well, did you get caught spanking the penguin at work today? Just after lunch, I endured the following conversation at my desk with my pal Jimmy.

Neil: “What the fuck do you want? Eh…sorry. I mean how’s it goin’ Jimmy? Merry Christmas mate.”
Jimmy: “I was actually looking for Elaine. But since I’m here let me tell you that I got 323 spanking the penguin today.”
Neil: “Bollocks, you’re talking shite man! My pal Wendi in Texas holds the record and that’ll never be beaten.”
Jimmy: “I’m telling ya. 323. No problem.”
Neil: “Jimmy, have you no got work to do? I’m no even meant to be in today and I’m up to my eyes in it. Now piss off and leave us alone.”
Jimmy (shuffling towards the door muttering under his breath and punching the office “swear box” as he passed): “Three hundred and twenty fucking three. I’ll fucking show him.”

An hour goes by and before I know it, I hear the unmistakable limping noise of Jimmy and his club foot lunging frantically towards me again.

Jimmy: “THERE! I fucking told you.”

And sure enough, there he was clutching a piece of paper showing a score of 323.4. Which means he must have…

1. Shuffled furiously back to his desk.
2. Grabbed his mouse in frustration.
3. Indulged in an intense, one-hour’s worth of penguin spanking.
4. FINALLY beaten the current record.
5. Taken a screen print of the victorious score.
6. Blew it up to a more visible size.
7. Sent it to print.
8. Tore it out of the printer before it finished printing.
9. Shuffled his way back to my desk.
10. Slapped it down in front of me in triumph.

Or else he photo-shopped the whole thing. Sorry Wendi but the poor quality photograph below does indeed shows the offending paper and the 323.4 score.

Five minutes later young Craig in my team claimed to have scored 328 but alas, he didn’t abide by the new rules and his failure to capture it in print means it remains forever unqualified. I can’t decide which is sadder – the highest score without proof or ANY score with proof!

22.59 Update: Jimmy, read it and weep pal! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Aaaaaand, He's Outta Here!

12.25pm: Right, admit it! You're sitting in the office pretending to do some work and watching the clock tick slowly towards the time when you'll finally finish up for the holidays. "If only I had an amusing pastime in which to indulge," you ponder, "so that the time passes quickly and I get myself into the holiday spirit."

Well ponder no more because courtesy of my good friend Poochie (he's a 12 foot rabbit) you'll soon be off and running and you'll never look back.

1. Click on the link below.
2. Click snowman once and the penguin will leap from the cliff
3. Click snowman again to hit the penguin as he descends. (Top tip: For maximum performance, it’s not about how hard or fast you do it, it’s all about finding the optimum angle of attack. Good advice at ANY time!)
4. What's your distance?

Click Here!

PS No animals were hurt in the making of this game!

5.25pm Update: I met Poochie this afternoon and told him proudly that my top score of the day was 321.9. “Nae luck mate,” he replied, “I got 322.” Smart arse.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Shortest day + longest hangover = not very chatty…

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ho, Ho, H...zzzzzz

Last week I was sent something funny which I blatantly stole and put in these pages. On Sunday, I blatantly stole it again, rehashed it and sent it to the newspaper as if it was my own. And now I’m too embarrassed/lazy/tired/pissed off to post it again.

So if you’d like to read it click here.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I will mostly be spending today getting shitfaced.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's A Moo Point 2

I received an email the other day from a Shuggy Campbell of Polmontshire who typed, “Neil. As an expert in all things cultural and one of the great social commentators of our time, what’s your view on Christmas songs and also the use of the word ‘Xmas’?”.

First of all Shuggy, asking me to come up with two different opinions in the one day, albeit on related subjects, is something I usually save for long periods of unemployment filled with multiple afternoon naps. But since you ask, here goes.

Christmas songs – honestly, I can take them or leave them. Having not scrutinised the pop charts/hit parade for at least 15 years, I couldn’t tell you what “Christmas” songs have battled for the coveted No.1 spot in recent times. Like all other musical genres, very few are genuinely good, most are average but forgettable and the rest are dirge.

As for the so-called classics, rather than spend 20 paragraphs listing all the ones I despise (Slade, Wizard, Boney M, Jona Lewie etc.) let me tell you about the ones I like. In no particular order...

· All those Phil Spector-produced ones from the 60s.
· Anything by Frank, Nat, Bing etc.
· Any and every Christmas carol – best melodies ever written!
· John Lennon’s war effort just pips Paul McCartney’s jingly one on this occasion.
· Pogues & Kirsty Maccoll
· Simon & Garfunkel’s Silent Night – stunning!
(Even more stunning was a version of this I once saw on ‘TFI Friday’ performed by one of those colliery brass bands. Peerless. Apart from the version I once witnessed in the Sydney Harbour Opera House.)
· Mud – Lonely This Christmas
· The Eagles – Please Come Home For Christmas
· Brooooce – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.
· The Signals – We Wish You A Wombling Merry Christmas

…and at the risk of suffering utter humiliation…

· Cliff – Mistletoe and Wine
· Johnny Mathis – When A Child Is Born

If you play this latter one alongside Abba’s ‘Money, Money, Money’ and Showaddywaddy’s ‘Under The Moon of Love’, I’m instantly transported back to the 1st Year Christmas Disco in High School – that’s the one I DIDN’T get expelled from!

As for the use of the word ‘Xmas’, I used to try and avoid using it at all times because I believed it was yet another example of society’s headlong descent into cultural oblivion. But then I read something on another blog where someone made an argument that it was, in fact based on some long respected, historical throwback to a simpler age which was steeped in history and respect. So I changed my opinion to one of total ambivalence. Use it, don’t use it. As Frank McAvenie would say, it’s water off a duck’s shoulders to me.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sunday Competition

Exactly two years ago today I was here (see photo below) taking this photo that you see below. If any of you eagle-eyed readers can guess the location (or even if you take the time to submit a ridiculous guess) a fantastic prize could be winging its way to you before you can say ‘too late for the Christmas post’.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Friday, December 16, 2005

The Party

FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 5th December 2005
SUBJECT: Christmas Party
I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23rd, starting at noon in the private function room at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols so please feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if the Marketing Director shows up dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1.00pm. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over £10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets.

Merry Christmas to you and your family


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 6th December 2005
SUBJECT: Holiday Party
In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognise that Chanukah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we're calling it our “Holiday Party”. The same policy applies to other employees who are not Christians. There will be no Christmas tree or Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment. Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family.


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 7th December 2005
SUBJECT: Holiday Party
Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table - you didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request but if I put a sign on a table that reads, "AA Only", you wouldn't be anonymous anymore, now would you?!? How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody?
Forget about the gift exchange since the Union officials feel that £10.00 is too much money and Management believe £10.00 is a little cheap. NO GIFT EXCHANGE WILL BE ALLOWED.


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 8th December 2005
SUBJECT: Holiday Party
What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20th begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party - or else package everything up for you to take home in a little foil doggy bag. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the toilets. Gays are allowed to sit with each other, lesbians do not have to sit with gay men and each will have their own table. Yes, there will be flower arrangements for the gay men's table too. To the person asking permission to cross dress - NO cross dressing allowed. We will have booster seats for short people. Low fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food so we suggest those people with high blood pressure taste the food first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for diabetics; the restaurant cannot supply "No Sugar" desserts.

Sorry! Did I miss anything?!?!?


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Fucking Employees
DATE: 9th December 2005
SUBJECT: Fucking Holiday Party
Vegetarian pricks - I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death", as you so quaintly put it. You'll get your fucking salad bar, including organic tomatoes. But you know tomatoes have feelings too - they scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing the scream right NOW!! I hope you all have a rotten holiday. Drink, drive and die!

The Bitch from HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FROM: John Bishop - Acting Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: 12th December 2005
SUBJECT: Pauline Lewis and Holiday Party
I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pauline Lewis a speedy recovery, and I'll continue to forward your cards to her. In the meantime, Management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and instead, give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd December off with full pay.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Now You See It...

As you get older, it’s important that you keep your mind active so that the cognitive functions remain well oiled and help stem the inevitable onset of Alzheimer’s. If you don’t, you’re liable to drift off the subject in the blink of an eye and start rambling about some irrelevant pet hate or childhood trauma. Like the time I was at school and a financial reward system for passing exams was implemented in our household. Trouble was, it was implemented a year AFTER I’d already passed a bunch of exams and no retrospective backdating mechanism was put in place to catch this scandalous loophole which in turn could have resulted in long term psychological damage. Like Alzheimer’s. I mean that’s hardly fair is it? And it wasn’t as if I was asking for a graduation car or a pony or anything. Just a couple of hours of daylight a day as respite from the darkness of my ‘basement bedroom’. Perhaps even a walk round the back yard for some fresh air. Or a stimulating conversation now and again. Or even an inquisitive “How’s it going?”

Anyway, where was I? Active mind, that’s right. This seems to be more important for men who, according to experts, i.e. women, are not the greatest multi-taskers in the world. Glossing over the fact that I still haven’t completed my big book of Su Doku, I’ve managed to find an alternative that fits all my mind-activating needs. Let me stress that I didn’t go looking for this – it was recommended to me by my good friend Bruce who knows about such things. So if you too would like to undertake my new mental stimulation ‘workout’, click here on these green words that are underlined. And remember, it was Bruce who found this. And then ran away.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I Can See Clearly Now...

One of the benefits of working for a large, multinational conglomerate is that they often provide services free of charge that you’d otherwise have to pay for. Drugs, porn, farmyard animals, lap-dancers and handguns are just a few of the things yet to make the list so meantime we have to make do with more mundane courtesies– like eye tests.

I’ve never needed to wear glasses or contact lenses but it’s been a long time since I’ve had my eyes tested and lately they’ve given me some cause for concern. Like the fact that I can’t believe my eyes when everyone I see walking around seems to have exactly the same scarf tied in exactly the same way.

So on Monday, an optometrist was visiting our office to conduct free eye tests (and very nice she was too) so I wandered along to get checked out/check her out. When all the reading tests and different lens tests and (very) close examination with a Men In Black-type bright light thingy were concluded, she said to me, “Well there’s certainly nothing wrong with your eyes. In fact for someone your age you have bionic vision.”

It took great strength of will for me not to leer at her chest and answer, “Bionic’s fine. But how do I get the X-ray version?”

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Long Time Ago...

I had a whole fantasy preamble thing planned about how some stranger/psycho called me up/approached me in a bar to sell me the rights to this previously undiscovered Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. It was going to be filled/padded out with hilarious references to/weak jokes about how he’d sold the Hitler Diaries to The Sunday Times/written the WOMD report for Tony Blair but in the end I couldn’t make it work/be arsed finishing it.

Still, at least I remembered most of the tale as told to me so have your tissues at the ready (no, it’s not THAT type of story Dave/Andy) as we journey through a cloud of dry ice to a magical place for a seasonal saga of loss and redemption.

Once upon a time, in a mystical little galaxy called Falkirk far far away, there lived a boy called Neil. Although he was the oldest of four children, he never abused his position as the golden child of the family and always treated his siblings with much love and respect. It never ever crossed his mind to fight with them or covet the gifts they were given for birthdays and Christmas – even the time when one of his brothers received the complete replica football kit he had dreamt of owning for many a month.

Neil was a happy boy and enjoyed going to school where he would flirt with the girls and skin his knees constantly because he wasn’t allowed to wear long trousers. He also liked to sing in the choir and one day his teacher told him that the school was due to take part in a great festival of music.

And so it came to pass that choirs of children from all across the land assembled in the illustrious Town Hall to compete for the grand first prize. Just before his school were due to sing, Neil approached his teacher sheepishly and said, “Please sir. If we win today, can I go up on stage to collect the trophy?”

His teacher smiled warmly and replied, “Of course Neil. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see a non-competitive and modest person like yourself represent the school in that manner.”

Neil’s school choir sent their angelic voices soaring to the ceiling of the illustrious Town Hall and when the master of ceremonies made the announcement they were indeed awarded the grand first prize. With a nod from his teacher, Neil scuttled through the crowds of people to the steps leading up to the stage. As he neared the top he could see the gleaming trophy and reached out to grab it. But in his haste, his foot caught on the last step and he fell flat on his face, sprawled across the stage as howls of derision echoed around the hall.

Not even the glow of the trophy nestled in his arms could help dispel the laughter of the crowd as Neil returned to his seat. In an instant his heart turned to ice and he vowed never to return to the illustrious Town Hall and its wicked stage of doom.

Many years passed until one cold Saturday in December when Neil got a call from his friend Donald. “Listen mate. I know this might be difficult but my daughter Mhairi is appearing in the Children’s Theatre production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen at the illustrious Town Hall and, well, I think you might enjoy it.”

“Never!” thought Neil quietly to himself. “I will wear a scarf in a ridiculously stylish manner before I ever set foot inside that place again.” But Donald was known to make the world’s best pizza and he had once bought Neil a Malibu & pineapple so Neil decided to humour him a little and return to the scene of his darkest hour.

As the lights dimmed in the illustrious Town Hall, the wicked stage of doom filled up with what seemed like thousands of enthusiastic children, perfectly choreographed and resplendent in their costumes of many colours. As they performed one astounding original song after another, Neil started to feel a sharp burning sensation in his chest and assumed that either the memories of old had returned to torment him or he had guzzled Donald’s chilli pizza WAY too quickly?

But as he absorbed the remarkable results of hours of selfless dedication, creativity and infinite joy he realised that something much more significant was happening. His heart of ice was beginning to melt. As the wonderful, talented children (of whom Mhairi was the most wonderful and talented) took their final bow he leapt from his seat and screamed “Bella! Bella!” unconcerned that he was the only one doing so. And with his childhood trauma now extinguished, he lived happily ever after. Until the twelfth of never. And that’s a long, long time.

The End.

Can you believe the newspaper prints this stuff?

Monday, December 12, 2005

That Will Be The Week, That Will

It’s another action packed week ahead here at the corporate headquarters of neilwritestheworld as the countdown to the holidays counts down ever closer. To the holidays.

Tomorrow, we’ll be exclusively publishing a previously undiscovered fairy tale from the quill of Danish uber-storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. A rare scoop indeed.

Later in the week I’ll be answering some of your emails and giving you my glib opinion on a wide ranging range of subjects in another enthralling episode of “It’s A Moo Point.”

Popular feature “Whit’s THAT Aw Aboot” will also make a welcome return as it once again casts it's critical eye over the social, cultural and spiritual topics of the week whilst reiterating the argument that change of any kind is not good.

And if space allows, there may also be a fabulous new fashion section containing digitally airbrushed photos of myself as I demonstrate all the new scarf wearing possibilities for the winter season.

Output may diminish towards the end of the week as the staff here at corporate headquarters indulges in their 48-hour Christmas party celebrations. Mince pies and champagne have been ordered and the guys from Canon have been on site to structurally reinforce all photocopiers for what is traditionally their most rigorous workout of the year.

So strap yourselves in, keep limbs inside the safety barrier at all times and scream if you wanna go faster.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Color Problem Recognized. Assistance Required.

Much as I love the idiosyncratic way that our American cousins treat the English language, I’m getting a bit annoyed with all the words that get highlighted in red because of apparent misspelling when I’m typing something in Word. I know there’s probably an easy way to change the underlying language rules to avoid things being changed to humor, center, favorite, etc. (plus a whole of bunch of other words that seem to require a ‘z’) but I just can’t be bothered digging around to find out how to do it. Any helpful advice would be much appreciated.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Well You Can Tell By The Way I Use My Walk...

I walked down the High Street of my old home town today for the first time on a Saturday in a very long time. It’s a surreal place where much has changed since my youth but it doesn’t actually look much different. I always get strange flashbacks and expect to meet people I grew up with who will look exactly the same as they did 25 years ago. Of course I forget that they are now the ones who have the kids and less hair and bulkier frames so I probably passed a ton of them unknowingly today. Although that doesn’t explain how did they didn’t recognise me since I haven’t changed a bit?

Anyway, had today been 25 years ago I would have... cue strange Scooby Doo flashback-type sequence

· Spent the morning flicking between Swap Shop and Tiswas to eye up Sally James and see if anyone wanted to swap their Police concert tickets for, say, one of my siblings? After which I would have…
· Played a table tennis league match with my good pals Al and Robin and then bailed out early before the doubles match so I could…
· Click my way along the pavement in my cool grey boots with the little flashy gold tips around the toes on my way to…
· The York Café for a plate of unfeasibly large and greasy chips and an eyeful of tasty waitresses, having already…
· Roamed the shelves of Bruce’s Record Shop where I probably picked up the latest, fashion-bending Billy Joel or ELO which I would then…
· Play incessantly on my ‘music centre’ all night after having enjoyed a hearty family meal of Campbell’s Meatballs and Findus Crispy Pancakes (curry flavour). Mmmmmmmm...

Friday, December 09, 2005

It's A Moo Point 1

TFI Friday so time for some not-particularly-festive quick-fire rants, reactions and reviews.

First up, the reviews and in the crosshairs this week – television.

Seriously Good
Bleak House, Broken News, Lost, The West Wing, Grey’s Anatomy (anyone know if there’s gonna be a 2nd season?), The Amazing Race, Shakespeare Retold, The Big Break IV, The Daily Show, The Sopranos repeats.

Seriously God Awful
Strictly Come Dancing (bollocks), The X Factor (unspeakable), I’m A Celebrity... (unwatchable), Little Britain (pukable), Parkinson (sycophantic dirge).

Undecided But Fading Fast
Rome, Space Cadets.

Second up, the reaction. The Conservative Party elected themselves a new leader this week and… zzzzzzzzz… sorry, not interested.

Finally, the rant. If you were one of those people in the news recently protesting against the (possible) resurrection of nuclear power stations can you please explain to me your alternatives. Water? Wind? By the way, I LOVE the sight of all those big wind machines across the countryside. Rather than scarring the landscape I think they enhance it tenfold. But that’s just one guy’s opinion. Or moo point if you will. Back to the issue at hand.

Coal WILL eventually run out. Oil WILL eventually run out. If you don’t want your kids fighting each other at petrol stations in 50 years time (or, God forbid, going to war to secure oil reserves) it’s time to start harnessing the power of the atom. Not only is it a potential source of UNLIMITED energy, the quicker we get on board with finding a safe way to use it, the quicker we’ll invent Warp Speed and the lightsaber. And I think we’d all agree that would be a very fine thing indeed.

If you have a favourite subject you’d like analysed quickly and glibly, send your suggestion to “It’s A Moo Point” at

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Auld Reekie

I finally ventured to the shops in the centre of Edinburgh (or 'Edinborororo' for you Americans) tonight and what a classy place it is this time of year. Cold enough to warrant a scarf tied up in a loose fitting, Euro-bohemian, fancy-pants type of way but not so cold that your nipples are permanently on the lookout for glass to cut.

There’s an outdoor German market selling 18th century wooden toys (whit’s THAT all aboot?), an ice rink where drunk office workers have accidents after happy hour and a big wheel with flashing lights and a half decent Christmas soundtrack – Frank was singing when I passed.

All in all, very Christmasy and unlike Bono, I DID manage to find what I was looking for.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Birthday Rona & Keith

Today is the 37th birthday of my little sister Rona and my little brother Keith. They’re twins, believe it or not, and as you can see from the photographs they sure do grow up fast. I was four and a half years old when my folks brought them home from the hospital and I can still remember that day like it was yesterday.

As they came through the front door I rushed into the hallway in excitement and greeted them with some tender and touching brotherly words. “Two? TWO? Whadya mean there’s feckin’ TWO of them? That wasn’t the deal. Take one back. NOW! No, I don’t care which one just DO IT. What was that? Pizza for dinner? Okay, they can stay then.”

They’ve grown up a lot since then of course (well, Rona has) and I’ve groomed them in the ways of the world and sent them forth to reap success wherever they may find it. It’s a long time since they both lived in Scotland but they still love to come home for the holidays and never tire of asking me to tell them the exciting stories of my life and all the magnificent achievements I’ve managed to… achieve.

“You’re such a cool brother to have,” they chirp excitedly in unison in that cute twins way of theirs. “We’re so glad you’re the oldest and the No.1 child in the family.” Shucks, bless ‘em.

Anyway, these are my favourite photographs of them both and I took them everywhere with me when I was traveling round the world a while back. On the lonelier nights, I’d sit and look at this bottom one and imagine the conversation they were having at the time. I can’t say for certain but I’m pretty sure it would’ve been in the ballpark of…

Keith: “Tee hee hee. I’ve wet my pants again.”

Rona: “Arse!”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

And The Winner Is...

Wow! What can I say? The response to yesterday’s headline competition was *gulp* overwhelming. I’ve only now finished sifting through all the email entries and boy, are you lot a creative bunch.

I particularly liked the style of Mr. Juan Kerr of Madrid who suggested the touching “You’re A Starbucks Whore! Bitch!” And also Big D. of Silicon Valley who proposed “ENLARGE IT SATISFY HER” - I took this to mean that he was suggesting I try a venti-sized coffee rather than a grande but he may well have been writing to me on another subject.

Many thanks go to Donald and Lesley for their sterling efforts. You were close but in the end I’m awarding the first prize of an unlimited stay in my spare room to a Ms. E MacPherson of Melbourne, Australia who came up with the snappy “Whotta Lotta Choca Toppa Mocha Shocka!” Brilliant stuff and yes dear, if you insist on wearing your bikini round the house, that’ll be fine.

Oh, and if you’re interested, the real headline in the paper today was “I’m A Sucker For The Festive Coffee Thing”… *cue whistling breeze and whispering tumbleweed*

Monday, December 05, 2005

Competition Corner

Are you feeling lucky? Well are you? If so, I thought we’d try a wee competition today with a fabulous prize at stake so have your pens/keyboard fingers at the ready as I outline the rules.

Every Sunday afternoon around five o’clock, I file my column (not sure I’m too comfortable with that turn of phrase) with the Daily Record. The sub-editors at the newspaper check it for spelling and grammar and such like and then add a snappy, eye-catching headline with a view, presumably, to summing up the content in a few short words and leaving the reader wanting to know more.

For example, last week’s article about the imminent reunion of The Signals, the greatest rock ‘n roll band in the world let’s remember, was accompanied by the succinct “Band reunion Signals shock for chart rivals.” Note the clever use of the band name now turned into a verb.

The week before when I was outlining my audition process for potential lodgers, the prose was introduced with the slightly deranged-sounding “Don’t bother me – unless you’ve a bikini.”

I have no idea what they’re going to come up with till I read the piece on a Tuesday and to be honest, it’s never crossed my mind to try and suggest a headline. But perhaps you’d like to have a go.

So reproduced below is the article I submitted yesterday (and yes, I admit I stole most of it from a post here months ago) so you now have a full 24 hours to come up with an appropriate headline. If, like me, you can read this at work but cannot access Blogger, you can always submit your answer to You can enter as many times as you like and the winner will be the one I choose to be the winner based on whatever winning criteria I come up with later today.

As for the fabulous prize – a full week’s free lodging in my spare room, no bikinis required.

Starting my Christmas shopping at 10am on the first Saturday in December seemed like such a great idea at the time. There was still three full weeks till the big day, I surmised, so the shops wouldn’t be too busy yet. And even though I hadn’t made a list or put any thought into what I was going for, I was confident that inspiration would be forthcoming and I would acquire all I needed in a quick couple of hours.

By 10.30am however, I had abandoned all hopes of ever shopping again and had retreated to the safe confines of a famous multinational coffee retailer in an attempt to temper a strong desire to punch my fellow shoppers.

I have to say at this point that I’m a complete sucker for the coffee experience provided by this famous multinational retailer. Many’s the time I’ve wiled away an hour or four in their outlets throughout the world, seduced by the heady combination of sipping overpriced beverages and listening to Norah Jones.

The urge to indulge is especially potent at this time of year as they tempt you inside with their limited edition festive flavours – the choca toppa mocha with a hint of holly and reindeer is a particular favourite.

Here in the UK, we still appear a little unschooled in the nuances of ordering our drinks. Not surprising really when you realise that with all the different sizes, flavourings and number of espresso shots, there are 190,000 possible permutations of the coffee experience to be had. One thing is consistent however – the average male customer in this country seems totally devoid of the necessary etiquette to order a coffee successfully. They come in all shapes and guises.

There’s the first-time bluffer who ignores the menu board and tries to bluster his way through the ordering process, usually at a high volume.


As soon as he’s paid, he instantly forgets what it was he ordered and will grab the first exotic sounding drink he hears called out at the other end of the counter. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to wrench my coffee from the sweaty hands of this over-eager idiot.

At the other end of the customer spectrum there’s the nervous male customer who scrutinises the menu board for an interminable amount of time but then loses heart and whispers, “Em, just this bottle of water please... and a chocolate muffin.”

Lying somewhere between the two is the guy I witnessed on Saturday who wants to try the coffee experience but doesn’t quite know where to start.

Barista: “Yes sir, what can I get you?”
Man: “I’d like one of your caffè lattes please, white not black.”
Barista: “The latte IS white sir. It’s made with steamed milk.”
Man: “Really? That’s fine then.”
Barista: “For here or to go?”
Man: “Em, yes. Right away if you don’t mind.”
Barista: “What size would you like?”
Man: “Eh, small thanks.”
Barista: “A tall?”
Man: “No, no just that little cup there.”
Barista: “That’s a tall sir. It’s the smallest size we have for a latte.”
Man: “Oh right. On second thoughts I’ll just have tea.”

So close and yet so far.

Anyway, after finishing the last of my choca toppa mocha on Saturday I was ready to head for home when inspiration finally arrived. Don’t tell my family but there’s a fair chance they could be opening their parcels on Christmas morning to find a gift or two from the shelves of a famous multinational coffee retailer.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunday Statistical Supplement

Can you imagine working for a company that has little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics? Who could it possibly be?

· 29 have been accused of spousal abuse.
· 7 have been arrested for fraud.
· 19 have been accused of writing bad cheques.
· 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses.
· 3 have done time for assault.
· 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit.
· 14 have been arrested on drug related charges.
· 8 have been arrested for shoplifting.
· 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits.
· 84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year.

Say hello to the 535 members of the Unites States Congress, chief lawmakers of this land that was made for you and me.

I confess that I didn’t research this satirical scoop since it was included in a letter – an ACTUAL letter written on ACTUAL paper no less – sent to me by my Uncle Hamish in Illinois. (His wife Annie makes the best breakfast in America by the way.) As you can see though, that hasn’t stopped me publishing it nor will it stop me taking the credit when the inevitable phone call from the Daily Show arrives offering me a six figure sum to take over as Head Writer.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Saturday Science Summary

I was going to write a deep and meaningful piece about love, grief, weakness and football after watching the extraordinary television pictures of George Best’s funeral this morning. But it’s Saturday and I had an important visit to make to see my pals Megan & Jamie where I learnt the far more important lessons of how to eat ice cream with my fingers and how to create and live in an entire world made only of cardboard boxes.

So instead of any wordy or worthy rhetoric, here’s some fascinating findings published recently and forwarded to me by text by a good friend in the medical profession.

A recent scientific study revealed that women find male faces attractive depending on where they are in their menstrual cycle. For example, when a woman is ovulating she prefers a man with rugged, masculine features. And when she’s menstruating she prefers a man doused in petrol with scissors stuck in his eye and a golf club jammed tight up his arse.

Who knew?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Whit's THAT Aw Aboot? 1

The first law of getting older is that things you once accepted without question become more confusing and alien to your fragile (and increasingly senile) sensibilities. Teenagers for example. And that crap “music” they listen to. And their stupid dress sense. And the unintelligible “language” they mumble. And people who have too much hand luggage on airplanes. And automatic ticket barriers at railway stations. And people who put their toilet roll under rather than over… you get the idea.

It’s at times like these you need a short and snappy phrase to sum up your shock, awe and utter bewilderment and to complement the scrunched up frown and deformed sneer that hijacks your face.

And thanks to my good pal Sharon at work, I now have one. At the slightest hint of an intrusive event or situation that threatens to challenge our accepted view of the world, we’ll look at each other with jaws agape and shoulders shrugged and bellow, “…insert ludicrous scenario… Whit’s THAT aw aboot?”

Of course we’ve now taken this to extremes and have ended up using the phrase wantonly to brighten our day at every opportunity. Just the other week I came off the phone and… ha, ha, ha, it was hilarious so stop me if you’ve heard it before… I turned to Sharon and said, “The weekly PTP report is now due on a Monday! In triplicate! Whit’s THAT aw aboot?” How we laughed at this crazy, mixed up world.

Anyway, all of this serves as a preface to the real burning issue I wanted to talk about. Which is…

...that fancy-pants way that people now wear their scarves. Whit’s THAT aw aboot?”

This will be the first time in three years I’ve spent a full winter in Scotland so the fancy-pants way that people now wear their scarves stands out to me like a sore thumb that’s been whacked with a big hammer and is now throbbing twice it’s size in a cartoon-like fashion.

You must have seen it. It involves folding your scarf in half, wrapping it round your neck and slotting the loose ends through the loop made by the fold in the middle. It’s incredible. EVERYBODY seems to wear it like that now. And even more incredible is the fact that 99% of people who wear their scarves like that have the loop coming over their left shoulder and the loose ends coming over their right.

So here’re my questions. Who invented it? Why did it start? When did it start? Where did it start? How did it start? Why can’t men carry it off with any style whatsoever (seriously guys, you're scarves are WAY too short so it looks like you’ve had a Michelin Man neck surgically added to your shoulders)? What’s next? Woolly hats WITHOUT bobbles? The world’s gone mad.

If anyone can bring my scarves education up to par by telling me “what that is all about”, I’d be much obliged. And now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’m away for a lie down.

Coming soon: Light/Lite beer. Whit’s THAT aw aboot?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Baby I'm Ready To Go

On your marks? Ready? Aaaaaand… we’re off on the great sociological experiment of our time – which is, can I manage/be bothered to write something on this blog every day for a whole calendar month. Along the way we’ll no doubt be stopping at fascinating places such as Lonesome Town and Triviaville and we’ll be analysing and commenting on the burning issues of the day in a new feature entitled “Whit’s THAT Aw Aboot?” But more on that one tomorrow.

I thought we’d also partake in a few music, television and movie reviews over the coming weeks. For example, I saw that weird Meg Ryan film “In The Cut” the other night and absolutely hated it; DESPITE all the naughty bits. Whit’s THAT Aw Aboot? Sorry. Getting ahead of myself now and mixing up my new feature sections.

Of course there’s also scope to indulge in travel reports (don’t go to Lima!), recipes (pizza good), jokes (why is there no asprin in the jungle? cos the parrots eat ‘em all!), weather outlooks (Hurricane James made landfall last night and was downgraded to Hurricane Jim) and much, much more.

Please don’t be shy on offering your comments and feedback as we take this great journey together and if there’s any subject on which you’d like to hear my wise and learned opinion, then let me know and I’ll include it another exciting new section called “It’s A Moo Point – Like A Cow’s Opinion – It Doesn’t Matter – It’s Moo.”

Lest we forget, we’re embarking on this quest, this mission, this expedition, so that my good friend, young Dave “Poochie” Carruthers, has something to read in his spare/work time and will therefore avoid developing repetitive strain injury in his right wrist – he’s a big fan of Pro Evolution Soccer on the Commodore Xbox Game Boy thingy, so he tells me.

See you same time tomorrow. Hopefully.