Monday, July 31, 2006

Au Revoir? No Neil, It's Goodbye!

Synchronicity I
Last Wednesday when I was cleaning the house, I noticed my contract with the Daily Record was due to expire on August 1st. At first I swithered about reminding them in case they’d forgotten but eventually, after two unsuccessful phone calls, I dropped them an email to see if they fancied renewing it with an unfeasibly large jump in salary. Ho, ho, ho.

About an hour later, a comment appeared on this blog from a girl called Lindsay whose column space (oooer missus) in the newspaper I took over last year. Her nice words (you can read them here) concluded with the phrase “keep up the good work”.

About an hour after THAT, the Features Editor from the newspaper called me (in the middle of my nap I might add) to let me know that my email had pre-empted her call and there was some changes in the offing; new blood and what not and she really did like my writing style and everything… oh, and whatever you do, please keep in touch with any ideas and so on but for now, next week’s column will be the last.

Fair enough I thought, that’s the nature of the business but a bit weird that I should hear from Lindsay on the same day don’t you think? Unless of course she knew all along? And the comment was part of her fiendish masterplan to take over once again? Aaah, I’m on to your oh-so-clever game now little missy and I will stop at nothing to reclaim my rightful position… oh bollocks to that. It’ll be nice to have Sundays off – along with all the other days of the week I have off at the moment.

Anyway as a special treat for both of you loyal internet readers, (and because my computer at home doesn't work) the final column is reproduced below, a day or so earlier than usual.

We need to talk. There’s something I have to tell you so I think you’d better have a seat. While you’re at it, grab a couple of hankies. I’m sorry for doing this but I know it’s for the best. Are you ready? Sure? Okay here it is - this is my last column.

By the time you read this I will be long gone. I’m not sure where exactly but I expect I’ll be clutching wildly at the Opportunity To Pursue A Career Elsewhere that presented itself last week. I know it might come as a bit of a shock to you – especially since things have been going so well – but in truth, I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time; three whole days in fact.

If my instincts are correct, I’m sure you’re feeling a mixture of misery and anger right now. You’ll no doubt have an overwhelming urge to rush to your keyboard and fire off a strongly worded note to The Powers That Be demanding that I be forced to stay on at double my current salary. Knowing you, you’ve probably conjured up a pithy little phrase as a subject matter for your correspondence; something like “Tuesdays will never be the same again” or “It’s the end of the world as we know it”.

But please don’t despair or ask all your friends to compose similar letters. And please don’t blame yourself. Honestly, it’s not you, it’s me. I think I just need a bit of space and time to lay out my model railway track in its entirety.

I know it can’t have been easy conducting a relationship with me in this manner, having to listen to all my golf stories and being constantly reminded to keep your CDs in strict alphabetical order. To be perfectly frank, I think we’ve been growing apart ever since I caught you drooling over a photo of that other columnist who appears on a Wednesday. The hurt I still feel – not to mention Scottish libel laws – prevent me from naming him but let’s just say that Cam Towan will never love you the way that I did. For my part, I apologise once again for not being as attentive as I could have been. When you asked me what colour your eyes are I didn’t really mean to say “round”. I know now that they’re white.

So I think it’s obvious that we’re not right for each other and want different things out of life. You say tomatoes and I say “where’s the remote?” You’re a fun-loving Pisces and I’m a rugged old Jedi. You like to sit down for a nice cup of tea and I like a four-shot, venti Caramel Macchiato with skimmed milk TO GO.

It’s clear that you want someone who is sensitive to your needs and knows just when you could do with a hug. You want someone who can open up and talk honestly about his feelings without fear of letting go once in a while. You want a loving commitment from someone who will be there for you through thick and thin until death do you part. I, on the other hand, want pizza. Without mushrooms.

It seems hard to imagine but eventually these feelings of hopelessness and utter rejection will pass and you’ll be able to look back and remember all the good times we’ve shared over the past fourteen months. The Star Wars trivia quizzes for one. The silly debates about whether the toilet paper should hang with the flap over the front or the back for another. (For the last time, the answer is “the front”.)

All I can say now is that I really hope we can still be friends and I’m sure someone else will come along to take my place and make you happy. You certainly deserve it.

I will always be here for you. Well, not HERE exactly but you know what I mean.

Neil x

P.S. The Beatles CDs should be filed under ‘B’ not ‘T’.

Synchronicity II
On Friday, I went for a walk on the other side of town while my car was getting MOT’d. In doing so, I walked passed a flat that I used to share with someone 15 years ago. (She lives somewhere else now.) On the way back to collect my car, she drove past me with her young six-month old son. Weird huh?

Synchronicity III
On Friday night I had a dream about eating pizza. On Saturday night I ATE A PIZZA. F#ck me, I’m buying a ton of lottery tickets this week!!!

Thursday, July 27, 2006


My computer is sick and I don’t know what to do. Excessive drinking and staying up late doesn’t seem to help so I wondered if anyone else had any ideas. In the past week or so it has decided to let me work for a wee while (anything ranging from two hours down to two minutes) and then it just freezes completely. Nothing is operable, not the ‘Off’ switch on the white box-like thing that sits on the floor nor the keyboard, including the always-popular Ctrl, Alt, Del option. The only way I can get anything to happen is to unplug it and start again. And I’m pretty sure that can’t be doing it any good.

This I’m–Gonna-Freeze-And-F#ck-Up-Your-Day behaviour is pre-empted by a couple of grating noises (almost metallic in nature) from somewhere deep inside the white box-like thing that sits in the floor. On the advice of a friend (whose house I’ve broken into to type this while he’s on holiday) I have managed to run the System Restore option (I have Windows XP Home Edition) a couple of times but that doesn’t seem to have helped. Actually, it DID seem to help the first time but the problem then returned.

Other points to note:-
The computer is about six years old and I bought it from a company called Mesh.
I haven’t installed any new software or hardware for over a month.
I will never take the p#ss out of any computer geeks ever again.
I am unemployed and short of money.
I am scared to go to any kind of ‘official’ computer shop in case they laugh at me in the same manner as that old Not The Nine O’clock News sketch where Mel Smith tries to buy a new stereo and doesn’t know his amps from his volts.

If anyone has any (constructive) suggestions, I’d be much obliged. In return I have a good story about karma that I’ll regale you with over the weekend. Oh, and I will also put up an edible prize for anyone who has the solution. Just to underline how serious I am, the prize is a pizza. Did you get that? I am GIVING AWAY A PIZZA. I will even deliver it to your doorstep no matter where you are.

I will be breaking into this house again over the coming days to see if there are any replies. Many thanks in advance.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You Made A Woman Miaow?

First, a little background. Last Wednesday, the Daily Record (Scotland’s biggest selling daily newspaper. Just.) published the Sex Survey 2006, a poll made up of 90 questions designed to assess the state of the nation’s attitudes towards all* things sex-related. If you’re interested in contributing, there’s still a little time left to reveal all at their website although I had some trouble finding the exact page. If you find that to be the case, drop me an email instead with all your opinions and confessions and I promise to keep them strictly confidential. Honest.

*Excluding farm animals

So how are you getting on with the Sex Survey 2006 published in last Wednesday’s Record? Got to that tricky end section yet where Question 84 tests your powers of recall by asking you to cast your mind back over the years and do some tactful mathematical calculations? I don’t mind admitting that I had some trouble coming up with a final number, probably due to the fact that I was worn out after spending an hour answering the previous 83 questions. Mind you, now that I think about it, the cause of my fatigue might be more straightforward - it may well be the first time I’ve ever used the phrases “sex” and “an hour” in such close approximation.

Anyway, the answer I finally came up with was 35 - 44 but this was only arrived at after an emergency phone call to my mother.

Ring, Ring.
Mother: “Hello?”
Neil: “Hi Mum, its Neil.”
Mother: “Oh my goodness. It’s so good to hear from my eldest and most beautiful child. (I’m paraphrasing.) So your phone must be working again then?”
Neil: “Eh... no, my phone wasn’t broken.”
Mother: “In that case you must have been out constantly over the last few weeks looking for a job with no time to give me a call?”
Neil: “Yeah, something like that. Anyway listen, I’ve got a question for you.”
Mother: “How much do you need this time?”
Neil: “No, it’s not about money. I’m doing the Sex Survey 2006 in the Daily Record.”
Mother (after long silence): “Oh sweet Lord. I’ll get your father.”
Neil: “No, no, don’t bother with that, just hear me out. I’ve answered most of the questions but I’m stuck on number 84. I’m looking for an approximate number. Hello? Are you still there?”
Mother: “Yes, go on.”
Neil: “I think it should be more than 20 but I’m just not sure. The question says ‘Please indicate your age by ticking the appropriate box.’”
Mother: “Is that mental age or actual age?”
Neil: “Eh... actual, I think.”
Mother: “Well then dear, you’re 42.”
Neil: “Really? Are you sure? That seems a bit high. But if you say so. Thanks Mum. Speak to you soon.”
Mother: “I’ll be here. Holding my breath.”

The Sex Survey 2006 really will provide a comprehensive insight into the state of the nation’s sexual health with questions ranging from – WARNING: ADULT CONTENT AHEAD – “How good is your partner at foreplay?” (pretty good, but her backhand volley could do with a little work) to “What is an acceptable length of time before you can put your socks back on and leave?” I’m kidding of course; who in their right mind wastes time taking off their socks?

In all seriousness though, we definitely need to take a long, hard, penetrating look at what goes on behind closed doors in this country. As we plunge deeper and deeper into the 21st century, it will become increasingly important to keep a firm grasp on all these of issues. Only then will we have the informed wisdom to allow us to spread the gospel, missionary-like, for generations to come.

The climax, sorry, closing date of the survey is tomorrow and I, for one, await the results with eager anticipation. Sadly, it won’t include a definitive answer to the question that has baffled men since the dawn of time, namely “What is the most effective method to delay – how can I put this delicately – the fat lady from singing?” For my money, don’t bother about trying to calculate the square root of 69,837,215; just try and remember your age.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

And The Kids Just Keep On Comin'

In stunning developments earlier this week, Stuart Sutherland - web genius available for all manner of freelance internet work - pulled ahead in The Race For The Sutherland Family Inheritance by producing (via wife Dawn) his third grandchild for joyous grandparents Bill and Fiona. Jude Middle-Names-To-Be-Decided Sutherland was born at 9.50pm on Tuesday night during a successful home delivery (after a call to Dominos no doubt) and weighed something heavier than an apple but less than a lawn mower. (Hey, I’m a man – I never remember the weight details!)

With two other sons, Joe 28(?) and Fraser 2 going on 30, already under his belt (not literally) Stuart now tops the baby-making league table, with sister Rona only marginally behind in second place. (Barren siblings Keith and Neil were unavailable for comment.)

Many family observers had speculated that the production of the first, and to date, only granddaughter back in April, would have brought Rona much kudos with the auld folks, a point Rona was keen to underline in enthusiastic manner at around 2am on Sunday morning with a titanic glass of white wine in her hands during the last remnants of a family wedding.

“You can’t put a frickin’ price on a granddaughter,” she shrieked, waking the aforementioned granddaughter three floors above. “Get the wills changed NOW, cositzinthebag!”

Stuart’s decision to stay home at the weekend and oversee the boiling of water and tearing up of white sheets to make emergency.. eh.. towels(?) seems to have paid off big style however as Bill and Fiona were spotted entering the offices of their lawyers early on Wednesday morning.

“It was a great night for all concerned,” announced Stuart to the waiting media camped on his doorstep. “Mother and baby are doing well and young Fraser was a star throughout keeping us entertained with his knife-juggling and his guess-that-anatomical-part game.

For his part, Fraser kept his thoughts to himself about the new arrival but seemed to be calculating which part of the baby’s forehead would make a good track for him to run his little red engine over.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Bruce: “So are you going to put THIS on your blog?”
Neil: “What?”
Bruce: “You know, the result.”
Neil: “What f#cking result?”
Bruce: “The fact that you invited me along to your lovely golf course for a game on the hottest day of the year, collected me at my door, chauffeured me through, lent me money when the ATM machine swallowed my card, played out of your skin to shoot 72 and still lost to me on the 18th green after missing a perfectly makeable six foot putt.”
Neil: “F#cker!”

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Do A Lot Of Work For Charity... Don't Like To Talk About It

If you’ve come to this page in breathless anticipation of seeing photographs of me and my more handsome relations resplendent in kilts whilst attending a family wedding at the weekend, I’m afraid you’re going to be left panting a little longer. I left my camera down south and if it falls into the wrong hands, who knows what kind of internet havoc could be wreaked by a determined psychopath with a working knowledge of Photoshop.

So drop on by in a week or so where, as well as photos packed with tartan and muscular legs, there could be actual video footage of a kilt-wearing 40-something strutting his not inconsiderable stuff to Abba’s Dancing Queen on the dance floor!!! Now go get a Kleenex and wipe that drool from your chin...

Now that I’m unemployed with large amounts of spare time to kill, my thoughts have turned to how best I can utilise my skills and life experience to make the world a better place. My first initiative – the campaign to persuade all races and religions to lay down their arms and arrange their CDs in strict alphabetical order – has not been the overwhelming success I’d envisaged. Believe it or not, some people still insist that The Beatles should be filed under ‘T’! F#ckwits!

But undeterred by this initial setback, I have decided instead to undertake some selfless charity work in a foreign country. My research uncovered a once-proud nation in desperate need of help to rebuild its economic infrastructure and the morale of its people, after it was brought to its knees by a series of recent disasters and merciless acts of God. Close friends were aghast when I announced my intentions and tried to dissuade me by pointing out the scale of human suffering I would encounter. But my mind was made up and my resolve was strong so last week I packed my bags and set off on the long, arduous journey. To England.

As fate would have it, the timing of my gallant relief work coincided with an invitation to attend a family wedding in the drought region of East Anglia. As I followed an endless stream of painfully slow caravans along the dusty, backwater roads, I passed through deserted villages with quaint names like Flipping Norflap, Piddle-On-The-Wrye and Ooh Vicar What Lovely Crumpets. Bedraggled St. George’s Crosses flew at half mast and in the local sports shops, even the hardy ladies of the W.I. seemed to be having trouble offloading unwanted Wayne Rooney Manchester United tops. “Buy 2, get a Ronaldo strip free!”

Occasionally I spied one or two natives wandering around the streets aimlessly, their faces still white with shock following the recent penalty shoot-out debacle with Portugal. “Cheer up,” I cried from the safety of my speeding vehicle. “It could be worse. At least you didn’t lose to the Scots.” Watching them grow smaller in my rear view mirror, I could tell my comforting words had helped soothe their pain as they waved me on my way with energetic arm gestures.

Eventually I arrived at the wedding venue where my cousin Ewen, a fervent England supporter despite having a Scottish father, had spent many months planning The Best Day Of His Life with meticulous attention to detail. The drinks were chilled and the catering was organised and he’d selected a pristine white shirt to complement his overall ensemble. However, when England failed to reach the World Cup final, he was fortunate to have his wedding day to substitute as a much needed tonic a week later.

Weddings in England are truly sophisticated affairs. They start early, finish late and have something called a “wedding breakfast” in the middle of the afternoon. They even allow time for an afternoon nap before the evening festivities when the Hobbits emerge from their holes in the Shire at twilight to commence the Morris dancing round the Maypole on the village green. Come to think of it, I might have just imagined that last bit after smoking the international pipe of peace with the more bohemian members of my extended family tribe.

All in all my mission of mercy to a troubled land seemed to achieve most of its objectives. Ewen ended the day with a smile on his face and began married life with a spring in his step. He was still depressed about the England result but at least now his CDs are in strict alphabetical order.

More newspaper stuff here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gone Away...

... down to England for the weekend to wear a kilt, get liquored up, attend a family wedding and did I mention I was wearing a kilt? In England? Andy - If you're reading this, I promise I'll do the report next week.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Suits You Madam

For those of you kind enough to enquire, I didn’t get the (Mc)job I interviewed for recently. (Dave – what the f#ck’s going on in that department?) I might have something else on the horizon soon so meantime I suppose I’m just going to have to spend the next few weeks playing golf, enjoying the summer weather, topping up my tan, making up stuff for the newspaper, making up stuff for the greatest website in the world, visiting my mental (in a good way) nephews (see below) and new niece, going to see Superman, watching ‘Why Don’t You’, riding my bike, building a rope swing, drinking lashings of ginger beer and solving spooky mysteries. Unemployment sucks.

When I stopped working last week – thanks to my employer’s benevolent act of setting me free from my current employment contract – I assumed I’d have to ask myself only three questions on a daily basis.

Q. Is it time to get up yet?
A. Go back to sleep and stop bugging me with stupid questions.

Q. Deal Or No Deal or Richard & Judy?
A. They’re on the same channel you moron but you’ll be smack bang in the middle of your afternoon nap by then so go back to sleep.

Q. Isn’t it about time you got yourself another job?
A. I refer you to the answer to question 1.

However, after receiving some gentle encouragement wrapped up as stellar parental guidance – “NEIL! Get up your no good, sorry ass outta that pit and start looking for a job, ya bum; and don’t even THINK of asking me for pocket money!” – my Career Development Strategy has evolved to the next level (i.e. I’m awake) and I’m now confronted with a multitude of different questions to consider.

These questions appear most frequently at the top of job adverts and are designed to grab your attention and draw you in without revealing anything close to the true nature of the vacancy. Some examples from last week alone include “Are you ready to take the next step?” (door to door sales), “Want to learn to fly?” (call centre sales) and “Interested in working away from home?” (overseas sales).

The opportunities to sell things appear to be many and varied if the tiny adverts at the back of the recruitment pages are anything to go by. Indeed, the companies seem so successful that it’s something of a surprise that they can’t afford bigger adverts.

“Do you want to work from home and earn up to £500k a year? Apply now at”

The questions you really have to watch out for though are the ones designed to make you think that here is a job where you can, at last, unleash your full potential. (As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions in the past, NO GOOD can come from unleashing your full potential. You just end up with a chaotic mess cos once it’s out, you can’t get it back in.)

At first glance, a question such as, “Do you want to work in a challenging environment?” sounds like it might be the stepping stone to that astronaut role you’ve coveted for so long. But if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that nobody, least of all you, really wants to work in a “challenging” environment.

A prospective employer calling an environment “challenging” is tantamount to admitting that your days will be spent dealing with psychological horrors (or, “customers” as they’re sometimes known) that even war veterans would describe as “some seriously bad sh#t”. The rate of divorce, drug use and premature death among employees in “challenging” environments is higher than that among LA gang members. To be honest, even LA gang members get scared when they hear the word “challenging”, a fear portrayed so vividly in gangster rapper DJ Ice Snoop Cube Dawg's classic track ‘I Ain't Gonna Work In No Challenging Environment, Muthaf#cka’.

Anyway, you’ll be glad to learn that two vacancies caught my eye this week and I’m confident of getting interviews for both. The first is with the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, who – I am not making this up - are quite openly looking for “Operational Officers” to work “overseas”. This seems like it might include an element of life-threatening peril so I’ve applied instead for the more gentile-sounding position of “Linguist”; the more cunning, the better, presumably.

The second vacancy is in a large department store in Edinburgh who seek “experienced individuals” to join – again, I am not making this up – their world class Bra Fitting Service Team. (Jeez, can you imagine the training for this job? Better still, can you imagine being the trainer?!?) Happily, they describe themselves as an “equal opportunities employer” so if you’ll excuse me, I must get on with completing my application; “…can operate clasp mechanism with one hand…”

Aforementioned mental (in a good way) nephews.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Love Dress

If you’ve tuned in to catch up on this week’s enthralling instalment of how-unemployment-gives-you-time-for-a-right-good-scratch, then I’m sorry to say there’s not much of an update. Today is my second day without a (proper) job and so far I’ve learned that…

1. It’s great sleeping beyond 9.00am.
2. There really IS loads of time to have a right good scratch.

I didn’t even have to submit a new piece to the newspaper this week since I was able to take last week’s unpublished effort and just change the timeline a bit.

Later this week I’ll be taking time between naps to investigate things that confuse me such as the motorway warning sign “DON’T TAKE DRUGS AND DRIVE”. Every time I see this I read it as, “TAKE DRUGS DUDE! BUT JUST GET YOSELF A KICK ASS BROTHER TO DRIVE YOU AND YO LADIES AROUND!” (Don’t try and tell me I’m not “down with the street lingo”.)

Anyway, for those of you reading this at work as the Level 3 Heatwave (official Met Office alarmist phrase) pours through the window of your non air-conditioned office making you wish you had a wardrobe full of linen clothing which, excuse me, is the most ridiculous, impractical fabric ever invented (apart from my old Miami Vice suit), then here’s a little joke I was sent recently to cheer you up. Enjoy.

A woman stopped by unannounced at her son's house. She knocked on the door and then immediately walked in. She was shocked to see her daughter-in-law lying on the couch, totally naked, soft music was playing, and the aroma of perfume filled the room.

“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I'm waiting for John to come home from work,” the daughter-in-law answered.
“But you're naked!” exclaimed the mother-in-law.
“This is my love dress,” the daughter-in-law explained.
“Love dress? But you're naked!”
“John loves me to wear this dress,” she explained. “It excites him to no end. Every time he sees me in this dress, he instantly becomes romantic and ravages me for hours. He can't get enough of me.”

The mother-in-law left. When she got home she undressed, showered, put on her best perfume, dimmed the lights, put on a romantic CD, and lay on the couch waiting for her husband to arrive. Finally, her husband came home. He walked in and saw her lying there so provocatively.

“What are you doing?” he asked.
“This is my love dress,” she whispered, sensually.
“Needs ironing,” he said. “What's for dinner?”