Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Day Walk... Definitely Not Spoiled

This is really just an excuse to try out a new camera I’ve had for a couple of months now but don’t have a clue how to operate properly. I thought I’d bought the cheapest and simplest in the range but when the User Manual came on a CD to incorporate all 153 pages of camera functionality, it’s then you realise that this is not exactly an Instamatic with the big square flash bulbs on top. Currently, I’m up to page 97 – “Troubleshooting how your Canon can crack NORAD’s missile launch codes”.

What better way to try it out then than to take a few photos on Christmas Day for the benefit of my golfing brothers, neither of whom managed the trek ‘home’ this Christmas to visit their loving parents. Sure… they’ll cite the usual excuses of “living 100s of miles away” or “living on an entirely different continent altogether” or even that old chestnut of “having a wife/small children/extended family obligations”. So it was left to me to make the arduous 50 mile drive to St. Andrews in the Kingdom of Fife to be showered with parental love and copious amounts of rolls and sausage. And wine. And beer. I think that’s called “taking one for the team”.

Anyway, for Stuart and Keith (and anyone else who’s interested in seeing what is going to be the most talked about new golf course in 2008) here are some photos of the latest addition to the landscape of St. Andrews - The Castle Course (opening June ’08) – sitting high on a cliff top overlooking the town and just across the road from my mummy and daddy’s house.

This first one is the fifth green, the nearest hole to the house, looking eastwards back down the fairway. If you think it looks a little hazy, that’s because the mist came rolling in from the sea at this point and my Dad and I stumbled around the next three holes narrowly avoiding falling off the cliff or singing ‘Mull of Kintyre’.

After a while the mist started to disappear to reveal the ninth fairway and green, shared with the 18th.

And this one is looking westwards back up the ninth fairway with the town in the distance.

At this point it got a little colder and we’d neglected to pack a hip flask in our sporrans so we didn’t bother walking the entire course. Here’s the view from the 15th tee…

And here’s the 18th fairway and green…

And here’s the view from the 18th tee (the green is a sharp dog-leg to the right and an awful long way away) where you stand dumbstruck and intimidated by the degree of difficulty and think to yourself… “we’re gonna need a bigger boat”… or some such thing.

And finally, here is the “signature” hole of The Castle Course – a 200+ yard par 3 with the green in the foreground and the tee way back up at the top of the hill. This is a scary tee shot, not only because of the distance and the prevailing wind in your face, but also because you have to carry the ball over the bay where far below sharks circle constantly with frickin’ laser beams on their heads, poised and ready to strike if you go a-lookin’ for any stray balls.

Don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world I’d rather go for a stroll on Christmas Day. Happy New Year…

or, if you’re in the States…

Happy NEW YearS (So why do you say ‘math’ instead of ‘maths’?)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Big Chill

It’s 1978. December. Snow is falling all around because these are the days before global warming when no-one headed off to school in the morning without a woolly hat with a bobble on the top, gloves connected by a huge long piece of elastic that went up each sleeve of your snorkel jacket and the warm, hazy, protective aura of a Ready-Brek breakfast. (This was a bit like using ‘The Force’ but without the need for lightsabers.)

Boney M are poised to become that year’s Christmas No.1 with their festive rendition of “Something About Mary’s Boy Child” and, despite investing in a pair of high fashion, top-of-the-line grey leather boots with little gold plates around the toes, I’m just about to be “chucked” for the third time by the same girl in the space of about five months. Good times.

During periods of emotional Christmas crisis then, there’s really only one thing a boy can turn his idle hands to in order to release pent up frustration and ease his restless soul… his Rubik’s cube. But since its invention is still another two years away, what he has to make do with instead is endless playing of his two Billy Joel albums and thoughts about who to send Christmas cards to.

I’d obviously shelled out a shed-load of hard-earned paper-round earnings on one of those horrible gaudy “padded” greeting cards for the girl who was just about to dust off her well rehearsed “it’s not you, it’s me…um… well actually it IS you” chucking speech, so I had few pennies left over for cards for other acquaintances; in fact I think I only wrote about half a dozen or so to my closest friends during a particularly boring Latin lesson. Or was it Potions?

Anyway, one of the lucky recipients was my good pal Allan “Big Al - The Kiddies Pal” Hendry and the card design I chose for him was that most festive of scenes – a mouse and a comedy elephant wearing a Santa hat.

“What an astonishingly good memory you must have Neil,” I can hear you exclaim in a rather high-pitched tone of incredulousnessiticity, but the reason I know this for a fact is because here below is the card of which I speak/type.

Allan, in that famous I’m-a-bit-of-a-cheapskate-so-wouldn’t-this-be-funny way of his, decided to send the card back to me the following year after making the necessary amendments to the text inside. Not to be outdone, I kept the card safe and went through the same exercise in December 1980... can you guess how this story ends? This year, after our annual panic stricken text messages about whose turn it is to send, the card dropped through my letter box last week after surviving its 30th annual sending through the Royal Mail.

As you can see, it’s not exactly in the best of health after having suffered at the hands of the business end of a lighted cigarette (that’s a nasty habit Allan!) and being patched up with yellowed sellotape. But we reckon there’s enough space on it for at least another 30 years of seasonal greetings at which point – if we’ve succumbed to the ravages of Whathisname’s Disease – we’ll probably be scrawling something like “To Thingmy, From Me, Happy Easter”.

So while all my faculties are still intact, Happy Christmas Allan and thanks for 30+ very funny years.

And a very Happy Christmas also to anyone reading this and I hope 2008 is peaceful, prosperous and safe for you and your loved ones.

N x

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Still Here...

…but you know how it is this time of year… just awfully busy with endless festive parties to attend, charity work to complete and general good cheer to spread around. All that and I still had time to go and see Status Quo in concert on Sunday night. How on earth do I manage it all?

Come back at the weekend when I’ll have a Christmas story to melt the coldest of hearts. Sort of.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Something For The Weekend 34


A quick line to let you know I’m still around… although after I went to see a fantastic film recently called “Into The Wild”, I too wanted to leave everything behind, hop freight trains, walk through deserts, canoe through the Grand Canyon and end up in Alaska camping out in an old abandoned bus and living off nothing but nature and my wits. It’s great. Go see it.

Elsewhere… I notice that the Cameo cinema in Edinburgh is showing “Blade Runner Director’s Cut No. 47” next week. At the time this film first came out, you would’ve been but a lad, whereas I was skipping university lectures to see it during wet afternoons in Glasgow. Don’t listen to any of those so-called cinema experts who hang around your office building who’ll try and tell you that the Director’s Cut versions are best – the original version with the Harrison Ford voiceover is miles better. I still have the betamax videotape to prove it.

And talking about possible upcoming movie-going opportunities… remember that time in the pub when you were telling me about all the films that make you cry? “Titanic”… “Dead Poets Society”… “Spongebob”… well, Edinburgh cinemas are falling over themselves to show “It’s A Wonderful Life” over the next couple of weeks. It’s a must if you’ve never seen it on the big screen but remember and stock up from your extensive Kleenex collection before you go and see it.

Cheers, Edge