Dec 31

I’m always envious of people who can take good photos. There is an art – there really isn’t any other word for it – to looking at something and seeing that one detail that will set a picture apart from it’s fellows and make it something that amuses, surprises or shocks. I suppose it’s similar to someone being a writer: anyone can put words together, but it takes someone with talent to make that collection of words transcend the page and turn into something that touches people and speaks to their souls.

With that in mind, I’d like to recommend this guy’s flickr page to you – especially the “faces” section…they’re pretty damn cool, they surprised me, they made me laugh and made me look at things differently. What more do you want for free?

Go check out, before the new year madness hits. Hope you enjoy.

Dec 24

What is it about a season of goodwill that seems to bring out the exact opposite in people? From people in the streets breaking new grounds in sheer ignorance, to children so out of control they shouldn’t even be allowed out of doors, to people behind the wheel who think they’re on some kind of demolition derby or race, to people in the shops buying enough food to see them through a major natural disaster…for a time of year that seems to place so much emphasis on being nice to one another and taking the time to appreciate what we have in our lives, it seems to do a hell of a good job bringing out the ruthless arsehole in many people. MCF, Kelly, Wendy, all take heart: your experiences with the Christmas horde are not unique and you do not suffer alone!

Today I bought my last ever Christmas present, with such a look of relief on my face that I think the girl behind the till thought I was falling in love with her or something. Last night I endured the hell that is shopping at a mall open till midnight as I tried (and failed) to pick up a copy of Brideshead Revisited on DVD for my better half. Over the past few weeks I have seen the slowly reduced level of general manners, the incredibly fast rise of tempers and if nothing else it has really made me enjoy and appreciate quiet nights in.

That said, I am getting wound down now, am about to get into my second glass of wine, the tree is decorated and I have decided to have a go at the Christmas meme that’s doing the rounds, so here we go…

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?

I’d go for apple cider, because I always find hot chocolate to be a little bit sickly. Okay so too much cider also leaves you feeling sick but at least you get to go through the fun “I’m pissed” part first.

2. Turkey or Ham?

Oh, neither. I think that turkey is so over-rated as a Christmas meal – you see all these pictures of it and it always looks golden brown and that it would taste fantastic, but it never matches up. As for ham it just never appealed to me. Now a curry, there is a meal for Christmas!

3. Do you get a Fake or Real “you cut it yourself” christmas tree?

Fake all the way baby. Every year we have the same fight about how to build the base for the fucking thing, and every year I manage to snag at least one fingertip the same way. The tree itself is totally fake, I think about the closest it gets to nature is it’s annual offering of some of the blood from my nipping fingers.

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?

No, I really don’t like them to be honest. Some of the people around here have their places lit up bright enough to be seen from Pluto and to be honest I think it’s a bit tacky. One or two lights here and there can look excellent, but people who try to fit in enough lightbulbs to rival Disneyland just end up coming off as looking a bit rubbish.

5. Snowball fights or sleddin?

Snowballs! Snowballs! Reminds me of that old joke about the difference between a snowman and a snow-woman…

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?

I enjoy a walk around the shops yeah, but not at Christmas. I’m no saint but I like to think I can be quite polite, and seeing people trample one another and not even apologise pushes all the wrong buttons for me.

7. Favorite Christmas song?

Hmmm…well I would like to go for Slade’s “Merry Christmas” for some cheesy 1970s rock. The minute I hear that song I’m suddenly 6 again, all excited at the prospect of Santa coming down the chimney.

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?

Can do without them to be honest, they tend to be overly sugary for my tastes. Except for “It’s a Wonderful Life” of course, that’s a masterpiece second only to “Transformers: The Movie” in my eyes.

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?

Any time before December 13th. If by tradition it’s too early to put up the tree then it’s too damn soon to play music. Even Slade.

10. Stockings before or after presents?

We don’t do stockings, but I tend to do little “extra” presents before the main stuff I’ve gotten for people.

11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?

Oh, I would watch and listen. In fact I did so a few days ago in Glasgow and it was all great stuff.

12. Go to someone elses house or they come to you?

This being my first year as an engaged man, we are going together to my family’s house, and then over to my fiance’s family a few days later. Next year we switch it about. I don’t mind travelling on Christmas day.

13. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?

I don’t really read the Christmas story I’m afraid. Closest I come is watching Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” on Christmas eve every now and again.

14. What do you do after presents and dinner?

I tend to find a quiet spot, get a drink, and read. I love Christmas: I love the presents, I love the kids getting excited, I love everything about it no matter how curmudgeonly I might sound, but it can get on top of me and I need a quiet hour or so just to recharge the old batteries. Of course this year I think that after presents and dinner I might be curled up on the couch watching the Doctor Who special.

15. What is your favorite holiday smell?

Hmmmm…..fresh, cold, winter air. My fiance’s hair. My nana’s soup. A nice glass of wine. Cinnamon.

16. Ice skating or walking around the mall?

The last time I went ice skating I fell on the ice with enough force that my knee was hurt and two men had to carry me to the first aid room, so I think I would go with the walk around the mall, even if it means I have to go shoulder to shoulder with all the ignorant bastards of the world.

17. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?

I’m INCREDIBLY tempted to open them on Christmas eve but I like to wait till Christmas morning.

18. Favorite Christmas memory?

All of my childhood ones were fantastic and I’ll be forever grateful to my parents for working so hard, sacrificing so much and giving me such memories, but I’m hoping that tomorrow morning will be my favourite Christmas memory. The first year I wake up in the morning with the woman I’m going to marry. The woman that I’ll be married to by this time next year. If you think I’m starting to sound a bit repetitive I’m sorry, but believe me as we approach the wedding someone’s going to have to sedate me if they want me to shut up about it.

19. Favorite Part about winter?

The cold. I love the cold and I can’t stand being too warm. My mum tells me that when I was born there was deep snow outside and the heating in the labour room broke down, so maybe that has something to do with it, but I have always loved being slightly more cold than I have being warm.

20. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?

Nope. Never been kissed under the mistletoe, touched besides the trifles or even goosed by the turkey.

21. Tagged…

Santa. Come on big man, if you’re reading this, let’s hear what you have to say.

Merry Christmas one and all – have a safe and happy time of it no matter what you end up doing.

Dec 17

I was shocked tonight when I read that John Spencer, the actor who played White House chief of staff Leo McGarry on The West Wing, died today aged 58. My better half and I have spent the last couple of months working through seasons 1 to 4 of the West Wing on DVD, and a great part of the appeal of the show for both of us is the character of Leo and how he interacts with the President and the other staff.

In a strange twist of fate he died of a heart attack: the same ailment that almost killed his character at the start of the sixth season and prompted his resignation as chief of staff. At the time the sixth season episodes started to appear over here my grandmother had just died of a heart attack/cardiac condition and I found that I just couldn’t watch the episode where “it” happened to Leo: the real life events were just too recent and raw for me to comfortably watch anything like them dramatised on TV. Even a year later when I finally picked up the sixth season on DVD it shook me to look at the heart attack scene and his recovery in the subsequent episodes.

Anyway, whether you agree or disagree with the politics of the show, I think it’s safe to say that someone with a great talent is gone…and I think that it can be agreed that no matter what way you cut it, that’s just a bad thing because if there’s one thing that we always need, it’s talented people.

Dec 14

The TV is on behind me as I sit here and mess about on the web. An episode of Voyager has just finished and Fear Factor has started. Here is how two of the contestants introduced themselves as they walked onto the show for the first time:

“I need to remind people that I’m a Mexi-can, not a Mexi-can’t.”

“I think I’ll win this. I can see into the future because I’m a pisces.”

I don’t know about you, or the show, but those two sure as hell put the fear of all that’s good and holy into me. They get to apply to be on TV shows, they get to vote and they live in a country where you can buy guns.

Dec 14

Today I got hit by a van.

The guy driving it was parked where he shouldn’t have been, and when the person he was waiting for hopped in, he launched the thing into reverse (not thinking for a moment that he had…oh, I dunno…PARKED ON A PEDESTRIAN CROSSING) and managed to bump into me as I made my way across the road. Being what could be charitably described as built along “robust” lines I was able to keep my feet and loosed a torrent of angry shouts at the driver, as did a colleague of mine who happened to be with me at the time.

Surprisingly the driver seemed angry at me – I don’t know why, perhaps he thought my arm would dent his bumper – and off he went on his merry way. I know it sounds stupid but by that point I was so angry and had gotten such a fright that I forgot to take his registration number and report the daft bastard to the coppers. I’m fine – a little tender around the right wrist but otherwise undamaged.

Actually now I think about it there must have been something in the air today when it comes to new experiences to do with motor vehicles. Today I changed a lightbulb in my car and was damn proud to have done it, too. Okay, laugh away. I know MCF is probably calling his dad through to come look at the guy on the web who is so proud of himself for having changed one single lightbulb. All I will say in my defence is that it was a first for me and that I have an arts degree, so doing anything involving hardware is a big step for me.

So there we go. Talk about the school of hard knocks.

Dec 10

Okay, I gotta ask because it’s killing me: what is it with thongs? Or, more accurately, what is it with showing thongs? Over the past few days I’ve been doing Christmas shopping with my better half and, as you might imagine, we’ve ducked into a few coffee shops for a drink and a rest along the way. And almost everywhere you turn, there is at least one girl pitched waaaay forward in a chair, hipster trousers down low and shirt pulling up high, with half her thong-clad arse on display like a blancmange being slowly cut in two by some cheesewire!

I don’t know what’s worse: the sight of someone sitting like that, looking like they have two bald-headed men trying to burst out of the back of their trousers, or the strange double take it makes me do whenever I see it. I’m not a prude, and if it makes them feel good then I suppose that’s fine, but it jars you a little when you’re in Starbucks picking up a coffee and daydreaming. The internal monologue goes something like this: god I need this drink hurry up and serve me this music is horrible what do I still have to buy oh look there’s someone’s bare arse I still need to pick up that book damn that was her coffee not mine hang on was that a bare arse did I remember to order that biscotti I hope it snows this year ye gods the material in that thong looks like it could go at any moment oh good here’s my drink bare arse bare arse BARE ARSE IN THE ROOM!

I suppose I’ll just have to embrace the spirit of the season and turn the other cheek. No pun intended, of course.

Dec 03

Today my better half found her wedding dress. I don’t mean a nice dress, a good looking dress or a possible frontrunner. I mean she found the dress. The dress she’s going to be married in. She sent me away for a walk for a half hour as she went into the bridal shop and half an hour later, she stood in front of me grinning, shaking and crying all at the same time as she told me she had found her wedding dress. Not only had she found it, the staff let her try it on, she liked it and the staff thought she looked fantastic in it.

I wanted to talk about something else tonight. For once I have a lot of things I want to talk about, but I’m bumping all of them for this. Today I stood in a Glasgow street in the rain, with Christmas music playing, people passing by, and I held my wife to be in my arms as she cried with sheer happiness. Time enough for everything else later: sometimes it’s just good to be alive.

Dec 01

Yesterday demonstrated to me that sometimes what seems like a good idea is really just a idea in disguise. Over the past few months my office has got increasingly messy and with recent staff moves and other stuff happening, it needed to be reorganised and tidied up. Fair enough, I thought, I’ll do it. See where the “bad idea” thing comes in? Six hours later the office was tidier, better organised and now had enough room to allow us to do our thing in comfort, and the only price I had to pay was muscles screaming out in agony and eyes like angry red tomatoes because an officeload of dust had gotten into them. Cheap at half the price.

On one of my frequent runs to the bin with rubbish (we had a lot of crap stored away that we were never going to use again) I ran into two colleagues, one of whom was talking about the new fur coat she had bought herself. Somewhat shocked that anyone today would buy fur I mentioned that I was surprised that it was still in fashion. “Oh yeah,” said the other colleague, “It’s just fox fur.”

This moved me from “shocked” to “outraged” in less time than it takes to say it. “Foxes?” I cried. “They killed foxes to make your coat? Is that even legal?”

Long story short, after a bit of coming and going, turns out she meant faux fur, not fox fur. She just thought you pronounced it “fox”. I thought it best to advise her on the correct pronunciation because that’s really one that you want to get right first time when you’re talking to people.

Strangely enough what I did right after that was to download the newest version of FireFox…and now I think about it, I hope I’ve been pronouncing that right all this time.