‘People say I’m brave about cancer, but I’m realistic. I’m a storyteller’ (Steve Hewlett)

February 23, 2017

And so dear listener, I felt really strange on Monday but nothing to do with any virus. I had to turn down the opportunity to take part in an interview with John Ross Beattie on BBC Radio Scotland about some recent cancer statistics that showed that men with prostate cancer living in the most deprived communities in Scotland are nearly twice as likely to die from the illness as those in the most affluent postcodes. This time eight years ago I was finishing the first half of my treatment for this cancer before starting thirty-seven days of radiotherapy.

Those who know me know how passionate my thoughts are on so much of what is involved in that simple, but long, sentence. Why, I could even have brought in libraries and their importance to the community. Macmillan Cancer folk have an arrangement with Glasgow Libraries where on certain days they have information points and people to talk to about cancer. 🙂

Later that day, I heard that Steve Hewlett had died. Steve is (sorry) was a journalist and academic who was one of the best in both fields. He’d been Editor of Panorama for the Princess Di interview and presented Broadcasting House on Radio 4. He also recently had been taking part regularly on PM on Radio 4 talking about his cancer and its progress. He knew it was terminal.

I’d have loved to do that during my treatment. The only difference is that Steve knew he was dying and talked about that. I am still alive and still pestering people about going to gigs and going for coffee. 🙂

He was also a better broadcaster than me. I was once asked, live, to explain what radiotherapy was like. My reply?

‘It’s like being zapped by a nuclear zapping thing.’

Altho’ having heard Donald Trump trying to describe uranium and cybers (both of which can be ‘bad’ and ‘evil’ apparently), I don’t feel quite so bad.

Steve spoke with great dignity on whatever he was talking about – media mergers or his forthcoming death. I rush at things. My mother also spoke with great dignity when she decided not to have chemotherapy which would only have been a delaying process. I walked very slowly homewards from the hospital that night and then remembered I’d driven there.

I remember talking to J last year about a man called Jonathan Wilson (1970-2002) who used to write a column for the Scotsman called Dead Man Talking. He knew he was dying but he lived a lot longer than the initial prognosis.

Still, I have this blog. It started eight years ago and was designed, I thought, as a means of telling people how the treatment was going and would stop when the treatment stopped (if in fact it did – you can never be too sure altho’ I’m reasonably certain now…….Fate has just been tempted!!!!). Like me it has kept going and, like me, it can be a real pest. 🙂

I have done TV and radio and newspapers (my favourite quote for one of the Record pieces was ‘alarm bells started ringing when a nurse stuck her finger up my bum’ BUT this very simple test is one of the reasons why men won’t go and get things checked. To all women who have ever given birth, there are some men who consider this basic test to be invasive!)

I’ve done information talks and ‘manned’ information stands at various events* and done informal chats with many people in many situations and I’ve done it all being very positive but the question of death will always hang over people with cancer but it tends to come from friends and family.

*I haven’t done many recently and they’ve tended to be a wee bit freelance but if you, or any group with which you’re associated, want a speaker about prostate cancer or information stand for a health event, then contact Prostate Cancer UK’s Scottish office (for Scotland) on 0141 218 4760.

And when I talk about ‘still wearing that badge’, there are two. One is the ‘big sky’ badge which J gave me and the other is the Prostate Cancer Awareness badge for which a donation is good. Both are very positive and optimistic.

Mind you on one occasion, when teaching at college, in an all-male staff-room (not testosterone filled as I was full of oestrogen at the time) I had put up a notice saying,

‘which one of you bastards has stolen a dying man’s coffee?’

Unfortunately some students had come in to video me for something else and saw this. I later heard them talking about ‘poor John’ in the corridor. The next time I had them in class I had a lot of explaining to do – but it was worth it. The lesson plan was thrown out of the window. e was my curriculum leader. I don’t think she minded.

More people survive than die but what is survival? Ernie Walker was General Secretary of the Scottish Football Association when Scotland actually got to World Cup Finals. When he died, the press reported that he had been ‘battling prostate cancer for eighteen years.’ I’m sorry. That is no battle; that is a clear victory. 🙂

But I still cry at cancer ads on TV.

Sorry if this is a bit disjointed but it’s been written in one go and it did get started at three this morning and it’s only just gone four but sometimes scrawling a note to yourself just isn’t enough. It’s also been written earlier in the week than usual.

I might as well just stay awake and do some editing or send some mails pestering people about gigs and going for coffee. Well at least I’m alive to do that.

R.I.P Steve Hewlett.

Cya, still wearing both those badges and still keeping it simple.

Iaint850  and still available for gigs and for coffee…..whatever. 😉

And in other news….…I’m back at work but have been using the last few days to get fit; it’s days and it’s different but in ways I’d not expected; there was snow;  football and Gaelic are on the to-do list; and once I get rid of all the rubbish food in the house, I’ll start the diet. Oh, and I may be going to see the dragons in Edinburgh. What’s that, Skippy? Sorry. I may be going to see the dungeons in Edinburgh. 😀

Have I played Mariachi El Bronx here before? To hell with it. I’ll let David Letterman introduce them.

“I finally figured out the big, elusive secret to weight loss. Don’t eat! Who knew?” ― Richelle E. Goodrich

February 16, 2017

And so dear listener, by the time you read this, I will have returned to work and hopefully remained for the full shift and, also hopefully, I am okay about going back full-time (altho’ I’m part-time but you know what I mean) For new listeners, I have had viral tonsillitis and it took a lot out of me but I think my strength has returned. We’ll see.

I still make some throaty noises but I put that down to the heating being on a lot at the moment, but there’s another health matter to which I want to draw your attention.

I have from time to time said that I felt was carrying extra weight and folks have said, ‘No. You’re not.’ And I’ve listened to them and done nothing about it. But the weight is there and you should see me at the end of the day when I have no clothes on (Skippy, can we maybe re-think that line?) 😉

One problem is the irregular hours I have been working with basic nights and irregular days and no set meals pattern – partly cos I live alone (have I ever told  you that?) On some shifts I get a 6” Subway (veggie lite) and eat it over the course of the shift – well most of it. I often have to throw away bits before the next shift comes in as you don’t always get a chance to finish your food.

(It’s okay, Skippy, I have no plans to do any gags about six inches or twelve inches or any other related jokes that end with ‘and, no, I didn’t ask for a ten inch pianist.’)

And I did tell you about the emergency shift a wee while back that finished at 2.30 in the morning but The Bistro (you don’t know the nice and sleazy end of Sauchiehall Street if you don’t know The Bistro) obvs was still open and I went in to get chips and got a staff discount and a free bottle of water. 🙂

And on another occasion, one of the service users came back with an order for various folk (I’d not asked for anything) but also with a free chips’n’curry sauce. So I had it.  🙂

And there it is – the ‘c’ word – ‘chips’. I even mentioned them in a blog a couple of weeks ago and no matter which train station I go to after a back shift, I pass a chip shop and I also pass a KFC and altho’ I can say no to a chicken (Skippy?)  those new Zinger chips look good.

But I’m pescetarian! I shouldn’t be eating chips that are deep-fried! I have no idea what else has been fried in that oil! And, whilst it’s not ethical or medical, there’s no point in only being a semi-pescetarian. I decided to carry out some research.

I drew together an e-focus group; one gf (that’s gluten-free as opposed to anything else) and two vegans. All are very wary of chips. The gf would like to know a wee bit more about the backstory to the chips and it has to be oil in which nothing else has been cooked; and the two vegans have that same concern – altho’ one did confess to a liking for chips’n’curry sauce as well. I feel a fraud. ):

But I do wonder what fast food outlets are doing about this. I don’t know cos I don’t eat from them cos I’m pesectarian! Eh? But chips?

Anyway, one of the benefits of going to part-time days will be a serious look at my diet and altho’ I will not do the 5:2 diet which, as with all diets, requires a fair amount of food prep or just buying the stuff out of M & S, I will go back to the days when I used to prepare a piece for work and did no grazing……and cut out chips (and they are good chips, good people chips)……and I am okay for walking as I always have been altho’ I have de-shuffled an MP3player so that needs attention. I’ll be fine.  😀

But finally, chips played a very important role in my recovery. Not long after Cold Turkey weekend, my sister (then living in London) asked me to look at various properties in Glasgow on her behalf with a view to returning to Glasgow (which was a serious task I could concentrate on) and I remember being early for viewing for one (no surprise there then) and going for, and eating, a fish supper – sober.


Tioraidh, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple.

Iaint850 and I told you it’d be Trump Free. Maybe more about babies soon-time.

So, the line-up for Glasgow Summer Nights at the Kelvingrove Bandstand has just been announced (and I’ve not yet got fully organised for the Aye Write Bookfest)

I note with interest that veterans like Nick Lowe (not the Nick Low I know) and Andy Fairweather Low are playing on Thursday, Aug 10th (and I once roadied for AFL in the days when you could make a couple of quid for yourself by helping to carry gear in and being there again at the end of the night to carry gear out – and get paid – but Andy’s team also invited us to the after-show party at the then Albany)

I am, as ever, open to suggestions.

Maybe Texas?

KT Tunstall?

But I want to mention a country duo who are on at the Bandstand on Friday, 11th August.  These are/this is The Shires………….and they are nothing like Alabama 3. Honest.

Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind tethered to another and you’re worried all the time. You always knew the melody but you never heard it rhyme (Brandi Carlile – ‘The Mother’)

February 9, 2017

And so dear listener, technically I have now been deemed fit to return to work but I had planned to be working these last few days and then enjoy being off the rota and taking TOIL (Time off in Lieu) and not doing much. I’m bored but better and desperate to get back out there….you know what I mean. ):

Indeed uni-Sharon works in the same kinda field and a recent msg from her read, ‘I’ll be in touch when thugs calm down.’ I was halfway into my car to go and help out when the correction came through; ‘things, I mean things!’

So, I have seen much of the NHS on TV as well as experiencing it in the really nice Maryhill Health Centre;

I would like to congratulate j, the blog’s favourite Gran on becoming a Gran again (and I may have more on a similar story in a couple of weeks or so but subject to the usual lack of information); 😀 😀 😀

and I listened to someone else describing hospitals as really ‘depressing places’.

At one point the detailed planning for this blog (a post-it) read ‘hosipta spevial’ which loosely translates as ‘hospital special’. But other things have happened since.

So all I’ll say is that in my only in-patient experience (the ten days or so after the Cold Turkey weekend) I ate properly with three meals a day for the first time in years; was shown how to walk (as my balance had been, and still is, a wee bit affected) on the backstairs of Gartnavel by two brilliant and very patient female physios; and was given two pairs of Gartnavel pyjamas to take away with me by one of the porters/male attendants with the words, ‘I don’t want ever to see you fu*king back in here ever again.’ I suspect that he believed that my alcohol dependency was a behaviour and not a disease. But I never wanted to go back either. And I haven’t since. 🙂

The pyjamas were given away recently unworn as I don’t wear pyjamas; tbh, I don’t wear anything most of the time……..Thankfully I don’t sleep walk.

(Like many people, I keep a notepad by my bed. It can help sleep patterns. If you’re really bad with sleep issues, then write the problem down on the pad, scrumple it up and throw it away. The problem won’t go away but it’s now far enough away not to cause you problems until you pick it up in the morning……the things you learn working in a rehab……..but in my basically alcoholic gap year my bad writing and my addled brain made it virtually impossible to understand the next morning what had been troubling me…..’Scarlet Turkeys again’ was one)

And this week’s random Conversation of the Month took place in the Kibble Palace in the Botanic Gardens into which I had popped as it was snowy-raining and I wandered over to the leaflets bit.

‘Watch what you’re doing’, this man said to me.

‘What?’ I said back to him.

‘Oh, sorry,’ he said. ‘I thought you were my daughter.’

Thirty seconds later I saw him with his daughter. She looked about eleven with long black hair.

And why did I feel the need to tell my optician that I was getting my hair cut the next day? Y’see I had had blurred vision a couple of times the day after I went back to work so I decided to get my eyes checked and they’re fine.  I think it was ‘cos I had to keep pushing my hair behind my hair to get those strange goggles on but the thing I really like is when you get the peripheral vision test. That’s the one when you see a flash and you have to press a button on a controller and it was so like playing early Space Invaders. I was bigly good.

And finally, I have tried to explain to people that one of the reasons I turned so much to alcohol after mum passed away was the fact that I had lost contact, during her illness, with many groups of people and networks. The fact that the BBC had moved south of the river may or may not have been a bad thing. This graphic explains a wee bit more……it’s about five minutes long so please feel free to come back to it.


tioraidh, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple.

iaint850, and all this free time I have just now looked so good four weeks ago BV – Before the Virus! I don’t even have things to talk about!

So I’m going to stop poking fun at the Donald. It’s too easy but his, and his team’s, pronouncements are becoming more and more frightening and further and further away from the truth.

Whereas this is so totally true. He said;

“I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, better than I think almost anybody”

Aye, Donald but how were you with Inter Library Loans? And how was your Harvard Referencing? And did you ever, like me, once get lost in the North Side of the UWS (Paisley) Library which I didn’t even know existed until about five weeks into the first term/block/trimester?

I couldn’t find the doors out which obviously were the doors in. I didn’t panic. I wandered round two or three times, pretending I knew what I was doing. And then I saw the multi-storey carpark, I kept it on my left and found the doors I wanted. I then plucked a copy of Der Spiegel from a rack and sat down as if nothing had ever happened. 🙂

So how did you really get on at Wharton, Donald and did you ever go the Library – or did you get someone to bring it to you? Write your essays for you? I get asked to do that but I’ve known too many students over the years who write their own. 🙂

Next week will be a Donald-free zone, I promise you!

And back to really important matters. I’d like to thank top snapper Zoe for this simple, but so appropriate, song to welcome a new lady baby into the world. 😀 😀


‘So many books, so little time’ (Zappa, Frank)

February 3, 2017

And so dear listener, as some of you know I’ve recently been hit by viral tonsillitis (as well as a tax bill and some very necessary work to the car and the annual fee to the Rosedale Park Residents’ Association) and my thanks to all those who asked after me. It was quite debilitating. It took quite a lot out of me. In fact, more than I expected. 😦

But I did go back to work and I did enjoy being back at work and some of the folk (and they’re very good folk, some of the best) were saying they’d not seen me and wondered what had happened and that was nice. 🙂

And then the next day, I felt very tired and put it down to being ‘very tired’ after the shift. And not because I missed my nap-time. It was a busy shift, but a good shift – one of the best. So the day after that, I was still very tired and went back to the doctor, a different doctor, but they’re all good doctors, very good doctors, and I’ve been signed off again.

jt, just take your effing time, this time. There will always be homeless people. ):

But I’m now officially part-time days which covers a range of shifts from 7 ish in the morning to finishing just after 10 at night. Which is where this week’s Random Conversation of the Month comes from…..but it’s not too random. Just the best level of randomness…….good people.

I finished my shift at 9.30 and was wandering along Sauchiehall Street to Queen Street Station (thinking chips, and they’re good chips, some of the best chips) when I heard this voice asking me how to get to Argyle Street. I explained ‘carry on walking and take the first on the right and keep walking. You’ll find it then.’

He explained he’d parked in King Street and was heading back to his car. Turned out he was an auditor working in Boots doing a stock-take.

‘Of course, it’d not always Boots. Sometimes it’s SuperDrugs; and we recently did Top Shop. Get around quite a bit actually. Can be quite exciting. Came out the side door tonight and found myself in a strange lane and wasn’t sure where I was.’

I said nothing but an odd memory floated past – not a good memory. Certainly, not one of the best. Bad hombres down south of Byres Road.

‘OMG!’ I thought, ‘How far away’s the first right? Is it soon?’ But I explained that all my family had been involved in the financial world so I knew all about stock-taking.

‘So what happened to you?’ he asked.

‘Oh’, said I. ‘I ended up an alcoholic journalist.’

At that point, he found first right all on his own.

Lucy Worsley reminds me of somebody. 🙂

So I explained last week that Donald Trump does not read books; I understand he spends his time watching cable tv and tweeting until his masters, Bannon and Kushner, call him forth to sign another Executive Order. But does that matter, I was asked?

Well, leaving aside the fact that reading some factual books on the US Constitution and how the American Government has worked over the years might help*, there are books out there that are worth reading for pleasure alone – altho’ I suspect the POTUS would prefer all-action American heroes. 😀

He’s not a great fan of the environment, but maybe, just maybe a novel where the trees fight back might just instil some fresh thinking. The book is called The Trees (surprise, surprise); it’s written by Ali Shaw; and described on the cover as ‘Tarantino meets Middle Earth’ – or would those artistic references only confuse him? Answers please on a postcard (remember them?) to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue……

* or maybe not, cos that’s what’s going to bring him down.

Mmmmmm, Becky, I have the smell of brie when I open the fridge. But it’s nice brie…..very nice brie…some of the best brie.

And Dennis K, I haven’t forgotten about the curry, but it will be  a good curry.

And those of you with long memories may remember that I used to attend a Glasgow University based dining cub called the Winers’ Club and the annual William Topaz McGonagall dinner is about to happen. I am tempted to go as there are many good men in that club – many, many good men in what is a good club – but I’m never sure about meeting up with groups of people who may not know my story – and it’s a good story – but I’ll have a wee think and I’d be interested in your views – you, the listener, as your views are important to me (Hang on! He doesn’t ask for peoples’ views, does he?!?!)…….but I’ve just checked and I’m working that night anyway…….there’s always next time.

But doesn’t the world seem so much safer when a lede item on the news is iceberg lettuce rationing.

And finally, only my work colleagues will understand this but thanks to the new e-system for paperwork and as database at the project, my first night back (on dayshift) saw me shouting at the computer, in total frustration, ‘Aw shit! Not another frozen running log!’

Tioraidh, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple. Some of my life stays constant and I like it that way. 🙂

Iaint850, missing the Thursday Gaelic, tho’…….. 😦

So some nice thoughts about books. I’ve got a copy of the aye write brochure for this year and I’ll have a wee look through it later. Didn’t get to anything last year but plan to do more this year. And I’m open to suggestions. But lots of good stuff for bookophiles of all ages….including quite a lot of Gaelic-related and Western Isles stuff. And the lovely Mike Heron formerly of the Incredible String Band.

But wait, what’s this I spy? Two hours’ worth of Research for Writers showing potential writers how to use ‘the Mitchell Collection and online.’……..maybe this is a sign. I’ll say no more but here’s the link to aye write to click but make it a good click 🙂


So this week ended with me feeling a wee bit down. So I make no excuse for this choice of music, as every time I hear it, it brings a smile to my face. It’s a good piece of music, a very good piece – one of the best.

“Patience, grasshopper,” said Maia. “Good things come to those who wait.” “I always thought that was ‘Good things come to those who do the wave,'” said Simon. “No wonder I’ve been so confused all my life.” (Cassandra Clare, City of Glass)

January 26, 2017

And so dear listener, can I say a big thanks to those of you who communicated by various means and offered your appreciation of last week’s show and my memories of alcohol and the BBC, with a wee bit of libraries thrown in. It brought back good memories……..and my kinda TV presentation gig, that I talked about, lasted for the one and only series of the programme (Angles) which I couldn’t even find on a Google search ):

I basically played ‘researcher with clipboard’ who gave the viewers some background as to who the obscure guests were and got paid a Staff Contribution Fee which paid for my first ever SLR camera (a Praktica). 🙂

Another TV appearance was ‘man hiding behind newspaper in VD Clinic at Southern General’ but that’s another story for another day. 😉

This week has been different in that I’ve been off work with viral tonsilitis and my car has been off the road with bodywork problems which I thought would be a nuisance but it’s maybe helped. I am a patient person where other people are concerned – even if I do worry about things outwith (a good Scottish word according to the OED) my control.

But me? Why am I not doing this? Should I be doing that? Can I help? More so than the Anxiety period. I have been signed off sick for a week and I can only get better with rest and fresh air and if that has begun by walking down to the ASDA rather than driving, then that is no bad thing. 🙂

And this week would have seen the move to part-time days which I am looking forward to and a new system of (not) paperwork. The part-time thing is good cos it does give me time to do other things and one of the things coming up is the proof-reading season…….it could pay for the holiday I keep promising myself. 🙂

On the tonsilitis front, a couple of people expressed surprise that I still had my tonsils as theirs had come out ages ago. Some things I do not give up easily. I still have my appendix and, of course, my prostate. Concerns about the surgeon’s knife in that part of my body were amongst the reasons for choosing radiotherapy – however tiring that turned out.

And recent advances in the world of prostate cancer means that this will soon only take a few days rather than thirty-seven. 😀

And I feel I should say that apart from alcohol issues, cancer, mental health and planking without planning, my health has always been reasonably good but if there’s one part of my body that suffers at this time of year, it’s my throat.

So I cancelled the social side of my life last weekend (including going to a Gaelic gig which I had agreed to go to at short notice but had to pull out of……..if only I’d pulled out earlier, someone else could have got my ticket……..)

One nice aspect of going for the diagnosis at Dr Fiona’s was investigating the new houses that have sprung up behind the new surgery with some brilliant views of the hills and the canals. I saw these from the street; I did not walk unannounced into someone’s house.

I also overheard a conversation between two window cleaners which ended with one saying to the other;

‘That’s a dreadful attitude to come to work with; you come in tomorrow morning with the same attitude and I’m taking it to the boss.’

All this from two ladders perched precariously at second-floor windows whist a third collected money from the doors below. 🙂

And I’m grateful to Jill from the south-side for letting me have this quote from her Facebook page.

‘Quick question: what’s the protocol for when you’re sat feeding your baby in Costa .. you glance at your phone for a minute.. look back up and realise your little one has been carefully and methodically spooning his yoghurt into some woman’s hood.?

Asking for a friend.’

And I’m also glad I did question a friend’s cooking advice when he told me the best way to get good well-fired nan breads was to put them on the bottom of  the wok you’re cooking with;

‘No, jt. Once you’ve finished the rest of your cooking, so that nothing falls out.’

And finally, one of the first things I was taught in my most recent stint at uny was to question the existence of ‘facts’ in that proof and evidence was needed; a few years ago, I was introduced to the notion that if something is repeated often enough without someone checking the sources, then you were into the world of ‘factoids’; and now we’re going through a time when politicians and successful business people are telling us to ignore experts and present us with ‘alternative facts’, we may find it difficult to believe anyone and to know what to do next.

I have no answer; just despair every time I see the man knowing that he has become a role model for every populist politician in the world who sees ‘controlling borders’ as the way to political power. Let’s not worry about Brexit; in ten years there will be no EU – just a host of countries refusing to talk and trade with each other. And he doesn’t read books.

Tioraidh an-drasta, still wearing that badge and learning more than ever to keep it simple.


So, I’ve not been out much this week, cos of the virus, but I have listened to a lot of Celtic Connections on Radio 2 and BBC Radio Scotland. And the name Fairport Convention was mentioned – they were playing somewhere in Glasgow.

I have many happy memories of seeing them, Steeleye Span, The JSD Band, Contraband and Silly Wizard many, many years ago………and drinking with several from the last three, including a very svelte Phil Cunningham (student gigs where I was involved in putting the bands on) 🙂

This is Fairport Convention (with Sandy Denny) along with Led Zep’s Robert Plant.

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything (G B Shaw)

January 19, 2017

And so dear listener, it was on 1st April 1979 that I joined the BBC as a researcher in Religious Broadcasting in Queen Margaret Drive. That same day a new TV producer called Les (from local radio in England) also started.

That lunchtime, the head of the department, his assistant, Les and me went to the Storm Queen in Dumbarton Road for lunch – alcohol with some food on the side – and this was my introduction to much of how broadcast journalism worked. In those days. 🙂

It was a time of cocktail cabinets and lock-ins in the BBC club (which ostensibly closed at 2.30) and wine when there were things to celebrate like the end of that day’s programme. Or five o’clock on a Friday when a trolley came down to the newsroom to celebrate the start of the weekend with free booze. 😀 It doesn’t happen now.

And when I worked in Embra with Religious Broadcasting, Radio, not only was Friday celebrated in Henderson’s for lunch but a well know Embra wine seller/cellar in George Street had a couple of bottles of white chilling for us for the afternoon and this with a Saturday and early Sunday ahead of us. Happy daze. 🙂

(All to a certain extent like my introduction to student life at Glasgow University and my progress in the extra-curricular life, where alcohol and the Beer Bar played a major part in acceptance and it was how I met the rrm and Dennis and Big Jock……the need and search for acceptance)

But it ain’t like that now. The demands of news 24/7 and the open plan offices at Pacific Quay have put an end to that. ):

This all came to mind as I watched BBC’s The Paper Thistle – a eulogy to/a celebration of the 200 years of the Scotsman and the easy acceptance of booze as part of the accepted behaviour, and its acceptable influence, in the wonderful world of journalism.

But, as in all aspects of people’s dependency on drugs such as alcohol and coffee (ask the Queen for her definition of mind-changing drugs), behaviours can change when there is a reason for change. 😀

I enjoyed my time with Religious Broadcasting. I did so much and learned so much. I worked in both TV and radio. I co-presented (kinda) a TV series and presented church services on radio; I didn’t enjoy TV presentation and the then Head of Radio, Scotland, didn’t like my voice. But I survived and stayed with the Beeb for many years and in many guises.

It’s funny tho’. On the same night as the documentary was on I continued tidying up the back bedroom that I use as an office. I shredded millions of stuff associated with the SVQ (honest) and thought I’d continue with the ‘academic papers’ I have – a few of which were accumulated through Inter Library Loans which the Cistercian monks invented but which in some libraries are now called something different. Once I’d been shown (slowly) how to find things on the ‘net and print them off, there was no stopping me. Anyway, I picked up the first clump of papers which turned out to be a Powerpoint presentation on being Drunk and Incapable by Ken Barrie (Skippy can we re-write that bit?)

And of course I sat down and read it and thought I can’t throw that away…….will the book idea ever leave me? (Excuse me while I look up Griesbach et al 2009)

But I was also reminded of a time early in my BBC career when libraries and journalism coincided. I was working for BBC’s Nationwide (of glorious memory) but it was during the Falklands War and unless I was called down to the War Desk in London, things (in Glasgow) were quiet.

I was approached by the producer of a Saturday programme – Jimmy Mack’s Old Gold – who wanted a feature called In This Week Ten Years Ago, Twenty Years Ago and so on. It involved me going down to the Mitchell Library (no USB sticks were harmed) every few weeks and going through the massive volumes of old Daily Records and Daily Expresses to look for the quirky – the stories that made you go Wow! 🙂

I could have done it in a couple of hours but there was a strange attraction in reading these old newspapers  or the high-tech world of the micro-fiche and following through a story – linking things before hyperlinks existed. Libraries can have that effect. How much material exists precariously on top of that bookcase that I didn’t need for my MSc but I got printed off anyway?

Gosh, 734 words without any effort…..I have 250 left.

And finally, a big well done to my friend uni-Sharon who managed to find the exact spot where we were meeting and on time.  Speaking as someone who had dreadful trouble finding a bodyshop in Bishopbriggs to get some work done on my new car, that was seriously good.

Cya, still wearing that badge and there is a knack to keeping it simple which I sometimes forget.

Johnt850, happily keeping it random.

So why do some people need the editing service I provide as secondary income for me?


Well I was approached by someone who asked if I could read 86,970 words in three weeks. ‘No’, I explained. ‘Not enough time.’ And I quoted Glasgow University’s Peer Proof-Reading Guidelines which suggest allowing ten days for essays of 20,000 words – rough guideline.

Back came the reply;

‘Sorry. I meant 8,697 words.’

Yes. You need a proof-reader and yes, I can.

I haven’t done anything about going to see Celtic Connections yet, for all sorts of reasons but this is Emma Pollock from this year’s Roaming Roots Revue at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Not big skies, J, but dark skies;

‘All there is to thinking is seeing something noticeable which makes you see something you weren’t noticing which makes you see something that isn’t even visible.’ (Norman Maclean)

January 13, 2017

And so dear listener, the new year moves on and some decisions have been made. I plan, for example, to continue to keep it simple – but is that a decision? The move to day-time working continues and a wee bit more of what I’ll miss about working nights will get highlighted later….and I need your help in the matter of holidays. Please.

Y’see, whilst I enjoyed my couple of days in Lisbon a couple of years ago for the novelty if nothing else, there did come a cup of single person coffee in a café overlooking the river when I thought, ‘Okay, maybe Tinderbox in Byres Road or Prince’s Square doesn’t have the same view but it’s one helluva lot easier to get to…’ or similar. 🙂

I don’t think I’m much of a lone traveller anyway and I did get out of the holiday habit some time ago. It’s a bit of a freelance thing where you worry about missing out on work but I always found meeting new people – journalistically or otherwise – gives me a real lift anyway. (That’s actually meeting people and not looking at a menu of sixteen suggested matches where I still feel guilty if I look at a profile and not then send a message)

So I woke up one morning dead early and thought I’m just going to go and find somewhere in the UK where I can go and just say ‘some weather, eh?’ and they’ll know what I’m talking about. 🙂

I mentioned this at a board meeting with e later that day (Tinderbox in Byres Road since you ask) and her suggestion made a lot of sense; rather than a posh country house hotel with large swimming pool which I wouldn’t use or a remote island where the only attraction is the local distillery and its product, ‘why don’t you consider an activity/residential holiday?’

And this is where you, the listener, comes in. I am looking for suggestions. 😉

Bear in mind that I don’t swim (never really learned to) and I don’t cycle (somewhere during Cold Turkey and the nine/ten day stay in hospital, I lost a large part of my balance and whilst I was able to overcome certain fears in absailing and zipwiring, I think there would still be an unsteadiness in activities like cycling)

But other than that I am pretty liberal in my thoughts. I have started a list but only the beginnings of one. Buddhist retreat? Maybe. Learn to paint with watercolours? Perhaps. Being taken in by a complete stranger? Interesting. And you don’t have to come with me but it is a blank sheet of paper on the computer screen………..

And on the question of holidays, I seem to have to take a lot of time off in lieu (TOIL) or actual Annual Leave before the end of March, so I am available for so many things –  including overtime……..my diary is possibly the most flexible it’s been for some time. I’m jt850/iaint850, try me. And I’ll possibly keep you posted on suggestions. 🙂

And so to the night shifts. I have one more rota’d shift and then I become established part-time days, which mean working two-three shifts of varying durations (6, 7 or 8 hours) between seven in the morning and ten at night and with a totally different set of responsibilities.

And I mentioned last week problems associated with agency, irregular part-time hours and zero hours contracts and their effect on people’s lives. It’s not just that I can’t get to the football cos I’m working; it’s cos I was working the night before and the sleazebag capitalists who run the world have brought forward the kick-off time of Thistle’s home game to 12.15 and I get to my bed at 8.30 in the morning and sleep though my eleven o’clock alarm and wake up at 11.30 and it’s just too late to get to the game…….Quality of life?

Or a single parent who doesn’t know if she’ll get enough hours to pay for Christmas presents for her children. 😦

But more of that another time.

Will I miss anything about working nights?

Y’mean like watching people pour out of the various pubs and clubs in the area at three in the morning and gaze  in wonderment at how the pre-booked private hire taxis somehow manage to find their fares even though they’re miles away from the Southside or Kirkintilloch or Paisley?

Or taking full bin bags round to the big bins in the alleyway around the corner at about five in the morning and having to apologise to a courting couple for interrupting them?

Or the night early one Monday morning when there was a feeling of pure evil in that part of Glasgow city centre (can evil be pure?) when bottles were broken on deserted streets, when the taxi drivers stayed in their cabs rather than coming out to chat and I felt the need to team up with a worker from a project round the corner to visit those aforementioned bins?

It was a night when Stephen King’s fog visited Glasgow and was scared off.

Cya, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple into 2017 🙂

Iaint850, who missed his first Gaelic lesson of the year cos of work commitments (or overtime as it’s known)

And I’m close to using up my word count so I’ll just introduce the latest in the series of acts I’d not heard of before until someone introduced me to them

This is Be Charlotte and I’ll let her explain herself.

‘If I do not tell you that I am a person in long-term recovery, you have no idea. If you have no idea, then you are missing out on an opportunity to receive the hope that recovery happens.’ (Addaction)

January 5, 2017

And so dear listener, I have started 2017 later than most and genuinely did not know what day of the week it was a few days ago and whilst this may have been the case for many Hogmanay revellers, for me it was slightly different. Let me explain.

Last Saturday (Hogmanay) I signed in for a twelve hour shift on 31/12/2016. At five to seven the next morning, I’m still signing things with the date 31/12/2016. The next shift? Well, they’re well ahead of me and my co-worker. They can use the date 01/01/2017. Already I’m eight hours and one year behind the rest of the world!

And I have two more twelve hour shifts, with some sleep between, and, suddenly, it’s Wednesday…I think. 😦

And even if I do go out for fresh air, then it feels like most of the rest of the world is on holiday. Oh, hang on; they were. Now, this is not a complaint; this is an observation. And, yes, I have chosen to do this job and I enjoy it and at no time do I get annoyed at teachers on social media who post about their drunken exploits during the holidays and then complain about going back to work after two weeks off but some other people I know who also had a couple of weeks off really deserved it. No. No names. No reason. 😉

I did okay with holidays in the run up to Christmas and, indeed, presents. 😀

Indeed, (obviously today’s word) as a consequence, I have decided to start collecting curtain tassles. And why not? (And I said that in that really butch voice I am so uncomfortable with) 😉

But there’s a few things worth mentioning here.

For example, there’s been lots of studies over the years about the effect that long-term night-shift can have on people’s lives (I typed ‘loves’ there. I should maybe have left it) but little has been said about the effects of agency working and irregular part-time work and the effects they can have other than highlighting the financial aspects – there are other issues.

And at this point I would like to make the point that some organisations out there  are very good when dealing with irregular workers and the organisation I work for is one of them. In my days as a relief worker when I was offered a shift and I accepted it was for the full shift and guaranteed unless there was significant change in circumstances. Training was available, the wages were good and things like holiday pay happened.

But it’s in things like the planning of your life. That constant looking at your phone just in case that text is actually offering you a shift and you don’t want to miss it. 😦

You don’t need a diary (you’re scared to put anything in it anyway) because every date is in your brain anyway and you know when you are unavailable for cups of coffee. The flexibility that my current and future rotas offer me is good but I find it strange that I can take holidays or go sick and still get paid for it – but that’s the freelance in me.

I have booked a long weekend in March and I really should be planning to go away (any suggestions? Any volunteers?) but hang on; that’s a busy time for editing and I don’t want to let anyone down…..

(I must do a good job for people as one man this week paid me 50% more than I asked for but that doesn’t happen often).


But times and timing have always been important to me. I don’t often talk about the weeks before Cold Turkey but I knew something was up when I turned up on the wrong day for a doctor’s appointment….(that and the shaking and sweating until I got a whisky inside me)…..I don’t do that. I used to be the producer of live radio programmes which relied on people getting into studios all over the world at an agreed time.

And finally how long do chocolate bees last before they come to the end of their useful lives and need putting down?

Cya, still wearing that badge and still keeping it simple.

Iaint850, as cool as, man, as cool as…….

So a wee bit, if I may, about the quote at the top.

I was delighted during the week to read that Kevin Kennedy (Curly in Coronation Street) had not had an alcoholic drink for eighteen years and that Clare, his wife, was doing really well as well. Kevin uses AA as a means ‘to stay safe’ and is often asked for help (I would say ‘occasionally’ where I’m concerned) and runs a charity called Kennedy Street offering help. However, I get the impression that what has made all the difference to him and his wife is this;

‘His daughters Katie-May, 12, and Grace, nine, by his wife Clare – who he reconciled with after getting sober – have never seen him touch a drop of alcohol.’

Other people may find other reasons. For me it’s having a clear brain all the time – not that I use it all the time, but at least it’s there.

I suspect that Kevin and I would disagree over whether alcohol dependency is a behaviour or a disease but we both share the pressures of boredom or nothing on the TV (I go for a walk which I will be doing more of as I attempt to lose girth) and we both have to be in the right mood before we go into a pub (but it didn’t help the other night when my companions got nice mixer glasses for their vodka and cokes or irn-bru and I got a massive tumbler of orange juice. That was soooo off-putting)

He and I are both very lucky with many really good friends but I’m better looking. 🙂

This is a very difficult song to sing (it’s the breathing) and this is an amazing version by Caravan Palace who played it on Jools Holland. It’s Black Betty. It’s brilliant.

‘I’ve always known that I had this strong inner camp. I’ve just never quite revealed it in this way’ (Ed Balls on his Strictly experience and my quote of the year)

December 28, 2016

And so dear listener we come to that long anticipated moment in the year when it’s time for the Blog Personality of the Year. I think this is the seventh such show but I do know that I never ever thought that the blog would run for – coming up to – eight years. It was basically designed as a way of keeping people up to date on the progress of my cancer treatment but it seems to have just kept going – with a will of its own. 🙂

I have never kept records so I’m not too sure who or what has won the various categories in the past but I do know that only one actual person has won the Personality Award and she was three at the time – and she actually got a prize, which was a kite. Which reminds me, e…….. 😉

And last year’s winner was the little house on the prairie for burning incense that J had brought back from Canada, which indicates the high standard of award. 🙂

Anyway I see the stretch limos are pulling up; the guests are in their finery; and the sea bass is to die for.

So, strike up the Strumpets, Skippy and let’s get started.

Let’s start with the Team of the Year Award. At one point, earlier in the year, a group of women called the Johnstone Jaunters were the main contenders but since I first met them, I’ve not been to Johnstone and, therefore, I’ve not jaunted there either. Nothing to do with them as they are an exceedingly nice bunch of people, but the best-laid plans….but a promise is a promise, Patricia and Sharon, so I will be back. 😀

But I’ve since made contact with another group of like-minded people and it’s been fun. I think there will be a serious side to things come the new year but, in the meantime, I would like to say a big thanks to the people in my Gaelic class, so I will;

Tapadh leibh tha thu ann an Sgioba na Bliadhna

They are the Team of the Year and I hope the fun continues. 😀

A couple of years ago, I introduced a (musical) Track of the Year Award and it went to Zombie by Jamie T and last year it went to  Come On and Dance by Walk the Moon. This year I, with various good friends, went to a few gigs and they were all good….including seeing Kris Kristofferson at Celtic Connections – which reminds me…..someone has still to look at this year’s brochure

And I’ll be mentioning Alabama 3 quite a lot – later.

But seeing the Waterboys was brill….and their version of Purple Rain was amazing. Their very special rendition of that in the Chris Evans’ studio will be the piece that plays us out at the end of the show. As a radio producer, I was always amazed at how many people (and instruments) you could get into a radio studio and what you see is not unusual. So Purple Rain by the Waterboys is the Track of the Year.

And so dear listener, we come to the Lifetime Achievement Award and it’s something I don’t have to give any reason for awarding it other than to say I was overwhelmed by the number of votes that came in for this person. I think it’s her Big Sky philosophy that has made such a difference to so many people’s lives (well, me and Skippy) and her kindness in opening my garden earlier this year. So, ladies and gentlemen, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award goes to

J…….and it is soooo well deserved. 🙂

So we move to the Personality Award itself and we’ll do it in traditional 3-2-1 fashion.

In Third Place, is somewhere I had not visited for a long time but I had a marvellous time walking around the island of Cumbrae with five marvellous women and it was just a lovely day and I felt quite a special achievement for us all….the chips in Largs just being part of it….. :)……

And then I have a problem. For the first time ever, there is a tie for First Place with an equal number of votes cast for each contender. And there is nothing in the rules to allow for this situation…..So I tossed Skippy in the air and she came down on both her head and her tail….so it is a tie for First Place, for the first time ever.

So, please step forward to the podium,

The Bees, a fabulous book by Laline Paull, and the amazing Alabama 3 who happened to turn up in Glasgow on the tenth anniversary of my Cold Turkey (and thanks to whoever ‘up there’ arranged the whole night) 😀

The Bees changed much of my reading habits as I’d been much more of an angsty reader in my various selections but The Bees is a book written to give pleasure purely from the act of reading – no WhoDunnit where you try and out-do the detective or ghost-written sports autobiography where you learn of how the hero overcame so much to become a upper sports hero – but neither of these will ever out-do the achievements of Flora 717. 🙂

The book also gave rise to a bee backpackers’ hostel on my back fence and a chocolate bee which is currently sitting on my dining table.

And, at Kris Kristofferson earlier this year, at one point he seemed to call out the name of my companion and said, ‘this one’s for you.’ Watching A3 with the same companion, I felt they were all for me and everyone and anyone who has ever been through that spiritual process known as recovery.

And so dear listener, this has been one of the closest contests for years and every vote did count so thanks to all those who voted but if your favourite didn’t make it, well there’s always next year.

For me much happened last year including anxiety and depression and a new car but I owe so much to my amazing friends – not all of whom are women. Next year already promises interesting times as, apart from anything else, I start to work part-time days as opposed to part-time nights. I also intend to stay as friend with all those who’ll have me – even with all my idiosyncracies. 😉

And if I have one revolution for the new year, it is to get back to the fitness and girth size that got me round Millport all those months ago.

Feasgar Math, Iaint850

(And it may be one of those occasions when you have to actually click on the link)




‘We close on Monday or) Tuesday 27th) My 3 sisters come from Korea. I miss them ten years. thanks’ (A genuine sign on a dry cleaner’s in Glasgow…isn’t that lovely?)

December 21, 2016

And so dear listener, this is possibly your favourite edition of the show; it’s the one that shamelessly plagiarises the pages of the Daily Telegraph and gives you, the listener, the opportunity to be the life and soul of the party.  It’s the Christmas Cracker edition which will give you a wee bit of a laff and I will obviously intersperse these jokes (?) with the odd comment to real people and then next week it’s the Blog Personality of the Year Awards.

Here goes.

Q What is the best Christmas present in the world?

A A broken drum, cos you just can’t beat it!

And J I’m really pleased we went to that place early for the exchange of presents. I mean, we were lucky to get a seat………(I think most people will be able to guess the ending to that one!) 🙂

(You get the idea?)

Q What do you call a cat in the desert?

A Sandy Claws

And Missie K I do hope I didn’t embarrass you in Tinderbox the other day by showing you how Alabama 3 move and groove live on stage – a shimmy to the left and a shimmy to the right and repeat – and, indeed, I do hope, J, that I didn’t embarrass you by doing that the other night – for real.

(What would I do without Princes Square for entertaining in town?)

Q What do angry mice send to each other at Christmas?

A Cross Mouse Cards

And Debs, No, I haven’t done that risk assessment. In fact given the amount of shredding I’ve done since the end of the SVQ I’m not sure if I’ve even got it. Oooops.

Do you bring in soup on dayshifts? 😀

Q How does King Wenceslas like his pizzas?

A Deep pan, crisp and even.

And, e, that was a brilliant Nollaig card designed by young AJ and I see it’s to help raise funds for Sgoil Ghaiidhlig Ghlaschu, which as you know has long been one of my favourite organisations and if it was them I helped last year, then just please ask again…… and have a good holiday. 🙂

Q Why is it getting harder to buy Advent Calendars?

A It’s just that their days are numbered.

And Ann from PCUK HQ, I’m thoroughly looking forward to eating vegan 😉

Q Why did no-one bid for Rudolph or Blitzen on eBay

A They were too deer.

And Sharon when you said the Grill in the Inn in the Park was near the station, did you mean Gilmour Street or Paisley Canal?

Q Which famous playwright was terrified at Christmas?

A Noel Coward

And finally, I’m just back from posting a condolence card. To someone in Peterhead. And I’m not going to say anything about putting things into perspective but to me it is a reminder that none of us are infallible and we often have a tendency to underestimate people and what they can bring to the world.

Cya, still wearing that badge and so glad I kept it simple.

Iaint850, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition (a line from an A3 song)

Nollaig Chrideheil dhuibh uile agus Bliadna Mhath Ur

So many, many years ago I shared various flats with a smashing woman called Viv (and occasional others) and it was like as if Viv was the template for so many of my ‘girl as friend’ relationships since. We stayed in some really crappy flats but I won’t say too much in case Harry the Greek has any legal representatives who read this blog. I think my favest was in Bower Street where the damp was soooo bad we had salmon fishing rights for the whole street. 😦

But one Christmas (possibly my first ever away from home) we were on our own in a flat in Otago Street shivering around the two bar electric fire wondering if any place would be open where we could go for a warm up (changed days, eh?) when the doorbell rang. It was Alex and Monica with Alex having liberated some booze from his dad’s drinks cupboard followed soon time by Brian who followed the booze and then the doorbell rang again and it was and so on and the party started and someone knew an Indian takeaway that was open and, several days later we emerged. 🙂

For some reason, I always associate this with that party and Greg was another that 2016 claimed.