Archive for October, 2012

And all the time I wanted to be somewhere that wasn’t so new. Where you didn’t have to dig yourself out a place to stand far away from the envy of angels (the mutton birds)

October 27, 2012

And so dear listener, this blog comes with a warning. It is reflective and I know some listeners do not like those. But this time it has nothing to do with (my) alcoholism, (my) cancer or (my) relationships. In the week when Ceefax came to an end, I want to talk a wee bit ‘bout my time at the BBC.

I became a staffer with BBC Scotland in the eighties and the culture and context of the time in Queen Margaret Drive was middle class smugness. Kenneth McKellar, Moira Anderson and Bill McCue were gods and goddesses. And yes, to a certain extent I was middle class at the time as well (I have since become downwardly mobile but am happy with my semi) but I had been working as a community worker in Viewpark near Bellshill, Whisky Valley near Hamilton and Easterhouse near Purgatory (then).

My first job as a researcher was on a documentary which was to bring three sets of primary schoolchildren from three different areas of Glasgow and put them on an open-topped double decker. ‘Won’t they fight?’ said one of the production team. ‘Why the f**k should they?’ I said – forgetting I was working for Religious Broadcasting.

My reward? I’d to chaperone the kids from Barrowfield Primary at a time when I couldn’t drive and not all taxis entered Barrowfield. So each morning I walked in and walked back out again with the appropriate number of kids and got them back home again.

I worked as a producer on the Jimmy Mack Show (a brilliant pro who taught me so much) but one drunken evening, a production assistant (whom we’ll call Jeanette) told me how middle class she thought the show was. So we took it to Easterhouse Shopping Centre; not The Fort but the poor people’s one which stands with two pubs (Griers and the Centaur) at either end and we got the Director of Housing down and the Community Policeman and walkers on stilts and fire breathers and we had a brilliant time.

Okay, it could be argued that it was tokenism but I believed then, and I still believe now, about giving people a chance to get their voices heard.

And it wasn’t just me. If this blog sounds like it’s memememe, then it’s cos I’m proud of what I and others did. (Study buddie Fi once believed, after she’d done a Post Grad in journalism, that those who went into broadcasting after the course were either dumb blonde bimbos or people with egos – I agreed with her. I was the latter and still am)

Off The Ball, when it first started under the amazing Alan de Pelette and the amazing but now dead Lyndsay Cadden, was all about giving the ‘ordinary fans’ their voice. Lesley Riddoch and Speaking Out was another where ‘ordinary people’ got their voices heard. And let’s not forget Fair Do’s produced by memememe initially and presented by Margo McDonald.

One middle class radio reviewer said ‘no-one uses that phrase these days.’ Later that day I was changing in a council pavilion after a game of football when the jannie walked in and said, ‘Fair do’s lads. Nae washing your boots in the sinks. It clogs them up and I’ve got to wash the f**kers.’

The first prog Margo and I did was about women who had had Caesarians but, altho’ they had had epidurals, they still felt the knife, and couldn’t speak out. And, in that same series, I did a simple package about burns and injuries – or at least it was meant to be simple – but the interview with the wee injured seven year old took place in a flat above some drug dealers. The steel panelled door downstairs and the swords on the wall upstairs confirmed this. My tape recorder seemed helluva big on the way back to the car and I have no idea how many eyes were on me that day nor for what reason.

I think the BBC is still middle class – too keen to avoid proper confrontation and to stand up for itself. Middle class traits – but I’m not sure what the answer is. They should stop navel gazing at the moment. Girls and boys were abused and they should maybe concentrate on that. How did it happen? Where were the teachers from the approved schools? And why are all the other institutions not being shouted at? The navel gazing has taken us away from some of the real questions. When did what an editor writes in a blog become so freaking important? Maybe the administrators have actually taken over. Actually they did in Queen Margaret Drive when they moved the reception from the programme making side of the building to the admin side.

I’m proud of what I did in my time there and could maybe have achieved more if the alcohol had not taken over and left me in a quiet comfort zone where I earned more than enough to feed my ‘habits’……

Anyway, must go………if there is anyone out there who has stuck with me through all of the above…thanks…there is a faith to be kept.

Cya, (keep)ing it fun and still wearing that badge? Yes, and, still remembering my BBC ID number.

Johnt850, who’s talked ‘bout his cancer and his relationships on live radio but never his alcoholism.

I suppose I should finish this with out-takes but it’s tricky in this medium. So two stories.

One of the best docs I ever did was ‘bout prostate cancer where ‘ordinary’ men and their wives spoke out about the two things that worry men most ‘bout getting treatment – impotence and incontinence – and how it was possible to overcome these. One interview took place in an old fashioned Edinburgh hotel and after I’d finished recording, the man tapped one of the stone pillars and said, ‘jt, d’you know that just six months after I’d finished treatment I’d an erection as rock solid as this?’

To which his wife replied, ‘And just as bloody useless.’

And then Jimmy Mack at the Garden Festival when the interview with the mime rapper was dying on its feet; there wasn’t a record (black vinyl seven inches thing) cued up; and the band were out the back ‘smoking’ – when the production assistant, Jayne, spotted this giant rabbit on stilts and got him to go to the tall audience mic so Jimmy could interview him instead; Dave the audio cued up a disc somehow; and I got the band to hide the evidence, sorry, to put out their cigarettes and get back out there – and we stayed on air. Nowadays we might have to explain it wasn’t a real rabbit – except me, Jayne, Dave and the late Jimmy Mack all know it was.

And in the week when the great Michael Marra died, here’s the lovely Eddi Reader with her version of Mother Glasgow. Extraordinary voices – both Eddi’s and Michael’s…..and, those belonging to ‘ordinary people’…….

Tonight we are young. So let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun. So if by the time the bar closes and you feel like falling down I’ll carry you home tonight (The Fun)

October 19, 2012

And so dear listener, I very rarely refer to football matches but this one last week was important. An away match that meant so much in terms of the rest of the season. Travel was involved. Something that hadn’t been achieved in years was there. On the horizon. The players had faith in the manager. Some of us had the ultimate faith. So we travelled.

To Cowdenbeath. For the Semi-Final of the Ramsden’s Cup. Or is it a Trophy? And will we get to keep it or do we have to pawn it?

So it was we gathered. Four of us; #soulboydave, the man they know as Bean and Stuart, the keeper of books (librarian) and me. By car. To Cowdenbeath.

We arrived early and went to the ground (also a stock car racing circuit on Saturday evenings. This was Sunday afternoon) only to be told that the Social Club was shut but that the pub round the corner sold quarter-gills at £1.55. ‘Mmmmmmm,’ said I, ‘why can’t I lapse? Here. Just the once,’

‘No,’ I was told. ‘If you are to lapse, then it will not be here in Cowdenbeath. It will be somewhere closer to home. A place called Never. We won’t let you.’ And so we went to a very strange pub called The New Goth. Do you know it, Sharon? Which had been taken over by Thistle fans and I had orange juice. And we met people. and it had lots of electric fires and was very warm.

And so we went to the game and one of our number must have said something about the poor state of the ground only for a local worthy to say, ‘Aye boys, it might be a shitehole, but at least it’s our shitehole.’

And can I just say a big Thank You to all those who followed the game on BBC Alba. Or tried to follow it but external pressures* played a big part in not allowing the viewing.

*aka Cbeebies (AJ had the remote control)

And we won one-nil. And we are in our first final since 1971 – forty-one years ago. How exciting because, as you know, I decided some time ago to be 42 for the rest of my life. I’ll keep you posted. Here’s some music while I catch my breath.

Actually it’s a good choice of music given that Mark Wotte (the SFA’s Performance Director) ascribes the poor standard of football to our lifestyle;

‘And when (the kids) are 16 they are going on the Buckfast and having a great time.’ 🙂

Role models would be good. I remember when Chief Whips respected the police and Chancellors of the Exchequer did not try to deceive the railway authorities. I’d rather be a f**king pleb than a Tory!

But then these are people who don’t have to answer the questions of life that the rest of us have to put up with like;

Why are Argos catalogues so heavy?

Why did my shopping list have just the one item on it, namely ‘frozen garlic’, and

Why does David Cameron want to commemorate the start of a war that killed millions in the name of capitalism, just weeks before we remember the end of that war and those who gave their lives in that and subsequent wars? And they’re all wearing their poppies too soon.

I don’t know why I’m ranting. I’d a lovely acudetox session with Chi Quong on Fridayafternoon. Very relaxing. So, yes. I did start my vol work with a rehab unit down West Dunbartonshire this week but usual confidential rules apply. All I can say is the local church hall had a Fish Supper Bingo night at which the first prize was an autographed copy of Susan Boyle’s autobiography.

And that Dumbarton has the best public toilet in the entire world! It is a single person bog for 10p and is multi-sexed (or whatever) and is the size of my ‘master bedroom’. You are allowed a total of twenty minutes in there before the door is automatically unlocked and lights flash. A Saturday night of uncertain vintage in Wilton Street just came ‘whizz’ing back to me. 😀

And finally, can I wish the Vampire Slayer a Happy Birthday weekend? Oh, I can. That’s good. Happy Birthday Weekend, Vampire Slayer…you wear the three hundred years so well lol ! 😀 x

Cya, keep(ing) it fun and still wearing that badge? Yup even when fishing.

Johnt850, who doesn’t drink, smoke, take drugs or eat meat. So what are my good points?

So my ethics application is almost complete and it’s about people speaking up on behalf of alcoholics and this month has been Scottish Mental Health Arts and Festival month and I popped into Kelvingrove Art Gallery on Thursday to see an event called Moving Minds IV and there I came into contact with two organisations that epitomise what I would like to see for alcoholics or people who may have drink problems. These would not be Government funded Safe Drinking Campaigns.

One in particular caught my eye. It is called Voices of Experience and is ‘an organisation of, for and by people who have or have had mental health problems’ but where it differs from any alcoholic organisation is that it is not just a sharing message but it is a campaigning organisation and wants to affect policy and practice both nationally and internationally.

And there are signs of things happening but if we ever get Voices of the Alcoholic, I want Mark Wotte as its first patron.

And was this Wilton Street or a memory from the same time? Mae Mckenna’s was a marvellous voice.

In love and in dreams, nothing is impossible

October 12, 2012

So when I looked for the origin of that quote I was referred to a link for Single Christians advising me that God has a Match for me.  Mmmmm….but I’m not a Christian. And those who think that the quote may be a message could well be right. 🙂

I put this show together a couple of days earlier than usual cos of another match – Cowdenbeath v the mighty Jags on Sunday afternoon just after 4 and see us live on BBC Alba. Plus I was watching Wales v Scotland so please forgive me for any shouts as we go along.

I’ve also been waiting for the phone to ring. I’d an interview for more relief work with an addiction charity this morning but nothing so far. So it looks as if I hit the next wee while with the domination degree, some vol work and some other relief work thru a housing charity. The editing side of things has slowed down.

No, I’m sorry, Craig, this is a must win game!

I was recounting most of this to the blogmeister the other night, fresh from his websiting on behalf of an indie Scotland, in a very pleasant little pub called The Piper on the edge of George Square (bring mountaineering equipment if you want to go to the bog) and most of what was discussed stays in The Piper – the story about the stoner and the micro-noodles will have to wait ‘cos it’s so visual.

But what I really liked was the tacit acceptance of my soft drinking by being offered the final drink of the night with the words, ‘One for the road, jt?’ No, blogmeister, it takes a man to know when he’s had his fill of orange juice.

And it came in the kinda of glass I associate with long-time gone hotels……..but what do I know of long-time gone hotels you may ask? Well this was one of the memories that have recently been coming back to me.

Morrison misses for Wales but Morrison has just scored for Scotland!

Years ago when the family came down to Glasgow (we knew how to live) we stayed in a hotel in Bellahouston on what I would call the South Side but e would probably call ‘just over the river’. This was because, apparently, our parents had so many relations it was much easier to do this. Now, bear with me. I was about 5, my brain as yet unfuddled by drink and drugs. We stayed with a woman called Mrs Law, who I thought was an in-law, with a very large house with lots of maids and butlers.

Now, and this was the specific memory that came to me, on one occasion I was driven in the ‘law-car’ by one of the maids to Govan Health Centre (or whatever it was called at that time) for a  repeat prescription.  She was, dear listener, wearing a maid’s uniform and it was thus, at the age of 5, I became aware, without knowing it, of the phrase, ‘a finely turned ankle’…… Little did I know then how important the phrase, ‘repeat prescription’ would become in my life…… well as….

Gareth Bale, you were rubbish as Superman, but you are a reasonably good footballer…..okay, world class.

But it was really nice on the way up the road, well, on the train, to hear a young female student, tell a friend on the phone of how much she was looking forward to the next day’s class… we passed thru the garden suburb of Possilpark and Parkhouse, it then turned out that the class would be in cocktail making and she was looking forward to getting blitzed. Happy student daze! 🙂

But this week’s stolen joke of the month is, ‘that Nigella Lawson’s a hottie. Yes. She’s a regular Gas Mark Phwoar.’ But I also liked the idea that the Newcastle United manager told his players to ignore the furore caused by the fact that they were now sponsored by Wonga and to continue giving 4,105 per cent.

And finally, Good luck with the new job, Sharon; and it’s interesting Dr W how so much of the Savile allegations replicate much of your genuine academic research and a law firm has now entered the fray – let the trawl begin – and my carpet is sand not beige. What’s yours?; and why have I written down ‘garlic bread’ and ‘Study Buddie Fi’?; and, yes, I did see Boris Johnson at the Tory Party Conference  talking about Jeremy Hunt whanging his bellend (it’s an interesting Google)

Cya, keep(ing) it fun and still wearing that badge? Yup but it ain’t going to Rio, is it? 😦

Johnt850, the Dionyos of blogging

And I met another former student this week, from the same class as the blogmeister, who we’ll call Jonathon, who is one of those out on the streets, raising money by your direct debit for charity. I’ve met him a few times already and he knows ‘bout my alcoholism but he asked an interesting question….  

Was I drinking whilst I was teaching?

Well, yes, in what I now describe as my alcoholic gap thirteen and a half months, I was. I mean I wasn’t swigging the bottle in front of students but for most of that time, I was affected by the bottle. ‘Did it never show?’ I asked him. ‘Well. no,’ he said,’we just thought it was your style of teaching.’  😀

Here’s Jack Kerouac reading from On The Road

I was going to give you the Hornblower Brothers playing the Ghost of Kerouac but you can’t make out a word they sing. Not often I plug a new movie. Oh, I’ve just done so. Both. And I’d be keen to go. No. No rush.

In this trouble town, troubles are found; in this trouble town, words do get ’round. Kick the bottom, make troubles flee. Smoke until our eyes would bleed. Sparkle pop the seed. (jake bugg)

October 5, 2012

So, dear listener, I’m often asked where I get my ideas from for the blog. (He’s not. It’s a tired and clichéd way of introducing the blog – Skippy). Well, I had thought of words of wisdom from our parents. This after seeing a lady from Morrisons, in the light of some pension changes, saying that her father always said that it was never too early to start a pension, but the only thing I can remember my dad telling me was that ‘a good drinker never drinks the dregs’. I have no idea whether I took his advice so maybe not. (tbh, I have no idea what he meant)

Or I could advise against the martial art/combat sport that is badminton. The damage done to the right eye area has gone and my rib doesn’t hurt as much but I don’t think I’ll be doing any procreating from that area of my body in the near future. In fact, tbh…… No. The worst damage has been to my left wrist which has a very unpleasant black mark on it but, before the digital age, I only ever used it for turning the page anyway. 😉

Or I could do one of those messages meaningless to lots of people which sometimes folk quote as the reason they don’t understand the blog. But I won’t. But by the way, rainforestriverman, good luck with the new job. Worry not. Me and the blogmeister will watch your back for you in the world of online shopping. 😉

But I won’t. Instead I want to talk about a presentation, hosted by John Finnie MSP at Holyrood, given by Alcoholics Anonymous to professionals and politicians (and me). The serious bit will follow below the line but it’s a happy one – as was the whole evening. 😀

It started on the busy train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. I was sitting opposite an American lady and beside her husband. As we neared Edinburgh, I took my headphones off and ran my fingers through my hair. ‘You’re beautiful’, she said. I did it again. ‘No, you look really good.’ (seriously, she did – Skippy). ‘What is it you do for a living?’ asked her husband. So I found myself discussing the Twelve Step Programme, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Motivational Behaviour, knowing that the next seat might contain someone with a lot more experience than me of these, but also heading to the Parliament. I got away with it.

So I did that amazing walk from the station up to Holyrood; that strange mix of Tartanalia and Scottish history. I passed thru the airport security; went to the bog and then went to the reception desk. An usher approached me. ‘You’ll be here for the Commonwealth Games Reception, sir?’

‘No,’ I replied, ‘I’m here for the Alcoholics Anonymous Reception.’ (It must have been the badminton injuries – Skippy) He looked at me strangely. I thought ‘put that in your grumpy pipe and spark it up’.

And then when it came time for us to be called to the reception, the usherette came along and cried, ‘Alcoholic Anonymous Awareness, this way.’ Somehow, it was as if I was being guided along the way.

And, of course when it was over, I shared the lift down with three young women one of whom, of course, said, ‘I know your face.’ It’s happening a lot these days and I’m not sure why. But I’m not worried. Much. And we didn’t know from where…..

(When he says they shared a lift, they didn’t actually break it into four bits; they just all got into it together – Skippy)      

And finally, I’ve never had to walk from Paisley to Summerston in the snow. What route would you take? Dani?

Cya, keep(ing) it fun and still wearing that badge? Yes, and all open and above board and reproach.

Johnt850, one of the few ppl on Wed night to have his surname on his name card but yet……. 

For some reason, some ppl think I have a ‘down’ on AA. I don’t. I have a tremendous respect for them as part of the road to recovery. But, like all organisations, there are good and bad people in the organisation but, unlike tennis clubs and golf clubs, it is dealing directly with people’s lives. I just worry.

However, what I saw on Wednesday night was miles away from the ‘smokey’ church halls of black and white movies or the back room in a community centre. I saw a discussion between AA and professionals in addiction about how the two groups could work in tandem, whilst preserving the principles and traditions of the Fellowship. It was quite inspiring.

It wasn’t a proper meeting. There was no serenity prayer at the end but a couple of people told their stories at the start. I never had to face ‘the four o’clock tribunal’, incidentally; I just went and had a whisky and went back to sleep.  

Oh, and I didn’t have to say. ‘My name is John and I am an alcoholic.’ But, on this occasion, as on others, I would have done and said thanks for the hospitality and, truly, the whole night was inspirational………and I may be going to a meeting in Inverness. In November. I am happy to go to meetings. It does me no harm.

And in a week when everyone is going Gung Ho about a South Korean singing softcore Old Skool, here is the best piece of music around at the moment. It’s Rudimental. And it features real horses, not women as ponies……Actually, both musically and videolly, it’s pretty inspirational as well………