Archive for June, 2015

To accomplish great things we must not only act but dream; not only plan but also believe (Friends of Queen Margaret Drive)

June 26, 2015

And so dear listener last week’s blog about my damaged (left) arm and Charles Kennedy’s Memorial Service raised a few questions which I shall attempt to answer before going and doing fifty press ups with my right arm only. 🙂

First, thanks to Janice from somewhere in the West of Scotland who asked why I was able to tie brown shoe laces but not black ones? Well, Janice, the black-laced shoes were very fine shoe laces whereas the brown ones were a wee bit thicker. I do have formal black slip on shoes but they go back to an era when I used to dance the night away with Audrey Hepburn and that would only bring back memories. 😦

And I was taken slightly to task by e (of whom more later) for my checking my Blackberry before the Procession round the quadrangle had even finished. But, hey, the fragrant Nicola left even before the Procession…….affairs of state maybe or missing her favourite soap?

And I am serious when I say that I am judging my recovery by being able to dry my hair properly. It involves stretching and moving my left hand – and the fingers thereof – to make sure the curly bits get fingered properly (Skippy?) and therefore get dried properly.

Maybe if I’d chosen a more manly example such as fly-fishing or, or, or or……..any other example gratefully received.

Anyway I’m seeing a physio soontime……it’s student day at the clinic so I’m getting a student. 🙂 Basically I crashed my left side onto stone slabs and crushed my arm…..with whiplash effect to the neck. Aye. Think sitting sideways and crashing into a wall……

But I was not short of reading matter. My thanks go to Jenny H (and her pal Kim) for their semenal (sp?) work on the Challenges for Housing Policy in Scotland (and well done for making the Herald); and to Fenton of that Ilk for her work on the experiences of methadone users in a modified therapeutic community (a lot of interesting questions raised about recovery particularly where the Twelve Step Programme is involved). The boy McPhee looks promising as well.

But I am sooooooo out of condition. I don’t think I’ve recovered properly from the throat virus and some other stuff. Walking is the answer – and I was here eight or so years ago when I built up from ten minutes in the graveyard across the road to eleven miles (or so) in two hours around the canals and rivers in the area. My thanks to e and RJ and Holly the Labradoodle for getting me out to Garscube Science Park where Partick Thistle train, watched over by Kingsley the new mascot. It’s a smashing walk – minutes from my front door. Probably the same from my back door when I think about it. I have a reasonably sized semi.

You can walk through what remains of Garscube House (and you can also see the back garden of my ex’s house) which was owned by Sir Archibald who, when he died, had a wine cellar valued at £1,043 (in 1846!!!!!). I had a dozen bottles of Rioja and two cans of lager in the house when I ‘cold-turkeyed’.

Good walking tho’ and I am available (mums) for any such chores during the Summer Holidays…..once I can dry my hair properly.

And finally, the Queen is keen to protect ‘hard working families’ against all psychoactive (mind altering) substances other than alcohol, tobacco and coffee, suggesting that she believes it’s the substance that causes the problem. What most people who work or research in the substance use field will say is it’s ‘the drug, the (mind)set and the setting.’

So let’s look at the case of ‘boozed up nut’ Andrew Tosh from Dundee who was ‘banged up’ for nine months for (amongst other things) sexually assaulting a stewardess. The drug? Legally available alcohol. The setting? A boozy holiday lounge in an airport. The mindset? Total wanker.

Cya, still wearing that badge (and it’s a new one thanks to friend Rosie) and defo going for it (once my left arm’s fixed)

Johnt850, sleeping better now I know Kingsley’s looking after me.

So I was going to spend this bit discussing the Social Media launch of and how good it was to see proper websites such as Bella Caledonia and Wings Over Scotland represented – sites which use journalistic skills and values to source their stories. I get just a touch annoyed when I see photos or extracts from websites retweeted or shared without any detail of where or when events happened.

I saw one photo recently shared on fbook which was captioned as children in Sri Lanka suffering from poverty and then it went on to say that this site’s aim was to relieve poverty in Africa. And I’m fed up seeing pics of the referendum count and claims of malpractice. Even the referendum supporting Wings Over Scotland managed to dispel that particular notion and having been a counter, journalist and political observer at counts, I know how tight the security is..

And then I read of Nobel Laureate Sir Tim Hunt pilloried for poor jokes about female scientists falling in love with you and crying when criticised. Y’see the person who tweeted that bit did not bother with the rest of the speech in which he apologised for his ‘off-the-cuff’ humour and gave an inspiring talk to encourage women to do science ‘despite monsters like me.’

Him losing his job was down to the power of Social Media – or more pertinently – its abuse. Please read carefully – whether it’s onscreen or hard copy in your hand. As a broadcast journalist I was always told to be aware of the power of words and pictures. Oh, and read the whole paper – not just the first three lines.

Some dreams will never die and sometimes the nice guy wins. This is a lovely vid….Walk The Moon with Shut Up and Dance. I’m not sure if I’ve lost the ad……

Martin Geisler (journalist – with glass of wine in hand) to Keith Chegwin; ‘Drink’s a dreadful thing.’ Chegiwn replied; ‘No. It’s not. It’s a wonderful thing. Sadly I can’t handle it.’

June 20, 2015

And so dear listener, let’s start at the beginning of a strange week.

I was supposed to be meeting a friend last Saturday in the Kelvingrove area of Glasgow. I had parked and she contacted me to say she was running late. Not a problem so I popped into the Art Galleries to pass 15 – 20 minutes.

And then I decided to pop out at the front – which is actually the bit overlooking the Kelvin and up towards the University – and I helped a wee Japanese boy through the revolving doors. I managed them myself, nodded to his parents and turned…and tripped over my denims (I think).  I have lost a quarter inch or so from my vast waist and they are slightly longer. Were I to wear Calvin Klein boxers then they would be beginning to show. But I don’t.

I’m prevaricating.

I went down. Hard. On the cobble stones. I was bleeding under the eye and my arm was bruised but then the worst thing of all happened. A young man (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhhhh!) helped me back into the Galleries so I could be treated by a First Aider. Under the eye bleeding was caused by a shard of glass from my specs cutting into the cheek. The arm was just badly bruised…’just’.

I made the lunch appointment. Which was very pleasant. 🙂

(But rainforestriverman, whilst I may leave the house in a Renault Clio I cannot give any guarantee that that’s what I’ll arrive in)

(And just to correct a wee mistake last week; it was Brad Pitt who co-starred in World War Z with the good Dr W (Yes. Five words) and not Tom Cruise as I said)

So I got it treated at work and all seemed fine but I went to doctor and optician on Wednesday to get checked out and got signed off for a week. I’m putting the arm into cold water. Lots. But my eyesight has improved slightly. No PhD = less time at computer = eyesight improvement. 🙂

(And I recently met (in the ASDA) a former quantity surveying student I knew and she (but of course) is now running the Ledgowan Tenants’ Hall and they’re going to be starting a community café and I must drop in and we can have a good catch up…..I can’t remember her name)

(And I went into Carphone Warehouse in Byres Road cos I’d seen that the cable on the charger was frayed/fraid. So I asked the two assistants if they had a Blackberry Charger.  One said, ‘do you mean a charger for a Blackberry? Ah yes. You have the ZX 10 which has a micro USB portal.’

The other said, ‘Yes.’ He got my business)

So Thursday was the Charles Kennedy Memorial Service in the Bute Hall at Glasgow University. Somehow, em, I seemed (with a couple of others) em to have got on the Guest List. We were sat on the Non-Family side in Row 2 just behind the speakers and readers (Nicola Sturgeon, David Mundell, Lord Wallace, Willie Rennie, Brian McBride (uny friend of Charles’s) and the Presidents of GUU and the SRC) We were sat in front of Dame Shirley Williams (what a lovely lady to chat to), Jo Swinson, Ruth Davidson, Muriel Gray and Lord Strathclyde. Ian Gray and Johann Lamont were lost in the audience (wiil they ever find their way?). All interesting people to chat to, you as you do at a memorial service. Oh, and there was BBC Al, the Blog’s Bad taste pal…….and I was in the Second Row…….’access all areas’.

And I had a brill conversation with the Audio-Visual Technician who was recording the service and had a couple of stories to tell about Charles that would never make it into any eulogy. (I think why my life is a shambles is that everyone says that everyone has a story to tell. I am one of the few people to ask folk for their story.  Success in a material sense will always elude me) 😀

Anyway back to me.

I had struggled to do up the very top button of my shirt and to tie my black funereal tie. I could not tie the very fine laces of my black shoes which go with my black suit. I wore brown instead. Nobody had noticed until……..

One of the traditions of graduating at Glasgow University is to follow the piper(s) – on this occasion Alastair Campbell and his bro Donald – as they pipe people out of the Bute and around the East Quadrangle (Porterhouse Blue, eat your heart out) and it was only then that my sartorial discrepancy was noticed. I was slagged rotten by my colleagues and even by some people in the procession. But, I protested, ‘I am my own man. I make my own decisions.’ – not realising I was checking for messages on my super charged Blackberry.

And finally, my fishing expedition came to nothing. I have never been knocked back for a reason like that. I blame Fifty Shades of Grey.

Cya, still wearing that badge (altho’ the first aider gave me new one) and defo going for it…somewhere.

Johnt850 who’s not in the most settled of moods this week.

And so the service was good, well-paced and isn’t Sir Kenneth Calman small?

But appropriately, on a night celebrating Charles Kennedy –a superb orator with a great deal of passion – a new star was born.

Breffni O’Connor is a young lady (Norther Irish it seems with a Norther Irish sense of passion for what she does) who is currently President of the Students’ Representative Council. She seems certain to be one of the next political stars to come from the political training ground that is Glasgow University. Remember the name.

Please excuse me. I have some shambling to do.

For Charlie Bear and Kerry Mac and all those who ran/have run in Tough Mudder, this is Katy Perry with Eye of the Tiger. What? Isn’t it? No, but it’s a much better video tho’.

‘It wasn’t the data they were interested in; it was the methodology’ (A South Georgian whaler from the twenties explaining why the Whaling Commission was so slow to respond to crisis in the whaling industry)

June 12, 2015

And so dear listener, the journey is almost over. The last two to three months have seen a lot of work done to t850 Towers and many of you have followed it faithfully. Indeed some of you will soon receive various notifications of variations of ‘if you’re ever in the area of Summerston, then my address is……’ and some may even get something more detailed…….but even if you’re not asked and you know you’re going to be in the area then get in touch. Seriously. I mean it. 😀

I prevaricate.

The bulk of the soft furnishing shopping has now been done. As I write this, all that is on the list that is still to be bought is a small rug for the front room (okay the only room) to cover up some stains on the carpet (long story), a biscuit tin (the old Cadbury Roses tin I used was showing signs of fungus but, hey, it worked) and a new electric toothbrush.

Tuesday it was. e and RJ were due over at 0830 to pick me up. e is not a designer as such – she is more a former fellow tutor who I first met at Glasgow College of …no, Glasgow Metro…no, Glasgow City……the big building in North Hanover Street which won architectural awards in the sixties and which gave you a great view of Tom Cruise and Dr W (No. No word) being chased by Zombies a few years back….how times change. 😉

I digress.

I got up at 0730 and went to my brand spanking new toilet (Skippy, I’m not sure about the use of the word ‘spanking’. After all the bathroom suite is no longer fifty shades of avocado) and toileted. I also shaved, showered and brushed my teeth.

I went downstairs. I could hear running water. I went back upstairs. The toilet cistern was not filling up and the water was running straight through. Now to a certain extent this was fine as anything I did would be eventually washed away but it was not good for the World’s dwindling water supplies and my nerves. I contacted Kenny the Shed Pimp who lives just up the road.

Ten minutes later he was here. ‘Maybe something is blocking it, jt’ and he shoved his hand into the cistern and it emerged…clutching one of those toilet blue things you put into the cistern cos you fool yourself into thinking that it’s cleaning it. It had caused the blockage and we threw it and the other ones out but Kenny’s hand was shocking blue. 😦

At this point e and RJ arrived. They had never met before (Kenny and e – not e and RJ) but they did not shake hands. Kenny made his excuses and left. Cursing.

So we drove to Braehead Shopping Centre – a town in its own right. And I broke my fast at Sainsbury’s. (Quick plug for Sainsbury’s. Like many places they do a non-meat breakfast but they also do a roll and non-meat sausage. Absolutely marvellous!!!!!!)

I had a croissant. We went to look at cushions and clocks but I was not to buy. Yet.

We went to IKEA (sp?) which I’m warming to. My first trip there a few years back with Study Buddie Fi was not good but it doesn’t seem as big now as it did then. I bought stuff. I looked at candles (I use candles a lot…and incense sticks…….they calm me) but e said, ‘you don’t need candles’ and a passing member of the public looked at me and said, ‘That’s you told’…… 😦

I began to understand the world a little bit better.

We went to Marks and Spencer’s. I bought stuff. I’m beginning to forget what.

We went back to Sainsbury’s where I bought stuff – primarily cushions – and e went to buy some food and RJ and I stood beside some books…….sat on the floor beside some books. Within seconds she had taken a sticker out of a sticker book so I bought it for her. 😀

(When we got back to her house – which she shares with her mum, dad and older brother – we discovered that some other stickers were missing. Well I hope the cretins who did that buy one of the jigsaws I gave recently to a charity shop from which I deliberately removed one piece)

We then went to the Self Scan where I started to buy the cushions and stuff. And the Self Scan Machine said, ‘there
is something unexpected in the Bagging Area.’ I couldn’t see the problem but the assistant noticed that RJ was climbing over the Bagging Area and cushions but was not registering. The assistant was very good and helped her off.

I carried on but there wasn’t enough space on the bagging area for all the cushions, etc so I lifted them off – without having paid for them. The assistant was very good and put them back on.

I paid and the assistant was very good. She called out; ‘Please come back again….. but preferably after two o’clock when my shift is over.’ Lol (as Carmen may well still say)

And finally, I went to Homebase on my own and bought a bright red bread bin. 🙂

Cya, still wearing that badge and defo going for it (well at the very least giving it a damn good try)

Johnt850 and I don’t have OCD. I just wash all new things before I use them. Not TVs or other electrical goods obviously.

So I had planned to say something about death cos I seemed to upset some people last week. So all I will say is this……

When you have been as substance dependent (addicted) as I was then you become very aware of the possibility of death. Eventually, you’re drinking, jagging, snorting or smoking to black out cos that’s when you have most control – nothing bothers you and you don’t even think about waking up.

And that’s why I very rarely think of ‘One Day at a Time’ but I do often say that;

‘Waking up Every Day is an Under-valued Experience.’

I just won’t say it in Braehead…..not for a wee while. Yet.

This is for e and RJ. Thanks for your help and patience. This is a happy song by the Smiths as chosen by my Facebook friends. It’s called…….well Morrissey tells you at the start.

‘Breathe the air and remind yourself that your heart beats to keep you alive.

June 5, 2015

And so, dear listener, last Saturday night I had been invited to join a group of people for a night of karaoke in a bar in Renfield Street. My shift finished at 7.30 and the plan was to wander along to join them. They would have been there, apparently, from six o’clock onwards. It was a nice night and I went for a very long walk instead along the Broomielaw (as it was once known) before walking up the Saltmarket (as it is still known) and through the Merchant City (as it wants to be known) before catching my train back to Summerston. There I sat on each of my new settees for five minutes each as I watched TV for the first time in ages. I felt so relaxed. 🙂

Later on that night they moved to a pub called The Maltman which was described to me later as ‘a meatmarket. John you’d have loved it.’  I have no idea what they meant.

A day and a bit later I got a msg at six o’clock in the morning to say that Charles Kennedy had died.

I had known Charles many years ago through involvement in Glasgow University and various linked interests there. He was good fun and very easy to get on with and there was a very sharp brain there which cut to the chase almost naturally.

This was shown a few years later when he co-presented a show on BBC Radio Scotland of which I was one of the producers….he and Colin Bell were a dream partnership. Many presenters get briefings, some get a list of suggested questions and I’ve even seen some given expected answers. All Charles and Colin needed was the subject; which guest was for; which guest was against; and which guest had studied it and they were off.

And the show finished at two and, in those days, the BBC Club was open until half past two and there was a headlong dash to get there by three people just out of studio but Danny the manager would close the doors bang on time and open again at five…except for those of us who had been locked in all afternoon. Happy daze.

Our paths continued to cross until about maybe eight years ago when I stopped attending certain events and decided to go for a walk instead. Serious broadcasting’s loss was politics’ gain.

And then, the day after, I met Gerry who, like me, had successfully come through the cancer experience. He had recently done a presentation at the Golf Day of Keyline the Building Supplies company who, over the course of the last ten years, have raised over a million pounds for Prostate Cancer. He used a Keyline golf ball to explain a point in a graphic and brought the house down. Would it have worked with last week’s young female student nurses? Not sure but I was happy with what I did. 😀

And it was Gerry who told me that Alastair Campbell had died. I had met people like Gerry and Alastair through my attendance at Maggie’s Cancer Centre’s Prostate Cancer Self Help Group altho’ I knew I was of a slightly different generation from many of them when I mentioned the Foo Fighters and got blank glances.

After I left the group I met Alastair about once a year in a bar in Hyndland for a drink or two but on a leafy Summer’s night. In fact it would be round about now that I’d be trying to set that up. But not now and a guilt sets in…and a lot of thinking gets done. Neither Charles nor Alastair were good friends in the sense of keeping in touch on a regular basis but I could meet them at any time and just pick up the conversation………it’s why I’m such a pain in trying to keep in touch with people – and may just have overdone it recently………but both were good to me in a lot of different ways.

My thoughts are genuinely with both families – one thrust into the media spotlight when much of their recent life had been private; the other I’d never met.

And finally, on a lighter note, the ‘soft furnishings’ shopping is planned for this Tuesday. Brahead watch out! Rhona’s coming to get you! For a two year old she has immaculate taste. 🙂

Cya, still wearing that badge and defo going for it – once the soft furnishings are out the way.

Johnt850 – who will tell you next week what I was thinking about. Maybe.

And so if you believe that alcoholism is a life-long disease then you will believe that the only way to deal with it is a twelve step programme such as that espoused by Alcoholic Anonymous. The second step, for example, reads;

(We) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

All other forms of help (Cognitive Behaviour Treatment, Motivational Interviewing, Brief Interventions and personal decisions to stop or cut back – the most common) see alcoholism/alcohol dependency as a behavioural thing and have done so since research in the sixties started to show that many people, classed as alcoholics, did actually return to controlled drinking.

Why do I go on so much about this? I saw Newsnight the other night and a woman seemed to be arguing that the problem lies with alcoholism and alcoholics not coping. No. It lies with alcohol and our attitudes towards it. Cancer is a disease and I got good and proper help from professionals. Addiction is a behavioural choice and I got good and proper help from professionals. The Twelve Step Programme works for some; but not all. AA is about sharing under a certain set of circumstances and they are ‘anonymous but not invisible’; I believe in sharing as much as possible and so do so many others.

Tonight’s closing piece of music is much more twee than I have ever chosen and it does not apply to me. Even in the early days of being a divorced dad, I was always there for my son to the extent that I turned down offers of jobs in London and stayed in Summerston and then, through my bad times, he was there for me. He has grown up. I never will. Anyway someone requested it and it stops me playing Communication Breakdown for another week,