Archive for October, 2015

Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn’t changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I’m just wearing better shoes. (Oprah Winfrey)

October 30, 2015

And so dear listener, the beginning of this week was a tale of two punctures; unfortunately both of them mine. Apparently, quite independently of each other, they were penetrated by respective self-tapping screws. Had I any idea how that happened? I have no clue what a self-tapping screw is! How on earth can I be expected to know what happened? 😦

But I do know the sense of anguished depair when I looked out the next day and saw a slow flat (I’m getting used to the vocabulary). Straight back to the garage who said they would fix it while I waited and showed me to my ‘usual chair’ with a cup of coffee. It was ‘a valve problem.’ 😦

I’d missed my mindfulness class the night before so I tried practising it in the garage. I was fine. I concentrated on sounds. Not the legs of the lady opposite. Honest. 😉

I have the same lack of tekkie interest in cars as I have in most tekkie things. On one occasion during the post grad, we broke into groups and were asked to describe any daily fear we had. Mine was phoning 151 and its ilk. ‘What is Internet Explorer?’ ‘Why’s my washing machine not spinning?’ and my latest fave from the lady from AA (Automobile Association) who asked me what type of tyres I had (‘flat ones’) and then told me where to find the information.

I have become obsessed with looking at my tyres and other people’s. It’s a condition known as tyromania.

It’s now the first thing I do every morning as soon as I wake up. Which is quite a shock for the neighbours as I don’t wear anything in bed. I can never have a PJs’ day. 😦

I like people and believe all tekkie stuff should be there as a process to help us – not make me feel inadequate.

I’ve mentioned before the late, great Studs Terkel and his ‘oral histories of common Americans.’ People do have stories to tell but it’s not always the one they’re used to telling; that’s the one they’re expected to tell that we usually hear. There’s the other one.

And for anybody out there who missed the second episode of The Last Kingdom, cos, I don’t know, maybe they were working, it’s beginning to make sense. Uhtred is an Englishman who became a Dane but wants to help the English become a kingdom again and there was a naked man on a horse with a branch stuck up his bum (I’d get a new agent, mate) and we’ve met Alfred, but not the cakes, who did a really clunky speech about uniting England, etc, etc….

And then I foolishly watched a film called ‘King Arthur’ which was equally clunky about introducing us to Arthur and his knights who were seven originally Roman centurions…..’Yes. Lancelot. Et tu, Galahad.’ Kinda thing. Except they didn’t speak any Latin and, of course, there were seven of them as in that groundbreaking movie, the Magnificent Seven Samurai. 🙂

Lots of stabbings and death by arrows but low on the severed headcount and slo-mo spurtings of blood.

And finally, this week’s Spat of the Month in the Houses of Parliament Award, goes not to the House of Lords and their involvement in the tax credits row but to the fact that there was a debate over the ‘tampon tax’ as apparently, for VAT purposes, these sanitary products are taxed as a luxury item! Apparently veteran Tory MP Bill Cash couldn’t bring himself to say the ‘T’ word instead saying ‘these products.’ T for twunt.

Reminds me of the joke where young Jimmy was sent home from school for using the C word. ‘That wasn’t clever,’ said his mum. And I’ll leave you all to furnish your own punchline, but it begins with Jimmy saying, ‘No. It wasn’t clever. It was……’ 😀

Cya, still wearing that badge and continuing to keep it simple.

Johnt850, tyred out after a tyring week.

And I found myself reading the Sun this week. Occasionally I do. I make no apology. Freedom of speech should be extended to those with whom we disagree. It’s a difficult concept to put into practice.

Anyway, there was a smashing double page spread about someone called Daisy Godwin (novelist and TV producer) who had given up alcohol – not cos she was alcoholically dependent – but cos she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was reconsidering her life and lifestyle.

I could empathise with her in her search for a ‘nice soft drink’, in reassuring any host that she’d be sober but good fun and that ‘life is physically easier – but mentally a little harder.’……which helped when it came to coping with the cancer.

But where I disagree with her is when she suggests going cold turkey and describes it as going somewhere where alcohol is not an option. ‘It is much easier to do it that way than exercising willpower at home.’ Sounds nice. Maybe a spa holiday somewhere.

Maybe it’s just my own experience but my cold turkey was on my own. It involved vomiting, diaorrhea (sp), stuff oozing out of my pores, out-of-body experiences and hallucinations – and a brilliant team of para-medics, doctors, nurses and hospital porters (especially the porters and the stories they told me). But, hey, it worked. Almost nine years ago it was. 🙂

Anyway…..

In recent weeks, there has been a pop picker for the music at the end of the show and a good job she has done 🙂 – this time we go back a few years but I’m sure it’s a track that everyone will recognise. Now which one was Elephant Boy and which one appeared in Coronation Street? Which one later flew to Rio and I’ve no idea what happened to Peter Tork.

When I was a Buddhist, it drove my parents and friends crazy, but when I am a buddha, no-one is upset at all (Anon)

October 23, 2015

And so dear listener, I have survived. You may remember that last week my self-esteem was low cos I’d had a real hit of chocolate after a year without. Chocolate gives pleasure to the brain which wants to repeat the experience cos it was enjoyable but is doing something that is enjoyable over and over again so bad that we have to term it an addiction? Pleasures don’t have to be guilty. 😉

But it is all around. Every supermarket is full of it. Petrol stations. 24 hour shops. All conveniently by the cash till. And all without any age restriction but I believe that I am more than capable of controlled chocolating. Time will tell. Any offer of chocolate cookies considered. 🙂

Maybe the mindfulness class is helping – being aware of the mind and body in the here and now. A lot of it is kinda meditation – of being aware of your thoughts but mine wander. Even at home I can be in my bedroom and I know my thoughts have popped down to the kitchen. But they come back.

One of my fellow attendees talked of his thoughts being ‘sucked’ back. The Doctor Whovian in me thought that that was quite a strong word – ‘sucked’.

‘No.’ said the lady tutor. ‘You can have gentle sucking as well.’

The silence that followed could well be described as awkward.

It was, however, broken by her sudden guffaw and we broke for five minutes.

So I’m trying to practise the mindfulness in various places. I was sitting in Arnold Clark’s in Bearsden waiting for my car to be serviced (where I read a day old edition of the Herald without realising it was a day old, so what does that say about the Herald?) and tried it. It’s about coming to terms with being somewhere in the present, knowing to can’t go anywhere and enjoying the present.

Anyway, I’m also reading a book about mindfulness and there’s a chapter called Keep It Simple. Now, is that of interest to anyone I wonder? 🙂

It was also interesting as the last two weeks have seen me more or less Monday to Friday 9 – 5 and that is such a break in my routine of erratic night shifts and working from home. It was really weird. How do people manage?

It was in the Herald that I read of the forthcoming death of Bob Holman, a professor who had dropped that title following his move to Easterhouse many years ago. Easterhouse has played a large part in my education over the years. In my first Post Grad (youth and community worker) I did a placement there in Lochend with the marvellous Margaret Smith and her very refined accent and amazing shoes and her very own flat there. And the Reverend Ron Ferguson who went on to grace Orkney Cathedral and the Iona Community – not bad for a Cowdenbeath fan.

The woman who was later to become my accountant and me went to parties there. They were good.

And then in my latest Post Grad (and no, Skippy, I haven’t totally given up on some kind of academia) I spent something like eleven weeks in a community rehab called Alternatives on the Queenslie Industrial Estate which I thoroughly enjoyed. 🙂

And I still meet people in the various tearooms of the Fort. 🙂

Bob Holman is a Christian Socialist and a long time fighter against poverty. He has been diagnosed with MND and given less than one year to live. It was Bob who showed the so-called IDS around Easterhouse in 2002. It was the so-called IDS who fist pumped at the last Budget when Gideon told the world his plans to make poor people poorer.

Enough caring for people and politics…I’ve almost reached my word count. 😦

And finally, after watching the movie Macbeth in such delightful company on Friday night, I sat down to watch Fassbender, on Sunday night, in something called (the) Centurion which turned out to be yet another gore-fest of slow-mo slashing of people’s throats. And then on another night this week, I caught more random beheadings on something to do with the Danes in medieval times. I’m not sure what the lesson is but thank goodness I didn’t watch it in 3-D. I’d still be washing the blood out of my hair.

Cya, still wearing that badge and keeping it simple

Johnt850, who used to drive home from the Zombie Haunt, still wearing the make-up and dried blood. Thankfully I was never stopped. Phew……

So after all that ranting, here’s a nice wee story.

Sandra has been my hairdresser for a very long time now. Recently her husband Jim, who uses a wheelchair, was given an MBE in some honours list and a couple of weeks ago, they went down to collect it. They drove down and had everything well planned (No. There is no catch to this story) and they went to the Palace on the Tuesday.

Sandra, whilst cutting my hair, told me her tales of footmen and Princess Anne, who knew Jim cos he’s well known in rugby circles, and the Gurkhas who would only have their pix taken with ‘Mister Jim’ but there was one thing I wanted to know – how did she get on with the parking?

Long-time listeners may remember that on two occasions, in a castle down in Ayrshire (Yes. That one, e) I had bad experiences in doing so – parking in a rose garden, slightly bumping a car and driving off across the lawn.

Sandra fared much better and was guided all the way through by various people in various uniforms before she and Jim entered the Palace. I just find it sooooo coooool that you could go into the famed multi-storey at the likes of UWS (Paisley) and say to your passenger, ‘It was one helluva lot easier parking at Buckingham Palace than it is here.’

So in the true spirit of John Peel this show sees it important that new talent is encouraged so when a friend talked of a band called The Fat Cats I fired up the Google to find out more about them but I found Fat Cats and Phat Cats. ‘Which is it?’ I asked. Answer came there none. 😦

Instead here’s a lady who I’ve played once before who is fast growing on me – in a nice way. Brandi Carlile.

‘The Weird Sisters – which way did they go?’ (A line from Macbeth (the movie) and not one I think that was originally written by Shakespeare or his sisters)

October 17, 2015

And so dear listener, much has happened this week but the biggest news is that I’m able to talk to you. 🙂

We know that I’m not the tekkiest of people (sometimes not even switching on switches that need switched on to get new things working but I may not be alone in that. No names. No pack drill) but this week I surpassed myself. My hard drive on this laptop is almost full and my son has told me not to take the easy way out and just buy a new computer – no, I’ve to clean out stuff and drag things across to external drives and how I miss the fourteen year old who once talked to a helpline on my behalf and then got me a cheese sandwich and a whisky. Or is that wishful thinking? In so many ways. 🙂

So I got off to a good start. 🙂 Gosh. How many printers have I got through in all these years? And then I got cocky. I think it was the programme I’d had since 2010 and thought I never used. I can’t even find its name now. Lose that one I thought and I’ll save millions of giga mega bytes (whatever). And I hit the button. And everything still worked after that. 🙂

Until l decided to go out, switched things off and came back and switched on…….I wasn’t even getting ‘Google can’t kick start’; or ‘Facebook can’t start cos of a long running script’ (whatever that is); or ‘you have now cut yourself off from the world and will never receive pictures of cats again!!!!!!’

I had uninstalled the Internet!!!!! No more Filipino ladies wanting to be my friend on Facebook; no facile suggestions from LinkedIn as to my next career move; and no offers from people anxious to claim PPI on my behalf (actually when I think about it…….) but no, I had to do something.

Now (and I’m going to sound like a Church of Scotland minister here and my mum often talked about me becoming one – I’m not too sure what she would think of what I did become)the word ‘recovery’ has played a significant role in my life and there it was in some obscure Devices and Printers folder. I selected a return to two days previously, pressed a button and ran….my hands covering my ears…..but, hey, it came back.

I had sent at least one mail which was just a draft but nothing too shocking seemed to have happened. Certainly nothing like the famous ‘Ho’ text of a year ago. I was now able to talk to the world. As opposed to just my neighbours who are still working on their garden. Phew…….

And whilst I may be slightly re-thinking my current life/work balance one nice thing about the hours I work is my neighbour coming to my door at half past four in the afternoon and saying. ‘I hope I didn’t wake you.’ She was bringing me chocolate biscuits cos I’d taken in deliveries for her. I have not eaten chocolate (properly) for over a year. This week I lapsed. I hated myself. 😦

But that was before this week’s mindfulness class which involved a lot of breathing and staying silent. I’m enjoying it. I mean staying silent is my natural approach to life* Breathing is slightly more tricky.

*(When I went to UWS (Paisley) some time back for the Post Grad, I was given definite instructions by e and various others – ‘sit at the back and don’t draw attention to yourself. You are there to learn.’ Day One, Class One, Ice breaker exercise……’Tell the person you’re sitting next to something you want the rest of the class to know’…..Jane (?) sitting next to me told the assembled class, ‘This is John and he’s a recovering alcoholic – four and a half years.’ Heads turned. I was what we were studying. And that was before the incidents with the Inter Library Loans and the revolving door at that entrance and……)

But work will start soon on my own garden…….maybe a Buddhist sanctuary is on the cards. Not for me to move to but to create one. Any thoughts?

And finally, this week’s Rangers’ legend of the month is former favourite Kyle Lafferty, who, after Norn Irln had qualified for a certain football tournament, apparently said, ‘I’d like to play against Argentina or Brazil in the Euros.’

Cya, still wearing that badge and keeping it simple (Well, no. The new badge with the new logo? It fell apart the first time I wore it outside….ooops) 😦

Johnt850, and the jury selection ain’t over until the last juror’s selected.

Aye. I was on jury duty this week but was never properly called. It’s been frustrating. The first two days I wasn’t needed at all (nor were the others, I should emphasise – ‘let’s have a trial without jt…..hahahahah’). Wednesday we attended. We were released at mid-day. Thursday a jury was selected (without me) for a trial that was due to last until Monday – the rest of us were released thinking that was it.

No. The hotline message said ‘Come in.’ Apparently, the previous day’s trial had collapsed after fifteen minutes cos there wasn’t enough evidence. I can’t comment cos I wasn’t there but yesterday’s jurors were and the Court person told us;

‘There’s to be a trial today.’ 😦

Again I managed to avoid selection but some of the previous day’s jurors weren’t so lucky. I came home, smiling on my face, went and helped people collect leaves in the Botanic Gardens and then watched ‘the Scottish film’ at the scene of the former Hillman Imp factory in Linwood with delightful company. And Saturday I was back to work.

Y’know, being on jury duty is a bit like being without the internet. I did not enjoy it.

So in a week when the legal process has been uppermost in my mind, there is only one man you want to listen to. This is Johnny Cash (and I do know a jolly good Johnny Cash tribute band)

‘Why are you taking air fresheners?’ ‘I’ve never looted before. I just got a bit grabbie.’ (The excellent You, Me and the Apocalypse)

October 9, 2015

And so dear listener, this week was the Fortieth Anniversary of Blue Triangle – the housing association which offers supported accommodation to the homeless and for whom I work –and that was the main function of this week. The anniversary was celebrated in Oran Mor at the top of Byres Road, which is a converted church which was also BBC rehearsal rooms at one stage. It was a celebration and there was an amazing fashion show, a good singing group and some superb creative writing. 🙂

Yes. I was in charge of the creative writing and, altho’ I can’t say much cos of confidentiality rules online, I thought my two readers – one from Renfrew and one from Syria – stole the show. Altho’, tbh, saying that he was a refugee from Syria raised a cheer in itself. He was reading someone else’s story but some of it applied to him and whilst it’s great that many people want to house refugees when they reach here, some are here already.

It was also one of the most challenging challenges I have ever been challenged by. For so many reasons. Some of which my two guests, e and J, the blog’s favest philosopher, became aware as the day unfolded. Yes. I was only allowed one ticket but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. 🙂

What happened in the belltower of Oran Mor stays in the belltower of Oran Mor.

But to be incredibly serious for a moment – for me it was a return to presentation and production and what’s involved in that. There was the build up to the event, finding material and choosing the readers and then working with them – that was such fun. 😀

And then there was, for me, the fun of presenting – all fifty seconds of it – but the joy of people, including some people very important to me, actually listening and reacting to my words and the joy with which the readers were received.

I once did a guest lecture for drink’n’drugs post grads and my supervisor sat and watched and gave me feedback which was incredibly kind. Something he said will always stick with me; ‘I needn’t ask if you enjoyed it. Johnt850 plus an audience? You enjoyed it.’ There is thinking to be done.

And then the three of us went for coffee and cake. I wasn’t sure what e had chosen so I said,

‘Is that a white chocolate fondant or a meringue?’

‘No,’ she said. ‘You’re right enough. It’s a white chocolate fondant.’

Which brings us nicely to the Great British Bake Off which I didn’t see cos I watched a documentary about Denis Healey which was really good and whilst the rest of Facebookland discussed Victoria Sponges, Nessa and I discussed the D Day Dodgers and Denis’s amazing sense of humour.

Anyway I did see the final line-up. It was either a reflection of how diverse British society is or how politically correct the BBC now is or Britain First’s worst nightmare. I saw a documentary about them as well this week.

Horrible people but masters of social media and the knowledge that no matter what rubbish they post or out of date it is, if it’s on Facebook or similar, it must be true.

And my testament to the existence of Qi Gong as a method of relaxation was doubted so this vid is an example of it.

It is a variation of the imaginary balloon I create when trying to get rid of my worries.

And the transformation of next door’s garden continues. They’ve moved their sheds; laid new turf and built a sunhouse. It has spurred me into action. Not only am I painting the fence slowly but I have arranged for approximately sixteen slabs to be laid at the back door. It’s enough for me. But it will see my garden transformed.

What it will do for me, I’m not sure.

And finally, I have been cited for jury duty. It’s at Glasgow Sheriff Court and whilst they are normally short cases at this court, I did receive a letter advising me that, if called, the trial could last up to two weeks.

Interestingly enough both J and e* believe it could be the making of me and that I should welcome the opportunity to contribute to a civic and democratic society. I will do my duty.

*I should stress that I have spoken to other people this week and done many other things. Oh. Hang on. I haven’t really….other than work things and people………ah but I did watch Ice Age 2.

Anyway the point I must make is that I can’t discuss the court case in any form. Who knows what I’ll write about next week?

Cya, now wearing a new badge with a new logo and keeping it simple.

Johnt850, in a smiley mood. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

And I watched the programme about legal highs last Monday and I can’t remember what its proper name was but it was Monday BBC 1 Scotland at 9pm.

And I mentioned it on Facebook as a way of sharing and there were a few responses. Mostly they came from people I know in the trade. It was a programme that I would recommend is watched by parents….of any age. In the last couple of years I have spoken to a number of folk of college and uni-age who know people who do ‘legals’ but won’t themselves. A brilliant attitude cos they are aware of the dangers………..but most of them also had parents who were willing to discuss the whole issue of drugs (including drink and fags) with them. Do you? Did you?

And never forget, dear listener, I went off the rails in my late forties.

Heading back, and no connection, to the Fortieth Anniversary, check out soon time on iTunes or just a general Google for the BlueTriangle House Choir called Pure Gallus;

They sang two songs on Thursday. This is the one that stayed in the heads of me, J and e. It was a good day………It is, these are the Proclaimers;

The trouble with bookshops is that they are as bad as pubs. You start at one and you drift to another and before you know where you are, you are on a gigantic book-binge (R T Campbell)

October 4, 2015

And so dear listener, I am about to enter a period when confidentiality becomes of the utmost. Not only have I been told that my Sheriff Court jury duty may last up to two weeks, but I have started an evening class, where people may decide to bare/bear their soles/souls. I have been here before and what I will avoid is reference to actual people; the class itself……..?

It is mindfulness based stress reduction. Yes. It is. Now mindfulness was described to me by J, the blog’s favest philosopher, as a better understanding of the here and now and that is a fairly good representation of it. J also has a very literary background which often finds me starting up the Google just so I don’t appear the kinda cretin who, one Embra Festival, thought a play devoted to Nijinsky was about the horse and not the ballet dancer. 🙂

And I can get round it cos the class seems to be based around a book with eight chapters and much of what we do is to discuss some of the things raised in the book and then practise them.

Which brings me, dear listener, to ‘mindful eating’. At the end of the evening, dried fruit was passed around and we all had to take some. Okay, my first mistake was to start eating before I was supposed to but, being a greedy bastard, I still had some left. Basically the tutor chap talked us through experiencing the activity and getting us to be aware of tasting, licking, salivating and then biting.

Tbh, I found it mildly erotic. Which, I don’t think, was its aim. Luckily the word mastication was not used or I’d have corpsed. It was like a fruit pastilles advert of years ago. But I enjoyed it. Some of the periods of silence were good. 🙂

The first time I’d ever experienced a group silence (and let’s leave Partick Thistle out of this) was in Alternatives Community Rehab in Easterhouse where relaxation techniques are used cos many people recovering from substance dependency find it difficult to relax. My first experience of this was in a room where I knew none of the eighteen people and worried for an hour – by maybe the third time, I was beginning to relax. I also did acudetox (five and five since you ask) and that one where they light a candle and stick it in your ear. That’s a good one. 😀

People often comment on my relaxed state. I did talk recently about getting some new garden furniture but e laughed, saying I don’t sit down long enough to make it worthwhile. She’s right. I’d an uncle in the Milton in Glasgow who, in the days of just two channels, couldn’t stop getting up and down to change them. This family also introduced me to the joys of eating chips and potato fritters –mmmm, two ways of deep frying potatoes……

And then the Chinese put a pineapple in one of theirs and the culinary world was never the same again. 🙂

Anyway, I must be mindful of my word count limit and move myself on.

Incidentally, I went to the zoo the other day. There was only one animal in it. It was a dog. It was a shitzu.

And I can’t help but feel that a TV ad for the Vanish Tip Exchange is an advert for the product Vanish. No. No reason.

And finally, I got some really nice good wishes from the zombies (and the run has started – http://scotlandsthemepark.com/event/outbreak-mds/#.Vg7E7I2FPIU ) especially Michelle, Zoe and Sophie to give them their human names. Sophie said something really interesting; she reads the blog with her morning cup of tea. If this were really a radio programme, then the obvious question would be – where do you read yours? So. Where? 😉

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

Johnt850, absolutely cream-crackered

There’s a programme on BBC 1 Scotland on Monday night at 9pm looking at legal highs in Scotland.

One question, I’m often asked about legal highs is, why are they legal? Basically they’re not illegal. Originally they were plants that gave you a slightly similar buzz to cannabis but now they’re newly made drugs made to bypass existing laws. By stating that they are not ‘for human consumption’ or that they are ‘bath salts’ or ‘room odourisers’, sellers get away with selling them legally.

I have seen their effect on people and it can be horrible but the Queen has said she’ll do something about them and I trust her.

Y’see if all potent substances had the same legal quality controls that drugs such as alcohol and tobacco do, then there wouldn’t be a demand for ‘legal highs’ but watch the programme and see what you think. I know what I think…….

As requested, here’s Maclemore and Ryan Lewis……