Archive for April, 2016

“Libraries are our friends.” ― Neil Gaiman

April 28, 2016

And so dear listener, I’ve been meaning to mention this for some time but some things got in the way. But some other things have happened since to make me want to write this.

A few weeks ago, I watched a discussion on Channel 4 News in which the author of the Horrid Henry stories took on an automaton from the Institute of Economic Affairs disguised as a woman in which the automaton was arguing the case that libraries could not continue (more or less) in their current forms unless they had plenty of computers and people to show you how to use them 😦

The real person (Francesca Simons) wanted them to have books and people who knew about books to help share their love of books. There seemed to be some disagreement about the actual meaning of browsing.

I know whose side I’m on. And that of knowledgeable bookshops 🙂

One example says it all. Recently I read a book with 3 year old RJ, which her mum had got from the local library. It’s a story about cray-ons (not cranes) laying down their tools (themselves) as they felt stereotyped. I loved it and decided to buy a couple of copies for other people.

I went to Waterstone’s in Byres Road and asked an assistant for a children’s book about cray-ons going on strike (trade union background showing through there). She paused for a second and said, ‘You mean ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’? ’ And went and got two copies. One went to my grand-daughter and the other went to another grand-child from a different family (J? A grand-mum? But too young surely? But then I remember that I am a grandpa) and this other grand-daughter did so much more with it in terms of using her imagination than you could ever do with a keyboard and monitor. It became so much more than just a damn good read; it was a platform for imagination 😀

e and I browsed in the Oxfam in Byres Road the other day and you discover books that you didn’t know even existed; when I was very young I was allowed to have a borrowing card for the adult (pronunciation is vital here) section of the local library and I read some amazing books as a result of which I wanted to be a policeman when I grew up; I made extra cash in my early days in radio by writing a What Happened Ten/Twenty/Thirty Years feature for a Saturday morning programme – the material for which I discovered by delving into Mitchell Library micro-fiches; and (and some of you knew this was coming) I owe sooooooo much to all the library staff at UWS (Paisley) for their help and patience in my Post Grad and Masters 😀 😀 😀

I should have gone and said thanks to them on my day of Master’s graduation resplendent in my second only ever wearing of Highland Dress with black socks. But saying that your help with that Inter Library Loan meant I had to learn how to tie a pair of brogues sounds strange – there are quantum leaps and there are quantum leaps.

(‘And was anything worn under the kilt, jt?’

‘No, Skippy, it was all in good working order and still is.)

But you catch my drift.

Gosh, that’s half my word count…….

Ach, let’s keep going. I’m in that kinda mood.

It’s not that I’d stopped reading but it had become the kinda angst reading that I was buying from Fopp – Burroughs and Welsh. But I’ve folk to thank for my change in reading. J and e get big mentions lots but Prostate Cancer Ann and the Blogmeister both suggested Neil Gaiman to me and whilst I have mixed feelings about him, it was with great interest that I had to pull them apart metaphorically in a discussion about veganism on my Facebook page.

And do you remember a wee while ago I was coming back from a team bonding day and was on the train and everyone was looking at their tablets except for the girl on the train who was reading The Girl on the Train? It’s actually a very good book but sooooo much of it described what it is like to be drunk/hungover/drunk/hungover on a daily basis like it was for me in that final thirteen months before Cold Turkey Sunday but I finished it. (I watched the Louis Theroux prog last Sunday and it did not have the same effect on me.)

I was thinking all this as I walked through the Gruffalo Park in Bearsden recently 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. For academic research, computer databases are brilliant. I can’t even remember all their names and there was a joy in discovering obscure articles in the Australian version of Addiction, but even better was seeing a whole shelf load of hard copies of that journal and spending a couple of hours randomly looking through them was never a waste of time.

My favest journal article was ‘Not to Be Toyed With’: Drug Addiction, Bullying and Self-empowerment in Buffy the Vampire Slayer…….absolutely no relevance to what I was doing but how could you not want to read like that? But no. No pictures.

(obvious copy and paste that hasn’t worked 🙂

The point I’m making is how big a role libraries have played in my life over the years even if there was a time I strayed away from them. I see young children being introduced to them in various places and it’s great that Hillhead Library, for example, can play host to Gaelic playgroups and the noise (of fun) that is attached to them.

I still have my SCONUL card and my Glasgow Life Library card was issued to me by Missie K when she worked in Glasgow Life Libraries but how come, Missie K, my membership number is the year of my birth? Eh, that’s it. Rant over.

And finally, there is only one piece of music I can play this week. I remember that afternoon. I watched it unfold live on television and remember shouting at the TV – helpless, fuc*ing helpless.

JFT96 at last.

“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.” ― Nadia Scrieva, Fathoms of Forgiveness

April 21, 2016

And so dear listener, altho’ it may not look like it, there is often a structure to this show – a balance, even a theme. Yes. Sometimes it’s about drink’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll’n’sex’n’cancer, but often it’s not as mundane as that. It can sometimes be summed up in one word – one really exciting word – that gets your juices flowing (No. I’ve never been too sure about that phrase either) and really makes you good to go. 🙂

This week’s word? Meeting. No. Stay with me. Listen to me. This last seven days since we last spoke have seen me meet lots of people and each time, I’ve come away with a smashing smile on my face and a lot of coffee in my system.

(In my final year of alcohol dependency, I was tanning a full bottle of whisky a night and often a glug from the spare bottle(!). Now, two cups of hotel lobby coffee on a breakfast of granola and yogurt and I’m higher than a very high thing)

Take for example last Friday when I met up with J, the blog’s favest wildlife protector. It was a simple explanation of how she had helped a trapped bee to leave her home by the use of a glass and an envelope – with actions. The restaurant was enthralled but at least I knew what was happening…..if you’re a member of the group known as 5338, it’s what you do. 🙂

Me? I open windows and wave them in that direction but it’s not as exciting……and I’ve never felt the same about Barack Obama since he killed that fly with his bare hands.

Geek, not Greek, but that could explain the problems with their economy.

And on Monday I met Jenny G who is different from Jenny H, who passed her PhD Veeeeeeeeeeeva that day (and massive congrats Jenny H…well deserved) but was i/viewing me about, well, as I will be anonymised in her Master’s, then maybe it’s better I say not what it was about – but I was well i/viewed. 🙂

There is something about hotel lobbies, isn’t there? I thought he was a businessman waiting for a another businessman but it was a young lady with a wean in a buggy who met up with him.……..and she didn’t seem family. I wasn’t expecting that. Make up a sentence with the words ‘imagination’ and ‘riot’ in it…….

Anyway, nice one Jenny G and let me know how you get on. 🙂

And then who should I meet in Byres Road but Julian (ex-BBC Glasgow now freelancing in London) and we reminisced (sp) about a show I produced, with much help, for Radio 5 called Night Moves which went out just after midnight and was the best phone-in ever.

Julian was one of a number of young freelances including a lot of Nor’n Irish guys who were paid to answer the phones whose sobriety (as a catch-all description) was occasionally in doubt but then so was mine at times, so I said nothing but we got more calls on air than any other programme in that slot.:D

(What’s that Skippy? All the names so far begin with ‘J’ apart from J who’s called J. Tell you what; I’ll move on)

And I’m pleased to say negotiations have started with Jayne H, Anne and Jo from uny, and Missie K about meeting up….soon.

And finally, I’m reading a book called The Girl on the Train and it’s not what I expected.

Leaving the storyline aside it’s a frighteningly accurate representation of what it’s like to be an ‘alcoholic’ (Rachel’s description of herself; I try not to use that word) and the strange things you do, on your own, that seem frighteningly logical at the time. Why did I walk here? Why was I taking to that man?  I don’t recognise that voice on the answering machine. Who did I give my number to?

Not that everything I do is frighteningly logical these sober days, but I look forward to meeting people and no, one of those questions I’m often asked, I don’t go to the meetings. Good luck to those who do, but as someone in a rehab centre once said to me, ‘Why go somewhere when your head’s full of mince and everyone else has got the same mince in their heads?’

Cya, still wearing that badge and it’s back to keeping it simple. 😀

Johnt850, still redfaced but now I can blame the sun.

So now will you please indulge me in a football memory – but a nice one.

Many years ago I worked for a man called Michael Kelly who had a PR agency and one of its clients was Celtic Football Club and a man called Billy McNeill had just stepped down from the role of manager (Rrm, the next time we meet, remind me to tell you about the memo that didn’t exist).

So we, sorry, the board (not me and Michael) decided to take our time and get the right guy. And I got lots of phone calls from sports journos about the latest rumour or just to ask if anything was happening to which I’d reply; ‘Nothing continues to happen.’

Eventually, I was able to announce (my name was at the bottom of the press release) that Liam Brady was the new manager of the football division and a brighter dawn was ahead of the club……No. No comment.

But the big fun I got was going out to Celtic Park to see Liam or Terry Cassidy or one of the other directors or players and saying cheerio to them in the foyer of the club just as people doing the tour of Celtic Park walked by wondering who it was that was talking to Liam or Terry.

The other big fun I got was going to Victoria’s with some of them but that’s maybe another story for another day. 😀

This is a lady called Gretchen Peters with a jolly interesting song called Blackbird……actually it’s quite depressing;

I wanna walk and not run I wanna skip and not fall I wanna look at the horizon And not see a building standing tall (Dixie Chicks)

April 14, 2016

And so dear listener, the refurbishment of t850 Towers continues. The blind man has been and all that is required is a little spark (altho’ to be honest I’m not really too sure of the size of the electrician) and we are not miles away from opening to the public again. 🙂

And the outside furniture is up. As well as a proper bench replacing the well-gnawed picnic bench there is a ‘patio set’. With some help from Kenny the Shed Pimp, these were assembled and I was entrusted to unwrap the chairs but it started to rain. So a short while later I put out a chair; and it looked bloody sad out there on its own. 😦

So, I put out a second chair; and I’m not sure if that doesn’t look sadder.  😦 😦

And I felt bad when a friend of mine, on her way to work at the ASDA, waved at me; cos I was on my way to Morrisons (they have a better selection of fish).

I mention these, dear listener, as a couple of folk did ask me about last week’s show when I was a wee bit down (just a wee bit)……’why,’ they said, ‘do you not wait until you’re happier before writing the blog?’ Well, it has to represent my feelings when I actually sit down and I don’t always choose the moment.

And I mentioned to some folk that I planning to take my laptop to computer hospital and they assumed my computer wasn’t working. It is actually a Google Chrome problem. It was like a few years ago I told someone that I was off to the doctor’s that morning. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘are you not feeling well?’

‘Oh, much better,’ said I, ‘and I want the doctor to know.’ 😀

It’s like when I’m talking to a traffic warden I may not necessarily be talking about parked cars; when I’m talking to a fellow homeless worker I may not be discussing the homeless; or when I’m talking to a librarian I’m not necessarily talking about books (altho’……..)

I do wish the complete works of Sherlock Holmes were required reading for people, so that people learn to look beyond the seemingly obvious.

‘At what level of schooling would you introduce it, Holmes?’

‘Elementary, my dear Watson.’

Talking of taking things to places, I once saw a guy with a crocodile and shouted ‘hey, what are you doing with that crocodile out in a public place?’

‘Oh, it’s okay,’ he said. ‘I’m taking it to the zoo.’

I saw him again the next day and said, ‘Hey, I thought you said you were taking that crocodile to the zoo.’

‘I did,’ he said. ‘Today I’m taking it to see a movie.’

And recently, I finished a shift at 5.30 am. The project where I work is at the nice’n’sleazy end of Sauchiehall Street and I park in the same street but on the other side of the motorway. Walking to the car at that time, just as the first light is forcing its way through, and the wide range of birdsong that I could hear was a brilliant experience. 🙂

It reminded me of a recent and very enjoyable visit to Pollok Park, which was also the first time I understood why getting a specific colour of paint deliberately mixed up at a B & Q is such a good idea but it would have been wrong to strip the bark off the tree just cos it was a nice colour.

And this week’s Headline of the Month? ‘Dominatrix scandal MP on the rack’ (Daily Record)

And can I make the point that my tax return only reflects what I choose to tell HMRC? No. No reason.

And finally, I was really disappointed that it was an underwater robot that was searching for Nessie. Like many others, I read it as ‘underwater rabbit’. 😉

Cya, still wearing that badge and back to keeping it simple,

Johnt850, the face still remains red at times but not so subued this week.

So, in one way, I’m glad that I didn’t get the go ahead for the PhD but it never made it to application status. In another……..but then again……..

One of the things that did happen was all the changes to my idea so that eventually it matched the criteria for a possible studentship. And then it didn’t. And I’m basically a story teller. Research methodology?

Anyway, were I to offer one again, it would be a different subject and would require a different uny….I touched on it in the Post Grad and the Master’s and touch on it a lot in the blog.

Continued stigma attached to certain words, especially ‘addict’ and its brothers and sisters such as ‘alcoholic’.

The debate was initiated to a certain extent by things being written by a former Independent journalist called Jonathan Hari who is possibly best known for having had the 2008 Orwell Prize removed from him for plagiarism but who later wrote a smashing book called Chasing the Scream updating many views on substance use and our approaches towards it – telling a wider public that it’s not an illness. His own personal rehabilitation. Possibly.

He has seemingly justified using the word ‘addict’ and whilst, for some, this might be a technical debate, I don’t like words like that. Were I to write that PhD, then the following quote from former Harm Reduction Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, Meghan Ralston, would be in it.

‘Drug use and addiction are so unusually and profoundly stigmatised that people don’t find it necessary to extend the same respect to those affected as they would to people with other health conditions.’

The next time you use the phrase ‘chronic alcoholic’, please remember that that may have been your description of me ten years ago – but not now. Hopefully.

Anyway, here’s the main man when it comes to recovering from dependencies and marriage – Steve Earle and the brilliant ‘Copperhead Road’. I think I need a third piece of music for my funeral. I wonder….(and 2’36” into it a piper comes back into the Crem!!!!!!!!!)

When you tug at a single thing in nature,you will find it attached to the rest of the world (John Muir suggested by Ian Harrower)

April 7, 2016

And so dear listener, this blog is now eight years old. It started as a way of letting people know about the second half of my successful treatment for prostate cancer – the radiotherapy – or sandblasting as it was known in the blog. That was a way of trying to introduce some humour and reduce the fear factor in talking about cancer. 🙂

Altho’ I had to do some fast talking when some students who were filming me in my (shared) office saw a notice above the coffee table which said, ‘Which of you bastards stole a dying man’s coffee?’ Some jokes don’t work. 😦

The first half of the treatment got less attention. It was a drug called Zoladex and it has been suggested that it had major side effects. My ex-wife looked at the list of them and said ‘you’re about to go through the menopause.’ And I still get hot flushes, altho’ whether that’s because I still get an awful lot of things wrong or am easily embarrassed, I’m not sure.

It came in the shape of a large needle and was administered, by a doctor, on a monthly basis. Y’see the male hormone testosterone feeds the cancer and the Zoladex administers oestrogene which kills the testosterone and gives the sandblasting a better chance of working. Which, in my case, it did successfully.

So I am still around today. To continue making mistakes. I’ll move myself on. Cos it’s been a good week. Mostly.

I’d like to say a big congrats to Sophe Williamson who married Christina Watson a few days ago and sent out some lovely pictures. Call me old fashioned but when two young women get married, I think it’s really nice when they’re both wearing wedding dresses. I showed some of the pics from social media to a work colleague who said, ‘they’re really nice. How do you know Sophe?’

‘Oh,’ I said, ‘we were both zombies together.’

Sometimes you can just sense when someone’s not too sure how to reply to something that’s been said and it’s best for the conversation to move on.

But since this blog is eight years old it was appropriate that I went for a drink with the blogmeister, altho’ I didn’t realise the anniversary until I sat down at the typewriter just now. I had written a page about my experiences with the drink and cancer and I had edited it as appropriate for individuals and if I felt their stomach was up to it, I could send them a page about the Twenty-four hours of Cold Turkey which I’d written for a competition run by the Scottish Book Trust.

Anyway I did spend some time in Tennents with the man who helped me launch my blogging career as I had no idea how to start such a venture but I have to say that Morgan’s Rum and Diet Coke may not be the best basis for a diet……just saying’, that’s all. 🙂

And it wasn’t eight years ago that I made the decision to join some friends who are Partick Thistle fans but that came out of a concern that I wasn’t doing anything with my Saturdays and time hanging heavy on my hands can be dangerous. It paid off on Tuesday night when not only did the Harry Wraggs, the Maryhill Jags win one – nil but I came away with a large foam thumb. Unfortunately I had missed the game where a free cushion designed by Kota Ezawa was given away. And if that seems strange for a football club, then bite on this, footie fans. Until recently, the mission statement on the PTFC website read, NOT SO CUDDLY ANYMORE!

And finally, I’d like to thank J, the blog’s favest music critic, for agreeing to come with me to see Alabama 3 in a ‘few weeks’ time’. For those of you who don’t know, A3 are the world’s greatest acid house country rock band and played an amazing part in my recovery. I saw them once before at Balloch Country Park a few years ago.  I suspect it’ll be slightly different indoors. 🙂

Cya, still wearing that badge and, stupidly, sometimes finding it difficult to keep it simple.

Johnt850, feeling very red-faced and very subdued.

And, yes, Scotland has done really well in having four leaders out of six Holyrood parties who are in same-sex relationships and have not made a big deal out of it. Indeed the tabloids have made little of it which is nice.

I’ve touched on this before. I worry when people come out in any sense and a big thing is made of their ‘bravery’ which I feel puts people off. And that’s been a big aim of this blog – to try and demystify substance and cancer issues and various people have spoken to me about things arising out of this………and there’s lots of folk like me……..there’s a massive list of speakers available from Prostate Cancer UK who are available to do information talks or staff information stands at Health Days.

And then there’s the tube of an expert on Breakfast News or whatever the BBC prog is called, whose first contribution to a discussion on eating disorders is to congratulate the two young girls, who were speaking about their experiences, for their ‘bravery’. The girls were much quieter after that. I’m not sure if they had ever seen talking about their experiences as being brave. Now they were thinking about what they had done.

But what do I know?

This is Lady Antebellum……..this is from a different past.