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Monthly Archives: December 2011

The spirit of Christmas.

Previously this week I’ve written about Christmas parties, Christmas shopping and a Christmas film. The spirit of Christmas is, of course, supposed to be the moral and ethical side of things, the side that deals in generosity, selflessness and respect for others.

The case of the young chap who had too many shandies and boarded a train without the correct ticket or no ticket at all probably falls into this area of Christmas cheer.

The famous phone video shows what happened although there is also a CCTV version, which allegedly shows the young chap being a bit more “boisterous” shall we say? The current bottom line of this saga is that the “big guy” who tackled him has been charged with assault, the train guard has been suspended and the “big guy is also in danger of facing disciplinary action for bringing his employer into disrepute. Nice.

How very 2011. The moral minority (MM) are up in arms because a young chap was manhandled and abused by the “big guy”. Something must be done. Outraged and, the favourite, favourite word of the MM, “offended”. Off with his head! Throw away the key. Not for the young drunk guy of course. No, no, no, no, no. This is for the “big guy”.

The young guy was in the wrong. Okay most people get it wrong once in a while but aren’t we all tired of people doing something idiotic and then wasting our time or costing us money? “Big guy” may have been over zealous. The guard didn’t use the training he had, had to deal with such incidents. And?

Enter Christmas spirit. Young guy apologises for being an idiot and asks the police to drop all charges. He asks Scotrail to immediately reinstate the guard and he also asks “Big Guys” employers to drop the disrepute nonsense.

The Police could have a quiet chat with “Big Guy” without recourse to the courts. They could hold a discussion with the young chap and point out the error of his ways.

Scotrail could shoot another video covering the number of these fare infringements and the loss this represents to them and subsequently their customers who end up paying more because of it. They could also provide examples of how that lost revenue could be spent on improving services to their customers.

Let’s hope common sense prevails.

Now here is another example of the further need to see a valuable demonstration of the “Christmas Spirit”.

Edinburgh Council. You remember them? Well they’ve really played a blinder this time. Cuts are to be made to save £5.5 million. Now I ask you to remember that specific amount. 35.5 Million.

The £5.5 million (as reported by Michael Blackley the City Council Reporter for the Evening News in the December 22 2011 edition) will be saved by –

Introducing a £10 charge for people who need permits so they can have delivery or removal vehicles parked at their property.

That’s not a saving that’s an increased charge on residents.

£10.000 reduction in rate charge for Gracemount Youth and Community Centre.

That’s not a cut to services that’s a cut in rates!

3% cut to Children and  families department supplies and services budget.

That’s a cut. But is it a cut which will reduce costs by a few thousand, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or even more? Unlikely to be really significant although worthwhile perhaps?

3% rise in fees and charges within the services of the Communities Department.

That’s not a saving that’s another increase in cost to the residents.

Saving £112,000 by not producing the A-Z of council services booklet for resident.

That is a saving, but why spend that amount of money on a booklet in the first place?

£35,000 funding cut to Sestran.

That’s a cut but very small.

£100,000 cut in payments made to NHS Lothian for them providing beds to vulnerable people who will be kept at home instead.

That’s a cut, on the handling of vulnerable people. It is to be hoped that this does not result in a negative outcome.

So it’s cut here and there but mainly increase costs for the residents.

But there is a further twist. Another adjoining article states the following. The refuse collection industrial action, which dragged on for almost three years and only ended because of the threat of privatisation cost the council £5.5 Million.

Enter Christmas spirit.

No additional charges for residents will be levied.

The privatisation of the refuse services will proceed as per the report by the Council Officers and audited and assured by the accountancy firm brought in.

An enquiry will be carried out immediately, by an external body, to discover how £5.5 million could have been lost during the industrial action, how no action was taken to reduce the on going costs and the dispute was not ended quickly in the residents favour. Heads should roll where incompetence, and the sum of money involved suggests significant incompetence, is evident.

Real cost reductions across all council activities and services should be pursued regardless of outcome and should not be manipulated for political reasons.

A strange way to define the Christmas spirit?

The council and councillors have suffered reputational damage, which has been serious enough to reduce the confidence of residents to a point where it is becoming impossible to believe anything, which the council now says.

Drastic action to address this is required very much sooner than later.

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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in General, Politics

 

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Christmas present(s).

Carrying on with the Christmas theme then…

What Christmas present do you buy for the person who has everything? What do you buy for your parents? What do you buy for anyone?

Is it the case that we buy the presents we’d like for ourselves and give them to others?

I don’t know.

In another Christmas blog post I did a few days ago, one of the comments suggested that I was focusing on the commercial side of Christmas since I was talking about Santa delivered presents over the years. Christmas never used to be commercial but it is now. Okay, we can choose how commercial we want it to be and the costs which have, especially at the moment, got out of hand.

You’ll be familiar with Martin Lewis of Moneysavingexpert.com fame? I heard him on the radio a couple of years ago talking about how much money is spent at Christmas. He was pushing the idea that it’s out of control, it encourages people to spend money they haven’t got and there’s too much pressure to conform.

All of that is of course true and my Scrooge side is well onside with that.

But there’s pester power and social pressures to overcome. You end up in a complicated negotiation during which very few words are spoken and which is rarely carried out face to face. It’s like Christmas cards. You send them to people and they send you one back and vice versa. If someone doesn’t send you a card you don’t send him or her one the next year. Then they do and it comes in too late for you to send one to them. Next year you send them a card and they don’t send one to you so you don’t send on next year and they do and so it goes on.

The reality is you may want to show how fond, or grateful you are or acknowledge someone by buying them a gift which you hope will “wow” them. On occasions you do but for the most part you fall short of the mark for them. Try harder next year? If only.

You also end up in the value game. I’ll spend £20 on them. What can I get them? They have everything. I’ll get them a £20.00 Amazon voucher then. You give them a card with the voucher details inside. Done deal. They give you a card too. You open it and it’s a voucher for £20 from Amazon. Doh!

Some people say “don’t give me anything”. Then you don’t and they’re maybe a wee bit miffed. It’s a minefield I tell you.

What’s the best gift you have ever given? The one that lights up someone’s face when they open it. How often does that happen?

There’s also the bonanza on EBay and Gum tree post Christmas. There are a lot of items up for sale in early January, which are “unwanted gifts”. They may be unwanted by someone but to someone else they are just what they wanted and a lot cheaper than it would have been to buy in a shop. Good deal really for everyone part from the person that bought it originally.

Maybe there should be some sort of giant gift exchange sort of like Swap Shop but without the loud sweaters and beards? Maybe there are gifts out there, which have been circulating like years. There’s probably a complicated mathematical equation, which dictates how long it would take for your unwanted gift, which you sold on eBay to come back to you and the number of steps required also.

Christmas is just one day. The vast majority of people are giving all year round. They give of their time, financially, supportively and in an encouraging manner. Christmas cheapens this somehow. It’s a pity but there it is.

Perhaps we should go back to the 50s early 60s. New Year was the thing in Scotland. It was the only time of the year you’d see men carrying message bags. They only did this because it had their bottle of whisky, cans of export, something for the ladies and fizzy pop for the weans/bairns inside.

They say that Ibiza is the party capital of the world. Strike that. Scotland was the real party capital of the world. Non of that fakey Princes Street stuff either, oh no! New Year lasted from Hogmanay until the day before you went back to work/school etc. although at times it might also continue the following weekend. Once you are in party mode you need to make the most of it apparently.

Home made soup, steak pie, tatties and veg followed by cloutie dumpling. Wholesome food designed to sustain you through the partying season. Rooms full to bursting point with people you almost all knew. You know the scenario: a roaring coal fire, water running down the inside of the windows, weans/bairns playing games, people singing, dancing, chatting, laughing and generally being jolly, music blaring.

Those days are past now and in the past they shall remain.

Onwards and upwards.

 

Bah humbug!

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in General

 

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Christmas shopping.

Isn’t Christmas shopping a joy? Of course it is. You’ve already spent lots of time researching the best place to buy the things your friends families and sundry associates have either indicated they’d like or have provided a written document detailing their exact requirements. Oh the joy which is the spirit of Christmas.

Soon it’s time for you to sally forth and purchase said items within a time period which is acceptable to you and your shopping partner/Santa’s little helper/donkey – delete as applicable.

Let us take a small step back however and consider some of the other options available.

Option 1.

Have all your Christmas presents bought before the end of October.

People who do this tend to be no strangers to OCD, they do not step on cracks and if you share the same living space with one of them your main course plate will be washed, dried and put back in the cupboard before you’ve wiped your mouth with your napkin which will also illicit a slight scream, sine the napkin will now need washed, from the person previously mentioned in the same sentence as OCD.

This Christmas present buying strategy is not an option unless you also are leaning towards OCD.

Option 2.

This can be carried out in the comfort of your favourite armchair. The Internet has become a useful tool in sourcing and procuring goods and services at a price point, which suits your particular wallet. Whilst this is possibly a good solution you may remember last Christmas (not the version by our good friend and jaunty chum George Michael, however).

Last Christmas was subject to copious amounts of snow for some weeks prior to present opening. Vis-à-vis Internet purchases requires a wee man in a very large van bringing them to your door and you signing digitally in acceptance of said goods.

Copious amounts of snow reduce the integrity, of wee man in a very large van, delivery possibilities. Not only will said parcel not appear, it will be stored safely and securely at a central location until such times as snow has gone down the drain. The resulting backlog pays no heed to Christmas deadlines resulting in Christmas going down the drain for those who were relying on next day deliveries.

Other issues include being broken, disappearing or the goods being not as were intended i.e. guff which has no resemblance to the photie on the website.

Option 3.

Make the presents for people yourself. This is a one-way ticket to social exclusion. To most people this is enough to reduce the probability of making presents to a very high odds point. However, if you are of the persuasion that penny pinching is an exiting and rewarding activity you will risk all on the basis that social exclusion will reduce your out goings regardless. Result!

Okay, so it’s December and you’re off to the shops to buy the stuff you want.  Unless you live close enough to walk to the shops you will have to bus it, taxi it or drive it

The trip back on the bus will convince you that public transport has become a social experiment. All extremes of humanity and some gems from the animal kingdom will be aboard the bus best routed to get you home. You will neither have the patience nor the psychological profile required to deal with such a journey. Cease and desist should be your watchwords when contemplating bus travel in December and certain other times of the year.

A taxi then, your private means of door-to-door transportation. Sit back and enjoy a comfortable personal experience in silence. Your driver may well have other ideas. He will regale you with tales of traffic mayhem, tram-building flaws, and weather reports whilst driving down the bus lane at a speed that is not conducive to stately progress.

Your driver will also interrogate you on your purchases: what they are, where you bought them and how much they cost. He will offer advice on where you may have gone wrong, why you have paid well over the odds and how he could introduce you to one of his “mates” who can get you this sort of “gear” at a fraction of the cost. Following this advice may provide you with a further experience, that of eating porridge on Christmas morning in the “pokey”.

So you’re left with driving and parking. This is really a two-person job. One to drive and drop you off and keep circling the one-way system until you have secured your purchases You, as lead participant, will be running from shop to shop and meeting up with car and driver at the pavement occasionally so you can load the purchases made so far, into the boot or the back of said vehicle or roof box if the number of presents you need are huge.

The alternative is to park. To achieve this you need a space to actually park in and a significant loan from the IMF with security from the World Bank to pay for this rarest of species the empty parking space. It is a well know scientific fact that an empty parking space in December is easier to spot than one of those Higgs boson particles in the Hadron Collider.

Your bank account has been assaulted by a number of vendors of the finest goods suitable for being Christmas presents. It is then further assaulted by parking charges and the costs of coffees and a slice or three of expensive cakes.

Your carefully prepared list will begin to take on a similarity to a fantasy fiction novel as the goods you had intended buying are either no longer available, have rocketed up in price or are only available as tawdry returned items.

Take my advice. Cease and desist. Give cash instead. Save the travel money for buying Gin and such like. Relax on your bottom in your own home.

Bah humbug!

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in General

 

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Party, party, party…

Carrying on with the Christmas theme today then , albeit with a twist, lets consider Christmas and New Year parties. They take place I believe. People sort of turn up and eat stuff and they also drink mans beer. Some may also smoke fags. Some may abstain from all of these.

Unfortunately all of these things are subject to restrictions, statutes, health Gestapo, scares and profiteering some of which is propagated and supported by the state.

Food first then. At parties there could be cocktail sticks resplendent in squares of cheese and two pickles and or pineapple chunks, tastefully and thoughtfully stuck in an orange which has been sliced in half and laid cut side down. The more sophisticated host or hostess may even go a stage further and cover the half orange in tin foil. Whilst this does not enhance the taste of the aforementioned cocktail stick delicacy, and lets be honest here, there is absolutely no need to since it is comparable with the nectar of the gods just as it is, it sets a jaunty tone to any table.

It is very likely that you will be subjected to foods which contain fat, sugar, additives, artificial colouring, and flavouring, animal parts, air and various substances left over from dangerous chemical manufacturing. It is however, unlikely that you will be subjected to nuclear waste as there just isn’t enough to go around.

It is very likely that you will be subjected to mans beer which contains fat sugar, additives, artificial colouring and flavouring and various substances left over from dangerous chemical manufacturing. It will almost certainly contain copious amounts of CO2, which has been filtered from the atmosphere saving the lives of countless warmist activists. A less than fetching side effect will become apparent at some inopportune moment much later in the evening when activities have taken on a more horizontal requirement. Your immediate response may be to completely ignore the event, however your chosen partner will be less likely to do so and your hopes to end the evening on a brighter note may prove to be less positive than originally conceived. A surprisingly odorous and noisy end to a most promising evening. There’s always tomorrow night.

You may be of the persuasion that smoking fags is an endearing feature. This may or may not be the case but regardless, if you head to a party you may well find yourself outside smoking with other members of your sect.

Once again it is almost certain that your cigarette will contain substances which were not originally designed to be used for this purpose. No matter however. Smokers have a weapon or retribution. Ash and gag ends. Fag ends take thousands of years to rot away as do used carrier bags according to some health and environment experts with no axe to grind at all. In fact I’m constantly surprised that our houses aren’t built from old carrier bags and fag ends. Our homes would last much, much longer if they were. Bricks and mortar, hah! Castles also. Canon ball meets wall made from old carrier bags and fag ends, bounces of, end of. Don’t smoke beside those same walls though. There might be a slight risk of fire.

The abstainers will be in the kitchen at parties along with Jona Lewie, eating tofu and lettuce, drinking water flown from the other side of the world. They will also be avoiding touching anything in case they come into contact with the toxins left behind by a smoker or be busy making very, very, very sure they are not within several miles of second hand smoke.

It all sounds so jolly. It could be worse though. Cliff Richard could pop in and offer a couple of songs from his back catalogue before launching into a hymn or religious ditty. There will however be people at the party who will sing a song or several, dance in a dangerous manner without wearing a hi-viz jacket, tell jokes which do not meet stringent health and safety regulations and laugh in a loud and common manner.

I’m really looking forward to it all. Honestly.

 

Bah humbug!

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in General

 

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It’s a wonderful life.

Or it should be a wonderful life. Like all things it’s down to how you interpret it. What’s good for one isn’t always so good for another.

Since it’s Christmas all my posts this week will have a Christmas theme.  Good will to all men and all that. “It’s a wonderful life” is a very popular film and is set at Christmas. It’s pretty sentimental, it has a happy ending and it’s probably rips off Scrooge more than is good for it but it’s still a good film.

Interestingly it’s also about bankers.  You’ll be aware of bankers because of the on going financial crisis which continues to hover rather than land. Some bankers haven’t been as “honest” as we might like. They may have taken some “risks” which may have been “riskier” than they should have been. No matter though, everything is fine now, as long as you live on a distant planet. It’s a wonderful life on a distant planet, that hasn’t got the same ring to it really.

It’s a wonderful life, the movie, is set in a different time frame. It’s a completely different time, shot in monochrome, which adds to the authenticity of the subject matter. As you will probably be aware, a chap owns a local buildings and loans business, which provides mortgages to local people. One of his employees is sent to make a bank deposit but it gets “lost” before it’s paid into the bank and the town bad person, who owns almost the whole town, turns the screws on everyone in an attempt to take it over entirely.

The film ends in everyone, donating money to the chap who has supported them, his customers, when they themselves have hit problems and needed a bit of time to pay. It can’t possibly be 2011. In 2011 if you can’t pay your bill they start charging you more money, which makes things worse for you but better for them. Nice.

In the whole film there is no mention of derivatives, hedge funds, investment vehicles etc. etc. No Porsches, red braces, mobile phones, champagne, bonuses etc. etc. etc…

Maybe a bit of localism could go a long way in 2012? Local councils, local banks or credit unions, local shops (for local people he he he). I’m sure that’s how it used to be, before “economies of scale” became the model of preference, before “big is beautiful” became a mantra for those who didn’t have to live with the impact of its results and before spin became a tool of choice for politicians rather than something which happened to your washing.

The past is the past and Iooking back, trying to regain what we sort of remember our own past was like is futile. However, the lessons we learned still have value obviously, it’s the rose tinted specs which cause the problems.

The more I think about localism the more I think it is a major part of the answer we need to regain some sort of control of over those we employ, those who have asked to represent us and those who wish to separate us from our money. I learned a good few years ago that if you have not got a vested interest in something you don’t really do it justice. For too long we have been at the mercy of people who have no vested interest what so ever in us, the only vested interest they have is in their own advancement and enrichment.

It’s a wonderful life. Maybe we could make it even more wonderfulerer?

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in General, Politics

 

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Hibees parody

This is a parody song based on Lola by the Kinks.

Hibs haven’t been doing too well recently and the only way is up for them at the moment.

Balance is important and last Sundays parody featured another Edinburgh football team.

Enjoy.

Hibees

 

A met hur at a gem doon it Easter Road

It’s thi best place ti watch Hibernian,

C’mon H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

 

Shi sat nixt tae me an wi started ti chat

Wi watched the gem it wis guid ti see

The H-H-Hibees, c’mon H-H-Hibees

 

We’ll A’m no the worlds maist modurn man

Bit A smiled it hir altho she wis too shy,

Tae shout fur Hibees, H-H-Hibees

 

Well A’m quite smart bit A couldnae understand

Why she wis oan her ain at a footie match

Watching Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees

 

It half time I bought hur a pie

An a Bovril to wash it doon

Shi looked it me stared me in the eyes

An says “This pie’s no as guid as it ither grounds

 

Well A’m no the worlds greatest expert in pies

Bit A know a guid pie and the pies are guid

At Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees

Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees

 

Then the Hibees scored, A leapt tae ma feet

A jumped up and doon, but she stiyed oan hur seat

Then A looked it her an she it me

 

That’s no the wiy I wanted hur ti be

I wanted hur to cheer fur the Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

 

A luv ma team bit shi wisnae as keen

A wis confused, who did she cheer fur

If no fur Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

 

When A left hame ti gon ti the gem

A nivver thought A’d meet a wummin like hur

Noo she smiled it me and tain mi by the han

An says “Hey Pal A prefer maroon to green”.

 

Well A’m no the worlds maist intelligent guy,

Bit A knew that she wisnnae a Hibernian fan

Shi wis a Jambo, aw naw naw shi wis a Jambo

Bit A love Hibees, H-H-Hibees,

 

Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

 

Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

Hibees, H-H-Hibees, H-H-Hibees.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2011 in General, Music

 

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It’s a lot less bovva with a hovva

This blog post was originally published at the Subrosa blog and is reproduced here with permissions

They’ve done it again.

Who?

The Councillors in Edinburgh. This time they have “vetoed” (are you impressed with the use of the most overused word in the past 24 hours word? How topical am I?) the planning application for the hovercraft service which would run between Kirkcaldy and Portobello. Apparently the plans were rejected due to the visual impact of the proposed ramp, noise and transport concerns.

If you are not familiar with the area where the ramp would be thenhere’s a quick heads up. It is down at Seafield, not far from the sewage plant, just along a bit from the Dog and Cat Home and the bus depot. Obviously this is a high amenity area (not). Notice also the cited transport concerns. The ramp isn’t far from the bus depot. The Lothian Buses bus depot. Where they park the buses at night and work on them. Where buses come and go all day long.

The service was trialed a couple of years ago. The deal was you could go down and get on for free I think and get a return trip. Millions of pensioners queued up to get on the hovercraft. The test worked fine.

It’s a no brainer. It’s a great idea, it would be an interesting thing to do and it would help commuters and reduce road congestion. It would also use the river which would be a very good thing.

It has draw backs however, or at least it has draw backs if you are an Edinburgh Councillor. The hovercraft apparently doesn’t need rails to run on. Therefore there is no requirement to dig up the Forth causing major traffic jams. No shops will close due to it’s non construction either.

Another aspect of unsuitability is of course cost. It’s likely to cost very little. If it’s cheap the other cities of the UK won’t be impressed so no point in doing it then.

Seriously, it’s now well overdue for someone to take Edinburgh Councillors aside and offer them an offer they can’t refuse. Basically they need to get their act together or they’ll be sent to Brighton.

Maybe they’d be too weird even for Brighton? There’s always Naples though. I feel sure we could find a suitable City for them to “improve”. Kabul? Tehran? Now they must need trams.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Politics

 

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