Thursday, August 30, 2007


I'm off to the Connect festival this weekend, spending three days being entertained by Bjork, the Beastie Boys, Jesus and Mary Chain, Modest Mouse, Primal Scream and Idelwild, to name but a few.

And then next week I have the delights of the Offshore Europe conference to look forward to. So posting is going to be a bit haphazard over the next few days.

So, as way of apology, here's a video of the band I'm most looking forward to this weekend - the Super Furry Animals - performing their greatest song.

The Golden Balls Will Burst

I've never hidden the fact that I think David Beckham is a bit of a fud.

Admittedly, he's a very well-paid fud who has made the most of his limited footballing abilities, honing them so that, at his peak, he was the best right-footed dead ball specialist in the world.

On his day, such as when Beckham booked England's place at the 2002 World Cup with a last minute free kick - to draw with footballing leviathans Greece - he was immense, covering every inch of the pitch and pressing his team mates forwards.

But he's never going to feature in anyone's All-Time World XI.

If the truth be told, I don't actually mind the on-pitch Beckham too much. Despite an irrational hatred of Manchester United (Cristiano Ronaldo and Darren Fletcher excepted) and the deep joy I take from each defeat bestowed upon England's national side, I don't feel the same loathing for Beckham that I do for some other professional footballers (the names Lennon, Bellamy, Thompson and Sutton spring to mind).

It's Beckham's off-field activities that irritate me. For years, he and his real-life, 3D Photoshopped wife have uttered vacuous desires "to break America". Why? Why must they inflict themselves on another country - in fact, another continent? Would it not make more sense for them to continue working in the UK after Golden Balls hangs up his boots, but to live in comparative anonymity in Hollywood?

The simple answer (can there be any other type when it comes to the gruesome twosome?) is no - they cannot rest until everyone on the planet owns a product touched by the hand of one of the Beckhams. Whether a Spice Girls concert ticket, an LA Galaxy shirt or a pair of Police sunglasses, everyone must buy into Brand Beckham.

But before this rant descends any further, the purpose of this post was actually to show some sympathy to David Beckham.

Much has been made of his new trans-Atlantic lifestyle now that he is plying his domestic trade in the United States whilst attempting to recreate his international glories on the battlefields of Europe.

Boo-hoo. Beckham knew what he was doing when he signed his 250 million dollar Galaxy contract.

But when you see the extent of his travelling laid out in front of you, it is pretty formidable. Between September 8 and October 18, Beckham's schedule (presuming he were fit enough to play in all matches, and selected for the relevant squads) is as follows:

Saturday September 8: London
Wednesday September 12: London
Thursday September 13: Los Angeles
Sunday September 16: Los Angeles
Wednesday September 19: Utah
Sunday September 23: Los Angeles
Thursday September 27: Kansas
Sunday September 30: Ohio
Wednesday October 3: Vancouver
Sunday October 7: Houston
Wednesday October 10: Minnesota
Saturday October 13: London
Wednesday October 17: Moscow

Thirteen matches in 40 days, in four countries. For a fully fit professional athlete at the top of his game and his physical peak, that would be a punishing schedule. For a 32-year-old who, after finishing a punishing season in Spain's top flight, travelled straight to America to play for LA Galaxy, whilst also resurrecting his international career, it's impossible. And that's without mentioning the fact that Beckham isn't even really fit enough to finish ONE match, let alone 13. Or the fact that he'd also have training between those matches - ideally at least, although travelling across America, over the Atlantic and around Europe will have a huge impact on that. And on top of all that, he's probably also signed up for countless days of promotional work and advertising campaigns.

For once, I feel sorry for David Beckham.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sending Crime Underground

Police in Manchester have apparently foiled a planned robbery after the discovery of a tunnel heading towards a cash machine in a video shop.

What a completely genius plan - dig a tunnel all the way to the machine and then empty it underground before making a sharp exit.

Is it just me, or do the police seem a bit dimwitted for announcing they'd found it - wouldn't they have been better observing it whilst the would-be thieves continued digging, thus catching them red-handed?

Or is that too much like common sense?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Birthday Meme

Tish over at The Kat House tagged me with The Birthday Meme.

Here are the rules:

Go to Wikipedia and type in your birthday (month and day).

Write down three events, two births, one holiday and tag five friends.

There are five slots in the Birthday Meme. As you are tagged, you have to remove the name in the first slot and bump everyone up so that your name can be added to the bottom.

Three Events That Occurred on My Birthday
217 - Roman Emperor Caracalla is assassinated (and succeeded) by his Praetorian Guard prefect, Marcus Opellius Macrinus.

1820 - The Venus de Milo is discovered on the Aegean island of Melos.

2005 - Funeral of Pope John Paul II.

Two People Who Share My Birthday
1962 - Izzy Stradlin, American musician (Guns N' Roses).

1963 - Julian Lennon, English musician and singer (and God's own first-born son).

One Holiday Celebrated on My Birthday
Buddha's Birthday, the birthday of the Gautama Buddha. Traditionally celebrated in East Asia on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, is an official holiday in Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea. The date varies from year to year in the Western (Gregorian) calendar.

Five People I'm Tagging

1. The Tomahawk Kid

2. Big Rab

3. Erica

4. Colin

5. Sho

Previous Participants

1 This is a miracle
2 Mariuca
3 Mike
4 Tish
5 Groanin' Jock

Monday, August 27, 2007

You Shook Me (All About) All Night Long

I'm a big music fan. The sitting room at Dungroanin' is home to a couple of thousand CDs, with more stashed away in a wardrobe elsewhere in the house. In some ways, I'm glad that I missed out on the vinyl years, otherwise I wouldn't have room in my house for anything except my record collection.

One of the many things in music I like is the unusual cover version. Over the years, I've been impressed by Travis' take on Britney's Baby One More Time, by the White Stripes' interpretation of Dolly Parton's Jolene, and by Hayseed Dixie's reinvention of Ace of Spades.

But, in all my days listening to music, I never thought I'd hear AC/DC break into The Hokey Cokey.

Now, thanks to Erica's YouTube sleuthing skills, I can die happy, having heard my favourite Australian-Scottish band tackle the children's birthday party staple.

Well, not quite. It's comedian Jim Breuer imagining what the "Hokey Pokey" would sound like if played by Angus Young and Brian Johnson. (What the hell is the Hokey Pokey? Sidewalk, restroom, gas and soda I'll tolerate but Hokey Pokey? It's Hokey Cokey you numbskulls.)

Enjoy. Then pop over to Erica's blog to say hello.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Third Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge

Well, if the first Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge was tough, it seems that its successor was even harder - only one correct answer (in fact, only one answer) from the lot of you.

So, for what may be the last time, here are this week's five random selections from the Magic Tune Box. Can you name the songs? Answers in the comments, no Googling!

1: Sitting here wishing on a cement floor, just wishing that I had just something you wore, I put it on when I go lonely, will you take off your dress and send it to me?

2: I need someone to be around, cos I'm breakin' into life, somebody stop me, cos I'm lookin' for my, lookin' for my high.

3: I know that you think I'm a fool. But couldn't you try to forgive a fool one more time?

4: Let's drink to the hard working people, let's drink to the lowly of birth. Raise your glass to the good and the evil.

5: I leave the mic in body bags, my rap style has the force to leave you lost, like the tribe of Shabazz.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Publican Relations

Scotland, for one reason or another, always seems to be defined in one of two ways: as the tartan, shortbread, Highland cows and kilts stereotype or as the violent, drunk, socially-deprived slums as portrayed in Taggart, Trainspotting and most other television and movie dramas filmed in Scotland over the last couple of decades.

The latter depiction of Scotland always focuses on one of two cities: Glasgow (Taggart) or Trainspotting (Edinburgh). Which is a wee bit unfair. The rest of Scotland can be just as rough as the country's first and second cities.

Take Aberdeen for example. Per capita, probably Scotland's most salubrious city, thanks almost entirely to the money derived from North Sea oil. A city where young single men who have spent five weeks at sea arrive home with the best part of five thousand pounds in their bank accounts. A city full to the brim with seamen.

Sure, Aberdeen's wide, tree-lined, granite streets look very grand and refined. But venture down to the docks at night time, and you'll see man's base instincts rear their ugly heads in two forms. Drink and hookers.

For a first-hand account of a night in one of Aberdeen's seamier holes, check out this post over at The Misssy M Misssives. Or watch the video below. (Ignore the plummy-voiced twat from Front magazine who speaks at the start).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kat Loves My Blog

Another week, another award.

Tish of The Kat House, also co-founder of Blogs We Luv, has decided that she loves my blog.

What can I say - I love it too!

Under the rules of the award, I'm supposed to pass the award on. So, if you take a look to the right of this post, you'll find my Blogroll. I love every single one of those blogs, and for a variety of different reasons. Have a look through them all - it'll be well worth it.

The Last Supper: Jedi Style

Very cool religious Star Wars artwork, as seen at Neatorama via Alastair's Heart Monitor.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Greatest

Like many men, I'm a compulsive compiler of mental lists - the 10 best albums of all time, the greatest female singers, the best gigs I've ever been to, my five favourite cities - and so on.

Frequently, the focus of my list-compiling is football. I'll often think about the strongest Rangers 11 made up only of players I've seen in the flesh, or the three best matches I've been to (for the record, they are the 2002 Champions League Final, Rangers' 3-1 win over Aberdeen to win the league in 1996 and a 4-0 Old Firm victory in either 2000 or 2001).

A game that I often play with friends, or with work colleagues on those days when time is passing slowly, is to name your ultimate, all-time, greatest football eleven, drawn from any player in the history of the game.

This seemingly innocuous pastime can often descend into bickering as people debate the relative merits of Peter Schmeichel and Andy Goram, or whether Ruud Gullit was a striker, midfielder, defender or all three.

But the biggest debate always centres around one question: who was The Greatest?

Generally, there are two belief systems in operation when it comes to this question: those who worship at the altar of Diego Maradona; and others who stand by Pelé as the most gifted individual ever to lace up his boots.

I'm a member of the former camp. Maradona is, quite simply, the most prodigiously gifted professional footballer I have ever seen (sadly, not in the flesh).

And there lies the root of the problem: Pelé's peak years occurred long before the blanket television coverage of football existed.

I was born a full decade after the Pelé-inspired Brazil team of 1970 conquered all before it to lift the World Cup. In truth, I was too young to appreciate Maradona's achievements at the 1986 competition, Hand of God and "The Greatest Goal Ever Scored" (TM all Scottish football fans) included.

But by 1990, I was an avid follower of The Beautiful Game (a phrase coined by Pelé himself), and watched as El Diego almost single-handedly carried a poor Argentina team all the way to the final, as he had done four years previously.

At the 1994 World Cup, Maradona was awesome. Every time he touched the ball, he looked menacing. His previously chubby frame seemed more muscular, and he dictated the play.

In truth, his increased vigour and physical bearing were due in no small part to the cocktail of drugs swimming around his body throughout the tournament. Admittedly, the physical aspects of his game had been pumped up by the artificial enhancers - but the dazzling ability he demonstrated at those finals before he was thrown out was God-given, and unparalleled by anyone I had seen before or have seen since.

And so, to the modern day. I figured that, with YouTube continuing to expand at a frightening rate, there had to be a Pelé montage floating about, so that I could at last see more than the shot he missed from the halfway line against Czechoslovakia and the header that Gordon Banks saved in the 1970 World Cup.

Sure enough, there are many Pelé videos on the worldwide interweb. I looked at a few, but this one seemed to do him most justice. The speed, the quickness of mind and the inventiveness are all on a par with those displayed by Maradona at his peak (fast forward to the goal about three minutes in to see Pelé with the ball at his feet). But what stands out from the video are the sheer power of his shots and the height he could jump to meet headers. And the number of brutal fouls he was subject to.

It should also be taken into account that the balls used in Pelé's day probably weighed twice what modern balls do, yet his shots still look cannonballs.

So, have I been converted to the Pelé camp?

In a word - no. Despite the three World Cup wins, the 1280 goals in 1363 games, helping to kick-start football in the USA and the constant ability to act as an ambassador for football, I can't move into the pro-Pelé camp.

Maybe it's the flawed genius theory - that Maradona's mean streak made him the player that we all secretly wanted to be, a wild and wayward figure who could be the world's best ever player one minute and the world's most truculent spoilt brat the next. Or maybe it's because of this goal.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Montrose Sessions

Today I'll be joining two of my mates under the pretence of a band practice.

Thankfully the others have a fair bit of talent between them, which means that they can just tell me what to do.

Our sessions rarely produce anything worthy of note, but it's not entirely about the music - it's just a way of relaxing and excusing spending a day drinking beer, eating pizza and playing PlayStation games.

Anyway, just to prove that we DO occasionally produce something that borders on worthwhile, here's one we prepared earlier. It's pretty rough, as befits a recording made by three partially drunk guys on a four track with only a drum machine for company. For anyone who cares, I'm on bass.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Number 9,000

Three posts in one day - man, I'm on fire.....

Anyway, the aim in completing this unholy trinity is to point out that the 9,000th official visitor has crossed the threshold here at Groanin' Jock.

If I'm any good at tracking IP addresses, I think it was my favourite Jewish Brooklyn Wiseass who was the 9,000th Groanin' reader - congratulations Erica, your prize will be winging its way to you just as soon as I can cobble together a nasty piece of Photoshopping find something suitably grandiose for you.

The Second Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge

Maybe The First Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge was a bit tough - only two of the five songs were guessed correctly. The answers are now in the comments on that post.

Let's see if you weird and wonderful people can do better with this batch. Post your answers in the comments, no Googling!

1: The cards on the table have changed, the ones who have left can't be traced.

2: Burn Hollywood burn, taking down Tinseltown, burn Hollywood burn, burn down to the ground.

3: Ev'rybody had a wet dream, ev'rybody saw the sunshine.

4: There's no combination of words I could put on the back of a postcard, no song that I could sing.

5: I've got a pen in my pocket, does that make me a writer? Standing on the mountain doesn't make me no higher.

What's An Anal Jock Strap?

OK, I realise this is becoming a bit of a theme, but I couldn't resist sharing one of the latest batch of Google search terms that brought someone winging my way.

"free anal jock strap videos"


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Daily Blogger Award

Once again, I've been honoured by Tish, who has presented me with the Daily Blogger Award.

The award is intended for bloggers who post at least five times per week, give or take. According to the creator of the award, “these bloggers get up every morning, get their creative juices flowing, and start unscrambling the alphabet into words, sentences, and phrases. Rain or shine, just like the postal service, they are hard at work delivering their messages to you.”

Well, that may be over-egging the pudding ever so slightly, but I try my best. Creativity may occasionally be in short supply on this far-flung outpost of the worldwide interweb, and as for being hard at work to deliver my message - what's my message? That strange people want to sniff piss and see pictures of naked Scotsmen in kilts? That I'm the only person in the world who likes Elastica's second album? Or that I don't like birds - even dead ones?

Nonetheless, I'm honoured to have been, emm, honoured by Tish. I'm just surprised that some of you strange people feel the desire to come back here day in, day out, to read what I'm groanin' about.

Tish has asked that I pass the award on, so my six worthy recipients of the Daily Blogger Award are:

Eric (everyone's favourite Straight White Guy)

Chickie over at Blissful Bedlam

Erica (AKA the Wiseass Brooklyn Jewette Nice Jooish Girl)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A New Low

I've posted before on the strange Google search terms that bring people to this far-flung outpost of the worldwide web.

But we hit a new low today - "piss sniffing. the facts".

All I know is that this person was from the UK and stumbled along here at 3.30am.

I don't think I want to know any more.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cynic? Yeah, right.

I'm pretty cynical. I'm Scottish and I'm a journalist, so it's to be expected.

But I thought that I was more than 56% cynical - I'm not sure how you put a percentage on cynicism, but the strange people of the worldwide interweb managed it.

You Are 56% Cynical

Yes, you are cynical, but more than anything, you're a realist.
You see what's screwed up in the world, but you also take time to remember what's right.

As seen at Big Rab's site.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Weird and Wonderful

Working as a reporter for a small local newspaper is an ideal way to meet strange people.

I don't mean psychopaths or really dangerous people, although I did meet one or two of them as well, but just unusual folks with their own strange way of going about their business in the world at large.

One of the most memorable was a middle-aged man who appeared in the office in which I worked almost as soon as we opened the doors one morning.

He told me that he had a story, but I'd have to come outside to find out more.

So, heading out into the rain, I followed the strange man. (My Mither always told me that I shouldn't do that, but I was curious. I should have followed her advice).

We crossed the road and arrived at his large estate car, parked in a busy shopping street.

The man unlocked the doors and told me to sit in the passenger seat.

Taking further leave of my already distant senses I followed his instructions. As I eased my way into the vehicle, my nose was met by a pungent stench.

Having grown up in the countryside, I'm used to the smells associated with animals. Faither, a gamekeeper when I was a boy, kept dogs and ferrets, and we also had chickens, ducks and guinea fowl over the years.

Sitting in that car, the smell reminded of that you would get from a ferret's cage, the musky odour of rodents that don't care too much about their bathing habits.

The strange man, sitting in the driver's seat, began to tell me his story. He liked to watch swans. He liked to feed swans. But, for the most part, he felt that wild swans should be left to get on with their affairs untroubled by the machinations of mankind.

He was most upset that, the night before, when he had ventured along the Crinan Canal to watch the swans bobbing on the water, he had encountered a dead swan lying on the towpath.

It was at this point in his tale that the strange gentleman removed a black binliner from the back of the car, revealing the stinking corpse of a two-day dead swan.

Those of you familiar with this far-flung outpost of the worldwide interweb will be aware that I have a phobia of birds. Admittedly, this swan was dead, but it was still only a few inches from me.

Nonetheless, I managed to maintain my composed demeanour, and asked the strange man why he thought I should know about a dead swan. As I succinctly put it, animals die every day, and those passings generally don't make the pages of the press. (Which headline sounds least exciting - "Dog bites man" or "Swan dies"?)

The strange man said that he believed that this swan, if not callously murdered, had been unintentionally killed by someone who had moved it from the open sea to the Crinan Canal. He explained his theory that, as swans need a good 20 metres in which to land when they've been flying, this unfortunate swan had become entangled in overhead power lines and had met its sorry fate.

It was the strange man's belief that this swan didn't normally spend its days on the canal, but had been transported there by someone who thought it would make a nice addition to the view from their sitting room window.

I gently explained that, without proof, there was little I could do - the local press isn't in the business of slandering suspected swan slayers. The strange man continued, stating that a dead swan was newsworthy regardless of the circumstances of its demise.

After much to-ing and fro-ing as we debated the media ethics behind the story, I finally relented. Keen to be free from the man's pungent swan hearse, I agreed that we should get a photograph of the swan. The strange man then drove us (myself and my ex-swan travelling companion) up to the bank of the canal, where he happily posed for photographs holding the lifeless bird's neck up so that its beak faced the lens.

Satisfied that he had done his bit for swankind, the man left, taking the body with him. We did eventually decide to run the story, primarily because we feared that if we didn't, the strange man might return with further dead animals.

There are very few aspects of my work with the local press that I miss - the hours were long, free time was scarce and the money very poor. But occasionally, I think of the strange people I encountered and wish that, just once, someone would turn up in the oil industry carrying the carcass of a dead bird. You know, just to liven things up a bit.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wild Things

I think everyone should pop across to see this video at The Tomahawk Kid.

Shuffling The Pack

I've done a little tidy and reshuffle of the old Blogroll - apologies if I've missed anyone out, just drop me a line and I'll fix it straight away.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The First Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge

I'm going to shamelessly steal borrow an idea from my friend the Tomahawk Kid for this post.

Every so often, TK will post lyrics from the five most recent songs to play on his MP3 player when set to shuffle. It's then the readers' responsibility to name the tunes.

Good luck with the inaugural Groanin' Jock lyrics quiz. Post your answers in the comments, no Googling!

1: So if you don't rate, just overcompensate, at least you'll know you can always go on Ricki Lake.

2: One day we change from children into people, one day we change.

3: Spin me some sad story, sell me some excuse, to help me understand the things you do.

4: I was born in a force-ten gale, it takes more than hot air to blow the wind out of my sails, and my eyesight's poor, but I am the future.

5: But you can learn how to play the game, it's easy.

Can I Have A P Please Bob?

Tish tagged me with this "Seven Ps" meme. Play along if it takes your fancy.

Passion - Music. The right music can calm me down, wind me up, put me to sleep, wake me up, make me angry, make me happy, make me laugh, make me cry and make me jump up and down in a small, dark club full of sweaty, hairy men.

Purpose - To enjoy my life. I always thought I'd end up working in London, commuting to work and living in a tiny flat with only lines of traffic to see out my window. But I've long since realised that there's more to enjoying life than what you do for a living. I'm much happier where I am.

Pursuit - A long(ish), happy, healthy life with my family and good friends.

Position - On top (of what, I don't know).

Pummeling - My debt into submission. This time next year. Within a few months, I expect to be debt free (mortgage and student loan excepted).

Progress - Slowly but surely.

Personality - Laid back. Ambitious, but not to a detrimental effect on my lifestyle.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Escape To Victory

An interesting article on The Times website today on some homeless footballers who have gone AWOL:

African participation in the Homeless World Cup, a football tournament designed to improve the confidence of former vagrants, was under review last night after 15 players went on the run at the finals in Denmark.

The competition’s aim — to offer a golden opportunity for homeless people to change their lives — was taken literally by seven players from Burundi, four from Liberia, three from Cameroon and one from Afghanistan.

Danish police were looking for the footballers last night but admitted that they could easily have travelled further afield in the Schengen system of 15 “borderless” EU countries, which do not require visitors to show passports. The players’ visas expired on Monday after the tournament ended.

Kay Byles, a spokeswoman for the Scottish-based Homeless World Cup Foundation, said that it was the first of the annual contests — which started in 2002 — to experience runaways. Arrangements for next year’s cup in Melbourne would be reviewed, she said.

Is it just me, or does the concept of the Homeless World Cup seem a little naive?

You take 500 homeless people, many of them from third world nations, to Denmark and expect them all to play in the tournament before returning home.

Why would homeless people from Cameroon, Liberia, Afghanistan or Burundi want to return home to their own countries when faced with a golden opportunity to start afresh in Denmark?

True, they will still be homeless in Europe, and are effectively in the country illegally. But I think I'd sooner take my chances on the streets of Copenhagen than on those of Yaounde, Monrovia or Kabul.

And, instead of flying homeless people around the world to play football, couldn't the organisers make better use of their time and money by finding them somewhere to live in their home countries, and by giving them training or finding them jobs?

By the by, Scotland won the tournament, defeating Poland 9-3 in the final. Let the record show that Scotland won the World Cup in 2007, and that England havne't won it for more than 40 years.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Pity The Fools

I've always known that I'm a genius, it just takes a little longer for other people to see it.

But proof, as always, comes from the worldwide interweb:

How smart are you? - Are you dumb?

As seen at Blissful Bedlam

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Super Penetrative For Enhanced Tool Performance"

As a working (sometimes) journalist (allegedly), I receive a lot of press releases every day. Most of them are fairly dull stock exchange announcements from multinational oil companies, but every so often I get one that makes me smile. Like this one:

Performance Tool Lubricant's super penetrative and advanced synthetic formula helps enhance tool performance and keep all tools as good as new. Dramatically reduces friction and wear to any power tool. Perfect for use on high speed moving parts of performance tools, as well as a number of surfaces and components. Helps promote long lasting protection and corrosion prevention, to maintain the effectiveness of your tools.

No, it's not a release from Vaseline, but from WD-40, purveyors of industrial lubricants to the masses. Quite why I'm receiving WD-40's press releases, I'm not sure.

I wonder if Vaseline have a press release mailing list?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Everywhere You Go

It's been a funny summer so far here in North East Scotland.

April was scorching, with weather that you'd more typically expect in July.

June and July weren't much to write home about - in fact July was pretty much wet and overcast throughout, the occasional day of sunshine aside.

But on Saturday, August at least threatened to play by the rules, with hot sunshine and a warm breeze coaxing Mrs Wife and I from our shelter. Montrose was busy with Saturday shoppers and football fans heading to Links Park to witness the dawn of a new season and the start of Irn Bru's sponsorship of our national game. By all accounts, it was a drab match that ended in a 1-0 defeat for the home side, so I'm not too fussed that I missed it.

Sunday came, and, typically, so did the rain. A lot of rain.

So much rain, in fact, that the road I take to work was flooded this morning, forcing me to take a detour and, as a result, arrive at the office late.

Every man and his dog now seems to think that global warming is to blame for everything. But we've always had weather, and it doesn't always stick to the plans we'd like it to. There have been mild winters and cold summers in the past, but there have also been years where we've had six-foot snow drifts in February and six weeks of sun in the summer.

There's not much we can do about it. In fact, there's nothing we can do about it except get on with things.

It won't stop me wishing for a bit of sunshine mind you.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Naked Ambition

Honestly, you'd think this was a porn site based on the search terms that bring people to this far-flung corner of the worldwide interweb.

Today, for example, someone from the USA dropped by having searched for "gay naked Scotsmen in kilts" - at 6.23am their time.

Firstly, how can someone be naked AND wearing a kilt?

Secondly, what the hell are you doing looking for naked Scotsmen at six in the morning?

And thirdly, how the hell did you end up here? There may be the occasional bout of nakedness, but there aren't any gays. At least there weren't the last time I checked.

The No-Longer Missing Links

Today, I'm going to take the opportunity to help you strange people of the worldwide interweb steer your browsers in the direction of a couple of sites that I heartily recommend.

First up, and most important of all, is People Who Don't Blog...But Should. As the name suggests, the site manages to track down blogs by those people who don't actually blog. It's quite a feat, I'm sure you'll all agree.

The reason I'm bigging up PWDB...BS is because I have become a contributor, so that those of you who don't get enough of my crap at this site can find some more to wallow in over there. It's the brainchild of Misssy Martin of the Misssy M Misssives, whose site I stumbled upon recently via Aberdeen Blogs (who, as yet, haven't added me to their list). I'd heartily recommend that you take a look at the Misssives as well.

PWDB...BS will probably get us all sued (the URL isn't Celebrity Litigation for nothing) but hey, it's better to die in poverty after being sued by the Beckhams than it is something else.

Next up is The Dangerous and Daring Blog For Boys and Girls, as recommended by Elisson. It helps those who are growing up in the age of cartoon channels and electronic toys to find worthwhile things to make and do themselves, without resorting to what the Britney clones on MTV are telling them to do.

Included is a step-by-step guide to making a rocket. Which may be an activity that I can engage myself in this weekend.

Don't say I'm not good to you....

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Kidding On

Sometimes, I think I'm 27 going on seven.

Take last night for example. I get home to find Montrose basking in warm sunshine, a condition which I believe was known as summer in days gone by.

Joining Mrs Wife in the garden, the conversation goes something like this:

Mrs Wife: "Perfect weather to cut the grass"

Groanin' Jock: "Yep"

MW: "Are you going to cut the grass then?"

GJ: "Nope"

MW: "Why not?"

GJ: "I'm playing Football Manager and reading a magazine."

This is a fairly common conversational thread at Dungroanin'. Typically, Mrs Wife will suggest I partake of a thrilling activity such as cleaning the bathroom, washing the car or picking my clean clothes up off the floor and putting them in the wardrobe.

I will then usually explain that I am already engaged in an activity, such as filing my CDs in alphabetical order, scanning photographs to put on Bebo, attempting to download Laurie Anderson's O Superman from the internet or kicking some serious dinosaur ass on Final Fantasy X2.

Is it normal for a fully-grown adult male to spend whole days and weeks engaged in such infantile pursuits? In the past few days, for example, I have spent a couple of hours dicking about on Ebay looking at Transformers toys and comics and researching the history of the Autobots on Wikipedia. I have easily devoted more hours to thinking about the way forward for my Everton side on Football Manager than I have on mortgage repayments and car insurance, and I've been more absorbed in repeats of The Simpsons than in the day's news headlines.

And if, in the next few years, Mrs Wife decides to pop out a Jockling or two, will this situation improve or worsen? Would the sleepless nights, nappy changes and feedings adultify me, or would the easy access to toys and Teletubbies send me closer towards the point of no return, when I quit my job so that I can devote more time to my more favoured pursuits?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

(Not So) Good Morning Vietnam

I recently published a post that harked back to an email I sent to the folks back home whilst travelling around the world in 2003-2004.

The story I posted was that of the exploding Mitsubishi that drained our finances whilst we were in Western Australia and almost forced us to return home just a few months into the trip.

But before that sorry episode (which turned out well in the end), we'd had a far more exciting time whilst in Vietnam.

This email, sent on November 11 2003, had an ominous forewarning of the problems associated with the rain in southern Vietnam:

As Hue is further south than Hanoi, it is currently in the middle of its rainy season. It has barely stopped raining since we arrived here, but when it rains, it is still very hot. The rain can be pretty ferocious at times, and our hotel room is on the top floor of the building, so we are right underneath the roof, and the rain was clattering off the roof and balcony all night.

We were supposed to be taking a boat trip around various tombs and pagodas today, but the Perfume River is too high and fast after the rain last night, so we had to go by car instead. The tombs and pagodas all tend to look the same after seeing 15 of them, but some of them are quite picturesque, depending on the importance of the Emperor buried there.

In the centre of the city is a walled citadel known as the Forbidden Purple City, which was the home of various royal dynasties of Vietnam. The complex is quite large, and was occupied by the Vietnamese royalty until 1945, when they surrendered power to the Vietnamese people (the civil war destroyed much of the city, and the Communists from the north effectively seized power over the whole of Vietnam).

We have one more day in Hue, then we get the train to Saigon tomorrow morning. The journey is almost 24 hours long, arriving 10am on Thursday, which means we only have a day and a half in Saigon before we fly to Bangkok.

But those well-laid plans were threatened when we attempted to make it to Saigon for our flight. The following email was sent from Singapore Airport on November 15:

We have finally made it to Singapore airport from Vietnam, but for a while I doubted we would ever see anything again except the inside of an ancient Vietnam Railways train.

Our train from Hue to Saigon was supposed to take around 23 hours overnight, which we were prepared for. Waking up at 6am to the terrible Vietnamese pop music blasting through the tannoys, we realised that the train was not moving. The train staff spoke no english, so we couldn't find out why.

After two hours, we spoke to a Malaysian-born London man, who informed us that the train was stopped due to water on the tracks ahead. It had been raining torrentially for around two days, in which time about two feet of water had accumulated on the tracks.

After sitting around the train for another four hours, we were informed, again by means of our Malaysian translator, that the train was not likely to move for 12-24 hours.

With flights from Saigon to catch today (we woke up on the train on Thursday) we decided to take alternative measures. Six of us, all from Britain, left the train and walked along the tracks in the pouring rain to a local station, where we managed to ascertain that no taxi would drive through this weather. Instead, we began walking along the main road towards Nah Trang, the closest town of any note, 17km away.

We managed to flag down a local 'bus' - I use the term loosely to describe a van filled with people, crates, baskets of fruit and veg and with bicycles strapped to the roof - which agreed to take us to Nah Trang.

Squashed in amongst all of this stuff, we took around an hour to travel the 17km, but we were eventually deposited at a petrol station in town, where we flagged down taxis to Sinh Cafe, a travel agency which can book flights and buses to Saigon.

The woman in Sinh Cafe told us that no buses were running as bridges were down between Nah Trang and Saigon, but the cafe next door assured us that the roads were clear and that we could make it to Saigon for 4am (this was at 6.30pm).

We decamped to an Italian restaurant for some much needed food, having spent 26 hours on the ill-fated train with only Pringles and biscuits to feed us.

Our bus left shortly after 8pm, and things looked good. We travelled for around three hours, when we reached the end of a 15km traffic jam. Contrary to the man in the cafe's assurances, the bridge was under two feet of water, and we would be unlikely to move before 5am. Our driver, with remarkable foresight, drove us to the front of the tailback, where we parked for the night.

It's not easy sleeping on a roasting hot coach full of moaning English people (apologies to any southerners reading this) and surrounded by Vietnamese people laughing at us, but we tried. We were stopped in a small village, which at least allowed us to eat and use toilets.

By 8am, nothing had moved, but we were told it would only be another few hours (an hour in Vietnam is not like an hour in Britain, in that it is not a rigid length of time - it is an indeterminate length of time no less than one hour).

As the sun rose, we were joined by local children who had been excused school due to the floods. The were highly amused and intrigued by our presence, asking us a barrage of questions in near-perfect English. The Vietnamese football tops sported by myself and another passenger proved to us the international status of the England national side - the shirts are red and bore the numbers 7 and 10, sparking cries of "Beckham" and "Owen". They scampered off to locate a ball, and we spent around an hour being humiliated by their footballing prowess.

We finally moved around 1pm (we were meant to be in Saigon at 4am), and saw the Vietnamese rapidly attempting to repair the bridge. Nevertheless, we made it across.

We presumed that, because we had travelled three hours the previous evening, that we would have only five hours to go. We were a little surprised, then, to roll into Saigon at midnight!

All in all, our journey from Hue to Saigon took 61 hours, this was to cover a distance of 10,000 kilometres.

We checked into the first hotel we found in Saigon, and slept soundly after much-needed showers.

This morning, we walked across the road to get money for our airport departure tax. As [Mrs Wife] input the amount of money she wanted, the cash machine went dead. The power had cut midway through the transaction!

The woman in the shop found this hilarious. We, needless to say, did not, as [Mrs Wife's] card was still in the dead machine. The woman called the bank, but I'm not sure that she appreciated that we were due to fly an hour later.

Eventually the man from the bank arrived, removed [Mrs Wife's] card from the machine, and we went back to our hotel and our still waiting taxi - the Vietnamese don't give up on a western fare.

As we still had no money, the hotelier paid half of our taxi for us, and we made it the airport on time, paying our departure tax in Singaporese dollars. So we have finally made it to Singapore, and leave for Bangkok in an hour. Sorry for the lack of Halong Bay/Hue-type imagery, but all we've seen is rain, water and the insides of buses and trains.

The age-old cliche that "you can laugh about it in hindsight" comes to mind, but spending three nights on crowded trains and buses wasn't much fun at the time. But I suppose it allowed us to see "real" Vietnamese life first-hand. Unfortunately, it also meant that we didn't get to see any of Saigon, which was a disappointment.