Thursday, March 29, 2007

Book Now

I've encouraged all you weird and wonderful people to drop by Elisson's place in the past - and there's a permanent link to his work on the right-hand side of this website 24-7.

But for those of you who ignore my good advice, I recommend you take a little tour over there right now (well, after you've finished what you were doing here of course).

I paid one of my regular visits last night and found a list of 100 books that someone, somewhere on the worldwide interweb reckons we should all read at least once.

Like Elisson, I'm not terribly sure what the criteria for making the list is. Whatever it is that puts The Da Vinci Code above To Kill A Mockingbird must be strangely skewed towards the popular rather than the magnificent. But hey, it's all a matter of opinion.

Bringing it down to the bare brass tacks, I've read 19 of them, which I don't think is terribly impressive. I would consider myself fairly well read, but there are 81 books on this list I've never opened.

But there are some amazing books, and authors, who aren't on this list. My favourite book of all time, Lanark by Alasdair Gray, fails to make the list. It's a book so compelling I could read it repeatedly until the day I die, and I urge everyone to give it a shot at least once.

Others that would make my top 10 but fail to appear are Mario Puzo's The Godfather, almost all of the works of Irvine Welsh, but primarily Trainspotting (which is far superior to the incredible film), Winston Groom's Forrest Gump (again much better than the movie), Jurassic Park, The Beach, Huckleberry Finn, Dracula, anything by Thomas Hardy and Arthur C Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I've also read the highly-regarded Sunset Song, which I hated, and a lot of Shakespeare, who obviously failed to make the list because he didn't write about Jesus's wife, a boy wizard or Hobbits.

But the biggest oversight of all is that Roald Dahl doesn't make the cut. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is one of the most absorbing pieces of art ever created, an alternate world so real that it is entirely believable.

The full list is printed below, with the books I've read highlighted in bold. How many have you read.

1 The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2 Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3 To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4 Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (J. R. R. Tolkien)
6 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (J. R. R. Tolkien)
7 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (J. R. R. Tolkien)

8 Anne of Green Gables (L. M. Montgomery)
9 Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10 A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J. K. Rowling)
12 Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J. K. Rowling)
14 A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15 Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J. K. Rowling)
17 Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18 The Stand (Stephen King)
19 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling)
20 Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
21 The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)
22 The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger)
23 Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24 The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25 The Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27 Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
28 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29 East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30 Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31 Dune (Frank Herbert)
32 The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33 Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34 1984 (George Orwell)
35 The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36 The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37 The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38 I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39 The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40 The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41 The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42 The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43 Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44 The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45 The Bible
46 Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47 The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48 Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49 The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50 She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51 The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52 A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
53 Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54 Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
55 The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
56 The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J. K. Rowling)
58 The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59 The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60 The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61 Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62 The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63 War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
64 Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65 Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66 One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68 Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69 Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
70 The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71 Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding)
72 Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Márquez)
73 Shogun (James Clavell)
74 The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75 The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76 The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78 The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79 The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80 Charlotte’s Web (E. B. White)
81 Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82 Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)
83 Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84 Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85 Emma (Jane Austen)
86 Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87 Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88 The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89 Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90 Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91 In The Skin Of A Lion (Michael Ondaatje)
92 Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
93 The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94 The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95 The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96 The Outsiders (S. E. Hinton)
97 White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98 A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99 The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100 Ulysses (James Joyce)

Hair We Go

A short respite from the moving madness has allowed me to check on the strange folk who've dropped by this humble website over the past day or so.

Somebody (presumably a man) arrived here having searched for "Growing hair like Liam Gallagher" on Google.

In my teenage years as the frontman of Merge, I had longish hair similar to that of the Oasis frontman (or so I thought).

At some point, when Mrs Wife and I have settled into Dungroanin', I may dig out a photograph to show you just how cool I was.

But I hardly think that I am qualified to provide advice on how to achieve that uber-cool look. And neither did my visitor, who only stopped by for a second.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Time To Move

Posting here at Groanin' Jock may be a bit irregular over the next few days, as Mrs Wife and I are now in the throes of moving from Groanin' Towers to Dungroanin'.

As a result, my access to an worldwide interweb connection and a spare five minutes will be sorely restricted. But it's all for the greater good - as you can see from the photograph, Dungroanin' has a garage, which means that I'll soon have room for a drum kit and a pool table in both my home and my life.

Although purchasing either may mean that I no longer have a wife in my life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band on The Planet

There was no post at this here homepage yesterday due to two factors - my daytime was filled with a hectic day at work and my evening with a gig by the Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band on The Planet.

If I recall correctly, and I probably don't, I think last night's gig at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen was the ninth time I've seen The Cooper Temple Clause.

That makes me sound like some sad fanboy obsessively trailing the band around. Not quite, although I have now seen them in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Falkirk. And there's a very good reason for this (hint: I mentioned it in the first paragraph).

Last night's gig was heavily weighted towards material from new album Make This Your Own. Whilst the record doesn't quite hit the same heights as their first two, when played live the songs sound more like the Clause of old - like the end of the world as interpreted by Metallica and Aphex Twin.

TCTC have always been loud. Their aural arsenal doesn't include songs like "Let's Kill Music" and "Panzer Attack" for nothing - it really is a bass-driven blitzkreig. But it's the distillation of their influences that makes them the most exciting band I've ever had the fortune to see nine times. Combining German electronica, prog rock, metal, space rock and indie may sound like a recipe for unlistenable chaos, but the Clause, reduced to a five-piece following Didz Hammond's defection to Dirty Pretty Things, manage it.

That they can leave out songs of the calibre of "The Devil Walks In The Sand", "Who Needs Enemies?", and "Did You Miss Me?" and still thrash through an hour-long set speaks volumes of the band's back catalogue.

I could go on like this forever. I've been a huge fan of the band since before their first single was released, and I imagine that, provided they don't suddenly branch out further and become a reggae band, I always will.

Anyone who wants to know what all the fuss is about should check out the band's homepage, which includes a few samples of songs.
Or email me and I'll let you hear some of their earlier work.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Well, we did it. It may have been a close-run thing, but Scotland are still top of their Euro 2008 qualifying group thanks to a late winner from Craig Beattie against Georgia.

And now we're once again Unofficial Champions of The World, setting up a unification match with Official Champions of The World Italy on Wednesday. Bring it on!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Lyrical genius

My baby brother (who, despite being 23, is still my baby brother) recently asked visitors to his website to contribute their favourite song lyrics of all time.

I've been mulling the question over for a while, and I think that I've now come up with the answer.

Shockingly, the song in question wasn't written by The Beatles, who are far and away the greatest band ever. Nor is it from such lyrical Gods as Bob Dylan, Morrissey or Kurt Cobain. The song doesn't even feature on my favourite album of all time and was never released as a single.

The lyrics to The Stone Roses' Tightrope are, in my humble opinion, those to the greatest love song ever written. It may be from their second album Second Coming, which was vastly inferior to their debut (which, as I may have previously mentioned, is the greatest album ever crafted in the history of recorded music, and should be issued to everyone along with their birth certificate), but the lyrics manage to convey love in poetic terms that most people wouldn't associate with the band.

The lyrics to the song are below. What's your favourite song lyric?


You should have been an angel, it would've suited you
My gold-leafed triptych angel, she knows just what to do
In the half light of morning, in our world between the sheets
I swear I saw her angel wing, my vision was complete

And I know I'll never want another lover, my sweet
Can there be more in this world than the joy of just watching you sleep?
I don't know just what to feel
Won't someone tell me my love's real?

Are we etched in stone or just scratched in the sand
Waiting for the waves to come and reclaim the land?
Will the sun shine all sweetness and light
Burn us to a cinder, our third stone satellite?

I'm on a tightrope, baby, nine miles high
Striding through the clouds on my ribbon in the sky
I'm on a tightrope, one thing I've found
I don't know how to stop, and it's a long, long, long, long way down

She's all that ever mattered, and all that ever will
My cup, it runneth over, I'll never get my fill
The boats in the harbour slip from their chains
Head for new horizons, let's do the same

I'm on a tightrope, baby, nine miles high
Striding through the clouds, on my ribbon in the sky
I'm on a tightrope, one thing I've found
I don't know how to stop, and it's a tightrope baby nine miles high
Striding through the clouds, on my ribbon in the sky
I'm on a tightrope, one thing I've found
I don't know how to stop, and it's a long, long, long, long way down

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dream On

A word of warning to you all. Eating chocolate before bed can lead to really strange dreams.

What does it mean if you dream of being barricaded in your home by a man sealing your door with masking tape?

That was a rhetorical question. Dreams don't mean anything. They're just insane, plotless movies created by your brain as a means of making sense of the day's activities.

No doubt someone out there will interpret my nocturnal encounter with the masking tape man as some Freudian theory explaining that I didn't have a great relationship with the man in the local hardware store.

Or that I actually want to be shut in my home to escape the legions of halfwits patrolling the Earth on a daily basis. (Actually, that doesn't sound so bad).

I've never been able to grasp the concept of our dreams having meaning. Surely each person's dreams are unique to them, and therefore can't be connected in any way to another person's?

And that recurring nightmare I have where Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson and Evangeline Lilly capture me and keep me locked in a bedroom for use as their private sex slave? Well, I just have to deal with that in my own way....

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Rules

Because of a trifling amount of snow in Angus this morning, the roads were packed solid and the trains were delayed. As a result, I was late into work and am now having to work through lunch to catch up.

So, in lieu of a 'proper' post, I'll share with you an amusing email I received from my friend Mike a while back, detailing some suggested new rules for modern living:

New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for! There's a reason you don't talk to people for 25 years. Because you don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days--mowing my lawn.

New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Trout?

New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these kids: lucky bastards.

New Rule: If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards, you're a dope. If you're a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols. If you're a grown man, they're pictures of men.

New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.

New Rule: There's no such thing as flavored water. There's a whole aisle of this crap at the supermarket, water, but without that watery taste. Sorry, but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavored water.

New Rule: Stop screwing with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you Just solved the Social Security crisis.

New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one sweet-n'-Low, and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge asshole.

New Rule: I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card, entering my PIN number, pressing "Enter," verifying the amount, deciding, no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again, the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy.

New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.

New Rule : Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly sins. ESPN recently televised the U.S. Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those athletes at the poker table was just too damned exciting. What's next, competitive farting? Oh wait! They're already doing that. It's called "The Howard Stern Show."

New Rule: I don't need a bigger mega M&Ms. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll go nuts and eat two.

New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.

New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift giving, it's the white people version of looting.

New Rule: and this one is long overdue: No more bathroom attendants. After I zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just had sex with George Michael. I can't even tell if he's supposed to be there, or just some freak with a fetish. I don't want to be on your web cam, dude. I just want to wash my hands.

New Rule: When I ask how old your toddler is, I don't need to know in months. "27 Months." "He's two," will do just fine. He's not a cheese. And I didn't really care in the first place.

New Rule: If you ever hope to be a credible adult and want a job that pays better than minimum wage, then for God's sake don't pierce or tattoo every available piece of flesh. If so, then plan your future around saying" Do you want fries with that?"

Monday, March 19, 2007

Resurrected as Rex

If the Hindus have got things right and reincarnation exists, I'm coming back as a well-loved family dog.

(I don't really think that the Hindus ARE right, but hey, it's as believable as any of the other religions doing the rounds, so lets just suspend our individual beliefs for the duration of this post.)

Mrs Wife and I have just spent the weekend with her parents and their 18-month old Scotty dog.

It seems to me that if you have the great fortune to live your life as a well-loved family dog, things are pretty good most of the time. You get fed a couple of times a day, have fresh water whenever you want and are free to lie in front of the fire throughout your waking hours.

People will quite happily throw a ball for you to chase, and you can think of no greater entertainment than running after it for hours on end. Learning a small 'trick' like standing on your hind legs is a sure-fire way of winning plaudits from your audience.

In short, dogs have it pretty good. Which is why, if the Hindus ARE right, I'll happily be reborn as a canine companion to any family good enough to have me.

And if none of the religions have it quite right, and the universe is run by an all-seeing individual called Jim, hopefully he will see to it that my wish is granted.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Weather warning

Horizontal blizzards in March?! So much for global warming....

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Crisis? What crisis?

Wins over Celtic and Aberdeen in the space of week may suggest that Rangers are finally on the road to recovery after the traumatic days that ended Alex McLeish's reign as manager and lasted for the duration of Paul Le Guen's.

Putting the disappointing European performances to one side for the moment, Rangers' resilience in defeating Celtic at Parkhead and the superiority shown in the crushing of Aberdeen are enough to let us believe that the Ibrox side has turned the corner and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hammock Heaven

With only a fortnight to go until the big move, we seem to have reached a short calm before the storm.

The mortgage and all the associated finances are in place, the removal firm is booked and we're ready to take possession of Dungroanin'.

One of the exciting things about the new pad is its back garden, which is huge - with loads of room for games of football, trampolines and the like.

But perhaps its most endearing feature is the hammock in the back corner, which the current owners are leaving behind, as it is suspended on huge wooden posts that have been fixed into the ground in concrete.

So I can now envisage many a Sunday afternoon spent swinging merrily in the breeze, listening to the Magic Tune Box and sipping on a nice cold beer.

Then my thoughts are always disturbed by the reminder that I will be living in Montrose, which isn't well known for its hammock-lounging weather. Still, it's a nice thought.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Party pooper

Well, in what is the biggest anti-climax since Paul le Guen became Rangers manager, the 4,000th visitor to Groanin' Jock was someone from the UK who dropped by for only one second before continuing on their merry journey around the worldwide interweb.

Hopefully the 5,000th will be much more exciting.

May The Four-Thousandth Be With You

The 4,000th visitor to this humble website should roll up at some point today, probably whilst searching for such delightful terms as "drunk jock" or "Derek Riordan caught in a strip bar".

As is the way of things round these parts, lucky visitor 4,000 will receive a piece of crappy tat wonderful prize.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Come Mr Taliban...

...Turn Over Bin Laden

Some of you may have seen this video in the past - I first discovered it in 2002 - but I found it again online this evening and remembered how much it amused me.

Bush's bongo-playing face cracks me up every time.....

(You need to have sound to get full enjoyment from the clip)

Bass-ic Instinct

Well, the upshot of the weekend is that I am now a bass player.

Back in my teenage years, it always seemed the least appealing of all the instruments available (except perhaps keyboards - I REALLY didn't want to be a keyboard player).

Something about bass back then suggested that it wasn't a terribly exciting instrument to play, that it lacked the glamour of playing lead guitar or the possibility of making as much noise as the drummer.

But over the years, as my musical tastes have broadened, I've come to realise that the bass is, when played well, one of the most exciting instruments.

Nowadays, some of my favourite musicians are bass players: Mani, whose thunderous bass graced both of The Stone Roses' albums and every Primal Scream album since Vanishing Point; Didz Hammond, a bass player so good that Carl Barat poached him from The Cooper Temple Clause to play in Dirty Pretty Things; John Entwhistle, a man whose nicknames included "The Ox" and "the Jimi Hendrix of the bass" for good reason; and Noel Redding, one of the few bass players who could have kept up with James Marshall Hendrix.

Sadly, my bass playing will never bear comparison with any of those illustrious names. But I'm quite taken with my new toy, and I think that I've taken to playing the bass more easily than I did the acoustic guitar.

So prepare yourselves for my solo album of bass lines. If it's good enough an idea for Mani, it's good enough for me.

(Mani's Freebass album is actually a collaboration with fellow bass players Andy Rourke of The Smiths and Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order. Rumour has it that guest vocalists on the album will include Bobby Gillespie, Liam Gallagher, Tim Burgess and Ian Brown. Which sounds like absolute bedlam and the makings of the best album ever.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Back In Black

Back in my teenage years, I was the lead singer of a band.

One of the major drawbacks to me being the lead singer of a band was that I can't really sing.

Inspired by Oasis and their "anyone can be a rock'n'roll star" mentality, I was convinced that superstardom awaited me, if I only I could find someone to write the songs.

And so, I formed a band, appointing myself lead singer. I was also the band's self-appointed publicist, manager, creative director and every other position that didn't involve playing an instrument.

We named ourselves Merge, a typically lame Britpop era band name (inspired by the likes of Blur, Suede, Pulp, Menswear, Sleeper, Oasis and so on).

We weren't as bad as we could have been, primarily because of two talented songwriters / guitar players.

But after three gigs in two years, we called it a day, sparing the discerning listening public in Brechin any more of our acoustic onslaught.

Now, almost a decade later, three of the members, myself included, are attempting to rekindle those dying embers. Two of them, myself not included, are proficient songwriters with ample material to fill four or five albums.

And my role this time around will be to do whatever I'm told.

Like setting up the amplifiers and fetching the beer....

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stop Press: Groanin' Jock praises Celtic

It's very rare that I'll praise the forces of darkness over at Celtic, but their performances over the two legs of their Champions League tie with AC Milan were worthy of recognition.
This was a Scottish club going toe-to-toe with one of the best sides in Europe and matching them over 180 minutes of competitive football.
Scottish football is often criticised, and is often deserving of that criticism, but on this instance, Celtic can hold their heads high.
Nonetheless, they are out of Europe, leaving only the famous Glasgow Rangers to fly the Saltire (and the Union Jack) in continental competition.
Hopefully they will get off to a flying start in tonight's first leg of the clash with Osasuna.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dazed and Confused, Battered and Bruised

I think my body is in shock from the recent resurrection in my exercise levels.

My hamstrings and knees are both grumbling after I played football twice today, and I think that my problem toenails will probably resurface in the near future. I don't blame them - if I were an inch long and 15-stone men spent an hour kicking me, I'd complain as well.

To compound today's injuries, I blocked a belter of a goal-bound shot, which I estimate must have been travelling at around 50mph, with my face. As a result, my jaw feels like it has moved a couple of inches backwards.

So it's a fine line between enjoying a game of football and spending the best part of an hour wandering around a rectangular patch of astroturf in a semi-concussed daze.

In fact, I think I must be delirious - as I write this, Celtic are holding AC Milan to a goalless draw in the San Siro.....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tyranny of Normality

I am under no illusions that I am normal, primarily because I don't think any such condition actually exists.

Presumably everyone thinks the things they do on a day to day basis are the right things for them - and thus they are normal, if only to that person.

I own around 2,000 CDs, all of them filed in alphabetical order so that I can find them when I want them. To me, that is normal. To others, it is a sign that I am some semi-autistic geek with an anal obsession for having The Beatles' albums stored in chronological order.

Despite being a professional wordsmith, I have to mentally flip through the alphabet to determine which letters follow each other - even though I learnt it more than 20 years ago.

But to this day, I can recite the full list of World Cup winners in the correct order without so much as missing a beat - and with only a little thought, I can also name the countries which staged the event, again in the right order.

And, as far as I am concerned, there is nothing abnormal about any of this. Which is why I don't think there's really any such thing as normal.

For sure, there are people like Jade Goody, raised by a one-armed lesbian junkie, who definitely do not fall into anyone's category of 'normal'.

But so long as each of us is happy in our own little way, who cares what's normal?

Please excuse me, I now have to go and catalogue the collected DVD works of Al Pacino.

(By the by, reckons I am 55% normal.)

You Are 55% Normal

While some of your behavior is quite normal...
Other things you do are downright strange
You've got a little of your freak going on
But you mostly keep your weirdness to yourself

Monday, March 05, 2007

Joining in

Joining organisations seems to be a long and laborious process nowadays.

In the past week, Mrs Wife and I have joined the local cinema and the local gym. On both occasions, we have been asked for more identification than when entering Vietnam on tourist visas four years ago.

What I can't understand is why the cinema really needed to see two separate forms of ID and proof of our bank's address before they would let us join - they made us pay the first month up front by debit card, so even if we had provided them with false details, they could easily have cancelled the memberships without any cost to themselves.

Neither joining the cinema nor the gym was made any easier by the fact that our applications were handled by monsyallabic cretins who seemed to spend as much time remembering how to put their left foot in front of their right as they did sorting out the simple process of handing us pieces of laminated card.

Still, all is now well, and more of our money is now being channelled away each month in the name of leisure pursuits. Returning to the east coast, and to an area where recreactional facilities are available far more readily than in Argyll, has led to a sudden rise in expenditure for both myself and Mrs Wife - in the past week, I have spent more than 12 pounds simply to play football.

But hey, it's all good - the new, lithe Groanin' Jock is on his way!

Friday, March 02, 2007


I hate hospitals.

Last night, following an incident involving my Granny, the kerb, a stone wall, a broken kneecap and a severely battered and bruised face, I spent six hours in the accident and emergency ward at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

Besides the obvious feelings associated with watching someone close to you endure having their nose stitched shut and their broken knee prodded and manipulated, the hospital is not my favourite place for other reasons.

All of the seats and chairs in hospitals seem to have been designed as a cruel but inventive Medieval torture technique whereby comfort is hinted at but can never be achieved. None of the vending machines work properly, and the television in the waiting room is always too loud or too quiet.

However, the reason that I most dislike hospitals is that nothing ever seems to happen quickly. I half expected to leave the casualty ward to find that Scotland had popped up somewhere near the Bahamas thanks to continental drifting, or that a new mutant race of genetically-superior humans was now running the show.

In the six hours that we spent in the hospital, three things happened: my Granny's cuts were cleaned, her nose was stitched and her knee was x-rayed. Now, does any of those activities sound like it requires two hours to itself?

Please excuse today's groanin' - I've only had three hours of sleep, and I'm struggling to stay awake at work. Roll on 4.30pm and the end of another working week.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Wise monkeys

One of mankind's traits that I had always treated with disdain until comparitively recently was the personification of animals.

Deciding that lions are brave, elephants wise and jackals cunning may be based on observations in the field, but I'd always thought that anything that characterised animals as having personalities and morals was wrong.

Until I saw a TV programme a few years ago that proved that monkeys DO have morals.

I don't remember the scientist involved or the name of the programme, but the basic premise was:

Take two monkeys

Sit them in front of a button

When the first monkey presses the button, give it a grape

When the second monkey presses the button, give it a biscuit


Each time the first monkey pressed the button, the scientist handed it a grape, which it initially devoured with pleasure.

But when it saw that the second monkey received a biscuit for carrying out the same task, it reacted in an unexpected manner.

At first, it continued pressing the button and receiving its grapes. But after a few rounds, it became agitated, immediately discarding grapes and re-pressing the button in an effort to extract a biscuit from the scientist.

It watched the second monkey receive its biscuits, and began efforts to steal them. Then, in a final hissy fit, it threw its grapes at the scientist, jumped on him and attempted to get straight to the bag of biscuits.

The point of the experiment was to prove that monkeys, like humans, are capable of rationalising what is fair and unfair. And that monkey didn't think it was fair that his friend was receiving a better reward for carrying out the same task.

I've known lots of dogs over the years that quickly worked out that if they performed a certain trick when requested, they would receive a reward. But I can't imagine any of those dogs realising the fairness of different rewards for performing the same trick.

However, just in case dogs do have a deeper thought process than we give them credit for, when Mrs Wife and I move into Dungroanin' and adopt a couple of dogs, I'll be sure to treat them equally, for fear of being murdered in my bed by the spurned sibling.

Inspiration for this post came from Chimps, Snow Dogs and other assorted trivia over at Another Cup of Coffee and I May get Something Done.

(And before any of you smartarses point it out, I know that the photograph is of a chimpanzee, not a monkey. But I don't care.)