Monday, June 30, 2008


Bloody Germans.

Eight final appearances since I was born, three trophies lifted in that time.

Before the tournament, played just across the border in Austria and Switzerland, I thought they had to be firm favourites to lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy. So much so that I stuck a tenner on them.

Coupled with that, my Euro 2008 Dream Team included seven Germans in it going into the final.

Now that the dust has settled, I'm annoyed that Germany couldn't raise their game for the final, even though they were comprehensively outplayed by a far superior and more exciting Spanish side. That's cost me a tenner, plus winnings, alone.

And, had they managed to raise their game for the match, even enough to take the game to penalties, I'd have been the outright winner in our office Dream Team competition, trousering £40. Instead, I have to share the prize and go home with only £15.

My financial grumbles aside, I think the better side won on the night, although I think I'd have preferred to see Marco van Basten's swashbuckling Dutch side win the trophy.

But now that Spain have cast off their "perennial underachievers" tag, only one side in European, and indeed world, football can truly claim that mantle as their own.

Let's hope that Don Capello can't do anything to fix that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I've seen a lot of pretty disgusting things in my time - a 15-year-old Thai girl, heavily pregnant with her second child, butchering a dog for that night's dinner.

A restuarant described by a tour guide as "the best in Vietnam" crawling with cockroaches.

The carcass of a dead and trampled mouse found underneath a rug after several months lying undiscovered.

A Chinese woman skinning a basket of live frogs.

But today, as I walked from the train station to my office, I was met by the sight of something that I wasn't really prepared for at that time of the morning...

...a massive seagull tucking into a hearty breakfast of dead pigeon.

I'm presuming that the pigeon had been hit by a car, and not that the seagull had hunted its fellow bird down.

However it came upon its meal, the seagull seemed to be making the most of its good fortune, sqwuaking merrily as it ripped into the chest cavity, feathers flying everywhere.

I've said before that I have a phobia of birds, and one less pigeon is a victory for the forces of good in this world.

But being confronted by a seagull dismembering a pigeon on the pavement at 7.45am?

It's almost enough to put me off my Sugarpuffs.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In Action

I've been a bit lax in contributing to the Blogosphere over the past few days (weeks...months...), but my excuse since Saturday comes in the form of my first game of 11-a-side football in a few years, something I mentioned recently.

Though I drag my sorry carcass around the five-a-side pitches of Aberdeen twice a week, it's been a few years since I donned the boots and thumped around a proper grass pitch.

Well, that changed on Saturday when a team formed from the male employees of my company took on a former employee and his old school friends.

There was a fair gulf in class - the opposition counted amongst their number several players who play at amateur and junior level, while our side included one or two players who had never played in a full-size football match before.

Unsurprisingly, we were beaten, and unsurprisingly the defeat was fairly comprehensive, finishing 7-1 to the younger, fitter side.

But we gave a good account of ourselves and in truth the scoreline wasn't a fair reflection of the match, especially as our first-choice goalkeeper was injured making a penalty save in the 15th minute.

Lest anyone doubt my abilities as a combative striker, here I am in full flight, the massed ranks of the opposition attempting to prevent me scoring (an objective they succeeded in achieving....)

(Photograph courtesy of Cedric Raguenaud)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mr Henderson

Of all the funny things that I saw, heard, read and ate in China (yes, ate: tofu, good God....) the funniest of them all involved no Chinese people, no Chinglish and no chopstick-related mayhem.

It is a curious fact that that funniest thing that happened to me in China involved Mrs Wife and an orang-utang.

Ever since our lives became entwined, it has been a strange custom of ours to visit, when possible, the zoo for her birthday.

As Mrs Wife turned 28 during our Shanghai sojourn, we decided to take a trip out the city's zoo. Truthfully, we weren't sure what to expect - we'd heard rumours that the quality of the enclosures might be someway short of that found in the west, and that we should prepare for the worst.

But in truth, the standards weren't too bad - perhaps not as high as would be expected in Edinburgh or London, but certainly of sufficient size that the animals could move around freely and explore the confines of their cages.

By far the worst aspect of the zoo was the Chinese customers, who ignored the rules forbidding the feeding of animals and merrily threw sweeties in wrappers to bears and attempted to attract the attentions of a red panda with a sandwich.

The zoo is massive, and walking around in the scorching sun was tiring. But, as the end of the day approached, it began to seem as though we had the park to ourselves, most of the Chinese having departed.

And it was near closing time that we found the primates. As ever, the gorillas and chimpanzees were highly entertaining, given how closely related they are to ourselves.

Having spent a good few minutes watching our near cousins, Mrs Wife and I arrived in the deserted orang-utang building, where two of the apes were separated by a wall that split the enclosure.

As Mrs Wife watched the comic antics of a young orang-utang, I wandered to the other side of the enclosure, where I found myself face-to-face with a six-foot plus male.

I don't think I've ever been that close to a fully-grown male orang-utang before, and I expressed my surprise by shouting to Mrs Wife: "Come and see, it's a yeti."

Mrs Wife duly obliged, and spent several minutes in silent awe as the creature checked us out, swung around on a tyre and then climbed a rope.

Finally, the silence was broken when Mrs Wife said: "I don't think I've ever seen a yeti before."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


This week, I'll be playing in three football matches in the space of four days, including my first 90-minute, 11-a-side match in several years.

The last time I even donned the football boots was back when Mrs Wife and I were living in Argyll, and I was training with the local amateur football team.

I'd decided that the world wasn't complete without me showcasing my magnificent footballing abilities on the pitches of Scotland's west coast, but I was scandalously short of fitness.

So I threw myself wholeheartedly into the club's pre-season training campaign.

Until, a couple of weeks in, I suffered one of the worst injuries I've ever received.

Bizarrely, this incident didn't occur on the football pitch, but on the aisles of a supermarket.

It was the weekend of T In The Park 2005, and I had arranged to meet Baby Brother so that we could travel home together to get ready for the festival.

Unfortunately, I forgot to factor in that Baby Brother is an organisational nightmare, and it was after midnight that we finally left Glasgow.

I hadn't eaten, and hadn't bought any food for T In The Park, so I persuaded Baby Brother to stop at the 24-hour Tesco on Dundee's Kingsway.

For those who aren't aware, this branch of the supermarket is roughly the size of Wales. The aisles must be half a mile long. And at 2am on a Friday morning, they were deserted.

And so it came to pass that I rounded the corner with my trolley, and saw a vast expanse of empty aisle in front of me.

The opportunity was too good to resist. Pushing the trolley in front of me, I ran at full tilt down the aisle, until I determined that I'd picked up enough speed to go from trolley driver to trolley passenger.

I should probably explain now that the trolley wasn't a full-size effort with a seat for a small child and enough space inside for a large television set - it was a flat bed one designed for the shopper who needs a grocery receptacle bigger than a basket but smaller than a wheelbarrow.

But I digress. Running along this deserted supermarket aisle at 2am, I hopped on the back of the trolley.

The physics of the situation are simple - 14 stone suddenly hopping on the back of a flimsy trolley at 10 miles an hour doesn't work. The trolley shot out from beneath me and went skidding across the shop floor. I was left to slide along the aisle on my face. Unfortunately, my right foot caught on the floor. My leg, suddenly stretched between my sliding body and my stationary foot, pinged.

There is no cool, calm and collected way to pick yourself up off the floor of a supermarket at 2am when you've got a pulled hamstring. Nor is there a subtle way of picking up and refilling your trolley, or of completing your shopping with an all-too-obvious limp.

As far as I'm aware, no-one saw my mishap. But I'm still dreading the day that I appear on You've Been Framed, my fall from grace (and trolley) having been captured on CCTV and preserved for posterity.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Groanin' Jock's Chinglish Adventures Volume III: Buried With The Died Wifeless Man

The third installment of the series that may never end takes us to the Chinese Sex Museum.

Yep, that's right, the Chinese Sex Museum. A collection of art, artefacts and hideous devices detailing the history of sex and sex culture in the world's oldest culture.

Included in the exhibition were countless phallic pieces of pottery, statues of men naked and erect and even an awful punishment device for cheating women that took the form of a saddle that you attached to a donkey that had a massive wooden penis attached to it - it's pretty much indescribable.....

Anyway, the image above is from a caption referring to a jade statue. And obviously it was used for buried with the died wifeless man.

Because every died wifeless man needs a jade statue of a woman to remind him that, not only did he not get any when he was alive, he's sure as hell not getting any now he's dead.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Croaked It

I've spent most of my life in Scotland, and as a result, I'm always keen to see a new part of the planet - broadening the mind, I think it's called.

Mrs Wife and I have trekked through the jungles of northern Thailand; stood halfway up what, at that time, was the world's tallest building and looked out onto the minarets of Kuala Lumpur and onwards to the haze-shrouded hills on the horizon; snorkelled at the Great Barrier Reef; swum in the warm Pacific waters around Fiji; and drunk cheap Mexican beer in a Hollywood garden until the early hours of the morning.

But despite all our previous globe-trotting, there were some things we encountered in Shanghai that we've never seen anywhere else.

For example, on a day trip to Qibao, we spent an hour or so wandering the tightly-packed streets, where we were told we were experiencing "real China".

Many of the shops on these streets were traditional Chinese eateries, where passers-by can grab a quick snack as they head onwards towards their next engagement.

And the food on offer was a tad different to that found in your average greasy spoon cafe.

We saw whole birds impaled on skewers and deep fried, beak, eyes and all. Meats of in an arresting array of unusual colours that we didn't even want to know what animal had met its maker during the butchering process.

Most alarmingly of all (and something that still gives Mrs Wife a severe case of the heebie-jeebies) was a woman sitting on a doorstep skinning a bucket of live frogs and transferring them to a second bucket. The second bucket was a writhing mass of slithering, blood-soaked limbs.

Eating habits aside, the Chinese have an attiutude to many things that, to western eyes, seems strange.

Public spitting and urination is taken for granted. Infants don't wear nappies, but instead have trousers with big holes at the rear. When the child shows signs of needing to relieve itself, it is dangled over the nearest bush/gutter/river and left to get on with things.

Personal space doesn't exist. In a country of 1.3 billion people, perhaps that's understandable. But in the street, people in cars, on motorbikes or on bicycles will cut across your path without warning. On the pavements, pedestrians will do the same, walking diagonally in front of you so that you need to check your pace or stop suddenly to avoid banging into them.

In short, China can, for the first few days, be an infuriating place to visit. But, once you've adjusted to the pace of life in one of the world's most crowded and chaotic cities, it's easier to adapt to the rhythm - knowing that cars don't always stop at red lights, that Chinese people have no interest in anything that is happening directly behind them and that if you really want to buy something in the "fakes" markets, pick a price you'd be willing to pay and stick to it.

Just watch out for the woman with the bucket of skinned frogs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I should really be posting more about Shanghai (or at the very least about the European Championships), but instead I feel the need to mention that in the space of five minutes today, I saw two men smoking pipes.

It seems a curious addition to the wardrobe, but there's no accessory quite like a pipe. The first gentleman I saw was honking on his in a determined fashion, puffing great clouds of soot and smoke into the faces of half of Union Street's shoppers. That he was wearing an arresting red tartan jacket, green cords and blue shoes simply added to his style.

The second piper (pipee?) seemed to be using his huge black smoking apparatus as a smoke-powered engine for climbing the steep brae at Market Street - sooking in a big lungful of burning bush before each step.

Both of these men looked to be at least in their seventies, which got me pondering - do young folk smoke pipes?

I don't think I've ever seen a pipe smoked by someone who doesn't also carry a bus pass while wearing a bunnet.

Maybe I should invest in one - it would go perfectly with my wardrobe of cheap Tesco suits and fake clothes from China.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Groanin' Jock's Chinglish Adventures Volume II: Yellow Old Man Of May

Continuing the series that no-one's waiting for, here's my second Chinglish discovery.

This headline appeared in a magazine in which the headlines were thoughtfully translated into English, but the remainder of the text appeared in Chinese script.

Perhaps this is a way of teaching Chinese readers English; if so, I think it probably falls someway short of the mark.

Can anyone shed some light on what "Yellow Old Man of May Daughter Scissors Hand" might mean?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Art Of Noise

The first thing that struck me when I stepped on Chinese soil for the first time was how quiet it was.

Given that the population of Shanghai is estimated at between 16 million and 25 million people, this may seem a strange admission, but there's a reason for it.

In a piece of bureaucratic genius, all Chinese people take their holidays at exactly the same time.

Which means that, when the holidays arrive, 1.3 billion people take to the roads, rails and skies and trample merrily across their vast country in seek of a break from their day-to-day lives.

It also means, as our host Paul pointed out, that all Chinese transport hubs need to be 10 times the size they would be if the government-approved holidays didn't exist.

And so it was that Mrs Wife and I arrived at Shanghai's new(ish) Pudong airport, where it seemed that our flight was the only one that was arriving or departing.

The baggage reclaim hall was eerily quiet. The queues for immigration control were minimal and efficient in a "why are you coming to China?" way.

But, having cleared customs, we were given our first taste of real Shanghai.

Firstly, the heat blasted through the open doors of the terminal building. I've been in hotter places in the past, but not for a while. I shouldn't need to point out the climatic differences between Aberdeen and southern China.

But a much stronger force hit us as we walked out into the arrivals hall - the racket generated by any group of Chinese people.

From my observations, I think the Chinese may be the loudest nation on Earth. If something can be done, it seems that the Chinese ethos is that it should be done as noisily as possible. If a car has a horn, lean on it while you drive. If your scooter sounds louder if you rev the engine harder, make sure you rev it to its limits, preferably while blasting away on your horn as well.

And this mentality extends to all walks of life. If you're meeting someone at the airport, shout at them from the moment you see them. If everyone else is shouting as well, just shout louder - you'll win eventually.

I'd been to crowded cities before we visited Shanghai, amongst them Hanoi, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, Los Angeles, New York and London. None of them are even in the same league as Shanghai.

As I've already said, China is a nation of 1.3 billion people. And wherever you go, it feels like half of them are there with you.

Get on the bus, and you'll be lucky to get a seat (even luckier if someone moves out of your way so that you can sit on the empty seat beside them). Attempt to take the subway and, if it's a busy period (ie between 6am and 9pm), you'll be squeezed against three Chinese guys, all of them fiddling with their PSPs, all with the volume turned up full, all playing different games.

Visit a restaurant, whether a traditional Chinese eatery or a KFC or McDonalds, and you'll fight through a scrum of hungry punters, then find yourself seated next to a party of eight playing drinking games at the top of their voices.

Frankly, Shanghai is bedlam. Practically everywhere you go in the city centre, someone is attempting to sell you something, whether a "long kite", a fake rolex or pirate DVDs.

But despite the madness, it's a place with its own charms - from the futuristic Pudong skyline to the relaxed charms of the French Concession and the good-humoured banter of the antiques market in the Old Town.

There are plenty more tales to come from our Shanghai experience - stop me if I'm boring you....

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Groanin' Jock's Chinglish Adventures Volume I: You're Polite People

Well, we're home, and thoroughly exhausted by the combination of walking around one of the world's biggest, noisiest, dustiest, smoggiest cities, not to mention the jetlag and the fact that I was back in work at a time scandalously close to the arse crack of dawn yesterday.

Given that this is my "I'm home" post, I don't want to go into too much detail on what happened in China, but I'll come back to it in the fullness of time.

Instead, I'll firstly thank the wonderful guest posters who have filled the empty pages here at Dungroanin' during my absence - Misssy M, Erica, The Tomahawk Kid and Rachel - all of whom have done a far better job than me of being witty, entertaining and articulate.

And I'll also begin a brand new series right here, right now: Groanin' Jock's Chinglish Adventures.

Chinglish is a curious language that exists only in China. This peculiar written language tends to occur in places where Chinese directions or instructions have been translated into English in a less than coherent manner. And in Shanghai, they can be found everywhere - on street signs, in museums, in the printed media and on people's clothes.

This first one is from a street sign at a pedestrian crossing in central Shaghai.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Eleventh Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge

Hello. The Tomahawk Kid here again. Whilst Jock is off getting himself a bargain replacement for his Magic Tunes Box I thought I would keep the lyrical challenge series going.

Well done to oestrebunny for correctly identifying two of the tracks from the Tenth Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge.

Answers to the tenth challenge are now in the comments on that post. Here are this week's mystery lyrics, let's see if these are easier or harder than normal.

To play, simply identify the songs from the lines given. No Googling.

1: You can't see that I'm just the same as the stupid people who you hate

2: Oh yes I noticed you, you are a friend of mine

3: Tried to please her, she only played one night stands

4: I don't even know what tomorrow will bring, let me tell ya, having no future is a terrible thing

5: I remember better days, lace in every window, and roses 'round the gate

Bon chance.