Monday, September 28, 2009


A while ago (well, two years ago if we're being accurate) I posted an old account of the time Mrs Wife and I were travelling around Vietnam.

Because I'm lazy and I was a better writer when I was a 23-year-old layabout than I am now that I'm a 29-year-old layabout, here's an account of when Mrs Wife and I first arrived in Australia in late 2003.

Happy New Year from Perth! Hope everybody had a good Hogmanay despite what I hear were hurricane-like weather conditions on the East of Scotland.

For the record, both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day were scorching here. As this is the start of the Ozzie summer, temperature is steadily rising, so although Xmas Day's 32 degrees seemed pretty darn hot, the temperature is now nudging 40 degrees almost every day, so it can almost seem unbearable - at least until I remember that the alternative is driving home from Aberdeen in the dark during a blizzard - then the ice lollies and sunbathing don't seem as bad....

Anyway, life in Perth is good. It's a lot smaller than I expected, especially after arriving from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, but it's a lot more manageable than those three cities, and a lot more chilled out. We've been here since the 20th of December, and in that short space of time I have already had three different employers.

Finding work hasn't been that easy, our visas restrict us to three months in a single job, so employers tend to shy away from travellers. My first crack at employment was in a small cafe in the middle of Perth run by a psychotic Chinese woman called Nancy (that was what first set the alarm bells ringing, Chinese people aren't called Nancy, they're called Ng and Chan and things). The place was staffed almost exclusively by illegal immigrants, from places as diverse as Yugoslavia (the mysterious and suspicious Dragan - potentially evading war crimes charges I think), Ben from Taiwan (has now overstayed his visa by three years) and assorted other Orientals with all the warmth and endearing qualities of frozen vomit.

After a four-hour trial spent avoiding Nancy's death stare as much as possible, I was offered the job for $12 an hour, which Nancy assured me was a great wage. Which it is in British terms (almost five GBP an hour) but the minimum wage for waiters in Oz is $15ph. I also knew that if I had to work there for two months, there would either be a raid by the Department of Immigration, or I would end up knocking Nancy's head in with a coffee pot, so I politely declined her offer.

My second stab at earning some cash was scrubbing campervans near the airport. Although it sounds like a pretty crappy job, it paid $14ph (about six pounds), was outdoors in the sun, and the people were pretty sound. But there wasn't enough work to last all the employees, so it was a case of last in, first out, but I at least got three days out of this one.

And now we're both working for a telemarketing company, trying to sell mobile phones. There's a base rate to ensure we don't starve, but most of the money is made through commission, so we'll see how it goes. We're both looking for better jobs though. Personally, I'm just waiting for the job advert seeking an immediate vacancy for a roving music journalist on $100,000 a year....

Aside from the jobhunting, we haven't really done very much since we arrived, partly due to having nae cash, and partly because our time here has been interrupted by Xmas and New Year. We spent Xmas in the hostel, with a champagne brekky by the pool and then a full Xmas dinner and Xmas supper.

It was good to spend the day lazing round in the sun, and generally mucking round in the pool. We were out in Perth on Hogmanay, our hostel is in the 'trendy' area of Northbridge (imagine Camden in London or The Grassmarket in Edinburgh, but with more pissed British people and no rain and you're getting close), so we spent the night at the street party there, walking between the stages and through the huge crowds until the fireworks.

So now we've moved into a flat with a couple of Ozzies, business student Tim and Journalism graduate Leah, and we're trying to save a bit of cash to buy a car and keep on moving. Hope everybody is fully recovered from the festivities and glad to be back at work.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Panda-ring To The Masses

Should we let the giant panda die out? An interesting debate here between two conservationists.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Season 2009/2010: Match 1: Montrose v East Stirlingshire

We may be almost midway through September, but today was my first live football game of the season. A combination of weddings and work trips meant that I missed Montrose's first three home games - which may not have been a bad thing, given that they were two draws and a defeat.
But today I was back in Montrose in time to get myself down to Links Park for the first time this season. And within 10 minutes of kick-off, I almost wished I wasn't.
Shire were awarded a soft penalty after just five minutes, former Montrose man Andy Rodgers sending Andy McNeil the wrong way from the spot. Then three minutes later the home side was another goal behind, the impossible-to-spell-correctly-without-checking-first-every-time Michael Bolochoweckyj rising unchallenged to head home a corner at the back post.
Montrose were dire throughout the first half, and there was a real danger that the Falkirk-based visitors would put them to the sword.
They were marginally better in the second half, but created little of note. In all honesty, they were pretty dire.
Steven Tweed continues to select himself at centre back, but lasted only 26 minutes today before succumbing to injury. New goalkeeper Andrew McNeil looked erratic, but he made some good saved and looks like he could be a decent signing. Marek Tomana, who reminds me of Georgi Kinkladze in the way he runs and passes the ball, but he looked short of match fitness and drifted out of today's match. Fraser Milligan was another who got pass marks today, but needs to have points deducted for wearing pink boots.
There weren't many positives out there today, and Montrose are now firmly planted at the bottm of the bottom league. I think it's going to be a long season.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When Driving Lessons Go Wrong

This is what happens when a learner driver takes a corner too wide in Springbank Terrace, Aberdeen....

....when the driving instructor grabs the wheel to stop a collision with an oncoming car....

....and when the learner panics and accidentally hits the accelerator instead of the brake....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Running Man

A colleague and friend of mine has done what I consider to be a very brave, and very foolish, thing - he's signed up for next year's Edinburgh marathon.

I know for a fact that I couldn't run a marathon - my knees are agony after an hour of football, never mind four or more hours of running on concrete.

And there's no way I could be bothered to train for a marathon - I'm just too damned lazy.

Please head across to Kevin's blog and show your support for his madness....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are You All Sitting Comfortbold Two Square On Your Botties?

Then I'll begin....

So starts the second half of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, one of the greatest albums ever made.

As well as having the Small Faces at their peak, mixing mod, musichall and rock stompers together, the second half of the album is a concept piece narrated by one of my stranger heroes, Stanley Unwin.

Unwin famously jabbered in his own language, Unwinese, and his utterances on the second half of Ogden's are wonderful.

I can't accurately annotate his contributions, but this comes from Wikipedia:

Unwinese, also known as "Basic Engly Twentyfido" - probably a reference to Charles Kay Ogden's 1930 work "Basic English", which strips the language down to 8509 words, was a special, ornamented and mangled form of English in which many of the words were corrupted in a playful and humorous way. Unwin’s performances could be hilarious yet disorienting although the meaning and context were always conveyed in a disguised and picturesque style.

Unwinese was very poetic in the way it alluded to its subject – e.g. Elvis Presley and his contemporaries are described as having ‘wasp-waist and swivel-hippy’ – and it was often punctuated with moments of clarity and directness to accentuate the ‘nonsense’ – e.g. ‘Deep joy!’ ‘Oh yes’.

Unwin claimed his gift came from his mother, who once told him that on the way home she had "falolloped over and grazed her kneeclabbers". This phrase eventually turned up in one of Unwin's monologues, Goldiloppers and the Three Bearloders.

I've just purchased Unwin's first album, Rotatey Diskers With Unwin, and it's fabulous. And available from Amazon for less than £3. At that price, it's a steal.

Unwin's website can be seen here.

And my favourite piece of Unwin trivia: He is buried in the churchyard at Long Buckby, with wife Frances, who pre-deceased him. Their gravestone has the epitaph, "Reunitey in the heavenly-bode – Deep Joy".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Ten - My Ten Favourite Beatles Songs (At This Precise Moment In Time)

1 - Strawberry Fields Forever
2 - A Day In The Life
3 - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
4 - I Am The Walrus
5 - All You Need Is Love
6 - Dear Prudence
7 - Come Together
8 - Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
9 - Twist and Shout
10 - Please Please Me

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Sixteenth Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge

It's been a VERY long time (eight months to be exact) since the last instalment of the Groanin' Jock Lyrical Challenge.

Neepheid was the winner on that occasion, correctly identifying two of the tracks. Answers are now on the comments on that post.

So now, here are the five mystery lyrics for you to identify. Simply name the artist and track - answers in the comments, no Googling!

1. Well your railroad gate, you know I just can't jump it.

2. "Look out the left," the captain said, "The lights down there, that's where we'll land."

3. I got the pulsating rhythmical remedy.

4. Temperature's rising, fever is high, can't see no future, can't see no sky.

5. The pack on my back is aching, the straps seem to cut me like a knife.

Desert Island Discs

As seen at Cedric M. Kippers' Magically Bored - The Desert Island Discs challenge.

Rule number 1. You only have room for 25 albums.

Rule number 2. You can only name one album per band.

Rule number 3. They have to be named in order.

Rule number 4. Greatest Hits or compilations are invalid.

So without further ado (or any ado at all) here is the list of 25 records I'd take with me to listen to until the end of my days.

25 - The Cooper Temple Clause - See This Through and Leave

24 - Supergrass - In It For The Money

23 - Gomez - Liquid Skin

22 - Powderfinger - Vulture Street

21 - The Charlatans - The Charlatans

20 - Primal Scream - Exterminator

19 - Michael Jackson - Thriller

18 - The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

17 - The Jam - Sound Affects

16 - Elbow - ASleep In The Back

15 - The Libertines - Up The Bracket

14 - Radiohead - OK Computer

13 - Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

12 - The Doors - The Doors

11 - The Bluetones - Return To The Last Chance Saloon

10 - The Coral - The Coral

9 - Small Faces - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake

8 - John Lennon - Imagine

7 - Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

6 - Stereophonics - Word Gets Around

5 - Oasis - Definitely Maybe

4 - The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour

3 - Super Furry Animals - Radiator

2 - Nirvana - Nevermind

1 - The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

This isn't the list of my 25 favourite albums - there would be at least another six Beatles albums, and others by Nirvana, Oasis, The Stone Roses and Radiohead if it was. I couldn't elevate a single Rolling Stones album, or any of the records by Pink Floyd, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience or David Bowie to my top 25, and even Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, Coldplay and The Verve fail to make the cut.

Now, I throw the challenge open to everyone else - what would be the 25 records you would take with you to a desert island?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Keep On Walking

Fantastic commercial for Johnnie Walker starring Robert Carlyle.

As seen on another blog that I would link to if it wasn't open to invited guests only.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Signed Shearer Shirt

A tad optimistic methinks....

Down and Out?

With Mrs Wife visiting a friend in Inverness this afternoon, I'm home alone to watch the Scotland v Macedonia match.

It's a must-win match - and even a win is no guarantee that we can finish second in a fairly average group.

The team selection hardly fills me with confidence - Stephen McManus hasn't played a game this season, Davie Weir is 39, Graham Alexander isn't international class, Kenny Miller is pish.

There's a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Messrs McFadden and D Fletcher. Whether they can reach the top of their respective games today - wildly exciting attacking play and solid midfield combatism - remains to be seen, but for Scotland to win will require a determined performance from all of the (so far) misfiring team.

Then we just have to beat Holland....

Friday, September 04, 2009

Home Alone

Thanks to rain of Biblical proprtions yesterday - it was raining heavily when I got up at 6.15am, was still chucking down when I got home at 5.30pm, was absolutely belting down when I went to bed at 10pm and continued through the night - I am stuck at home.

Despite the fact that we're in one of the wettest parts of the world, our rail system can't cope with the water, and all trains are cancelled or severely delayed.

Which means that I'm "working from home" today, which means that I'm working in significantly greater comfort than I'm used to.

For a start, I'm in jeans, a jumper and thick woolly socks. NME TV is on in the background. I can eat what I like when I like.

And I'm realising once again that there's no way I could ever work from home permanently - I just don't have the discipline. I need to be in an air-conditioned office wearing proper work clothes to get me in the work frame of mind.

Still, one day isn't going to hurt.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cradle Snatchers

It was a shock this afternoon when news broke that Chelsea have been banned from signing players until January 2011.

To me, and my fellow football-following colleagues, it was an unexpected announcement - none of us could remember hearing about the case before today, and none of us had heard of Gael Kakuta.

(I'd be willing to wager that even most Chelsea "fans" were oblivious to his existence until today.)

It's a brave step by FIFA, banning one of the world's richest (but not necessarily biggest and definitely not most successful) clubs from adding to their already formidable squad for the next 18 months.

It also explains why Chelsea were so quick to secure key players like John Terry and Ashley Cole to new long-term deals in the past week. But it does raise question marks over why they didn't rush out and sign new players ahead of the ban.

None of the players the club was linked with this summer made the move to Stamford Bridge, leaving Carlo Ancelotti with the same squad as that left behind by Guus Hiddink.

That's not necessarily a massive hardship - they're still a formidable force and one of the English game's most powerful clubs.

But all it would take would be a serious injury or loss of form from one or two of the club's key players and they could find themselves on the slide.

Aside from the hardship to Chelsea, I think that FIFA's decision shows that it does at least have some balls. If it won't simply stand by and watch clubs mercilessly plunder others of their homegrown talent, perhaps we'll see gradual shifts in the balance of power.

I'm not expecting Brechin City or Montrose to be up challenging the Old Firm any time soon (even if there have been a few players from the Angus clubs who have made the step up to the Premier League in recent years, including Andy Webster).

But if smaller clubs can nurture their talented players without having to fear that they will be snatched by a bigger club as soon as they show that they're special, maybe we will see those with better youth systems make more progress than they do now.

Amongst the potential beneficiaries are Hibs and Rangers, who have both produced a fair dose of Scottish internationals in recent years.

But no doubt Chelsea will appeal, money will talk and the status quo will remain.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

So The Story Begins....

After 20-odd years of procrastinating, laziness, writer's block and various other excuses, I have attempted to start writing some fiction.

Whether this will take the form of a short story or novel, I haven't decided yet.

It took me around five hours, on and off, to write around 500 words. Which, to someone who writes a 50-page report every week, and who used to fill a whole newspaper single-handedly in three days, seems terribly and painfully slow.

And now that the first 500 words has been committed to paper (or to .doc anyway), I'm pretty much convinced that most of it is utter shit.

I bet Enid Blyton never had it this hard.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Walt Disney Marvel At That

Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics yesterday for USD 4 billion has, unsurprisingly, seen a lot of people get their Spiderman pants in a twist at the prospect of the world's most sugary sweet company taking control of some of the biggest superhero names.

But that's the wrong viewpoint to take. Few companies on Earth have the global marketing reach that Disney does. Fewer still are so well represented across so many media - cartoons, live action shows, movies, comics, toys, computer games, theme parks and every form of merchandising tie-in under the sun.

Marvel can only benefit from having that kind of financial and marketing muscle behind it.

But almost immediately, some sections of the interweb went into overdrive at the prospect of Mickey Mouse joining the X-Men, Spider-Man joining forces with Donald Duck and Goofy facing Hulk.

However, Disney has a history not just with its own core characters, but in branches of popular culture one wouldn't normally associate with Uncle Walt's empire.

Quite aside from Disney's own Pirates of the Carribbean franchise, what a lot of the denizens of the blogosphere appear to have overlooked is that Disney also owns Mirmax Films. A quick scan of the list of films released by Miramax throws up:

Reservoir Dogs (Extended scenes of torture and graphic violence)

Pulp Fiction (Homosexual rape, gimps, violence, drug overdoses and so on)

Trainspotting (Heroin abuse, violence, sex)

Dogma (Alanis Morrissette as God)

The Talented Mr Ripley (Homosexuality, murder)

Bridget Jones's Diary (Sex, and one woman's obsessions with it. Oblique references to anal sex.)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Non-PC humour of almost every kind)

Gangs of New York (Violence)

Kill Bill (Yet more violence)

Clerks 2 (Bestiality amongst other attractions)

No Country For Old Men (Crazy serial killer cutting a swathe across America)

There Will Be Blood (Probably nothing too objectional, but hardly standard "Disney" fare)

and so on.

Disney hasn't bought Marvel because it wants to publish comics. And it hasn't bought Marvel so it can mess about with comics. If anything, the additional cash behind Marvel may enable it to publish more comics.

Sure, we might see a Pirates of the Caribbean series appear on Marvel in the future. But a Fantastic Four/Minnie Mouse crossover isn't going to be on the cards.

What the deal will enable Marvel to do is keep on doing what it does - publishing the best comics starring the best characters. Batman and The Joker aside, all of the best characters from the two main comic publishing houses are owned by Marvel. And now they have the financial backing to grow further.

But if Disney hasn't bought Marvel for its comics, why do the deal in the first place?

Because it now has access to 70 years of history - from Stan Lee's original Spider-Man and Fantastic Four comics onwards. The movie versions of Spider-Man and X-Men were huge box office smashes, while Fantastic Four and the Hulk have also performed fairly well.

Disney can add its considerable financial and movie muscle to this vast history (once current movie deals for Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk and Fantastic Four expire).

All in all, it seems to be a good deal for both parties.

And if Wolverine does get to make Bambi into venison with those claws?I'd watch that...