Saturday, November 17, 2007

the better team

we look better than them and that's the first real save by buffon.

atmosphere is still upbeat and we're making some amount of noise.

the only freason the linesman gave that offside was because he was in
so much space he couldn't miss it.

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pressure

if we can get a goal from this we can go on and win it.

craig gordon is a fan- he thought we'd scored then too......

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groove

not good start.

we could all see the gloal coming a mile off.

now they seem to be fi.nding their stride.

PENALTY!

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teams

our guys warmed up in front of us. they look ready.

italian fans to our right look a bit quiet. it is pandemonium in here now.

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My view

at the game

arrived at hampden.

i can honestly say that i've never seen an atmoshere like that in
Glasgow before any football match, it was absolute madness. 45 minutes
to kickoff and thbe ground is half full. half full, and entirely
pished.

this is going to be special.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Tortoise and the Hare

The pressure is mounting as we edge closer to the big day. Everywhere I go I’m reminded of it, and it’s the one thing that everyone wants to talk about. The logistics of the event are fast becoming a nightmare as plans change at the last minute and the associated costs mount up. I have family issues to deal with about it, trying to keep everyone happy, but knowing that the only outcome is one where no one gets their preferred option. The stress is building up too, and I’m beginning to feel properly under pressure for the first time. With only 9 days to go until I get married, I’m still more worried about Scotland playing Italy on Saturday. The wedding will be a doddle in comparison. Debbie’s in charge. I’ve got tickets, but not for behind the goal at the Rangers end rather than in the North Stand as before. I’m going with my Dad, but know that my Mum/Brother/Sister/Finance all want to go in his place. I’m going early to take in the atmosphere get pished, but am worried about the fact that I need to get packed for the Wedding/Honeymoon. And that’s before the football starts. Alex McLeish should have faith in his team and his own ability. Previous, almost abortive, posts have set out the reasons that a 4-1-4-1 formation will suit Scotland’s needs best, and we should stick to this on Saturday. McLeish picked a team to win in Georgia and we got comprehensively beaten by a team with two 17 year olds in it. We need to stick to what we’re good at and that’s staying organised and taking advantage of set-pieces and the counter attack. There’s room for both McFadden and Miller in such a formation, although Lee McCulloch may have cause to feel hard done by. We can’t chase the game against Italy, we’ve got to contain and frustrate them and be ready to take our chances. Easy does it. We need to be like the tortoise, not the all too eager hare. Only 56 hours to go.

Friday, November 9, 2007

And the winner is.......

We spent an hour or so setting up the event. My office houses the only TV in the building, but was too small to accommodate the expected numbers, so we relocated it to the Boardroom. We had to buy a TV ariel, as there was no socket in the room, and spent a good 25 minutes trying to achieve a watchable signal. We eventually managed to get a grainy picture with perfect sound, and called it quits at that. We emailed the whole office with an invitation to witness the big event, and we gathered, about half of the office expectantly waiting, listening and squinting quizzically at the fuzzy outlines of Jackie Bird, John Beattie and Michael Kelly. We chatted expectantly amongst ourselves, expressed our hopes for those in the room who had recently bought houses in the East End and waited. The atmosphere built slowly and steadily as we moved towards decision time. Pictures of grainy chaos and confusion. Unexpected silences as hesitant presenters pondered while the gallery shouted in panicked voices in their ears. BBC Scotland only went and missed the bloody announcement didn't they? Good grief. We all trudged back to our desks to check on the internet to check whether Glasgow had actually won. Show over. I hope they're already planning for the start of the 100 metres by 2014 or they might miss that too. Muppets.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Scotland's Last Sporting Bid

Glasgow's bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games has been impressive in its professionalism and scope, and although I have sympathy with Abuja's case for an African games, I really hope we're sucessful on Friday. Perhaps Glasgow has learned from previous Scottish efforts.....

The View From Platform 15

The usual follow-up to the information that I live in Edinburgh and work in Glasgow is - is that not a terrible commute? To be fair, it's OK, but the best bit for me is to walk to the end of Platform 15 and see the National Gallery and Edinburgh Castle lit by the rising sun. For my first job, I used to catch the 7.10 train to Glasgow from Motherwell. The view was not as nice.
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Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Top 10 Channel 4 Programmes

Given Channel 4's birthday this weekend, I thought a list would be appropriate. Here's my Top 10 Channel 4 Programmes of the last two and a half decades: 1. Channel 4 News The best news show on TV. Better presented, and more informed coverage of the widest variety of stories from all over the world. 2. Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights I can watch the DVDs over and over again. In slow motion. With director's commentary. 3. The Word It was the epitome of cool. Nirvana debuting 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' on international TV. The time when Kim Deal from the Breeders dropped her trousers during 'Cannonball'. Mark Lamarr becoming a liberal icon by telling Shabba Ranks that he was 'talking crap' when he came up with homophobic nonsence. 4. Teachers We all knew the characters. They were our friends and they were living our lives. And it was funny. And had cool tunes. 5. Drop the Dead Donkey Did for journalism what LA Law did for the legal profession. 6. Father Ted Catchphrase TV. The mainstreaming of non-sweary swearwords. Feck. 7. Shameless Sick and wrong. And brilliant. 8. Brass Eye Chris Morris is a genious. This was has last truly accessable TV series before Jam. 9. The Sopranos I know this is cheating because it's an HBO series, but the Sopranos was event TV in my households for years. I have watched every episode, and loved them all. Even the last one..... 10. West Wing Everyone in politics wants it to be like the West Wing. Fact. I wanted to be Toby.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The light at the end of the tunnel

I woke up this morning with a nostalgic feeing about London. I left my hotel and took the short walk to Blackfriars Bridge, looking to reacquaint myself with the wide open spaces of the river.

I missed my morning run on a Routemaster 159 from the edgy goings on around Brixton Hill down to cultural explosion on the bustling High Street culminating on the great majesty that is the crossing of the Thames at Westminster Bridge, with Parliament to the left and the London Eye to the right, but my view today down the river past the Oxo Tower to the South Bank and across to the Tate Modern was an inspiring start to the day.

The one niggling point was the need to travel underground again to get under the junction to the banks of the river, beneath the sunshine and the bustling streets. London is best above ground, but the subterranean way of life: through underpasses and tunnels, down escalators and passageways to tense, often silent and overcrowded trains drains the soul. Above ground Londoners are vibrant, different and unique in the world, but down below we are all reduced to the lowest common denominator, differentiated only by the experienced (Oyster Card ready, purposeful striding between ticket barriers and platforms) and the novice (rucksacks scattering commuters while fumbling for a map and a paper ticket).

My nostalgia lasted until I boarded the plane to Edinburgh. Surely for £150 a seat we could get enough space for my entire row to sit upright at once? Would the pioneers of aviation really view plastic cutlery and soggy sandwiches as progress?

My day started so well in the sunshine lit streets of the city, but ended up crushed under the weight of an overpacked overnight case and a cramped economy class seat. I'm now in a taxi home to Debbie and dinner with her Mum. I just couldn't face two buses now.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Supermarkets v the people?

The Competition Commission’s verdict that rather than posing a threat to humanity and the Great British way of life, and given the opportunity to compete with each other on a level playing field, supermarkets can in fact be A Good Thing has been met with a puzzled reaction by the media this morning, and an angry reaction by smaller retailers and environmental and community groups.

The well-worn argument is that the general public, who love their local retailers more than capitalism itself, are being denied real competition on their Main Streets because big nasty supermarkets come along, sell cheap groceries and clothes (god forbid!) sometimes in an unfair way by marketing loss-leader products, and unjustifiably drive the little guy out of his local business.

On the key point, the Commission and today’s critics agree. It’s not healthy or fair to have a market in which 75 percent of the market share is held by just three companies, or towns like Dundee, Perth and Inverness which have over 50 percent of the market controlled by Tesco alone. But while the unlikely alliance of the Federation of Small Business and Friends of the Earth believe that this situation can only be resolved by restricting the market and favouring small/local businesses, the Commission want to free the market to provide increased choice for consumers. Time will tell who is right.

But there are two points that spring to mind for me about this.

Firstly, it’s not simply the predatory and restrictive business practices of the big supermarket chains which are having an adverse impact on small retailers on their own. There are wider changes in our society and within our communities also do not spell good news for this sector. More and more of us are working longer hours, further away from home, coupled with a greater proportion of women in the workforce mean that the small local shop, open from nine to five with a limited range of goods available is a less attractive and convenient option for modern families in particular. Society is not to blame for supermarkets buying up land to prevent their competitors expanding into a particular sales territory, but these changes mean that traditional small business cannot exist in its previous form.

But supermarkets are popular. That’s why they are successful businesses and why Tesco’s share price reached new highs yesterday. People choose to go there to shop for a range of reasons including convenience, price and quality.

When Tesco was planning to build a new store in Banff in the Northeast of Scotland a couple of years ago there was some localised uproar. Protests by local people, petitions and lobbying of local politicians prevailed. The store was to be built over existing playing fields, in a beautiful established park, next to a historic building and serious art gallery, so Tesco had offered to build an all-weather football pitch at the other side of the town as compensation. The local MSP, Stewart Stevenson, maintained a neutral stance over the issue, so decided to use his access to the local voters’ roll to organise a referendum on the issue. The turnout was around 60-70 percent, higher than that for the local parliamentary election.

And the result?

The locals voted in favour of the new Store by two-to-one.

There are pros and cons to the domination of big supermarkets in our communities. But we need a combination of major factors to change,, both within the retail environment and in society at large, if we are to make everyone in this debate happy over time.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm on the train....

The supreme irony of reading the news story in the Metro this morning depicting a new level of hell for commuters while on an Edinburgh to Glasgow train which has been inexplicably cut from 6 to 3 carriages in the middle of the rush hour was not lost to me, but unlike the significant numbers who boarded (those who could board) in Haymarket, Linlithgow, and Falkirk High at least I got a seat.
Spiralling house process in our cities have made it inevitable that suburban flight has meant an increase in journey times to work for many of us, so the TUC’s new figures that show that there has been a 22 percent rise in the number of commuters in Britain who take over an hour to travel to work in the past 10 years has confirmed the trend most rather than acting as groundbreaking news.
In my 2 months of intercity train journeys the service has, by and large been good. It’s regular, so you don’t have to wait about at the station. Today’s sardine tin-like exception aside, it’s far more reliable than trying to dive down the M8 ever is (thank God I don’t have to cross the Forth Road Bridge every day). But there are 2 things that we should improve on the train.
Firstly, the time it takes to travel is inexplicably excessive. While I know that SPT are touring Scottish journalists around the Maglev trains in China ( I’ve been told that the magnetic train system goes so fast that they would have to knock down Falkirk in order to get a track without highly dangerous high speed bends, so pros and cons there then.. ) it’s currently possible with existing track and trains to reduce the journey time significantly. Only last week my 15 minute late train made the journey from Waverley to Queen Street in about 40 minutes to arrive roughly on time after we cancelled all stops on the way. This must be a no-brainer, but as yet there are no express Glasgow-Edinburgh trains on the timetable. Am I missing something?
The second challenge is the price. £16.90 return? I’s be cheaper commuting from Perth. If there are many higher fares for the journey time/milage in the UK I’d be very surprised. Opening up the train network to all commuters would assist those struggling to get on the property ladder by providing the option of moving out of town and commuting in. This would be good for house prices, and good for the development of our central best commuter towns.
As we pull into Queen Street it’s clear to me that the main problems facing commuters around me are easily quantifiable and eminently solvable. Can anyone else see the benefits of more people getting of the roads and travelling by train while at the same time getting the chance of an extra 15 minutes in bed every morning?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Happiness is....

....finding your fiancee's engagement ring! (Under the desk in the spare room) Phew!

Today's Winners

Watching the aftermath of the Rugby World Cup final tonight, a couple of things caught my eye. The first was the graciousness that Nicolas Sarkozy showed towards Thabo Mbeki at the presentation of the trophy in letting him take centre stage when the Springboks recieved the trophy. Sarkozy has taken some flak in France over his supposed attempts to make political capital from the World Cup. For someone that was supposed to be placing himself at the centre of attention, he made quite sure that the enduring image of the presentation was of the South African President and winning captain John Smit. That showed real class. The second point was the sight of Mbeki at the centre of the celebrations, to the point that he was lifted shoulder high by some of the Springbok players. To put this in perspective - can you imagine the Prime Minister or First Minister recieving the same treatment from a Scotland/England/British team?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lost and Found

Debbie lost her engagement ring on Wednesday.

We were getting ready to go to bed and she had just finished fixing the sheet on the bed when she realised that her ring wasn't on her finger.

We searched the bedroom. We checked under the bed. We stripped off the bedsheets and pillowcases and ran our fingers over the seams to check that nothing was stuck inside. We moved the bed and then emptied the drawers in the chest next to the bed and went through all the clothes that were stored in case it had fallen in.

We checked the living room. We looked down the back and sides of the sofa and through the wedding debris on and around the coffee table. We checked under the rug, and on the windowsill amongst her makeup and examined the folds in the documents in the box under the window. We looked around the rubber ring inside the washing machine and down the back of the cupboards and through the washing that had been dumped on the spare bed and in the small piles of jewellery in on the chest of drawers and in our pockets and bags.

Two hours of looking and no ring. We got up the next day and called the police lost and found, the bus company and searched around Debbie's desk at work.

We came home last night and did the whole thing again.

Debbie has lost her engagement ring. We get married in five weeks, so then she'll have another ring to wear, signalling the progress through the journey of our relationship.

And she cried and had nightmares and lost concentration at work looking at her temporarily bare hand, thinking of when I got down on one knee on an Ayrshire beach under the stars and moon and asked her to be with me always while crying like a lost child. And I'm sad too, because that ring was special because it was there when she said yes.

But what saves me from despair is the fact that this ring wasn't another piece of jewellery, it is a symbol. It says "I'm in love with John" when she's out with her friends in the pub after work, and "John loves me" when she shows it to her family with that glow on her face, that undeniably glorious sign of warmth and true happiness that is so unique to her. The ring is because I love her, not why I love her. It's a reminder of our relationship, not the embodiment of it. She still loves me when she's out with friends, and I still love her.

That's why, even if we don't find this ring, I'll put another one on her finger at the end of November and promise in front of all the important people in our lives to love her forever. And we'll be sad for a while because she's lost the ring, and happy forever because we've found each other.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Back of the net!

Technorati Stuff

Technorati Profile

oh dear....

It's probably a fair reflection on how yesterday panned out for me vis-a-vis the football (worked late so missed the first half, had to sit outside in the freezing cold in a pub's smoking area to watch while drinking out a plastic glass) that the post I wrote on the train to work (WHICH WAS 45 MINS LATE!!!) was based on a false premise...... and also failed to appear.

oh dear.

here it is in it's full glory anyway:

CHRISTIAN DAILLY: AN APPRECIATION

Christian Dailly is what Scottish football is all about. He is an honest, talented, hard working, adaptable player who is absolutely committed to winning.

We know that he's one of us, who'd be in the North Stand at Hampden if not on the pitch. No-one can doubt the commitment of a man who is vocally disappointed about being beaten away from home by Germany with only ten men, an off-field performance which merited an unsuccessful campaign to get him on the shortlist for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year. I love Nigel Quashie and Jay McEveley as much as the next Scotland fan, who can doubt big Nigel's commitment to winning, but there is a real affinity between Christian Dailly and the Tartan Army.

He has 17 years of international experience with Scotland, and has played regularly at both centre half and right back. But it's his technical and tactical awareness has made him the choice of three Scotland managers to take on specific tactical duties in key games.

Craig Brown may have looked as though he was playing him out of position as a left back against Brazil in Paris in 1998, but the effectiveness of Brown's tactics were such that we were only denied a draw by a painful Tom Boyd OG. On Saturday Alex McLeish brought him on later in the game as a holding midfield player to provide an additional line of defence against the Ukrainian forwards' penchant for dropping of the line to take the ball 30-40 yards out. I'm sure I'm not alone amongst Scotland fans to be nervous about tonight's game. I'm a realist, not a defeatist and so I know we're still not favourites to qualify from Group B. What I do know is that if we had 11 Christian Daillys on the pitch in Tbilisi tonight I know we'd have all the guts, drive and determination we need to do our best.

postscript:

Alex McLeish changed his mind before kick-off and played Shaun Maloney wide on the left as opposed to Dailly as a deep midfielder. Scotland were beaten 2:0).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Alex McLeish: A Revised Opinion

James McFadden has been inspirational for Scotland in our internationals this season. 3 goals in 3 games has made him the hero de jour. But Scotland now has another hero. He's been fearless, flexible and adaptable under pressure and adversity, and has led Scotland from the front and to the top of Group B. When Alex McLeish managed Motherwell he inherited a strong team from Tommy McLean, and although he had an amazing start in his first season, coming second to Rangers in the Premier League, I wasn't the only Motherwell fan who thought that he had been trading on past glories. But his tactical acumen since he took over from Walter Smith has been absolutely spot on. His management of Scotland has been characterised by adapting both his formations and team perfectly to suit the game and a series of well-timed substitutions. His classic 4-4-2 formation against Lithuania last month was followed by the nous to play McFadden alone up front against France in Paris in a 4-5-1 (rather than the more obvious choice of Gary O'Connor), while yesterday saw him switch again to a 4-4-1-1, dropping Graham Alexander (who has played in 7 games in this campaign - more than anyone with the exceptions of Gordon, Weir, Hartley and Fletcher) for the better attacking option of Naysmith on the left. His substitutions have also been employed effectively. He brought on Craig Beattie late against Georgia and he got the winning goal. Introduce Maloney against Lithuania, his first touch was an assist for the goal to put us in front. Yesterday saw another good tactical move when he replaced a semingly injured McCulloch with Christian Dailly to allow us someone to sit in front of the defence rather than making a straight swap on the left side with Maloney, which effectively negated Ukraine's tactic of allowing one of their three forwards to drop deep to recieve the ball. If our manager can pick the right team with the correct tactics in the last two games our players have shown that we have the ability to qualify, no doubt about it. Over the past year McLeish has shown he is definately the man for the job.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fantastic expectations, amazing revelations!

It was like a fanclub reunion, a cultural celebration, rather than a gig in the normal sense. But although an atmosphere of excess permeated the venue, unlike run-of-the-mill cultural events such as the Edinburgh Festival or Cannes, this one was fuelled by Stella Artois and not Dom Perignon, while the labels on show were more Lacoste than Lacroix .

The lone wine drinker I met in the queue for the main bar summed the unique atmosphere up:

“For three quid fifty a pint I’ve just as well getting a bottle of wine. My husband reckons you can get most of it in two plastic glasses and I’ll just drink the rest at the bar.”

The venue was filled to capacity with refugees from the 1990’s. Those fading (or more often filling out) stars of the indie disco who’ve moved on from prowling the second-hand shelves of Avalache and downing shots of cheap tequila with large groups of mates to processing loan applications before heading home for a microwave meal in front Coronation Street with the other half. This lot were now counting their pennies, not mis-spending their youth.

While Soccer Casual chic was the theme of this particular fancy dress party, you could feel the lingering presence of smart suits and bulbous tie knots as you looked around the crowd. The room was swarming with couples, the few groups of polo and check shirted thirty-somethings were lairy but lacked the air of swift but casual violence that no doubt characterised previous Saturday nights after the football.

Despite no support act to speak of, the atmosphere built steadily until the grand entrance.

He was relaxed and in control of the gig, posing for pictures for fans down the front as he sang and making jokes about the last (abortive) gig in Edinburgh. It was a greatest hits set, leading off with his early singles. He did a couple of songs from the new album, and them the moment.

The opening snare drum beats of ‘I am the resurrection’ are an indie call-to-arms. There is no dance floor immune to it. The place went nuts. The air filled with spare lager and gaps opened up in the floor as the crowd surged to the front.

‘I wanna be adored’ followed, the place erupted and the mood changed as if we’d all come up together again. We were together, united and happy. Young again.

Imagine how good it would have been if he could actually sing.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Now I am almost grown up..........

Just over a year ago, I set about encouraging a group of collegues I was working with to start blogging. The experiment worked, and now several of them are still blogging, some with great impact. I thought that, given that I am now a grown up, with real opinions and thoughts of my own, that now would be a good time to start blogging myself.