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.