Sniffy

A pleasant evening in the House of Lords last week, but not once was I offered a line of coke. Nor did I see any ladies of the night, not even on the terrace outside the Strangers’ Bar. What’s the world coming to?

Categories: Uncategorized

Moving

Sitting with my grandson yesterday, looking at photos on the iPad. He reached out and swiped the screen, to move on to the next image. Rex is not yet 18 months old.

I’m not saying that he’s a genius . . . not yet. When Mia was two she could call up a video on her dad’s tablet. But it sure is a sign of the times.

Categories: General

Wethur

That’s the worst spell of weather I can imagine, and it’s what we’ve been having in Gullane for the last couple of days. We have custody of the grand-dog and even he is complaining.

Categories: General

The training, the prayers, and the vitamins

So what’s this with Hulk Hogan, the ‘wrestler’,  who it was said ‘wouldn’t know the difference between a wrist-lock and a wrist-watch’? Abruptly fired from the WWE after excerpts from a covertly (and possibly illegally) recorded tape, in which he used some fruitily racist language, were leaked on the internet.

Sack him for sure, but the recording is eight years old, and much of its content was known already. It is the subject of an imminently pending court action by Hogan, an action for $100million against a sleazy website called Gawker, which paid cash money for it. Also it was supposedly sealed by the court.

I’m not in the slightest interested in what a geriatric grappler may or may not have said in what he thought was the privacy of his friend’s wife’s bedroom, but I would like to know: who leaked the recording? I imagine the court will too.

Categories: General

Red deal

July 27, 2015 2 comments

Has anyone else been receiving automated calls from a woman telling you that you need to book a Green Deal Assessment before 2016? I have, even though I’m registered with the Telephone Preference Service and shouldn’t be receiving cold calls.

After about a dozen of these intrusions, finally I did as I was told and pressed ‘2’ to book my assessment while they are ‘in my area’. Hopefully someone will turn up at my door, so that I can tell them to fuck off, face to face. I’ve tried with the computer, but it doesn’t work.

Categories: General

Settling Down Again

Settling Down Again.

An insider view of the Open by Eddie Pepperell, the thinking person’s golfer.

Categories: Sport

Job done

July 24, 2015 3 comments

Sasha died at noon today: he was 18 years old, a good age for a Tonkinese. For the last week he had become increasingly listless, uncomfortable and clearly unwell, making the trip to the vet, and his diagnosis, inevitable.

I stayed with him until the end, and beyond. When you commit yourself to a pet, it’s part of the job, an obligation and a way of showing the same affection that he has given to you. 

Sash was a character, a scrapper in his younger days but never given to bringing home friends and dismantling them in the hall. He lived an independent life but was always an integral part of our household, and a vocal one too.

I’ll miss him like hell, and I’m sad when I dwell on the fact that I’ll never again hear him yell for food, or attention, or anything else. But I don’t feel bad, because we both knew that I’d got the moment right. He was in a bad place, it couldn’t get any better, and no way was I going to let it get any worse.

So long, buddy, and thanks for the laughs, the loyalty and the love.

Categories: General

Closed

July 22, 2015 2 comments
There is a whiff of  scandal around the recently completed Open Championship. (Well done, Zach.) I have lived in Gullane since 1971, and  have been present at every Open staged at Muirfield since 1972. I watch the others on TV, thus when the 2013 event came around, I hadn’t been physically at one since 2002, the year of the Great Storm, when conditions were playable since it rained so hard that the balls could barely move anywhere. When I bought my season ticket for the event, in advance at a discounted rate, I could not help but note that the cost had doubled over the eleven year gap. I put that down to avarice, nothing else; it was not untlI I stepped on to the course and headed for the ‘Village’ area that my outrage exploded.  In days gone by the exhibition tent was the off-course centrepiece of the Open for the paying customer. All the major equipment and clothing manufacturers paid handsomely for space under canvas, to show off their latest kit; serious golfers were able to handle the latest Big Bertha or Taylor-made or whatever, and the space was packed. By 2013, all that had gone. The only people allowed on site were the championship’s ‘official’ sponsors, HSBC, Mastercard, Mercedes, Nikon, NTT Data, Ralph Lauren, Rolex and Doosan, a Korean conglomerate with a vast range of activities, none of which have the faintest connection with golf.  The only merchandise on sale, apart from over-priced Polo clothing and expensive watches, bore the official Championship branding. That’s right, it was no longer possible for a visitor to  the championship to pick up a golf club and swing it. Amazing, outrageous. Under the stewardship of Peter Dawson, the R&A chief executive, the Open has been taken away steadily from the people.  As his final act before he shimmies off into retirement, he has overseen the completion of the job, by selling broadcasting rights to a subscription television channel. One of the world’s great sporting championships is now purely a machine for maximising profit, at the expense of the true owners of the game, the people who play it, and love it. (Having been involved as a volunteer marshal at the recent Scottish Open, I  have to say that the European Tour has developed along similar lines, but to put that in context, the cost of five days’ golf viewing at Gullane would have bought one day at St Andrews.)
Categories: Sport

Dancing Giants, Barcelona, June 23

Categories: Videos

Not to be missed

July 19, 2015 1 comment

If you haven’t seen the BBC documentary, ‘An Evening with Peter Allis’, I urge you: find it on iPlayer.

Categories: Sport

Max-ed out

Sad screw-up by BBC golf. In their piece about Ben Hogan, they showed Max Faulkner instead.

Categories: Sport

Thanks @DougieD

July 13, 2015 1 comment

My eternal gratitude to my friend Dougie Donnelly, Scotland’s peerless sports commentator, now broadcasting to a global audience with the Golf Channel, for  inviting me into the commentary box yesterday to see how it all fits together. Thanks also for the priceless opportunity to meet Denis Hutchinson, former Open champion of both South Afrivca and France, and the Voice of Golf in South Africa for the last two decades. The icing on the cake was the discovery that, like Dougie, Hutchie is a Bob Skinner fan. Bob and I are honoured, gentlemen.

Categories: Sport

Open letter

Dear Rory McIlroy

I’m writing this in Gullane, having just returned from a walk around the golf course and through the village. It’s quite a sight, with scaffolders still at work, and marquees being equipped in readiness for the Scottish Open Championship. The event begins on Thursday morning, but there are players on the course already, getting to know its quirks, working out their yardages, and preparing a game plan for each hole. You should have been one of them.

These golf events don’t just happen by magic.  The four days of the tournament are preceded by weeks and months of preparation by European Tour staff. It is funded in part by sponsor cash, much of it in this case coming from Aberdeen Asset Management, (Why is an investment house which handles billions in client money funding something as spurious and transitory as a golf tournament? Don’t ask me, but I’ll be reviewing my portfolio, that I can tell you.) and the inevitable Emirates airline, which is everywhere.

But even the professional input would be pointless without the work of hundreds of volunteers, the men and women who will be buggy drivers for players from practice ground to first tee, who’ll follow them as official scorers, or who’ll marshal the crowds to ensure that the tournament takes place in a safe and proper atmosphere. (By the way, I’m marshalling on a couple of the playing days and I promise you that anyone who shouts ‘Get in the hole!’ is liable to have trouble extracting my ‘Quiet’ board from up his arse.)

I know people who have been busy for weeks preparing for the next few days, and I know the work they’ve put in, all of it voluntary and unpaid. They were happy to do this, just as the Gullane Golf Club membership is happy to give up three weeks of visitor income, and offer the courtesy of its newly refitted clubhouse, because it feels privileged to be hosting some of the best players in the world, for a week of unpredictable Gullane weather.

Top of the list, or course, is you, Rory. You are the Number One golfer on the planet, the game’s standard bearer, its shining example. You, and the defending champion, Justin Rose, are the poster boys for Gullane 2015.

So, how did you acknowledge this status, and express your thanks for all the selfless work that has gone into giving you another payday? You put yourself at risk with days to go by having a pointless football kick-about with your mates, a session strenuous enough to see you tear an ankle ligament and put yourself out of action. Stupid, selfish, and cretinous, are three words that come immediately to my mind; you can add irresponsible too. I hope they’ve come to yours also, as you contemplate the disappointment you’ve caused, and the number of people you’ve let down.

Am I being harsh? I don’t believe so. I doubt that Nike, Jumeirah Estates, or any of your other multi-million pound sponsors would think that either.

Yours sincerely

QJ

Categories: Sport

Jail time

My posting yesterday of my ludicrous chat session with Vodafone’s so-called help desk may have put a light-hearted glow on something we should be considering more seriously.

Having reached and passed a milestone last week I’m more acutely aware than before of a fundamental truth. Vodafone isn’t the only organisation to run an on-line or telephone customer service set-up that is either incompetent, or deliberately understaffed. It isn’t the only company that is prepared to keep its clients waiting for inordinate periods for assistance that may never arrive or when it does, will prove to be utterly useless.

Every time they do so, these businesses are effectively stealing a piece of our lives, time that we’ll never have again, time that could be spent constructively.

To me such behaviour is criminal; I can’t find another word for it. Surely the moment has come for government to act to ensure that it is treated accordingly.

Categories: General

Half an hour of my life utterly wasted by those ***** at Vodafone

This is as it happened:

Copy of your recent chat with Vodafone online chat service team.
General Info
Chat start time  Jul 5, 2015 2:26:01 PM EST
Chat end time  Jul 5, 2015 2:56:28 PM EST
Duration (actual chatting time)  00:30:26
Operator  Prakash
Chat Transcript
info: Welcome to Vodafone!   You will now be connected with a service adviser. Your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and  38 seconds. .    We’re looking forward to assisting you today.   
info: You are now connected with Nigel .
Nigel : Hello, you’re chatting with Nigel , one of Vodafone’s online customer service specialists. How may I help you today?
Nigel : Hello Quintin. How are you?
Quintin Jardine: I’ve just left V and am trying to log in to check my final bill, but the system won’t let me. Message is ‘wrong credentials’
Nigel : Do you mean that your online account has been canceled?
Quintin Jardine: seems to be. I can understand this since I’ve left, but how do I access my bill
Nigel : Well, after your contract gets canceled, the online account is also deleted.
Nigel : Do not worry, as soon as your final bill is generated, you will receive an e-mail for the same.
Quintin Jardine: Yes, so how do I access my bill. I need a print-out.
Quintin Jardine: I’ve had that. That’s my point, I click the Go to window, my settings are remembered, but it wonlt let me in.
Nigel : Do not worry, can you please provide me with your Vodafone mobile number, or your Vodafone account number please?
Quintin Jardine: 0**********
Nigel : Thanks. Please give me a moment while I check your number on our system.
Quintin Jardine: *********
Nigel : Thank you for your patience, I have found your number with the new system’s team, hence I would have to transfer your chat to the respected team as I do not have complete access to your account details. So please stay connected. The concerned team will further assist you with your query.
info: Please wait while I transfer the chat to the appropriate group.
info: Thanks for your patience – your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and  0 seconds. 
info: Thanks for your patience – your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and  0 seconds. 
info: Thanks for your patience – your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and  0 seconds. 
info: Thanks for your patience – your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and  0 seconds. 
info: Thanks for your patience – your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and  0 seconds. 
info: Thanks for your patience – your approximate wait time is 0 minute(s) and  0 seconds. 
info: You are now connected with Sheetal.
Sheetal: Hello, you’re chatting with Sheetal, one of Vodafone’s online customer service specialists. Allow me a moment to go through the conversation you had with the representative who transferred your chat over to me
Quintin Jardine: Okay
Sheetal: Let me connect your chat to the dedicated team and they will help you with the bill detail Quintin
info: Please wait while I transfer the chat to the appropriate group.
info: You are now connected with Prakash .
Prakash : Hello, you’re chatting with Prakash , one of Vodafone’s online customer service specialists. Allow me a moment to go through the conversation you had with the representative who transferred your chat over to me
Quintin Jardine: You’re the third person I’ve been connected to. My atience is wearingverythin
Prakash : Just to confirm you would like to check your final bill, am I right?
Quintin Jardine: I cant connect to my bill on line since my account is closed.
Quintin Jardine: I want you to send me a paper copy.
Prakash : No worries, let me quickly locate your account and help you with your latest bill. Please allow me a minute to locate your account. 
Quintin Jardine: This chat began half an hour ago with that same question
Prakash : Thank you for waiting. I have checked in our system and your account is located in our new system, so in order to resolve your query I will have to transfer this chat to that team, Please stay connected while I transfer this chat, It may take some time to get connected with our dedicated team, So please do not dis-connect the chat.
info: Please wait while I transfer the chat to the appropriate group.
Categories: General

Nuts

June 27, 2015 3 comments

‘Andy Burnham pledges half-female shadow cabinet as Labour leader’

Guardian headline.

Are we back to Caitlyn Jenner here?

Or is the potential new leader saying that in his Shadow Cabinet ability and suitability will be secondary considerations?

Categories: Politics

Poor substitute?

June 22, 2015 1 comment

I read this morning that the runners and riders are now in place for the leadership and deputy leadership elections in the Scottish Labour Party.

Labour is not alone in running simultaneous leadership and deputy elections with completely different cast lists. Whatever the party, the practice means that losers in the senior vote remain just that, and are excluded from consideration for the deputy slot. Also, by definition it means that none of the deputy candidates are considered good enough to run for leader.

So why do it? How does it add to the electability of any party? Would it really damage democracy to allow the chosen leader to anoint his or her own deputy, the person with whom they believe they will work best, rather than have them potentially saddled with a number two whom they neither like nor trust?

Categories: Politics

Happy birthday, Princesa

Mia is five today. Go, Miss Pie, go.

Categories: General, Pics

No left turn

This might shock a few people.

I was a member of the Conservative Party for much of my adult life and voted that way in the majority of the polls since I cast my first General Election ballot in 1966. I did so because at that time it suited the shape of my political philosophy; pro free enterprise, against public ownership, but pro health and welfare. But through all those years, I was a strong believer in the right of Scots to manage our own affairs, within  the context of a United Kingdom if possible. That is to say I wanted to keep the Queen but cut as many ties with Westminster as possible. In 1978, and again, 20 years on, I voted for devolution.

In 1997, I was content with the inevitable coronation of Tony Blair, because he was committed irrevocably to a Scottish Parliament. I was content with that outcome, but I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy at all that year. On May 3, the  day that Tony and Cherie moved into Downing Street, I was widowed. It was shattering, and politics were irrelevant at that time; everything was irrelevant at that time.

A few months later, as I began to adjust to my new status, I found myself reappraising my life completely. I became a full-time novelist. I began to spend more time working in Spain. I reviewed all of my personal values, my belief structure, everything. I resolved to be a different man. I resolved to be a better man.

It was against that background that I took a fresh look at my political allegiance, and came to the conclusion that the Tory Party and I had reached an impasse. I was fully committed by that time to an independent Scotland, and the Conservatives, or what was left of them, were implacably opposed. So I called Mike Russell, who was then the Chief Executive of the SNP. He invited me to visit him in his office. We talked about the Party and about what it meant. I remember very clearly him saying, ‘Belief in Independence is the sine qua non for membership.’

And so I joined, publicly, to the public sneers of someone I’d thought was my friend, and yet who lacked the courage to put his name to them, preferring to be quoted as ‘A Conservative Spokesman’. I joined a party that made me feel comfortable, because it was a broad church, but one with a single God, Scotland the Nation. I wasn’t naive. I had no unrealistic expectations, I didn’t believe that Alex Salmond would ever achieve an absolute majority in Holyrood, and so secure a formal independence referendum, recognised by a Tory Prime Minister. If you’d told me that Nicola Sturgeon would lead the party in securing 56 Westminster seats out of 59 in 2015, I’d have asked you what you had inhaled or ingested.

Yet it all happened. The broad base of its membership united in protest. Not, in my view, against the referendum result, but against the way in which it was fought, and against the Scottish politicians who were perceived to have betrayed their own people by allowing themselves to be swept aside by their collaborating London leadership, culminating in the notorious vow. That’s what I signed up for, and viewed in simple terms, it’s a triumph.

What I didn’t sign up for was a leadership of the hard left. I didn’t join a party whose leader puts her own political philosophy above the prime objective, Scotland the Nation. I didn’t join a party whose Westminster front-man declares that the SNP is the real HM Opposition. That’s not Nicola’s right, and it’s not Angus Robertson’s job.

The First Minister’s function is to deliver in Holyrood the manifesto that saw Alex Salmond elected in 2011. She has no role in Westminster. The SNP parliamentary group shouldn’t be seen as her puppets, and it isn’t there simply to make Labour look bad. It is there to deliver independence by agreement, or more realistically, to secure the best possible post referendum settlement from a Tory government with an absolute majority.

It has become fashionable to deride Alex Salmond, now that he’s out of meaningful power. Those who do so forget that his great skill and indeed his great challenge was to draw into the SNP people from across the political spectrum, and unite us behind a common cause. He didn’t do that by linking metaphorical arms with Len McCluskey and his ilk or by stupid grand-standing.

Very quietly, the Scottish Conservative Party, which I predict will soon ditch that name and return to being the Scottish Unionists, is reinventing itself under a hitherto derided leader and a very capable deputy. Scotland will never be a one-party state. If the present SNP leader focuses on supplanting Labour as Scotland’s left-of-centre Party, she may be in for an unpleasant surprise in next year’s Holyrood Election.

Stay on message, Nicola and Angus, and remember that you represent all of us who put you where you are . . . or where you think you are.

Categories: Politics

Dash

There is a very nice piece on Skinner and me in a newish magazine called ‘This Is Rotary‘. It’s produced not only for Rotarians but for a wider audience, with the aim of spreading the word about the movement.

The article is the work of Joy Chatters, who produces the magazine with her editor husband, Herbert. It’s based on a conversation that she and I had a few weeks back, over Skype. That technology is very useful, but it isn’t perfect, and can lead to misunderstandings. Against that background, and with no criticism of Joy, I’d like to make one small correction to the text. The American writer I regard as the true father of the crime genre, is not Hammond Innes, but Dashiell Hammett.

Categories: General
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