Monty Python

I’ve just had an email from a young lady named Natalia. She’s asking how I’m getting along, and other things besides. In the immortal words of the mortal Willie Ballantine, it’s nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.

Categories: General

Age concern

If you get to the stage in life when your driving licence has to be renewed, and you have a notifiable condition, for example a cardiac pacemaker, do not leave your application to the last minute, instead use all of the 90-day window. If it winds up in the hands of the DVLA medical team, and most probably it will, they will take six weeks to process it, and during that time your driving status will be uncertain. Should you need to hire a car during that period, forget it, for you won’t have a licence. The old one has to be sent in with the application.

Categories: General

Plugged in

My dad took little notice of music; it got in the way of his reading. I doubt that he’d have liked ‘Wilder Mind’, the third Mumford and Sons album. But I do; it reminds me of the time when the younger Dylan caused outrage among his folkie following by going on stage with an electric backing band. i doubt that we’ll see such fury this time round.

Categories: General

My old man

Thirty-nine years ago today, my dad died, suddenly in his armchair, leaving my kids and me with good memories that have been with us ever since. He was reading the Glasgow Herald at the time, but I’ve never held it against that newspaper. At least it wasn’t  the Scotsman. (He’d have laughed at that observation, by the way.) He was laughing the last time I saw him, as he showed me to  the door, and so was I; about what I can’t remember, but I’ve always felt good about it.

Categories: General

The old dragon

Sky News, obsessed as it is by the betting on the name of the Royal child, advise us that the odds against her being named after Daenerys, ‘The unburnt, Mother of Dragons’, in Game of Thrones, are no less than 500-1. Interestingly, these are the same as those against her being named Camilla.

Categories: General


This is the 18th anniversary of the saddest day of my life. I marked it by stopping for a coffee in Riells, where I sat at a table, the only one free in the cafe, next to a couple around my own age. It took me only a couple seconds to recognise them as Toni and RoseMari, from Blagnac, France, neighbours, and friends, from our very first apartment here in L’Escala.

Uncanny that we should meet today, of all days, to bring back some happy memories.

Categories: General

What to do

I’ve made a strange discovery. I’m supposed to be taking a break, but I’ve forgotten how to do  that. I needn’t worry, though; Eileen has several ideas for passing my time.

Categories: General

In the midst . . .

The blog sends its sympathy and condolences to the family of Ruth Rendell, and most poignantly, to Rio Ferdinand and his children.

Categories: Uncategorized

Who the **** is . . .

A few hours ago, just before 9am BST, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her second child, a daughter.

A couple of hours later, an email hit my inbox: it was from Marks & Spencer. The heading was ‘The Royal Baby has arrived!’ and the message read ‘Shop M&S Baby!’ On principle, I don’t think I will.

That was crass, but no more so than Sky News’ coverage in the hour or so before the birth was announced.

It was fronted by Kay Burley, appearing bravely at around 8am on a Saturday without access to the make-up department. With nothing really to say, the old pro improvised by dragging Sky’s hapless royal-watcher around the assembling media circus. They paused beside the Ladbrokes blackboard, and its custodian, who told us in all seriousness that her employer was no longer taking gender bets but that its odds had been 4-9 in favour of the new arrival being a girl. ‘That means you have to put on £9 to get £4 back,’ she explained, providing living proof that most punters are idiots.

Odds on potential names had been chalked on the board, with ‘Alice’ showing as 6-4 favourite.

Seeing this, I remarked to my wife, ‘Maybe the bookies will be right, but if they’re not . . . could it be down to Roy ‘Chubby Brown?’

She looked at me blankly. ‘Work it out,’ I said. (By the way, I’ll have a £ on ‘Diana’, at 14-1 against, being in there somewhere.)

Moving on from the turf accountant, Kay latched on to the veteran photographer Arthur Edwards. Once he had his little step-ladder in place, she asked him when we could expect the new arrival.

He tilted his head and, even as inside the Lindo Wing Wills was giving one last shout of ‘Push!’, he replied, ‘Oh, we’ll still be here tomorrow.’

As any reporter would tell you, that shows you how much photographers know.

Categories: General

It’s complicated

Roll on May 8. Let it all be over.

I voted last week, by post, hoping to play my part in the eradication of Labour from the ranks of Scottish Westminster MPs. It’s a fate I believe that party has earned, by its performance during the 2014 referendum, and by its shameful treatment of its honest Scottish leader, Johan Lamont, during and after the campaign.

Three posts ago I made a prediction and expressed a hope; I’m about to do the same again.

The prediction: that there will be a small overall Conservative majority, and that the SNP will win a majority of the Scottish seats, but not as many as the wilder polls predict.

The hope: that the Tories win 320 seats, making them the largest single party but short of outright power, with their preferred option being to form a minority Government.

My Prime Minister of choice would be Nicola Sturgeon, but she won’t be an MP. (Not Alex Salmond? No, too divisive.) In her absence, my preference must be for Cameron to carry on (without the Lib Dem millstone) for I don’t believe that Miliband deserves to be Prime Minister. He carries the mark of Cain (if your brother can’t trust you, who else can?) and he’s surrounded by too many of the people who screwed it up last time, including the awful Balls couple, who’ve been kept as far out of the electorate’s sight as possible. (Could that be a tactic on their part, to preserve Yvette as a leadership candidate, post-Ed?)

My hope might cut across Nicola’s expressed determination to keep the Tories out of power, but that statement was made in the context of a powerful campaign against Labour in Scotland. Her first responsibility is to the people of Scotland, and to deliver the best possible post-referendum settlement, and for me that means full fiscal autonomy vested in the Scottish Government. By denouncing the SNP, Miliband has ruled that out should he lead the largest minority party on May 8. Only Cameron can give us what we want, deserve and need.

Categories: Politics

Taking the vi negre

When I got home from shopping this morning and opened my email, I found a new message from Majestic Wines, telling me about a special offer, a 2009 Reserva Rioja for only £6.99, a reduction on the list price of £10.49, but only if I bought two.

That got my attention; not least because I’d just bought the same product in Spain for the regular ALDI list price of €3.99, or £2.90 at the current rate of exchange.

Okay, duty on wine is a lot higher in the UK than in Spain, but I flat out do not believe that the £4.09 difference in price between the Spanish bottle and the Majestic version . . . or the £7.59 difference if you only buy one . . . is accountable entirely to taxation.

We are being seriously ripped off in Britain by the supermarkets and the wine warehouses. It’s time we made a large fuss about it.

Categories: General, Politics


The vote for the most surprised man in L’Escala, and maybe all of Spain must go to a tall, bespectacled, skin-headed bloke, pushing his trolley up the aisle in ALDI this morning, when a little blonde woman dumped a dozen eggs and various other items, a whole armful, in there . . . and then looked up.

No, it wasn’t me.

Categories: General

Happy anniversaries

Best wishes from the wife and me, to Ann and Eric on their Golden, and to Frank and Jenny as they approach that number.

Categories: General

The great debate

Okay, I admit it. I’ve been hiding away from the blog for a few weeks.  To those who’ve missed me, i apologise. To those who haven’t . . . I hope you enjoyed my absence while it lasted.

Where have I been? Usually, when I disappear it’s because I’m wrapped up in the final stages of a book, or on the road promoting a new publication. That was the case throughout March and for much of April, but Skinner 26 went to my publisher four weeks ago and the ‘Last Resort’ events were pretty much over by April 19.

Since then I’ve been keeping out of the way, in a vain attempt to distance myself from the great debate. I’ve passed TV screens with my hands over my ears and my eyes screwed shut, doing my best to keep it all out, wishing only that the damn thing was over.

But I’ve failed. I can go on no longer without making a prediction, and expressing a hope. So here goes.

The prediction: Floyd Mayweather Jr, an unpleasant little arsehole who’s done time for domestic violence, will win by unanimous decision or possibly by a late stoppage.

The hope: that I’m wrong and that Manny Pacquiao knocks ten bells out of him.

Categories: Sport

One of my favourite views

April 13, 2015 2 comments

Categories: General, Pics

Last Resort, but not last stop

April 8, 2015 9 comments
Categories: General, Videos


March 9, 2015 1 comment

How did Cricket Scotland manage to lose to England?

Categories: Sport


People keep saying to me that I should bring back Oz Blackstone. I keep saying to them that he’s dead, but they don’t seem to believe me.

So, on the basis that anything’s possible in my world, let’s have a vote on it. Reply ‘Yes’ to this post if you’d like to hear more from the sociopathic egomaniac. Retweeting or sharing on Facebook would help me get a handle on it also.

Categories: General


March 2, 2015 6 comments

Van Morrison and I were born two months and two days apart in the same year. He shares his birthday with my wife.

Van and I are getting on a bit; this was brought home to me this morning when I saw that he has  resorted to the device of all great but ageing male vocalists, by recording a ‘Duets’ album. Of course, I’ve ordered it, but it occurs to me that I’ve missed a trick; I should be bringing out a volume of ‘Duets’ stories, co-written with my favourite authors. Maybe it’s not too late.

Categories: General

In no way United

February 16, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m watching a team in red playing at Preston. I’ve no idea who they are, but they have no semblance of a game plan. However they do have a manager who’s an arrogant, overrated clown, living on a questionable reputation.

Categories: Sport

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