Archive for March, 2011


March 29, 2011 3 comments

I know that security staff at major airports have a difficult job in the current climate, and  that most do it well. But surely there’s no need to send the rest, a significant minority, to rudeness school as part of their training, as they seem to do in London. A busy day at the Orwellian Terminal 5 at Heathrow, where the rules are set by Big Brother British Airways, is a grim travel experience, with unsmiling staff shouting at people (who are effectively their employers) all the way through the process, with all the grace and charm of those who loaded the trains to Belsen. Now the tendency seems to have spread to London City Airport. A chum of mine passed through its portals yesterday. He  was walking with a stick, having recently undergone a hip replacement. As frequent flyers will know, practices vary from place to place. Yesterday was ‘Shoes off’ day at London City. My friend managed to remove his, but since his mobility is still limited he wasn’t able to bend to pick them up to put them in the security man’s tray, as required. The guy offered no understanding, no sympathy and no assistance. Eventually **** managed to hook them with his stick and transfer them that way, and was allowed to proceed.

My point being, he shouldn’t have had to. The security process is as difficult for the sheep as it is for the shepherds, and made much more so by prison guard attitudes. I’m not damning everyone but there are plenty of that type around, and they always stand out. However difficult the job, if a person cannot, or worse simply will not attempt to do it with courtesy, he should be removed and the opportunity given to one of the many people out there who would love to have it.

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Double up

When was the last time that Scottish golfers won on the same weekend on the European and PGA tours? You do the research, but I’ll guess ‘never’. Yes, a few hours after Paul Lawrie’s impressive win in Andalusia, Martin Laird, of Hilton Park GC, Glasgow, won the Arnold Palmer invitational at Bay Hill, and received the trophy from the great man himself. Maybe we’ll hear a little less now about the decline of Scottish golf.

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Well done Paul Lawrie, back on top of  the podium after nine winless years on the European Golf Tour, aged 40+. Maybe I shouldn’t have chucked the football so soon. Must think about that, Fraser.

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Hands up

March 27, 2011 2 comments

I must now go and fill in my census form. Many people wonder why we do it in such detail. As my friend Lord Foulkes suggested many many years ago, when a Lothian Region official admitted that he didn’t know how many people his department employed, why don’t we just line them up and count them?

Attractive as that idea may be, the census is a useful tool. I’ve learned quite a lot about a great-grandfather, and my paternal grandfather from the 1891 and 1901 censuses, which are now available for search on line. 1911 will be released next week, and I’ll be checking that too. I’ll find my dad on that one, but I’ll need to hang around until 2021 for my mother to make an appearance.

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March 27, 2011 2 comments

I’m on my travels from Thursday doing a few events to coincide with publication of The Loner, the new QJ standalone novel that’s currently racking up pre-orders for signed copies in Campbell Read Books. (See link on the right.) Click the ‘Events’ tag above to see where I’ll be, and when.

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Jennifer Jones

Check out the tag ‘Events’ at the top of the page. You may find a signing there that’s more convenient.

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Eileen Woodhouse

Has Oz really been in the shower all tis time? Now who would believe that?

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The spoon

March 27, 2011 2 comments

A lesson on how consultants can make a difference in an organization. 

Last week, we took some friends to a new restaurant nowhere near where we live, and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket.  It seemed a little strange.

When the commis-waiter brought our water and utensils, I saw that he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket. 

Then I looked around and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets. When the waiter came back to serve our soup I inquired, ‘Why the spoon?’ 

‘Well, ‘he explained, ‘the restaurant’s owner hired Accenture Consulting to revamp all of our processes.  After several months of analysis, they concluded that the spoon was the most frequently dropped utensil. It represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour. If our personnel are better prepared, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift.’ 

As luck would have it, I dropped my spoon and he replaced it with his spare. ‘I’ll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now.’ I was impressed. 

I also noticed that there was a string hanging out of the waiter’s fly. 

Looking around, I saw that all of the waiters had the same string hanging from their flies. So, before he walked off, I asked the waiter, ‘Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?’ 

‘Oh, certainly!’ Then he lowered his voice.  ‘Not everyone is so observant.  That consulting firm I mentioned also learned that we can save time in the restroom. 
By tying this string to the tip of our you-know-what, we can pull it out without touching it and eliminate the need to wash our hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39%.’ 

I asked quietly, ‘After you get it out, how do you put it back?’ 

‘Well,’ he whispered, ‘I don’t know about the others, but I use the spoon.’

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I am not the biggest Ricky Ponting fan in the world; he doesn’t have the seniority to be a Grumpy Old Man, yet that’s how he’s been behaving recently. Nonetheless, having read some of the stick he’s taking just now in his homeland, I have to say to his critics, that they are a shower of ungrateful whingers. Most of the success your team has had since Warne and McGrath slipped into their dotage and then retired has been down to him. You won’t know what you’ve got till he’s gone.  From what I’ve read, if I was an Aussie I’d want rid of the man Hilditch, pronto. I remember him as a player, he was a notorious hooker and Ian Botham’s face lit up like a Christmas tree whenever he saw him walk out to bat.

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Alistair Beaton

March 24, 2011 1 comment

Thanks for that. Normally I can blame the professionals, but not on that one. F*****g spell-checkers. Just as well it’s cheap. Glad you’re enjoying Somewhere Over the Rainbow, though, despite the glitches.

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Fire away

My quick scan of this morning’s headlines saw one jump out and bite me. It read ‘Under 10s cleared to use shotguns’. I blinked, and checked the date, but no, April Fool’s still a week away. So I investigated and it’s true. Thirteen children under the age of ten have been given shotgun certificates in the UK within the past three years; the youngest of these children was seven years old. It seems that there is no minimum age in law for applying for a shotgun certificate. The decision on approval is taken by ‘a senior police officer’. The story went on to carry all the usual propaganda in justification. Someone called Steve Bloomfield, the spokesman for the UK’s equivalent of the National Rifle Association, claimed that ‘age doesn’t decide it at all.’ I would like to think that every one of these licensed  mini-shooters comes from a stable responsible family, as Mr Bloomfield seems to claim, but I find myself wondering about the stability and responsibility of any parent who would put a shotgun into the hands of a seven year old.

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It’s Scotland’s tax!

My budget wish list yesterday was headed, and finished, by a windfall tax in oil companies. It was granted, but I’m no happier than I was 24 hours ago. It didn’t go far enough. Moreover George seems to have taken the easy way out by taking the money from North Sea extraction. Experts can judge whether this is sensible with production in decline and investment required on West of Shetland production. I’d been hoping for a bigger levy, that hit every one of thee profiteers where it hurts most, right in the bonuses.

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The kids are all right

Scotland is a nation steeped in tradition. In the Borders they ride the Marches. In Shetland, they have the annual Fire Festival. In Edinburgh, the reigning monarch holds a garden party to which the great and the good and those who know someone are invited to stand, more often that not in  the rain, drinking tea and munching miniature sannies in the hope of a glimpse of William the Bastard’s current descendant. In Glasgow, the polis batter the shite out of students at the city’s oldest university.

The fourth is dying out, I’m pleased to say, but it came close to being celebrated again yesterday, when 80 police officers with vehicles, dogs and a covering helicopter were called upon as a university building was cleared of students who had been occupying it in peaceful (if mis-guided) protest against cuts. Anarchy ensued, inevitably. The knee-jerk reaction is to blame the unwashed, unruly and shiftless, but I’m not for that, for forty-something years ago I stood on the balcony of the university union and watched as officers of the Marine Division of what was then the City of Glasgow force exercised crowd control over a bunch of youngsters who were armed with nothing more dangerous than flour and water. The response involved assaults with batons, innocent kids thrown, literally, into police vans, and other acts of violence that I remember to this very day.

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Like a sieve

When I was too young to read the newspapers, one of them carried a single advance of a single item in the forthcoming budget. Hugh Dalton, the hard-pressed Chancellor in Attlee’s government, had made a casual remark to a journalist and a report appeared in an evening paper before he had finished speaking. He had to resign. Today, all the headlines are out there hours before the Chancellor stands up. Are we better as a society because the media are given advance information on matters that the people’s Parliament should hear first? Are we hell, but in the days of the 24-hour news cycle, the people come a distant second, behind the BBC, Rupert Murdoch, the Guardian and what used to be the noble Daily Telegraph, but is now a daily heap of crap, and an insult to the memory of William Deedes.

(By the way, when Dalton resigned as Chancellor, he was replaced by Stafford Cripps, a name you couldn’t make up, an which, even now, I have to struggle not to misspell.)

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Come on George

Budget in a few hours. What would I like to see in addition to the stuff that’s been trailed? Three things:

A windfall tax on fuel company profits.

A windfall tax on fuel company profits.

A windfall tax on fuel company profits.


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Biter bit

Michael O’Leary, head of Ryanair, goes into a pub in Dublin and asks for a
pint of Guinness. The barman says “That’ll be one Euro please, Mr O’Leary”.
Somewhat taken aback, O’Leary replies That’s a very competitive price,” and
hands over his money.

“Would you be wanting a glass with that sir?” enquired the barman.

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Still on things more or less English, the vastly overpaid Italian who manages their national football team has just made himself a laughing stock by returning the captain’s armband to John Terry, a year after stripping it from him publicly, because of something that happened in his private life, and declaring that JT would never wear it again. In doing so he has insulted Rio Ferdinand, Terry’s appointed successor. Like Terry, Rio has baggage, in his case a missed drug test that cost him a long suspension,  and like Terry he’s moved on. Unlike Terry, he’s made himself a role model off the pitch, and for that he deserved better. He certainly deserved better than to have one of his teammates stuck in front of the media yesterday by the FA press office, to say what a mighty leader  JT is. (The facts that he wouldn’t get a game in many  other European international teams, and that he’d be fourth choice centre-back at Man U, don’t enter into it.) If it had been Wayne Rooney, Rio’s teammate, who said it, that would have had a more credibility, but he wouldn’t have toed the line, so they fielded a stooge instead.

When the man Capello was appointed to the England job, he was praised for his strict discipline, after the more lax regimes of Sven and Umbrella Man. Maybe so, but alongside discipline there is man management, and clearly he is crap at that.

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Patriotic songs

The census form lying on my desk awaiting completion on the due date asks me to state my nationality. I will tick the ‘Scottish’ box and do so proudly; my wife, on the other hand, will tick ‘English’. Will she be as proud as me, though? Strange but true, the majority of my close circle of contemporaries in my East Lothian village come from south of the border. That’s not their fault and I will never hold it against them; indeed I pity them, for their semi-detached, watered down nationalism. If I was stick of rock, I’d have ‘Scotland’ running through me, top to bottom. With Eileen, though, the legend would probably read, ‘Tyneside’. Same with Eric and Ann, while John’s would probably be ‘Yorkshire’, and beyond doubt Jack’s would say ‘Glossop’. Where do our different loyalties lie within this island? I’m not getting into Norman Tebbit’s cricket test, but listen if you will to the preliminaries at any Scotland – England football or rugby international. Come anthem time, you will hear us belting out Flower of Scotland, (A tuneless dirge I know, but at least it’s ours) but the other team will stick to God Save the Queen, which is in no way appropriate because it isn’t unique unto them. You see? The English don’t even know what they are. The closest thing they seem to have to an anthem of their own is Jerusalem. I rest my case.

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Problem solved?

I’m advised that the glitch which was denying US readers access to QJ titles on  the Amazon Kindle store has now been resolved. Further independent confirmation would be welcomed.

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Just William

A woman in a supermarket is following a grandfather and his badly  behaved 3 year-old grandson.It’s obvious to her that he has his hands full with the child  screaming for sweets in the sweet aisle, biscuits in the biscuit aisle; and for fruit, cereal and drinks in the other aisles.

Meanwhile, Granddad is working his way around, saying in a  gentle controlled voice, “Easy, William, we won’t be long . . . Easy, boy.”

Another outburst, and she hears the granddad calmly say again “It’s okay,  William, just a couple more minutes and we’ll be out of here.  Hang in there, boy.”

At the checkout, the little terror is throwing items out of the cart, and Granddad says again in a controlled voice, “William, William, relax mate, don’t get upset. We’ll be home in five minutes; stay cool, William.”

Very impressed, the woman goes outside where the grandfather is loading his groceries and the boy into the car.

She said to the elderly gentleman, “It’s none of my business, but you were amazing in there. I don’t know how you did it.  That whole time, you kept your composure, and no matter how loud and disruptive he got, you just calmly kept saying things would be okay.  William is very lucky to have you as his grandpa.”

“Thanks,” said the grandfather, “but I’m William . .. . The little bastard’s name is Kevin.”…………….
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