Archive for December, 2011

Thank you, Lily-Maie Scott

December 30, 2011 1 comment

Normally I don’t post the text of my website feedback, only my responses, but this one’s an exception:

I read a couple of your books last year while I was on holiday, and I was hooked! At present I’m sourcing the rest of them. You are a very talented writer, and I’m very pleased that you chose this as a career. Your books enhance an otherwise boring life of a disabled woman, Thank you. 


I can’t speak for other authors, but sometimes this one has moments of self-doubt, when he asks himself why he doesn’t clear all these people out of his head and get on with the normal life, that his friends enjoy. Then I receive a  message like the one above, and I know. Cheers, L-M.

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Apologies . . .

December 23, 2011 2 comments

. . . to my fellow members of what my son-in-law christened ‘The ten o’clock gang’. Won’t make it tonight, guys; I’ll be on my second airport run of the day.

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December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

I took AJ to the airport this morning, early. At half past eight I was standing in theM&S food hall at the Gyle Centre, list in one hand, basket in the other. The place was bedlam; even at that hour the shelves were emptying as fast as the staff, suits included,  could restock them. As for the punters, denizens all of them of the posh end of Edinburgh, most looked ready to kill over the last pack of broccoli florets or baby carrots. If you go  there, or anywhere like it, tomorrow, be afraid, be very afraid.

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December 22, 2011 6 comments

Maybe I am, but I find it curious that England’s notoriously shifty Crown Prosecution Service should announce that the national football captain John Terry is to face criminal charges for alleged racial abuse, the day AFTER the FA . . . a body that is at least the equal of the CPS in shiftiness . . . announced that Liverpool’s Luis Suarez had been found guilty of a similar offence during a game against Manchester United. With the Suarez decision as a background, the CPS would have been under some very hot lights if it had decided that Terry had no case to answer, or even if it had decided that it was a football matter and had kicked it back to the FA. However I can’t help wondering: if Suarez had been acquitted, would JT be facing a date with the magistrates on February 1?

As for the Suarez case itself, I’m all for racism being kicked out of football and everywhere else, and I do not agree that there has been a witch-hunt against the player, but I cannot see that it’s appropriate to set up a court with three judges who are, an English lawyer, an English club chairman and an English football manager (who is already being accused of bias towards Man U) to judge a case involving a Frenchman and a Uruguayan in which the alleged racial abusive words and phrases were uttered in South American Spanish. The process would have been much more solid if at least one of the panel members had been a respected football figure from a South American nation, other than Brazil, where Portuguese is spoken. Ossie Ardiles comes to mind immediately, or Gus Poyet, the Brighton manager, who is Uruguayan himself, with an understanding of the culture in which Suarez grew up. Hopefully this anomaly will be corrected at appeal, so that there are no lingering doubts over the fairness of the finding.

Shall I be cynical again? Although cricket’s ICC set an appalling precedent in judging and banning three Pakistani players before their cases had come before the English court,  I don’t anticipate the FA proceeding against Terry before the criminal charge is resolved fully. Therefore, I wonder: what ‘live odds’ would Bet 365 offer against the case going to trial at County Court or wherever and that process, and possibly an appeal, dragging on until at least next August, by which time Euro 2012, in which England are among the favourites, will be over? Not very long, I’d imagine.

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Too good for them

December 20, 2011 2 comments

Food for thought by Kenneth Roy in today’s Scottish Review.

My wife and I had a similar experience  a few years back, having just ‘deplaned’ as they say in the US, from an international flight at Prestwick Airport. With a few other passengers we took the train to Glasgow; our companions on the platform were four youths with attitude, and with a couple of bottles of Buckfast between them. You know the type I mean; if you don’t, hold on to your innocence for as long as you can. Objectionable in word, and potentially in deed. The train arrived after a couple of minutes and we all got on. At the next station, the Buckfast Four got off, on the orders of the conductor, who wasn’t having them necking cheap wine on his train. And quite right too.

What’s this, you ask? QJ joining the Alan Pollock Tendency? No, not at all. There is a world of difference between that of which Ken Roy complains, and which I saw for myself, and that of the young man who was assaulted by the fat bloke with the approval of another train conductor. Rightly or wrongly, that kid thought he had a point to make. Generally those who engage in anti-social behaviour do not, and should be dealt with more robustly by those in authority. If I have a criticism to make of Ken Roy’s bus driver it is that he let those yobs off with a warning.

As I consider this issue, I am reminded of an old Lanarkshire saying, applied to  the likes of Peter Manuel. ‘Hangin’s too good for them. It’s a good kick up the arse they need.’

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December 19, 2011 7 comments

Today I was a little self-indulgent. I dug out a DVD of Bruce and the E Street Band, recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in November 1975, and played it on my 27″ iMac, with the sound through Bose headphones. Was it good? Was it ever.

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Speaking of . . .

December 16, 2011 2 comments

. . . Alan ‘Big Man’ Pollock, I’ve had a good look at that notorious YouTube video, and I’ve read up on the incident from both sides. The victim of Mr Pollock’s gratuitous assault . . . in my humble, the conductor should be fired for agreeing to his intervention . . . may have shot his mouth off, as young people can do after a glass of ale, but if his explanation is true, and no-one has come forward to call him a liar, he may have grounds for action. As the video demonstrates the conductor wasn’t willing to listen to him, but I hope that the British Transport Police will investigate the incident fully and impartially. In the meantime I know this; if that was my 19-year-old diabetic son who’d come home with a severely battered face, and some fat bully twice his size was taking public credit for doing it, I’d be strongly tempted to find out how big he really is.

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They must be kidding

December 16, 2011 1 comment

I’ve just seen a sports headline on the BBC website. Seems that Andre Ayew, of Marseille and Ghana, has been named ‘BBC African Footballer of the Year’. This took me so much by surprise that I read the whole story.

Apparently this is nothing new. The award goes all the way back to 1991, when Andre’s dad, Abede Ayew, was the first winner of the award. Great news for the Ayew family: well done lads. It looks like a very nice little trophy.

Now, can somebody in Broadcasting House, or Manchester, or wherever the hell the BBC is based these days, please explain to me why it is doing this, and also what is in it for me, and all my fellow Broadcasting Tax payers? There has to be a cost in this exercise; given the fact that for the last few years we’ve heard nothing but whining from Mark Thompson and his colleagues about being starved of resources, I would like to know how they can justify it. I do not recall reading anything lately about the BBC British Footballer of the Year; all our sports are bundled together into the increasingly embarrassing SPoTY awards with one trophy going to the public’s flavour of the year, or to any member of the Royal Family who’s ridden a horse in competition without falling off. So I repeat, what’s it all about? I’m sure that African football, which is ridiculously over-favoured by FIFA, would continue to thrive if the BBC decided to divert whatever resources it spends on this bauble to a deserving cause within the nation that funds its ridiculous extravagances.

How about the BBC Alan Pollock Award for Alternative Dispute Resolution? That would go down a treat.

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Black and white issue

December 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve just read the reports of the first day of the racism hearing against Luis Suarez of Liverpool FC, the allegations having been brought by Patrice Evra of Manchester United. We’ll have to see how it maps out, but if it’s true, as has been alleged, that in the same match, Evra said to the referee ‘You’re only booking me because I’m black,’ I find myself wondering why he isn’t on a similar charge himself.

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Caledonia – a song for Scotland?

December 15, 2011 4 comments

A comment on one of my recent posts has led me to consider the question of the national anthem of a future Scotland, cut free of the Westminster parliament. When sport embraced ‘Flower of Scotland’ it did so because we were all sick and tired of ‘Scotland the Brave’, and also because it’s a damn good song, especially the bit about ‘Proud Edward’s army’. The new Scotland, though, as a nation might want to look a little further beyond its borders, so the lyric would probably not be appropriate.

So, here and now, let me initiate the second independence debate, on our choice of national tune. To kick things off I propose the obvious, that we adopt Dougie MacLean’s ‘Caledonia‘. It’s a damn nice melody, easy to sing, and  the sentiments do the job perfectly. We might leave out the verse about kissing the ladies and leaving them crying, but otherwise, that’s the one for me. Any other suggestions? (By the way, Dougie has to sing it at the independence ceremony, but it would be nice if he could duet with Frankie Miller.)

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Strange indeed

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment
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December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Campbell Read Books has a very small stock of pre-release copies of ‘As Easy as Murder‘ the new Primavera novel, in hardback (RRP £19.99, CRB price £15.99) and trade paperback (RRP £12.99, CRB price £9.99), post free in the UK. Every one signed, personal dedications on request, and still do-able for Christmas.

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It’s nothing new

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

An interesting view of the Franco-German euro-shambles, by John Cameron, in today’s Scottish Review.

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Things can only get better

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I read that scientists may have found, or confirmed the existence of, the Higgs boson. Hallelujah, great day in the morning; we can all look forward to a better life.

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The Sash of Athenry

December 13, 2011 2 comments

A few years ago, at a book signing in Canada, I was approached by a gentleman of advanced years who leaned over the table and asked, sotto voce, ‘Which are you, Rangers or the ‘tic?’ When I replied, ‘Actually, I’m neither,’ he glared at me, hissed, ‘I don’t believe you,’ and walked away.

The old fool can believe what he likes, but what I told him was true. It is possible to be Scottish, follow football, and yet be a supporter of neither half of the Old Firm. But that doesn’t mean to say we don’t know the songs, and the chants; it’s difficult to avoid them. Therefore, when I read that Celtic FC had been fined €15,000 by UEFA for ‘illicit chanting’ at a recent Europa League tie, I understood what they meant, just as it didn’t have to be spelled out to me when a similar fine was imposed on Rangers five years ago.

Let me make it clear; I do not condone or excuse sectarian singing, chanting or behaviour in any way shape or form. I do believe it’s a pity that a couple of nice and otherwise inoffensive songs have become associated with the hatred between two football clubs, but if they’re off limits, so be it. However in recent years both clubs involved have done everything they could to stamp down on any offence caused, so it smacks of unfairness when each is singled out, and this is compounded when it is done in isolation, by a body based in a country which does not count English among its three native tongues and whose judges understand neither the language or the issues involved.

Singled out? Yes, absolutely. Glasgow does not have world exclusive rights to ‘illicit’ (surely a word chosen by someone who is not a native English speaker)  football chanting, or ‘illicit’ behaviour . . . such as that exhibited by Les Cules (lit; ‘The arses’), the Barcelona support who threw a pig’s head at their former player Luis Figo, when he returned for the first time as a Madrid player. (I know these guys; if they could have thrown the rest of the pig, they would.) Every time I watch a football match on telly, I hear singing that might give offence to many people. Some of it is funny. (I can never manage not to smile at  ‘Cheer up Peter Reid,’ sung to the tune of ‘Daydream Believer’.) Some of it is not. (The stuff that London clubs used to chant at the young David Beckham must have been very hard for him to take.) But I cannot recall any of it leading to action by UEFA against the clubs involved, or even action by their own national associations. Racist abuse gets everyone’s attention, as it should, instantly, but nothing else other than it seems, the Old Firm.

I would suggest to the Gnomes of Nyon that if they are going to set themselves up as censors of the stands and terracing, they should do so on a pan-European basis and crack down on ‘illicit’ behaviour in every one of their member nations.  If they’re not prepared to do that, they should trust those associations to do  the job themselves, as they and their member clubs have done, by and large, over the years. And there’s this also; the people who sing and chant in support of their clubs, most of them passionate and committed men and women who know what is truly offensive and what isn’t, are paying large slabs of money to do so. Don’t they have rights as well, and should they be undermined by a minority of idiots?

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The invisible man

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve always thought that Nick Clegg was mostly wind and piss. Now I know for sure and so does everyone else. I have no idea what he thought he was achieving today by absenting himself from the Commons. But I do know this; if he can stay in Government after his public show of disaffection, he has no honour, no integrity and no courage.

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Thank you, Chelsea

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

I never thought I’d say that.

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On course for Christmas

December 12, 2011 4 comments

Just in at A limited number of pre-release copies of  ‘As Easy as Murder’, the third Primavera Blackstone novel, in which our heroine takes to the fairways as her nephew Jonny makes his debut on the European golf tour, midst mystery and mayhem. Price £9.99 per signed (and dedicated if you want) copy, against an RRP of £12.99, P&P free in the UK. Just click on the link.

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Mmm. What do we do now?

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

As all my friends and a few who aren’t are aware, I will be voting ‘Yes!!!’ in the Scottish Independence referendum, when, eventually, it takes place. However, until it does, we are stuck with the Westminster government, and must take an interest in its shape and performance. With that in mind I do not see how the Tory/LibDem  coalition can continue with any authority or honour. The fundamental principle of  Cabinet Government is one of collective responsibility. It has always been the case that when our Prime Minister has gone to an international congress he has been mandated, and when he has taken a decision that he believes is essential to British interests, he has been supported by his colleagues round the table. At least that’s how it’s worked until now, (Can we agree to forget about Clare Short?) until the deputy PM went on telly and disowned Dave Cameron’s veto of a European stitch-up conceived by two shifty political bullies who put their own national, and personal interests above everything else.

In times gone past, after disowning his boss Nick Clegg would have been on the back benches before the day was out. Indeed, a man of honour would have resigned, but I don’t expect that to happen today. No, I expect the LibDem leader and his slippery colleagues to continue in posts to which they should never have been appointed, given that for all their ballyhoo and posturing during the last General election, they actually finished a distant third.

How can they do this? Simples. On September 15, four days after the tenth anniversary of the Twin Towers outrage, another assault on democracy slipped by un-noticed. That was the day on which the Fixed-term Parliaments Act received Royal Assent. Under its provisions, the date of the next UK General Election has been set as May 7, 2015, with subsequent polls at five-year intervals thereafter. Early elections can be held only if two thirds of the House agree, without division, or if the sitting government loses the confidence of the House and no successor is confirmed within fourteen days.

In the present circumstances there are four scenarios;

1) Cameron sacks all the LibDems and goes it alone, daring the rest to bring him down.

2) Clegg takes his people out and leads his tiny army across the floor in the hope of buying renewed power in a Coalition deal with Labour.

3) The ill-fitting Coalition carries on as it is.

4) The Tories and Labour agree, and it would take their combined vote, to dissolve this parliament. (By the way, it would also involve a considerable number of turkeys voting for Christmas.)

Which of these will happen? It’s No 3 until someone has the balls to do something different.

What, other than immediate Scottish independence,  would I like to happen?

Well, frankly, I’ve had enough of Nick Clegg, the teenage arsonist, of Chris Huhne, who knows how to make a point or  three, of Councillor Vince Cable, wizened seer and man of four political parties in his lifetime, of Danny Boy Alexander, the political equivalent of Scooter the Gopher, and of all the rest of them, apart, maybe, from Paddy Ashdown and Charlie Kennedy. Last year’s new dawn in British politics has grown into a pretty rainy day, and it’s time to put up an umbrella. Westminster needs strong, clear and decisive government, of whatever hue, but not, definitely not, multi-coloured. Therefore I would favour another election, soon, probably in February.

Will that happen? I doubt it; the Tories would sweep in on a tide of Euroscepticism, and Labour know it. Hey, Alex! Any chance of bringing the referendum forward?

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Who’s the ****** with the whistle?

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Just watched Stoke beat Tottenham 2 — 1 with a massive assist from the referee, who seemed to think it’s against the rules to give a side more than one penalty per game. Stoke are a horrible team with horrible fans who play the sort of anti-football which demonstrates why the English Premier league is not, in fact the best in the world, as the people who sell it on telly claim it to be. However, it’s about winning and they are very good at what they do. Too bad today’s referee wasn’t.

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