Archive for August, 2015

A Few Observations

More good sense from young Eddie.


Ken Brown is a nice man. His calm persona and soft tones make him truly interesting in a world where media commentators are often bellowing tripe in an effort to be heard. Ken doesn’t want to be heard. I get the impression he just likes to talk and pass on his knowledge free of any ambitions outside of personal contentment. To confirm this he offered to send me his book in the post, free of charge. I didn’t know he had released one when we spoke in the airport on my way back from Prague. I enjoyed listening to him talk about his views on putting. It was refreshing to hear someone talk about the intuitive, instinctive nature of putting, as opposed to the scientific approach we see so much of these days. I’m not saying one is right over the other, it’s just nice to have a balance of ideas…

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Categories: Uncategorized

Tarjeta rojo

August 30, 2015 6 comments

Five red cards in the English Premier League yesterday, three of them nonsense. Another soft one today at Southampton, inside 45 minutes.

Are refs on a mission to ruin football for spectators?

Categories: Sport


August 28, 2015 1 comment

it was inevitable, given the timing of the announcement and my publicly aired views on Police Scotland, that the resignation of the Chief Constable would be mentioned last night. I was ready for that. What took me by surprise was the spontaneous round of applause that the announcement provoked from the audience.

Now that Sir Stephen House has recognised the strength of public feeling and bowed to it, attention will turn to the appointment of his successor. I hope that the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Government will ensure that the person chosen has ground level, through the ranks, experience of policing in Scotland and is not another import from the tainted Metropolitan Police.

Categories: General


Big thanks today to everyone who came along to the Baillie Gifford Theatre in Charlotte Square last night, and did me the honour of spending an hour with me. I enjoyed it greatly and hope that you  did too.

Thanks also to Nick Barley, Roland Gulliver, and the Book Festival team, and to Al Senter, a late substitute, for chairing the event with such class and aplomb.

Categories: General

On stage

Tonight’s the night.

This evening, at 8:15pm, I’ll be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, chaired by my good friend Peter Guttridge. If you’re coming, we’re looking forward to seeing you. If not . . . there might still be a few tickets available, if you hurry.

Categories: General


I’ve just seen a TV ad by NatWest. It claims that the RBS subsidiary issues a mortgage every four minutes or some such. Fine, but how many homes do they repossess?

Categories: General

They cannot be serious

August 16, 2015 1 comment

Sky want me to pay £20 to sit up in the middle of next Sunday night to watch something called SummerSlam: grown men in tights pretending to fight.

Categories: Sport

Up against it

England’s women’s Test side are in the process of folding against Australia. If the rout is completed, I wonder whether they’ll receive the same savaging by the media that the men would in similar circumstances.

Categories: Sport

Crowded house

Many, many, many years ago there was an (I assume) apocryphal tale about Jimmy McGrory, in his incarnation as manager of Celtic. When asked why he had signed his ninth centre-forward, he is said to have replied, ‘Why not? If we don’t some other bugger will.’

Looking at the back pages of today’s Scottish press, it seems that transfer policy still applies.

Categories: Sport

And the living was easy

August 14, 2015 1 comment

It was like summertime in Gullane yesterday.

Wait a minute: it was summertime!

Categories: General

Brand new customers only?

August 11, 2015 2 comments

Last week I had a visit, at my request, from a double glazing salesman. A couple of days later, I was contacted by email by Trustpilot, and asked to rate and review the experience. Not something I normally do, but on this occasion I did. I gave it two stars and added this comment:

‘I asked ******* to quote for a project in my home after a visit from *******, having been lured into considering that company by the quality of its advertising. Its salesman came along, looked at my needs, played with his computer for a while, then printed out a figure that took my breath away, not just because it was over 50% above the maximum I reckoned reasonable, after a degree of preparatory research into the unit cost of materials to DIY customers, but also because it included a purported 60% discount from a top line price that was quite laughable. Frankly, the ******* approach was an insult to my intelligence, but I kept my face straight and told the salesman I would consider his quotation and get back to him. He left as fast as he could pack up his lap-top. 

‘At that point I decided to ask ******* to call on me. They did, within 24 hours. Their salesman was constructive and efficient, and did his work without the need for bells and whistles, or computer programmes. His offer price, on a take it or leave it basis, undercut ******* by around 20%, but . . . it was still presented as a heavy discount on normal list price. 

‘As if I gave a damn. I don’t care what figure double-glazing companies pluck out of the air, nor does anyone else with a few functioning brain cells. I want honest straightforward pricing that doesn’t take me for an idiot and isn’t designed to force me into an instant decision on a significant capital project.

‘******* may well get the job, after a little of the haggling its salesman said he couldn’t do, but its approach, which is industry-wide from what I can judge from this and other experiences, doesn’t exactly inspire trust.’

Today, the company’s response appeared below my review, as follows:

‘Sorry to hear you feel this way. Every job we do is tailored to our customers, as *******’s products are bespoke. 

‘All of our windows and doors are individually made to fit perfectly, therefore, our pricing structure cannot be compared to those of 3rd parties. While ******* always try to operate a transparent and competitive pricing structure, we regularly run different incentives and discounts which are applied at the sales appointment.

‘Hope this helps clarify.


‘Louie (Customer Care Dept.)’

Actually, Louie, it clarifies nothing. It’s blindingly obvious that in your sector every company’s windows and doors are (or should be) made to fit perfectly. That has nothing to do with your pricing structure, and doesn’t lead to the conclusion that your prices shouldn’t be compared with your competitors. If you’d read my review properly, you’d have understood that my dissatisfaction isn’t with your structure but with your sales practice, which is completely opaque. Contrary to your company’s belief, and that of your competitor, bullshit doesn’t baffle brains.

(As it happens, neither ******* not ******* got the job. It went to a third party, a much smaller contractor, who looked at the project, understood what I wanted, drew me an acceptable plan on the spot, went away to cost it, and called me back two days later with an acceptable quote.)

Categories: General


August 11, 2015 1 comment

Money Help Marketing has promised to add my number to its DNC list. I assume that stands for Do Not Call, rather that Dial NCessantly. Hope I’m right.

Categories: General


Last night I made it to the end: of the second series of True Detective. In truth I lost touch with the plot around half way through and even after a Poirot-like summing up in the final episode I still couldn’t join all the dots. Even today questions remain. For example: How could an actor as large as Vince Vaughan manage to be two-dimensional in one of the lead roles? Did Bezzarides have a Christian name? If so what was it? However I was not at a loss when the producers stuck to one of the rules of film to which there are few exceptions: it rarely ends well for Colin Farrell.

Categories: General

Got them

August 10, 2015 1 comment

On July 27, I posted about some annoying nuisance calls I’d been receiving. They’ve continued ever since, but finally I’ve managed to trace the source.

They come from an outfit called Money Help Marketing, in Sale. They specialise in what they call Lead Generation, in other words, freelance cold-calling. Their website is and their number is 0333 002 0139.

I’ve asked them, politely so far, to stop. If they don’t I will have my revenge by calling them every hour on the hour, leaving the line open and playing them selections from Kinky Friedman’s Greatest Hits. If ‘Old Ben Lucas’ doesn’t do it, I may have to employ my own specialists.

Categories: General


August 7, 2015 1 comment

I had an email this morning from National Rail, telling me they miss me, and offering me a £5 discount if I renew my Senior Railcard, which I let lapse last year. That would bring the cost down to £25, and would get me one third off fares for a year.

I have a senior railcard in Spain, a Tarjeta Dorada. It costs €6, gets me a 40% discount, and pays for itself on one trip from  Figueres to Barcelona.

Say no more.

Categories: General


Dodgy investment of the year; Saturday tickets for a Test Match

Categories: Sport

A trip back in time

A couple of nights ago, I watched a programme on Sky Arts. It isn’t usually a channel of choice, but there was a reason. On offer was an hour and more of Les Paul and his Trio, filmed live in the Iridium Jazz Club on Broadway during the old man’s 90th birthday celebrations in 2005.

Three years earlier, Eileen and I had a holiday in New York. On day one, I looked through a What’s On mag in the hotel, and found Les’s weekly Monday gig advertised. I was surprised, as I’d assumed he had been playing the celestial Gibson for a few years. We booked, and enjoyed the best evening of our trip.

The Iridium is a compact venue and watching the TV show was just like being back there. Les didn’t make it through 2009, but he was playing almost to the end. If you have access through catch-up TV, I urge you to download it, to see a latter-day miracle at work.

Categories: General

Barking mad

August 5, 2015 4 comments

As regular visitors to my blog will be aware, I am not, never have been and never will be a supporter of the Labour Party. However I have friends who are, and it is for them that I fear the future, if the crazy rules for voter qualification are not changed pronto.

I have just filled in on-line a form to become a registered supporter of the Party. If I was so minded I could buy the right to vote by forwarding it, with a £3 payment, then cast a mischievous ballot for Jeremy Corbyn. I’m not about to do anything so irresponsible, but a hell of a lot of people will; as far as I can see from the process there is no way of screening out the imposters, whatever Harriet Harman etc. may say.

There is a clear and present danger that Corbyn will be elected as Leader of HM Opposition. That would put him at the head of a parliamentary group that would never have nominated him for the position had he not been handed votes by other candidates in the half-baked belief that the Left, in his case the extreme Left, should be on the ballot paper.

The daftness of that proposition when allied to  the wacky voting eligibility set-up is, as Denis Thatcher’s fictional self used to say in the ‘Dear Bill’ letters, as clear as the balls on a dog.

So far Corbyn’s headline plus point is re-nationalisation of the railways, a move which polls indicate would command 80% public support. Andy Burnham has already put on that jacket, and you can bet that before the next election, the Tory Governmennt will have enacted or enabled something that won’t be called re-nationalisation, but which will have much the same effect.

This morning I read Corbyn’s headline negative, a demand that the UK stop bombing ISIS targets and instead isolate it. How exactly do you isolate a brutal extremist army? You don’t; you destroy it.

On the same platform, he went on to propose that a former leader of his party should be put on trial for war crimes, over the invasion of Iraq. There might be some popular support for that, but it’s difficult to see how it could be done without also indicting the entire Cabinet of the day, who backed him, and possibly also every MP who voted to give Blair the authority for military action.

Apart from being a walking economic own goal, Corbyn is also a threat to national security. There isn’t a snowball’s chance in Palestine that he would ever be elected Prime Minister. However the way things are heading there is a strong possibility that he will soon stand opposite David Cameron at the Dispatch Box. If that happens, then the party that my pals have supported for their lifetimes will face virtual extinction as a political force.

Last year Scotland voted to remain under the yolk of Westminster. If that is how it must be, then there must be stability in that Chamber. We could be headng for chaos.

Categories: Politics

Anyone who had a heart

August 3, 2015 1 comment

So farewell, Cilla. RIP

There’s been chatter on Facebook by folk complaining about the prominence given to her passing by sections of the UK media who normally pay scant attention to the celebrity world. To them all I can say is that Cilla was greater than the  physical space she occupied, while the opposite is true of most celebs. For people like her even Guardian readers will shed the occasional tear.

Categories: General

Apathy rules, if anyone cares

August 1, 2015 1 comment

August 1 and we’re playing league football in Scotland today. The play-off (Motherwell 6 – Rangers 1) that ended the 2014-15 season seems like only yesterday, yet here we are on the treadmill again, Motherwell fans looking fearfully at the fixture list and hoping for a 10th place finish at worst.

Meanwhile in Europe, only two Scottish sides are left in the qualifiers and I would not put money on either of them making it to the competitions proper.

Our international side may be enjoying its best spell of results in recent years, but domestically our game is goosed. I’d rather watch fly-fishing.

Categories: Sport