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The Annexe

The Annexe

The Annexe
The complete (all fourteen chapters) story in the 'Lower Methil Annexe' series!
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Crap Shoe Shuffle

In my life, I have worn a lot of shoes. Good shoes, average shoes, bad shoes. Usually, I bought what I could afford. Occasionally, and only when I was young, something fashionable. In the summer, sandshoes (plimsoles, gym shoes, or gutties, if you like). In the winter, wellies or leather shoes if your mum could get you something from the catalogue. Bizarrely, cheap plastic beach sandals were highly desirable when it was icy. Chilblains and incipient frostbite were acceptable – the slide performance on an ice-covered street was phenomenal!
Baseball boots were a brief fad, until your friends could no longer tolerate your smelly, sweaty feet. Dreadful!
Later in life, I could afford better shoes, but I would still buy the occasional pair of cheap ones. The soil around here is full of clay, and the local paths are muddy. Big, clunky boots or wellies, are useless. The clay clings to the chunky tread on the soles, and are almost impossible to clean. Smooth soles are better – no grip, but all those youthful winters spent sliding around in plastic sandals meant that I could cope with walking on very slippery surfaces. No sense in wasting good quality leather shoes, taking the dog for his twice-daily walks. Cheap shoes with man-made uppers are fine. Plastic is waterproof.

A good, practical, working theory. Until I bought my most recent pair of cheap shoes, about 6 months ago. I don’t expect cheap shoes to last forever – but these shoes were really something else. ‘US Brass’ was the make. Made in China, as I discovered. No problem, I thought. Many of my childhood shoes were ‘Empire Made’ (Hong Kong). ‘US Brass’ is China’s reply to Donald Trump. Within a month, the shoes proved to be useless. Letting in water. Falling apart. Absolute rubbish. When the wife complained that I was dropping bits of black material on the floor, it was time to examine the offending footwear more closely. ‘US Brass?’ More like ‘Useless Brass!’ I know cheap shoes, and, even by the standard of the Hong Kong Baseball Boot, these are dreadful! Don’t take my word for it. Just look at the picture. This is a 6 month old shoe that has never experienced anything rougher than dew-covered grass, smooth pavements, and the pedals in a climate-controlled car. Judge for yourself.

No shoe should wear out before the laces. The bin man collected them yesterday.

The Innerleven Boolin Club – 3

BACKGROUND TITLE 450 WIDE

As we are all aware, there’s a proper way to use a language, and there’s the way that everybody else does. So when Nettie Simpson’s granddaughter came over from America, and talked the way that they do across there, there was a certain amount of confusion for a while, and things got so mixed up that the dust took a long time to settle in the Innerleven Bowling Club.

An American Abroad

When the long winter is settling in, and there is nothing to watch on the television, those that were there at the time, will clear their throats; a clear signal that the new members should order another round of drinks Then, warmed and wetted, they’ll tell the story of Nettie’s First. Funeral, that is!

It was a Thursday, just after dinner-time (about one o’clock). Big Mary was starting to get a trifle anxious. Everybody that should have been there for the morning matches had come, played, won or lost, and nobody had created a fuss for any reason, real or imagined. Wullie, her man, had managed to get along to Methil, to Gordon Allen’s – the butchers – for a steak pie for the Saturday night raffle, without getting lost, done out of change or, even worse, buying one from the Co-op!

It was quiet. And Mary was starting to fret. They say now that you could taste the air like it was sucking a penny, but we all know that that’s just blethersnonsense.

It was then that the taxi turned up, and everybody knew at once that trouble had arrived. Taxis were for funerals and weddings. The only likely, local, candidate for a wedding, Rachel Ross’s daughter Irene, had been safely married off just in time to fit in a two week honeymoon in Blackpool before signing in to Forth Park Maternity.

So it had to be a funeral (or somebody with more money than sense, or an American, which everybody knew amounted to the same thing). As it turned out, it was both.

With the inbuilt sense of generals and prime ministers, Big Mary moved in to organise. The twist of an eyebrow summoned her staff. The Coh-mittee moved as one to take charge. It would be done ‘proper’.

As the big guns swung around to take aim, the taxi door rattled open and revealed the opposition. Clad in the best of winter wear that L L Bean’s emporium could provide, armoured in flannel and thermal underwear, was a sight never before seen in local waters. The hair was more frostbite than peroxide. The face had never launched a ship, though it had probably driven a few sailors to scuttle one. Out of the taxi stepped Portland, Maine’s answer to Portland cement – Nettie Simpson’s granddaughter. Named after her gran, but never called Nettie to her face. Jeanette Day Pendexter, if you please.

And on that mouthful, the Americans fired first!
“Ay-uh!”“Hello?”
Straddled by the first salvo, Big Mary blinked, slowed a couple of knots, and fired back.
“Hi-yah, yersel! You’re no fae aroond here. No w’ that outfit, onnywey. C’n ah dae onnything fur ye?”“Hello yourself! You don’t seem to be from around here – not wearing that outfit, anyway. Can I do something for you?”
“Ay-uh say. Hain’t this heah yahd the Hinnerleh-ven Buh-hoolin Club?”“I say, is this the Innerleven Bowling Club?”

Mrs Jeffery lofted a shot across the American’s bows. Always keen to fire a round, providing somebody else fired first. And as long as she was with the biggest Navy.
“Izzat wan o thae speech impediments ye got there hen? If’n ye talk slower, we’ll try tae unnerstaund ye.”“Is that a speech impediment you seem to have? Perhaps, if you talk a little slower, then we might be able to understand you.”
Ina Wilson, bein the brains, so to speak, of the trio, took a little longer to join in.
“Aye. This is Innerleven Bowlin Club. Are ye lost, hen? An, if ye dae mind me sayin, that taxi driver has ta’en th long wey roond fae whaur ye’ve come fae. If ah wis you, ah w’dnae be peyin whit he’ll be askin!”“Yes. This is the Innerleven Bowling Club. Are you lost, my dear? If you don’t mind me saying, that taxi driver has taken the long way round from wherever you come from. If it was me, I would query the fare that he demands!”

Still broadsiding around on full rudder, and with her instincts on full steam, Big Mary saw a situation that called for caution! She could hardly make out a word the woman, from the taxi, was saying, so she altered course in a blink, and sent Ina in to make the next exchange of shot. A good admiral knows when to concentrate on the grand strategy, and send in someone else to take the shellfire. It’s what leaders do!

Ina was crafty, and she had depths of knowledge that no-one had ever plumbed. (Not willingly, anyway!). She had even taken two years of Latin at school. At the time, she had reckoned on becoming a chemist, and in the process, saving herself the cost of prescription charges. She could now see how the current situation could work to her advantage, and anyway, when it boils down to it, there isn’t a lot of difference between languages. (If there was, she could just make it up as she went along, and Big Mary would never know the difference.)

“Mebbe, if’n ye tell us yer name, that’d be a start. O.K.?”“If you were to tell us your name, then that would be a start. OK?”
“Jeezum Crow! Cain’t any of you people speak English. This heah gal is called Pendexter. Jean Day Pendexter!”“Heavens above! Can any of you people speak English? My name is Pendexter. Jean Day Pendexter!”
Big Mary and Mrs Jeffrey, struggling to follow any part of the conversation, started one of their own.
“Pendexter? Whit’s a Pendexter?” said Mrs Jeffrey.“Pendexter? What is a Pendexter?”
“Ah dae ken. Hey Ina! Whit’s a Pendexter?”“I don’t know! Hey Ina! What is a Pendexter?”
Ina was trying hard to spit out the gritty bits, and make something of the conversation. So she snapped back at Mrs Jeffrey.
“It’s a left-haunded ballpoint pen! Noo let me get on wi’ this …”“It is a left-handed ballpoint pen. Now let me deal with this …”
Always quick to seize on something to complain about, was Mrs Jeffrey.
“Left-haunded ball point. If mah mum h’d been able tae afford wan o them, I’d’ve passed mah qually, an went tae th high skale. Cah write left-haundit w’ th richt-haundit pens that skale gi’en oot!”“Left handed ball point. If my mother had been able to afford the likes of that, then I would have passed my 11plus Exam, then gone on to enter High School. You cannot write left-handed with the right-handed pens that the school handed out!”

“So yer name’s Jean, an y’re lookin fur th Boolin Club.” said Ina. “Were ye lookin tae set up a match?”“So! Your name is Jean, and you are looking for the Bowling Club.” said Ina. “were you proposing to set up a match?”
Jean considered Ina with that face that said ‘We can do a bit of business here’, then glancing sideways at Mary and Mrs Jeffrey, reckoned ….
“That theah payuh oh hoes could no way get heah from heah, no mind from theah”.“That pair of loose women couldn’t find their way from ‘here’ to ‘here’, never mind ‘there’!”
“Well, ayuh cain’t says as I’m lookin fuh a match. But, I guess prob’ley, I am lookin foh this heah buhoolin club”.“Well, I wouldn’t say that I was looking for a match. But I am looking for this here Bowling Club.”
“Richt!” said Ina. “An why are ye lookin fur the Boolin Club?”“Right!” said Ina. “And why are you looking for the Bowling Club?”
Amazingly, Jean’s face lost its hard edges for a second, and out came the story.
“It’s my Gramma – Jean-nette Simpson. Shuhely, I was named aftah huh. I cayum all the wayuh cross the Lantic, from ayuhpawt to ayupawt, with only an ayuh-line bed lunch ta keep the body ah-runnin. Ah comes all this way heah ta see ha, but when I get to ha house, theh-are was nobody theah!”“It’s my grandmother – Jean-nette Simpson. I was named after her. I came all the way, across the Atlantic from airport to airport, with only an airline meal to keep me going. I came all this way to see her, but when I got to the house, there was nobody there!”
“Hing on a minute”, Ina butted in. “Ye’ve flew aw the wey fae the States tae see yer grannie. Is that richt?”“Just a moment!” Ina butted in. “You flew all the way from the United States, to see your grandmother. Is that correct?”
Jean could see that saying ‘Yes’ was the easiest way to carry on with her story.
“Ay-uh! The house, it was sitting emptuh. No smoke up from the chimbly. And then a neybuh, He come ah-tellin me it was Thudsday, and Nettie – ah thinks he meant Jean-nette, my Gramma – she would be away to heh funehral. It would be at 3 o’clock. Somuhplace he called the ‘Crem’.”“Yes! The house was sitting empty. There was no smoke from the chimney. Then a neighbour told me that it was Thursday, and Nettie – I think that he meant Jean-nette, my grandmother – would be away to her funeral. That would be at 3 o’clock. At some place that he called ‘the Crem’.”
By this time, the Portland cement was cracking. The make-up struggled to cope. You could see that she was really upset.
“My Gramma! Came all this way heah. Hahd tellin not knowin she was dead. And now, I’ll be up and missin her funehral.”“My grandmother! Came all this way to see her. It is hard, not knowing that she had died! And now, I’ll be missing her funeral!”

Ina was starting to get a grasp of this. Well, some of it, anyway. Jean sailed on through the growin fog of words.
“The neybuh, he is sayin ‘Goah to Hinner-Lehven Buh-hoolin Club. Ay-uh. Them, they’ll know evrything. They-uh always acted like theyuh did. You ask them! Jea-nette always playud theah.”“The neighbour said ‘Go to the Innerleven Bowling Club. They know everything! Or, at least, they always act like they do! Ask them. Jean-nette always played there.'”
Before Ina could speak, Big Mary was right in there.
“Well then, whit’s she sayin?”“Well then. What is she saying?”
“Near as ah c’n mak oot, she’s Nettie Simpson’s grandaughter, fae America. Netties daed, an the funeral’s at Kirkcaldy Crem at 3 o’clock.”“As far as I can figure it out, she’s Nettie Simpson’s granddaughter. Nettie is dead, and the funeral is being held at Kirkcaldy Crematorium, at 3 o’clock.”

Big Mary was shocked!
“Nettie’s daed, an never telt me! An wha’s gaun tae arrange the tea? An oor names’ll be dirt if we dinnae turn up at the Service! There’s only wan thing tae dae! The Innerleven Boolin Club’ll hae tae oarganise Nettie’s funeral! It’s only richt!”“Nettie is dead! She never told me! Who is going to arrange the tea? Our names will be dirt if we don’t turn up at the Service! There is only one course of action! The Innerleven Bowling Club will have to organise Nettie’s funeral. It is only right!”

Coming next … Nettie’s First (The Funeral)

The Innerleven Boolin Club – 2

BACKGROUND TITLE 450 WIDE

To understand The Coh-mittee, and how it functioned within the Innerleven Bowling Club, just think about big frogs in small ponds. If the pond gets too big, then the frogs start to look rather insignificant. It’s hard to make a big splash if the pond is full to bursting with cardigan-wearing, blue-rinsed frog queens.
So, this is what happens. Outside matches are discouraged. A few local matches, with the Wemyss or Balgonie, are fine. Playing the West of Fife is a bit dubious, but having anything to do with the West of Scotland, is to encourage barbarism on the borders of civilized society! Folly, at this level, can never be countenanced!
The trouble is, the Coal Board Competition covers the whole of Scotland, and if your man had worked down the pit, then you were entitled to enter.
And wee Babby Grieg had entered.

This had the making of a bad day!

Wee Babby had beaten the local opposition. Methilhill, the Wemyss, the CISWO from Glenrothes, and was in line to take on the best from the West of Fife – Cissie Murray from Cowdenbeath Miner’s Welfare. And it was to be fought at Innerleven Bowling Club. The winner would be off to Hamilton to settle accounts for the entire country.

Panic! Marks and Sparks were hounded, from Dundee to Edinburgh, for new cardigans and skirts. Size eight feet were stuffed into size four bowling shoes. Appearances were everything! And the quick-setting Araldite lipstick was in big demand, because frozen smiles were going to be tested. Bigtime!

First, Big Mary Hennan would issue her orders. Innerleven had to win the supporting matches at all cost. There would be no whitewash in the outhouse. Special tactics were called for. No mercy!
Then Jeannie Cook was to be kept away from the tea making! Everybody still talked about the time she stewed the tea at the Co-op Insurance Pairs final, and the head of Scoonie Bowls was able to leave the cup undrunk. Not on Big Mary’s watch, she wouldn’t! The tea would be drunk and the boiled ham sandwiches would be eaten.
With a smile. Or else …

Big Mary and Ina Wilson would do the pairs, because folk watched that. The fours didn’t matter all that much because eight people on the green looked like the front window of Barron’s shop, down Leven, and nobody could ever figure out whose bowl was nearest.

By two o’clock, the clowns and other supporting acts, they were done. On went Big Mary and Ina against the pair from Cowdenbeath.
Imagine looking in a mirror! Mary (Innerleven) looked like she’d been separated at birth from Mary (Cowdenbeath). Ina played her first shot by accidentally dropping her bowl on the foot of the other woman from Cowdenbeath.
The match resembled the Charge of the Light Brigade. The minute it looked like Cowdenbeath was going to get more than one of their bowls anywhere near the jack, Big Mary would send up one of her Balaclava cannon balls. You could hear the jack scream as it rocketed out of play, and into the ditch. Ina played a more devious game. She moved the mat as if it was Ali Baba’s magic carpet. Up and down, changeing the lengths, till even the club chairman was starting to cough with embarrassment. Ina merely coughed when the other player took her shot.
Big Mary’s driving, and Ina’s ‘go for the player, not the ball!’ tactics paid off. They took the last end with five shots, and the Cowdenbeath pair took themselves off to the bar for something stronger than tea and sandwiches.

Then came The Match. Cissie Murray was a big woman, and you could see that muscle was on her side. And she hadn’t made it to the West of Fife final without knowing how to draw a bowl up to the jack. But Babby knew how to play bowls, and this was singles. It was up to the player herself, and no excuses.

Up the green they went, and something in the air made folk stop talking, and start watching. Handshakes were exchanged. The umpire moved out of the arena. And the Match was on.

Cissie started off, and she played the long jack. It was going to be an endurance match. Babby matched her bowl for bowl, and after the first end, it took a measure to put Cissie one up. The first few ends were like that. One for Babby. One for Cissie. Turn about, and nobody moving ahead. Till the fourteenth end. That’s when it happened.
Babby’s bowl was smartly tapped out by Cissie’s, and she was looking at losing out by two. Babby put up a good bowl, but it just didn’t draw in enough, and Cissie had a bowl left. Never turn down a chance. It was a beauty. The luck that had slipped by Babby, took Cissie’s bowl up to the jack, and left Cissie three up.

The next end went to Cowdenbeath, and put another two in Cissie’s pocket. Five down, and the match well advanced. The quiet looks of sympathy were going out to Babby, and the smart money was going to Cowdenbeath.
Then Babby lost another end by one. Maybe Hamilton next year.

They were forgetting about Babby. She was the only one that never lost the place. Back she fought. 8-13. 9-13. 10-13. 11.13. Inch by inch. Determination and bowlsmanship. The score crept back. 12-13. 13-13. Cissie watched the lead melt away. Time to turn up the gas! 13-14. 14-14. Ding dong. The atmosphere was getting so thick, the greenkeeper could have used it to re-turf the green. Takings at the bar dropped to nothing, as dedicated drinkers forgot the passion of a lifetime, and watched the match. Even the barman came out to look, and he hadn’t seen daylight since back in 1956, when he took his youngest to the hospital, suffering from croup.

Nobody got more than one ahead, and soon the score was level at 20-20. The next end was going to be the last. Or so they all thought. By the third bowl, Babby was one down. She walked up the green, looked at the bowls, then walked back. No hurry. Just a quiet stroll on a summer’s day. She played the perfect bowl. It rolled up the right hand side, and drew the jack up to one of her back bowls. Babby was two up, but one was enough. What could Cissie do?
She went for it. A drive right up the middle, and the jack was smacked off into the ditch. Burnt end! All to play for. The audience remembered to snatch a quick breath before they passed out with asphyxia.

The next end was like an action replay. Babby’s last bowl trailed the jack out of the pack, and the umpire put the chalk mark on her bowl to show that it was a toucher. Cissie came up for a look, then went back to play her last bowl. Done it once, do it again!
Up came her bowl. It went for Babby’s bowl like a falcon after a cushie doopigeon. Crack! Off went both of the bowls into the ditch. The jack trickled up to the ditch … but it didn’t go in! Babby’s bowl was a toucher, and it counted! One to Babby!

What a match! It took ages before everybody’s heart rate sank back to normal, but the bar soon made up its takings. Cissie had respect, and told Babby to play that way in Hamilton and make them all be proud.

Big Mary tried to clamber back to centre stage, and muttered about how she didn’t know if the club could cover all the expense of going to Hamilton. The club chairman came across and settled the matter.

“Guid game, Babby. Ah think we’ll hire a charabanc!”“Well played, Barbara! I think that we will hire a motor coach!”

Coming next … Nettie’s First (An American Abroad)

The Innerleven Boolin Club – 1

BACKGROUND TITLE 450 WIDE

There will never be a shortage of Scottish History to plough through. Books on Wallace and Bruce, the Highland Clearances, Rob Roy and the rest. Industrial Scotland, the pits, mills and the shipbuilding. Wars and more wars. Yours to choose!
There are Scots from every nations on the Earth. Polish Scots that fought in the last Big One, and Italian families that set up the chip shops that Scotland loves (and fancy nutritionists hate!). They’ve made the ice cream cone part of Scotland’s heritage.
Heroes, heroines and famous dogs. Stories have been told for them all.

Scotland’s past has a darker side. A secret that has never appeared in print. And if they ever find out what I am about to tell you, I may find out what it’s like to walk with crutches! If I’m lucky …
Mind you, I haven’t seen anybody near here for a while, so here’s my chance …

Forget your Mafia! They don’t even come close.
Cosa Nostra? More like ‘Cause I want to’. What I’m talking about is far, far worse than a bunch of Corsicans running around in woolly jackets. I’m talking about the ones in Fair Isle cardigans.
You can find them everywhere in Scotland. Be it the local bowling club, or the shop floor union, they’ll be there! You’ll even find them in Parliament. Scottish or English – it makes no difference.
It’s The Coh-mittee that runs the place!

I remember as a child, running around with my backside hanging out of my trousers. Nobody pays any attention to a child. But I was a child with a good pair of ears on my head, and although it didn’t mean anything to me at the time, I can still remember all the things I heard. Now, with all my years behind me, I am able to put all the facts together, and tell you the true situation.

You will have to forgive me for one thing. I have had to change the names. Not to protect the innocent (there are no innocents in this story!), but if I were to let slip a real name …
I’m a Methil man, and easy to track down. If The Coh-mittee were to find me, well, there would be no stopping them.

Let’s just say that this particular facet of The Coh-mittee was the Women’s sub-committee of the InnerLeven Bowling Club.
On the face of it, the men ran the club, did the finances, and organised the tournaments. The women were just there to organise the teas for the home games, and, of course, you needed women to look nice at the club dance when the trophies were handed out.
Little appreciation for, and little benefit to the women, you say? On the face of it, you’d be right. But the women were allowed – try to stop them! – to play during the week, and have their own competitions. Nobody minded if they set up their own sub-committee to organise things.
And, if anybody were to object, well, old Jeek Tamson was found, floating face down under the Bawbee Brig with his bowling shoes on, and a pair of Henselite bowls in his little carry bag. Nobody connected it with the Women’s sub-committee. Or as it should have been called …

The Coh-mittee!

Who ran things, then?
That would be Big Mary Hennan. Not a person to slight. She didn’t ask for respect, she assumed that, if you were alive, you offered up respect to her, and if you did not … well, things just naturally followed.
Remember Jeek?
She wasn’t big on brain. Didn’t need to be. She could make you do the thinking, if she wanted to. She was everywhere! Fingers in pies? Supplied free by the local butchers, and she got a deposit back when the assiette was returned. Best cuts too – no gristle!
She had an opinion on everything! Sometimes, even a good opinion. Except on men. She had a man, because the club rules said that only men could be full members. Mary, I remember, would phrase that rule in a different way!

Some of The Coh-mittee had more ‘pull’ than others, but even the least of them was someone to fear.
The purpose of The Coh-mittee is to exist.
You could be democratically elected to the Woman’s sub-committee (a scapegoat, tied up nearby, was always convenient), but you would have to be in the inner circle before you were on The Coh-mittee!

You’re no doubt wondering why the name was pronounced as it was. The Coh-mittee.
It’s like this. The Coh-mittee members were the authorities on the pronunciation of Scot’s English in polite society (which comprised the members of other Coh-mittees). When you were doing the club teas, etiquette was important. If you were indisposed due to some imbalance of the bodily humours, you declared …
“I think I’m coming doon with a touch of the Boil.”
Only some coarse strumpet would use the word “bile”. Pan loaf and lettuce sandwiches were currency. And boiled ham. Compulsory on a proper sandwich. Jam or margarine was social suicide!
So it was never enough to be ‘on the committee’, you had to be a member of ‘The Coh-mittee’.

One of Big Mary’s lieutenants was Mrs. Jeffrey. I don’t think her parents ever gave her a first name. She was always ‘Mrs. Jeffrey’.
She could smell a conspiracy anywhere. Anytime. If the way things were done didn’t suit her, it was certain to be the result of some dark and dubious plotting. Things went wrong because the committee (men’s) were trying to put the women down. Translated, this means: ‘men (in general) are conspiring to keep women in their place’. Since the women thought that they ran the place, I fail to see where the problem lay!

Ina Wilson was the ‘brains’ of The Coh-mittee. When fluster, bluster and blatant threats could not achieve the desired outcome, Ina could be relied on to get a result. I never thought that Ina was a true member of the inner circle. Not long before the big scandal, involving a shortage of social club funds, Ina was “democratically” elected to the sub-committee. At the same time, one of Big Mary’s clique had to make a sudden transfer to the Wemyss! Although Ina and Mary always smiled at one another, walking between them was like walking along the live rail on the Underground. You could feel the crackle of electricity and you dared not put a foot wrong.

You’ll be saying that this is just a wee story about a bowling club, but just hold on a little bit longer. The Coh-mittee is still around. It has put its finger on the arteries of life, and if it doesn’t like the pulse, it doesn’t hesitate to press down, and cut off the flow.
Its purpose, as I have said, is to exist.
And if it can’t find a suitable ‘ecological niche’, then it will evict the occupants of the nearest convenient one!

So, whenever folk get together, whenever people start talking, and swapping stories and opinions – The Coh-mittee will get to hear about it.

THERE IS PROBABLY A BOWLING CLUB NEAR YOU!

Coming next … The Match

The Story Feature

Time for a little experiment.

I am going to run one of my books, on this blog. It is actually a series of stories, and will be published, one story, or part of a story for the longer ones, every few days.
The stories are based in my old home town of Methil, and while the story characters are my own invention, I have used old familiar Methil names to give the stories a proper Methil feel. Some of the stories contain a fair bit of local (and other!) dialects, as is right. Fear not! When you get to those un-readable bits, just hold the cursor over the dialect (IE) or click in the dialect (iOS), you will get an English translation. I have not tried this on other browsers, as yet. As far as I know, I have not seen this facility anywhere else. You may know different!

Just to try it out, hold the mouse over the paragraph below (IE) or click the mouse over the paragraph (iOS – click on the post title to reset).

“Wid ye no jist hing oan a minute!”“Would you just wait a moment!”

I would appreciate an comments. (Genuine ones – not spam!)

The story is about ‘The Innerleven Boolin Club’. No real dialect in the first one – but it will come!
Hope that you enjoy it.

Think of a number …

… then double it!
This is the continuing saga of the ‘Hill Street Blues DVD Box Set. Needless to say, there has been no surprise knock on the door, and no Box Set, wrapped in swaddling clothing, left on the door step.

Let me start with the company that supposedly is sending the Box Set. ‘All Your Music’. there is evidence to indicate that they may be located in Kentucky, USA. Though, I would have been better off if I had placed a bet on a 3-legged, asthmatic donkey in the Kentucky Derby. As every deadline comes and goes, they come up with another, later delivery target. So far, they have quoted ‘5 to 14 business days’,‘5 to 21 business days’, ’10 to 30 business days’, and ‘It’s still most likely that your order will arrive, since the order has not been in transit over 30 days.’

Well, All Your Music, it has seen those 30 days come and go, and no package. And that is 30 Calendar Days, as stated in Amazon’s A to Z Guarantee. Let us face the uncomfortable truth. You do not have a clue, where on earth (literally) the DVD Box Set is! You don’t do tracking, and you have a piss-poor command of geography. Every time I send you an email, you reply with the standard, fob-off letter.
Delivery to the following countries takes longer than usual due to their somewhat slower postal systems and more rigorous customs checks: Italy, Spain, Malta, Greece, Portugal, Eastern Europe.” Look at my address, you numpties. I live in the UK. Trying desperately hard to leave the EU, and (with the once, historical, connection with Malta GC, long gone, not part of southern Europe nor a bureaucratic left-over from the Fall of the Soviet Union.
The All Your Music Customer Support (apparently someone called Paula) signs of with “Kind Regrads” (that’s what it says!), so I must assume that not all the letter is a ‘cut and paste’ hack reply.

Paula has failed to answer a single question. If I assume that she can read, then I can only put it down to 2 possible reasons for ignoring query letters. Company Policy (which would make it a rather dreadful company) or, she just can’t be bothered. Her lips get tired, if she reads.

So there you are. All Your Music has All My Money. And Hill Street Blues has gone off the air.

POSTSCRIPT
Duly filed an Amazon A to Z Claim, on the grounds that no goods received 30 days after dispatch. Expected to wait 2 weeks for a result. Amazon returned in under 5 minutes (not business minutes – real minutes!). Claim accepted. Money refunded. Emailed confirmation. Well done, Amazon!
As for All Your Music? Let us hope that their road ahead, is the one said to be ‘paved with good intentions’. Or, to be blunt, they can go to ….

Faster and yet faster!

In this hectic modern life, we will often hear the same old complaint …
“Things just get faster and faster. We can barely keep pace. Things were slower (and better) in the good old days!”

So let us compare the ‘good old days’ with our accelerating and breathless new world.

I ordered a DVD box set from a company in the USA. ‘Hill Street Blues’, as it so happens. The complete series. Unavailable in the UK (PAL TV Region 2), so I had to buy an American version (NTSC TV Region 1). Why there is such a stupid distinction, I fail to see. I had to buy a DVD player that could play the American DVDs. It cost me money, of course. I did not wish to have a 3rd rate pirate copy. Do it properly. By the book.

The Box Set was despatched (yes, I checked the spelling!) on the 29th of September, and is not due to arrive until the 26th of October. 27 days! By DHL Global Air Mail. That would make via an aeroplane, I presume. East Coast of USA to London, by aeroplane, in only 27 days. Blindingly fast, in this day of jet propelled aviation.

So I checked …
Charles Lindbergh would have got it here faster, even allowing for the extra trip across the English Channel from France.
Alcock and Brown would have easily beaten DHL, even allowing for the package being dug out of an Irish bog, and the added trip across the Irish Sea.

Let’s go back in time. Almost any steamship would have managed it. (Except possibly the Titanic, which, as we know, never did make the return trip!).

So, how about sailing ships?
According to well-maintained records, a 2,000 ton sailing ship could cross the Atlantic, from New York to London, in a time, somewhere between 21 to 29 days. In 1818. 200 years ago. Very similar to DHL’s 27 frantic days. Oh, how the pace of life has quickened!
Mind you, the DHL time is an estimate. It hasn’t actually arrived yet. So it could be longer …

Naturally, they did not have DVD players 200 years ago. If they had, I would be sitting here watching Hill Street Blues, not typing out the ‘Where, oh where, has my DVD Box Set gone?’ blues. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ anyone? Fresh from the printers in 1813. Delivered by stagecoach. Now, that is what I call quick!

Same Old Thing

The internet (or should that be Internet!), has inevitably produced vast quantities of Social Media nonsense. If you don’t ‘tweet’, then you don’t amount to nuthin! If Donald Trump – arch-tweeter and temporary commander-in-chief (No capitals. Intentional) of the great USA, is anything to go by, then the bar is set exceeding low.
All this new technology, all these great new ideas …

Let me take you back a few years. 1982. The latest and greatest fad was CB Radio. By Christmas, every idiot in the land had a CB, and, though it was not called Social Media, everyone had an opinion. A million voices on only 40 channels. Thank heavens that the normal range was less than 20 miles. Admittedly, there were a few Italians with 1000 Watt amplifiers fitted to their council flats, but spreading their mind across half of Europe, meant that the message intelligence was woefully thin.

Now, anyone can reach almost anywhere in the world (excluding those countries that feature ‘people’ or ‘democratic’ in the name!). All the scams (the ‘little buddy dying child’, the ‘we know when you’re out so we can burgle your home’, the ‘glamorous beauty queen meet-up) were there, all those years ago on the CB. And, despite its popularity with immature youth, many of advanced years used CB to communicate with friends when travel became increasingly difficult. It wasn’t all bad. It did have a sense of fun.
Every night, somewhere across the 40 channels, you could find a rich assortment of characters. Nobody used their real names – they all used ‘handles’. Solo, Little Sir Echo, Highlander, Ebony Eyes, and White Bruce and a host of others, could be heard, most nights in my locality. Real people. Then there were the jokers: Virginia Ham ( 2 sisters who passed the microphone back and forward, and defied anyone to guess who was actually talking), Harold and Mildred ( a pair of geriatric lovebirds, who pursued a long-distance romance across the airways, oblivious to everyone else. They ultimately had a large audience, who faithfully followed the ins and outs of vintage romance and faltering nostalgia.) All fake, but harmless, and highly entertaining.

Now, on the Internet, anyone who has the slightest taint of non-reality, is probably monitored by most of the world’s Intelligence(?) Agencies. They might even be reading this! Who knows? Everything is cast with the darkest shadows. The innocence (and fun) has been lost.

And it is really hard to type with an outrageous fake foreign accent. Vot does you tink. Nah!

[If there are any Harold and Mildred fans still out there, then you will be pleased to know that the lovebirds celebrated their 50th Anniversity. Or was that their 100th?]

Writing

You feed on faint praise
and grow towards the applause.
Without appreciation, the gift withers.
Overfeeding makes the talent bolt
grotesque and twisted,
then lets it fade
before it can reach maturity.

The Kelpies

Not everything on our holiday, was dreadful. One day was spectacularly good. The day that we travelled to Falkirk to see the Kelpies.

The Kelpies (Water Horses) are a 30 metre high (nearly 100 feet for us oldies) sculpture. Two magnificent horses’ heads; gleaming metal on a sun-filled day. I am not a fan of public art – I have seen too much scrap dumped on local roundabouts, masquerading as ‘Art’. The Kelpies are much more than that. They fill what was once an old industrial eyesore, with something bold, bright, and, it has to admitted, fun! ‘Art’ is not supposed to be fun, according to ‘experts’. “It is too serious!” say the arty-farty critics. The numpty from the Guardian (A newspaper that Health & Safety says is unsuitable to wrap fish & chips) describes the Kelpies as “Scotland’s new public art is just a pile of horse poo.” I tell him bull-shit (or should that be horse-shit!). The Helix Park where the Kelpies live, is full of walkers, cyclists, people in wheelchairs, children; they were all smiling, laughing, enjoying the day. The caretakers were setting up the site for a forthcoming visit from the Queen. Now there’s a lady who knows about horses!





It isn’t only the people who take selfies. Kelpies do it too!



The Kelpies were modelled from two Clydesdales named Duke and Baron. If you try really hard, you can even feed them!





The Kelpies are set on the site of the old Forth & Clyde Canal and Union Canal. When I was young, these canals were disused, derelict, and only featured in the news when some unfortunate fell in, and drowned. Now, they are transformed; once more a benefit to the community. If you walk along the canal for a mile or two, you can visit the Falkirk Wheel – another marvel for a new age.







Is there any practical use for two giant metal horses? Not in the slightest! Are they worth the millions spent on their construction? Every single penny! I wouldn’t buy a single issue of the Guardian, but I drove the length of Britain to see them. Most of the Scotland that I see these days, is ravaged with neglect and meaningless petty rules and regulations. What use is a speed camera, when 44 tonne trucks are forced to drive through the centre of a town? What rename a town, when all you are doing is whitewashing the dirt. It makes me angry when the place I was born, is referred to as ‘an administrative district’, like some Communist-era Eastern European slum, or homes are described as ‘ideal for commuting to Edinburgh’. Who gave a damn for the people?
It has been suggested that I was unkind to Girvan in my previous blog. A few yards from the ‘church for sale’ in Dalrymple Street, you can sample the delights of ‘shamanism’! I never realised that civilisation has slipped so far into the Dark Ages.



I may have rambled a bit into the dark side of Scotland, and perhaps I haven’t seen all the shining, forward-looking parts of the country. I seem to have difficulty locating them. I have found The Kelpies, and you should go and see them too. They are a delight.
As for the Guardian? Nothing is entirely useless. Perhaps you could cut it into squares, and hang it in the loo! To clean up the … !