Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Friday, December 31, 2004


The mildness of the weather was most surprising. Not a flake of snow had fallen over Christmas, which is unusual for this area, but it did make driving much easier. Myself, Craig and Mikey went into town to get stocked up on food and drink for our Hogmanay celebrations and stopped in at the Forth Inn for a wee hangover cure; three Bloody Mary’s hit the spot magnificently.

Back at the Lodge Gail had gone swimming with Laura and some of the others and the rest just chilled out, relaxed and basked in the glow of happiness and hangovers.

The party resumed at about 3 o’clock with some drinks and at about 8pm, all 11 of us sat down to a meal of fresh steak pie - bought from the local butcher earlier - New potatoes and veggies. Desserts of strawberry cheesecake and chocolate gateaux followed and it was all washed down with several bottles of red wine and beer. The came an old Scottish tradition - the never-ending toast.

A bottle of champagne was poured into a large jug and passed round the table until it was finished. Each time it came to someone they had to make a toast and take a large drink. I remember toasting all my family and friends present and not present the first time, but the more the jug came round the more the grip of ridiculousness took over. By the end I was toasting Heineken and Doc Martin boots.

A quick shower after diner followed before it was time to get into my kilt then we all met up back in the main lodge to drink and party until the Bells. The local hotel also does a meal and disco and after 10om lodge guests are able to join in so a few of us trooped up to join in, returning just before midnight.

We went by the BBC TV clock, counting down from 10 to zero and the sound of Big Ben struck midnight alongside the gun fired from Edinburgh Castle. I always get emotional at this point in Hogmanay, turning first to my wife Gail, and then daughter Laura. Bollocks to the person who said Scotsmen don’t cry, because I always get a lump in my throat and tear in my eye during this moment.

Every year the hotel puts on a wonderful firework display that goes on to the sound of a live piper in the grounds. This year was no different, though standing downwind of the smoke was perhaps not the best move.

We all headed up to the hotel disco and I rediscovered my dancing genes. I have no idea where the energy came from but I was everywhere, and as I found out later, it was all Gail could do to keep my kilt down where it belonged.

We had brought a magnum of champagne with us and popped it off the balcony when we got back, keeping the party going until 4.30am when Gail, Laura and myself left to return to our chalet. Everyone was pooped though we did finish the champagne between us after Laura was down to sleep, retiring ourselves at 5am.
Colin 3:02 pm | 1 comments |

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Forest Hills

Long lie-ins were the order of the day after the fun of the last two nights. By the time we got the car ready it was 3pm so we headed north in the hope of getting to Aberfoyle before it got too dark. We took a new route by-passing Glasgow entirely; crossing the Erskine Bridge, through Dumbarton and following the narrow road into the village referred to as the Gateway to the Trossachs.

It is truly a beautiful part of the country and a great place to spend the New Year with friends. The lodges themselves are part of the hotel complex but are individual homes complete with balconies overlooking Loch Ard and their own saunas. They have three bedrooms and a couple of bathroom so there is ample room for a dozen folk to crash out. All my good friends were there plus their new family additions and a kids the same age as Laura which kept her happy while the grown ups made fools of themselves.

The party went on until 4.30am.
Colin 3:00 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Locher Dam

Despite the hint of a hangover I was first up with Laura. My Dad joined us soon as he suffers from the same sleeping problems I do (we discussed the similarities last night), and once showered and dressed I told Laura I would be taking her to see the dam where I spent a lot of time as a child.

Gail and mother decided to go shopping for the day and headed off to Braehead with cash in hand. I'm glad Gail and my Mum are bonding so well - it takes the heat off me and means I don't get dragged shopping.

Despite the strong wind and horizontal rain, Laura took my hand and we walked through several fields of grass, flooded marshland, a golf course and miles of bracken to reach Locher Dam.

It must have been 15 years since I was last at the dam, and as a child I caught my second fish here (first on my own); a small trout that was only edible to the neighbour’s cat, and also spent many days playing with my friends.

It holds many memories along it’s banks, from the main tributary flowing into it off the hills to the weir the directs the water into a smaller reservoir for use in the local leather factory.

We used to play dare games across the fall but with a new wall around the edge it would be hard to get to it now. The old metal extension path leading into the centre of the dam still exists but would collapse under my weight after years of rusting.

There were years when the dam suffered too. In 1979 the country had a heat wave and it dried up revealing dead fish and a dry, cracked bed you could walk into the centre across. The weir stopped flowing that year and when the rain came, the dam had to be restocked with trout.

I remember the story of a seven year old who fell in and drowned (whether that was true or not I don’t know) and I remember when we had a fierce winter which froze the whole surface completely; that must have been about 20 years ago now because Lindsay fell through the ice as a toddler and my Dad dragged her home at breakneck speed to keep her blood from freezing. My Dad's reaction was hilarious at the time, but then I was only 10.

Here are some pictures we took. For some reason there is a gap in the html.

Click a picture to enlarge

By the time we got back home we were soaked through and caked in mud from the fields. A change of clothes later and we settled to down to wait for dinner – duly supplied by Mother later on after her shopping trip with Gail.

To kill the time we played games and watched TV; Laurel and Hardy were on as was Star Wars which all but enforced the feelings of childhood in my mind.

My mother planned tonights meal as another wee Christmas dinner for the family being together. Salmon for starter followed by a roast with all the trimmings and a choice of dessert. My Dad never made his fanous trifle because he thought my sisters complaint about it applied to the rest - but it didn't and I was disappointed.

Lots more drink and laughs flowed and the last of the wine finished off as well as a healthy measure of my Dad’s W&M. Good man!
Colin 2:18 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Off To See The Folks

With no rush to get through to the West of Scotland we managed to get all our stuff packed and ready for our trip pretty much stress-free. The drive took about 90 minutes and as we got nearer to our destination snow became more visible around the roads. My parents had woken to a blanket of snow on Christmas morning but most of it had turned to slush by the time we came zooming into town.

We arrived to a warm welcome and it was good to see my folks again and my youngest sister Lindsay joined us too. We swapped Christmas presents and had a nice dinner of pizza, chips, quiche and salad.

Stories were told and laughs shared as we got stuck into some Sauvignon and Whyte and Mackay. My father gives me the dishwater so as not to have to waste any of his good Malt on me (his words), but that was fine with me.

With Laura in bed, I sat up with Gail and my parents having drinks and talking, and it was about 3am when we finally called it a night.

It’s always good coming back. After the years I spent wandering and living in various places, returning to my childhood home always brings back new and contrasting memories. Having Laura here also makes it all the more poignant and it is impossible for me not to reminisce about the years I lived here.
Colin 2:10 pm | 0 comments |

Monday, December 27, 2004

Teeing For Up The New Year

I slept in today after watching the late film on TV last night, Blazing Saddles. I screamed late into the night at this hilarious film and felt just a tinge of sadness at how films like this never make it past the BBFC in this day and age. I had forgotten how just funny it was and the tears literally ran down my face for 90 minutes.

When I got up the house was empty. I vaguely remembered Gail saying she was taking Laura shopping but when or where that was I couldn't remember so I set about with some writing. I worked on my GDR and some general notes and thoughts that have been mulling around in my head, forming into short stories and ideas for Hunting Jack. I've enjoyed being away from him for the past couple of weeks - in retrospect that is - because I think I needed the break. Other things needed attention in my life for sure, but the break was needed. I see that now.

I have not been very active in my writing group the last few days and I kind of miss the people over there. I have posted a couple of times, but with all the holiday stuff hitting everyone I miss the support and camaraderie that exists there.

However, I am feeling totally refreshed and recharged. The lull between Christmas and New Year always provides me a chance to look at myself and to look back at my life away from work and without any hassle. With Christmas out the way, it seems easier to focus on my art.

One of the best things for me about this period, without meaning to sound selfish, is that I get to go home to the West of Scotland. In the next week I will get to see my parents who really I don't see enough, and to meet up with friends that our only contact is through email or the phone for much of the year. With the introduction of families into all our lives things have changed for everyone, but no matter how much things change, we always know where we each other are.

This is also why New Year means more to me than Christmas. Not only is it more of a community celebration in Scotland, it is a chance to catch up, go wild and really let your hair down. For years I have been going away with all my friends, and over the years our partners and children join us. We go to Aberfoyle and stay in a couple of chalets at Forest Hills and a pal of mine who owns the hotel in the town has a party for us on Hogmanay. This also means we get the runaround of the entire town - and a free bar on the 31st till the early hours.

This year we leave for my parents tomorrow and then for Aberfoyle on Thursday. I will try to post if I can, pictures and commentqary of some of the beautiful scenery we will be living amongst, and I am sure my notebook will fill up easily with ideas and anecdotes of the hilarious and idiotic things that always happen when us lot get together. I can't wait to get there.
Colin 11:00 pm | 1 comments |

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Resting Easy

Today was a day of rest and relaxation with the family. Gail was first up and out the door before 8am as she made her way to the opening of the sales clutching wad fulls of cash. Laura and I watched Morecambe and Wise then got up to play with our new toys (well okay - her new toys) and set about organising her art stuff into sections and making plans for what she wants me to help her out with and what she wants to make herself.

We watched some of our new DVD's (Simpsons Christmas Specials) and had a nice brunch together then eat some nice sweets before Gail got back around 2'ish. She brought home a haul of clothes of which I did rather well out of. I find it's best to let Gail choose what I should wear because apparently I did not know how to dress myself until I met her.

Later Laura and I made some designs for her new Hama beads while Gail slept off her shopping exertions on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. I I cooked a chicken for dinner (had to or it would go off while we are away on holiday) and made some creamy mashed potatoes and carrots with gravy. The chicken was delicious and went down a treat before we burst into a huge tin of Celebration choccies.

There's nothing more to say; it was totally relaxing and peaceful - just what I wanted for Boxing Day with my family - no pressure, no need to do anything but be glad we are together.
Colin 11:59 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!


I hope everyone had/is having a wonderful Christmas holiday 2004!

Today was just as hectic as I expected, but more enjoyable than I could have wished. The house had been scrubbed, the food bought, the tree decorated - all possible preparations made for the big day and so when 7am came by, the day started as Laura crept into our room and into the bed, almost shaking with the excitement of wondering if Santa had been. Tradition dictates that I go through to the living room to see if indeed, the Big Man has been and for me to put on the tree lights, CD and light the fire.

It didn't take her long to get through the pile of presents from Santa, and the gifts she received she loved, especially her artwork stuff. Gail and I swapped presents and amazingly it looks like I managed to get it right this year where scents and sizes are concerned. Phew!

Gail's parents came round with more presents and stayed a while before heading home to get ready for the Christmas meal that we would be going to and I called my parents to wish them a merry Christmas. My Dad - who must surely have to admit to being like me after this - got himself so excited about Christmas he had to lie down in order to get calm again. At his age he should know better!

Christmas dinner was nice with four generations of Gail's family at the meal though the party atmosphere was lacking compared to recent years. I ended up sitting watching the TV with a slow drink while the others slept or did jigsaws. I think Gail could see I was bored and we left at about 11pm with a shattered little girl holding our hands between us.

On the way home it was Baltic and when I looked up into the dark clear sky, I could see a full moon shining down on us surrounded by hundreds of sparkling stars. The Starry Plough made an appearance when I figured out where it was; something I love to see. Every country I have ever been to I have always managed to see it at some point and it has come to stand for something. An ever-present reminder of how special stars can be, and insignificant we are compared to its mystery.
Colin 3:52 pm | 1 comments |

Friday, December 24, 2004

Last Minute Preperations

After a brief but compulsory stint in work this morning I took to the streets of Edinburgh for those last pieces of the present jigsaw. The rain had started to fall from the grey clouds giving the glow from the street decorations the impression of permanent glory against the dingy weather.

Walking along George Street and round onto Princes Street I was surprised how busy it wasn't; there were hordes of people for sure, but not the mad rush I was expecting, and with the rain pushing into my face I found myself lured into a temporary world of relaxation. It was as if a bubble had encased me protecting me from the human race, but not the elements.

I stopped off into a couple of shops and got my last few presents and headed home where the cleaning and cooking was almost done. Gail cooked a roast dinner and we watched Shrek as we eat a superb cut of beef and vegetables and Yorkshire Puddings.

Laura helped me wrap my things and before long it was almost time for bed. But first the tradition of Christmas Eve.

We sprinkled magic dust in the back garden and on the fireplace (so Rudolph knows where to stop) and spoke to Santa up the chimney. Then two mince pies, a glass of milk and a carrot were left for Santa and his Reindeer before the stocking was hung up for the night. I've never seen Laura WANT to go to bed so much - what a pleasure it was to put her to bed tonight.
With still lots to do around the house late evening drew up before we knew it and it was time to do the 'parent thing' before going to bed.

Tomorrow is going to be great. I can't wait to see her wee face.

Colin 10:54 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Eve's Eve

It seemed like I did a lot that could be written about today but in reality, I never. I went up town with Laura and we took a look at the Christmas Garden in Princes Street.

Click to enlarge

Then we headed down to Ocean Terminal in Leith to do some shopping. I still had a couple of things to get Gail – stuff for her to open on Christmas morning seeing as I’ve already got her big presents – and it was hard going. I’m getting used to wandering around the sexy underwear section in BHS but this time nothing took my fancy. I don’t trust myself with any kind of clothing for gifts anymore anyway, not since I got her a dress that was two sizes too big for her. I’ve never been allowed to forget.

The afternoon dragged and it wouldn’t have been worse if it weren’t for Laura talking endlessly about Santa and how such a fat bloke can get down our chimney. Then came the ‘reality’ questions again but I’m good at massaging her belief. What helped was the film I took her to see while in the centre. The Polar Express is about a boy who doesn’t believe in Santa anymore and the train to the North Pole comes to get him on Christmas Eve. The journey makes him believe once more and I used the file to reference the finer points, which Laura always seems to hone in on. Her attention to detail astounds me at times – she’s definitely got an artist inside her.

Nighttime came and she is really feeling the excitement. I’ve never seen her so excited actually – it’s so great to see but it is hard work keeping a balance between kiddie time and adult time. I was glad to get her down – eventually – but by then I was so tired myself I just wanted to put my own head down.

And that was the day – town, shopping, pictures, and bed. This is the reality.
One thing I wanted to say in today’s post was how sad I was to see this:

Click to enlarge

This is the graveyard just off Leith Walk in Pilrig that the bus we were on passed by. Having never seen it before I was saddened to see the sorry state it was in, particularly the number of stones pushed over and vandalised. It was disgusting; some people have no respect.

It made me think of the people who were once close to me, whether family of friends, and who are no longer around. I think Christmas should be about remembering those we loved who cannot be with us on days like this and for being thankful for having known them.
Colin 11:26 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas Spirit Falls

It’s the last day of school today and Laura, like all the other kids about here finish up at mid-day after the customary Christmas service. Then she is off to the After School Club who are taking them to see Beauty and the Beast at the King’s Theatre.

She is getting excited at the prospect of Santa coming. Confusion has set in as to what day is Christmas Eve and she talked herself into believing it was today – which logically meant tomorrow is THE day – but I put her right.

She’s also heard rumours at school that Santa isn’t real. I put her right on that too because if she doesn’t believe, then he definitely won’t come.

Tomorrow I am off work and will take Laura up town with me while I finish off some shopping I need to do. I’ll try and fit in a wee trip to the cinema as well while we’re at it to take her mind off it all.

In Edinburgh, the festive feeling is all around. Windows of homes and shops display all kinds of colourful decorations and trees and cars, taxis and buses even have some kind of decoration about them. Anytime music is heard it is about reindeers or Santa and the pubs and restaurants are packed daily with celebrating workers. The whole city seems to be under the Christmas spell.

Except my office.

It is as dull and boring as ever.

In fact there is only one tree on our floor, set up by a couple of the Admin girls who also used sellotape to stick 30 year old decorations on the partitions that create the individual workstation cells throughout the office.

I know I could make the effort to do it myself but I would only be hounded down by the dogs, though I do have a Christmas decoration application on my PC which makes up for it.
Colin 10:32 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The World Moves Too Slow

Ever have the feeling the world is moving at a different pace to yourself?

This morning, I could have sworn I was moving slower than the Earth’s rotation when, as I made my merry way towards the bus stop, I saw the bus pull away having collected it’s quota of passengers. The lucky ones peered out the windows at me, smirking at the poor sod left to decide whether to wait for the next bus or walk it. I plumped on the walk.

About half way through my walk into Leith I realised perhaps I am moving at a faster pace than the people of Earth and not slower as first thought.

As I walked, I looked back to see another bus coming but was unable to cross the road to get to it, being stuck half way between bus stops and with a sudden build up of traffic from absolutely nowhere. Thus, I missed the second bus of the morning.

I decided to get a bag of Jammy donuts for my team at work, partially as a gesture of goodwill but mostly because I wanted one to cheer me up over a coffee when I got to the office. I popped into the local supermarket and grabbed a fresh bag of strawberry-filled sugary donuts and went to the checkout but was dismayed to see only two checkouts open complete with very long queues. I went to the Service Desk, which often doubles as an express till, and asked if they could put my one, single purchase through, to a maximum cost of 89 pence.

The woman turned and in a posture that can only be related to a bossy school teacher with her hand raised out, pointed towards the tills and in a shrill voice said, “Sorry, but you’ll have to use the check outs like everyone else.”

“Don’t you have an express lane I can use?” I asked (a reasonable question I assumed).

“Sorry,” she said smiling and turned away.

Cue rush of blood to my head.

I adopted her pose to mimick her arrogant actions. “Sorry," I said in a loudish, deep voice, "But just forget it,” I said, with the intention of making it clear I would not be buying the bag of donuts any more due to my dissatisfaction with her attitude.

What I hadn’t counted on was the bag of baked delicacies flying out my right hand as I raised it and landing in a heap on the floor.

We stared at the bag, and I straightened up first and left the supermarket satisfied with my refusal to cave both to her commands and my temper.

During the cafuffle, I hadn't notice time had wore on and I was now at risk of being late for work, but with no donuts to soften the blow, I thought I should get a taxi instead of a bus.

I gave the driver my destination and off we went. Everything seemed to be going fine until we reached the first set of traffic lights when I detected more friction between the speed of my life and the rest of the world.

A bus was having problems rounding the corner. Eventually, when it squeezed through the gap in the t-junction left from the traffic in the other direction and the roadworks on the near side, I had to endure a snail’s pace as we crawled behind the bus all the way into town.

I paid the driver and went into the snack shop for some breakfast. Something healthy I thought to myself, that would feel good to eat and help boost my immune system against this stubborn chesty cough.

I bought a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich and a carton of Tropicana real fruit orange. When I got to work, I noticed the juice was two days out of date.

I rest my case.

Today is the 12 year anniversary of my first ever Madness concert.

I remember it as though it was yesterday. Snow had fallen the night before as myself and three friends made our way to Edinburgh in a tiny white Ford Fiesta, clad in our Doc Martens, Fred Perry Tops, red braces and pork-pie hats and with a bag overflowing with cans of Miller. I was 19 years old, skinny and had a head thick with hair.

I’m not going to go into it, needless to say the day ended in a riot – literally and nonliterally as it turned out when two groups of casuals kicked off in the middle of the arena. Riot Police were called and the gig was cut short and the band to this day still talk about how horrified they were. No wonder they never returned to Scotland for 10 years.

The other talking point was the car breaking down at the most remote section of motorway between Edinburgh and Glasgow during a blizzard as we returned home. Sitting on the hard shoulder, unable to see five feet in front of us made for a scary moment in time so we sent out two hardy souls to search for a house. An hour later they returned after finding nothing. We sat in despair and tried the car one last time – it started! We drove the rest of the way back west at 20 mph along Scotland’s busiest motorway late at night.

I remember it as being a special day though. It was a one off for me, and a dream come true. Who would have thought back then, the things I would go on to do with the band; correspond with them, meet them, get drunk with them, follow them all over the country and run the biggest Madness website going, The decade after the Edinburgh gig was unsurpassable and the least predictable.

My first gig review accompanied this event, though it’s more of a diary entry. Some crappy pics and words are at my Madness site over at my Madness in Edinburgh, Xmas 92 Page
Colin 11:47 am | 0 comments |

Monday, December 20, 2004

Pass Me The WD-40

Another night of trying to rid this evil from my airways – still no movement. Well that’s not entirely true; this morning, once I had massaged my throat and chest to life, I coughed to the extremities as the hot steam from my shower filled the tiny holes that make up my lungs and penetrated its sponge-like matter. From these depths the carnage came and perhaps this movement is a good sign. What isn’t so nice is the throbbing headaches I gain from these coughing fits, as the blood vessels swell to bursting point inside the layers of my brain, growing with pressure with each cough; but then, no pain no gain!

Due to my exhaustion, Laura left for school before I had woken and so decided to wait for me to open our Christmas calendars. Her calendar remained untouched in loyalty so we could open them together tonight – what a diamond she is.

Two weeks have passed now since I wrote anything in the way of fiction. My PC is fixed and the events of late put to bed for now at least and I feel I should be moving forward again. Part of me is worried I have left it too long so I know it will be tough to get back into Jackie’s world, but I will. Christmas is fogging things and getting in the way, but I must try. I really must.

And so I forced out my laptop and opened up the last issue of Hunting Jack that came from my mind. Oh dear – I am so rusty I knew it would take more than a can of WD-40 to get my wheels oiled and running smooth again. So I pulled out the last issues few and started reading to try and catch up with the story and the mood.

Then I got caught in a film Gail was watching; Armageddon with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler. And that was me – distracted to the point of no return. I blame it on Liv; I just can’t look at her without thinking of her with those Elv-like ears.
Colin 11:45 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, December 19, 2004

No Rest For The Wellmeaning

I have no idea when Gail got in last night, but at 7am I was up and playing with Laura again – more Daddy-Daughter time! I am so tired from the coughing and lack of sleep it is causing, I just want to get a hack-saw, cut open my rib cage and pull out my lungs.

I had to get Laura ready for her Gran collecting her to go and see Santa at a nearby event in Leith, and when she left I tagged a lift to the newsagent, reluctant to expose my lungs to the ice in the air. It was a beautiful day though; clear blue skies with a frost on the branches of the trees.

I bought a couple of newspapers and some bacon and rolls for Gail – the plan was to make her breakfast when she got up – and some other essentials then headed back to the house.

I disposed of the rat’s carcass fro the front garden; discovered by Laura earlier and dumped most likely by the neighbour’s cat, by bagging it and putting it in the bins. It was disgusting with it’s head severed but more or less still intact, all 10 inches of it’s manky body was frozen onto the paving and so I had to scrape it off. Enough already.

With the place more or less empty I should have written, but I didn’t. I used the papers and the fact the laptop was in the bedroom as reasons for not getting any work done, and instead put on a Frasier DVD and rested with a cup of hot Blue Mountain.

Gail eventually rose at 3pm and so breakfast was long gone. I made her a mid-afternoon snack instead of tea and bacon rolls. She commented how grim it looked outside – I reminded her that it was technically referred to as the sun setting for the day.

Gran returned with Laura and stayed for a coffee and I could feel the tiredness really taking hold of me now. I received no sympathy from anyone over my chest which is they I suppose when surrounded by all these women. I commented to Carol (my MIL and an NHS nurse) that were I to fall seriously ill, I would hope for better service from the NHS nurses than I got from her! All I wanted to do was sleep but still had dinner to make – chicken Korma, which I added extra garlic to.

On checking my e-mail before an early bed, I saw two of my friends have used the Christmas Gift Certificate I sent them for a free month of HJ, taking my tally to 7. The subscriber I lost has renewed and so if I can keep the 3 new ones from the certificate I have a good base to build on. It’s easy to lose them though – I should be grateful I have one! I also had confirmation that my HJ Competition is available on the KIC website. To win a FREE MONTH SUBSCRIPTION, simply answer 10 easy questions about Scotland.

Click on the link below for the questions (all easily Googleable!)

Hunting Jack Contest
Colin 1:09 pm | 1 comments |

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Daddy-Daughter Day

Despite my Chrimbo night out, it was me who rose early with Laura at about 7’ish. It was in no way an attempt to gain Brownie points (though it may have helped), but rather just a need to be with Laura – watch cartoons – open our festive calendars - play with toys and just be having some fun as we await the arrival of Santa. Laura said it was good to have some Daddy-Daughter time together – sometimes she is so grown up.

Most of the day in fact was geared up with us being together and having fun. With Gail out and about getting ready for her own works night out (Murrayfield stadium, 3-course meal, live entertainment, stretch limousine’s to get them there), it was clearly much posher than anything I could have hoped for.

So me and Laura got wrapped up and popped into town to breathe in the icy air and get some goodies from the shops. We bought pizza-making ingredients, some Busted-related reading material and some stuff for my chest, then counted Christmas trees as we walked home.

Back at the house we organised the presents that have gathered so far under the tree and gave the place a bit of a tidy. Once Gail left we watched Alice in Wonderland and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol while making and eating our pizza’s.

It was a great day.

With Laura tucked up in bed I boiled up some water and dropped some Eucalyptus oil into it, held my head over it to try and unblock my hardening capillaries. The oil-filled steam was quick to burn through into my lungs and I started to bring up some phlegm which, will disgusting, was better than the dry coughs experienced for most of the day up till then.

My pal Devon sent me a recipe for making a hot toddy, one I had not seen before, so I gave it a try; malt whisky, tea, lemon, honey and cinnamon in a large glass. I couldn’t drink it I am sorry to say, so I remade it without the cinnamon – much nicer, and I could feel the warmth spreading into my chest.

To complete the trilogy of chest-fixing attempts, I rubbed some Vaporub into my chest before hitting the sack, exhausted.

Colin 11:52 pm | 1 comments |

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Office Party

Goddamn cough is getting worse! Even Laura’s is returning a bit as she started to cough slightly again this morning. She thinks we keep sharing each other’s germs since we cough near each other and are destined to be forever coughing back and forward between us.

Gail had the day off and so after we dropped Laura off at school – and I embarrassed her by giving her a big kiss at the school gate – I got a lift to work. Edinburgh drivers really are terribly selfish on the roads and I’m glad I don’t drive at times.

I’m feeling guilty about not having written anything for about 12 days now. Apart from my Blog and a couple of freelance writing jobs that is, there has been no work on any fiction of any kind.

Strangely though, Jackie has been quiet in my mind. It’s almost as if he knew I would have been unable to accommodate him in my life with everything else that has been happening recently, and as such, took a step back and kept the pressure off for as long as possible.

He is about to make a big move in his own life – a move to Edinburgh brought on by a major discovery in the background to his family – and I think this short break in writing, while caused by the importance of other events, has been welcome because I would have been unable to put all my emotions and energy into this period of Jackie’s life which it truly deserves.

I have been thinking about him however. When my contract runs out at KIC it will coincide with the end of Hunting Jack as a novel. That is what will be pitched to agents as a full manuscript (after edits naturally). However, I think I may keep the contract going as a story – expand on it, take him to other places and meet new people. We shall see as much of this depends on time and there are other things I want to work on too.

My team at work had our Christmas lunch today. It was pleasant enough, not as raucous as I am used to (or would have liked) and the food was ok. We went to The Basement in Broughton Street and were miffed to discover a double-booking error had been made. I immediately pounced on this poor purveyance and pronounced to the proprietor that a bottle of red wine would be suitable compensation. He could do nothing but agree from under my glassy stare.

Later, we moved on to the Cask and Barrel – same street, different ambience – and had more drinks. Half of the team drifted away by 7 pm – a mixture of marital promises and age preventing them from having fun, so a couple of us headed up to the Opal Lounge, were we stayed for several more hours, gate-crashing a 30th birthday party (friend of a friend) and generally celebrating not just Christmas, but the fact I had not been turned away at the door for not being trendy enough.
Colin 11:01 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Constant Coughing Complication

I’m still coughing and it wasn’t until my morning coffee before the cack loosened in the back of my throat and chest. Most uncomfortable indeed, and all I needed to do was stay away from smoky pubs and alcohol until Friday, that way maximising the chance that the cough would disappear by then.

So why did I end up in ‘my office’ at Clark’s Bar by quarter past twelve with Dave and Co.? Who knows, but it turned a wet and dreary Edinburgh afternoon into a pleasant pre-Christmas warm-up.

The afternoon dragged in as a result and the office was stiflingly hot. As I started to receive text messages from Rick’s Bar in the town from Dave willing me to join him, I began to wonder if I hade made the correct decision in coming back to the office for the day at all!

Alas, Gail had an appointment with her Dad for a meal and a visit to the Playhouse to see Mamma Mia (the Abba musical) so I had my orders for the night – no playing till tomorrow!

Gracefully, she collected me from work at 5pm and escorted me home, but I am sure this was to make sure I didn’t nip out for a quickie before coming home, thus giving hope to the chance I could be late, rather than doing me a favour.

I pumped vitamins, cough medicine and took another bath to try and loosen my chest and take it on the road to recovery, but nothing seems to be working. It feels like a deep-rooted cough – not an infection – but more annoying than anything else. To compound the problem, the constant hacking from the inners of my lungs is giving me pounding headaches making me want to sleep until the whole thing goes away.

An early night was called for, but I couldn’t sleep. I tried to envisage myself in the bar where I saw Gwynneth Paltrow the other night to see if we could start something off, but it was invite only and the bouncers wouldn’t let me in. Swines.
Colin 9:51 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Trying To Shake The Blues

I had a bath last night – not the norm for me – and just lay in the hot water with a book. I’m back onto John King again, allowing his attention to detail, to transport me to the footsteps of the Himalayas and a prison house called the Seven Towers. Ironic? You tell me.

The bath seemed to help relieve the pressure in my head and loosen my chest. I shaved my head and face while I was at it and went to bed feeling reborn but still with my chest blocked.

This morning, the chokiness remained and I had another dentist appointment, which I really could not be arsed with. Gail toyed with the day off as she is a day behind me in this flu thing, but because she is still on her initial probation period at her new job if she misses a day she doesn’t get paid. So she left with her nose running and her eyes blotchy the poor thing.

Mr. Dentist gave me a harder time this week, not only giving me a filling on the other side of my mouth – my first for nearly 15 years – but he took to giving my lower-front teeth a go with his ultra-sound thingummyjig. This removed some staining and then he used a scraper to poke between my incisors, which was most uncomfortable. I got the needle again and it resulted in the back of my throat, left cheek and lips going numb. It was after lunch before I could at least attempt a coffee.

I got notice from Wee Stoo (who’s birthday it was on Nov 28th and I forgot to mention it – better late then never mate!) having used one of the Christmas Gift Certificates from KIC to start a subscription with Hunting Jack. However, it looks like I have lost another subscriber which is not good. Currently, I have 3 subscribers to the 3rd period (issues 19-27) and 1 to the first (issues 1 to 9). So far I lost one subscriber after issue 9 and one after issue 18. I forgot all about the book sale at work which I printed off 200 leaflets for so I need to get my finger out and get that sorted. Also, I followed up on the magazine that got back to me regarding my press release and they want to do something early next year. As it is a student publication, it will need to be during the next semester.

I would have liked to get an early bed but my father-in-law demanded my presence at snooker so I obliged. I really shouldn’t use my feeling crappy as an excuse for getting humped 7-2, but I will. I just hope I can shake this sore chest and throat before Friday.
Colin 11:01 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Mind Suffers, And The Body Pays

I woke with my head pounding and my throat swollen after a night of little sleep and the flu crawling over me. Having already booked a half-day this afternoon for something that has since been cancelled, I decided that with my Christmas night out this Friday and of course snooker on Wednesday, it would be best to take the day off, stay out of the cold and well away from anything stressful. I think it is stress that has brought it on - a general feeling of being run-down emotionally and feeling empty in the face of some tough situations. I probably needed a day or two to get my mind and body back to a balanced state.

When I did get up I tried to tidy some of the house for Gail coming back while trying to rid myself of the aches with paracetamol and taking some Chinese medicine periodically. It's great stuff - introduced to me by my work mate Roger Fahy. A funny story about Roger actually; he once saw a story I was reading on my PC about a man called Roger Fey who was murdered. It's an e-serial on KIC called Tapestry (in the Mystery section written by Devon Ellington). Only when Roger saw it he misread it and thought it was about him. Now when I visualise Roger Fey when reading tapestry, it is Roger Fahy who I see in my mind.

I have not written for 9 days.

There are reasons, mostly symptomatic of some of the negativity surrounding me at the moment oppressing my creative will. Today is also a symptom I believe and once I shake off this flu bug and chestiness and get back in the Chrimbo spirit I will be able to start writing again. I shall eventually draw from some of the past couple of weeks experiences but right now it’s best left in a small box in the back of my head. I will have to open it again in a few months, but until then…
Colin 11:13 pm | 3 comments |

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Bar Of Dead Celebrities

Insomnia has returned with vengeance. Last night was a nightmare as I struggled to sleep lying with my eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling, the curtains, my hidden reflection in the wardrobe mirror. Each one of Laura’s coughs from her bedroom brought me more and more into a state of being fully awake, but when sleep finally did come, it lasted what seemed like the length of your average dream. But the dream I had was anything but average.

I was having a meal with Gail, my pal Dave and his wife Isla. We were all suited up in our glad rags in a beautiful and expensive Mediterranean style restaurant. Isla wasn’t as pregnant in the dream as she is at this moment in reality and was tucking heartily into the vino along with Gail, while Dave sucked on Olives and I puffed on a Montecristo No. 1.

It came time to leave and we decided to go to a bar for a drink. We walked through a very warm and humid city – British, but more like a holiday resort – maybe Torquay or somewhere who knows. Anyway, the point was we came to a hotel and as the rest went to get a seat in the bar, I ran and dived head-first into the hotel outdoor swimming pool; fully clothed and in the darkness of the evening light.

I pulled myself through the length of the pull not once coming up for air, feeling my body become immersed in the safety of the water, the outside world a million miles away. It was peaceful and it was soothing, but very soon I had to come up for air. When I climbed out the pool people were staring at me in disgust, then amazement when they say how dry I was; the water it seemed, had not been able to touch me.

I couldn’t find where the rest had gone so I walked into a bar I thought they might be. It was trendy with big glass windows, brightly lit in opaque and crystal decorations with what looked like diamonds hanging from the roof. A woman I recognised was at the near end of the glass-top bar, turning with the drink she had just ordered and our eyes met. It was Gwynneth Paltrow, though her hair was dyed black and much shorter in length, she still looked stunning. She smiled suggestively and I winked, then realised Chris Martin might be in the bar too so walked further on before queuing for a drink.

I ordered a pint of lager and as I waited for it to be poured I looked to either side. To my left, Bruce Forsyth and Natasha Kaplinski – to my left Noel Gallagher, Robbie Coltrane and Billy Connolly all laughing away. Maybe this is the Met Bar or some other celebrity hangout, I remembered thinking to myself.

I went through to the back of the bar to see if Gail, Dave and Isla were about but still could'nt see them. The décor changed as I advanced through the establishment; from sophisticated and modern to your typical drinking men’s club with smoky air, high raised windows over maroon leather surrounding seats, an old carpet and brass fittings to all the wooden facades. All around loads of famous faces seemed to be talking about the old days. In a booth chatting quietly to each other were Bob Monkhouse and Tommy Cooper – both much younger and slimmer, and both drinking malt whisky.

I made my introduction and joined them. Then it hit me.

“Hold on,” I said to Bob. “You died a few months ago!”

He smiled as if I had uncovered a big secret, stepped into his world not meant for mortal audiences.

“So are you!” I said to Tommy, realising I had watched him die, like millions of others on live TV in 1984. “What’s going on?” I asked and looked around the room.

There were tables dotted around the room with famous people - who were all dead - but here they were having a drink and smoking in their younger years. Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., John F Kennedy, John Peel, Freddy Mercury, Phil Silvers, Les Dawson, Larry Grayson and Bob Hope – they were all there.

It was all extremely weird but I adjusted to it quickly, feeling right at home in their friendly company. I decided I would probably never get this chance again and started a conversatrion.

Bob and I recalled how his joke book had been stolen and I told him how much he was missed doing his stand-up routines. He used to be able to charge £20k for an after-dinner speech and his quality meant people paid for it. He was surprised I knew this about him.

I spoke to Tommy about how as a child, and still as an adult watching the repeats, how he still has me in stitches with his genius magic acts and funny one-liners. I thought it best not to mention when he died live on stage in front of millions of TV viewers, and how at first some people thought it was part of the act, but I did tell him how amazed I was to learn he suffered from stage sickness, and would nearly always get himself so worked before he went on he would physically vomit.

Then Laura came into the room. It was 7am. The dream was gone.
Colin 11:28 pm | 2 comments |

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christmas Spirit

I spent most of the day with Laura. She has a cold and is coughing a lot, particularly at night so she isn’t sleeping too well. She’s her same old normal self – just when she gets herself excited over Christmas she coughs even more.

I got her wrapped up good and took her with me to pick our Christmas tree. There is a yard not far from us which sells them and we picked out a nice 6-footer, quite bushy but not too wide.

She always thinks it is hilarious when I lump it over my shoulder and carry it home; thinking of all the wee people in their houses looking out their windows and seeing a tree walking up the road.

When we got back I put on a Christmas CD and fixed the tree into its stand, managing to get it straight first time. Then the lights tested and went on so that all the decorations could go up. Laura loves it, and there was a battle to get her to stop putting things on the tree such was her enjoyment. She even wanted small porcelain ornaments to be balanced on the branches. The only thing left is chocolate decorations, which we will try and get some time this week.

I took a pic of the tree with Laura showing it off neatly with her left hand. The pic doesn’t do the tree justice actually (sic), because the long tinsel we have didn’t show up too well, and the lights all flash in random patterns – but you get the idea.

Click to enlarge

After the tree was done we eat some chocolate from a selection box I accidentally stumbled across – it was one of Gail’s, and she hadn’t declared it so in we all dived. Then we all gave our cards to each other; mine said, “From Daddy’s little girl” on the front – you can imagine how big the lump in my throat was.

I want this to be a great Christmas for her.
Colin 4:16 pm | 1 comments |

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Do Nothing

Each day I walk along this lonely street
Trying to find, find a future
New pair of shoes are on my feet
Cos' fashion is my only culture

Nothing ever change, oh no
Nothing ever change

People say to me just be yourself
It makes no sense to follow fashion
How could I be anybody else
I don't try, I've got no reason

Nothing ever change, oh no
Nothing ever change

I'm just living in a life without meaning
I walk and walk, do nothing
I'm just living in a life without feeling
I talk and talk, say nothing

Nothing ever change, oh no
Nothing ever change

I walk along this same old lonely street
Still trying to find, find a reason
Policeman comes and smacks me in the teeth
I don't complain, it's not my function

Nothing ever change, oh no
Nothing ever change

They're just living in a life without meaning
I walk and walk, do nothing
They're just playing in a life without thinking
They talk and talk, say nothing
I'm just living in a life without feeling
I walk and walk, I'm dreaming
I'm just living in a life without feeling
I talk and talk, say nothing
I'm just living in a life without meaning
I walk and walk, do nothing
Colin 8:44 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, December 10, 2004

Rude Boy Returns

At 6am I could not have been blamed for thinking today was going to be an ordinary Friday. I would go to work, then meet Dave for a couple of pints at about 12, then head up to a small club off Lothian Road to see a band play with a few mates. Nothing extraordinary - nothing too exciting. In actual fact, this day would go down in the history books as one never to be forgotten.

At work, I got through a full shift by lunchtime freeing up the rest of the day to my every whim. And so I joined Dave and Tom and a couple of others from his work for a couple of pints in Clark's. It was their team Christmas lunch and spirits were high and laughter loud as we sat in our usual place in the back room of the pub.

After returning to the office to make sure all was well I met up with a couple of other work mates and we went off to Hamilton's which was heaving with once a year drinkers clogging up the bar and cheering hysterically at anything anyone did with a party hat. Since it was renovated, Hamilton's has become a pretentious bar at times - I much prefer Clark's; always the same, totally reliable and you get a damn good pint.

So I left Hamilton's after my mate Rob from Fife called to say he was nearly into Edinburgh for the gig. And this was when the fun started. I jumped into a cab in Stockbridge to head to Lothian Road to find that my driver was an ex-Merchant Navy and ex-Bovver Boy. That is to say, he was (and still is) a big fan of 2-Tone, as he soon revealed when he burst into some enthusiastic singing and recalling the days when the Punks, Skins and Teddy gangs ruled the roost in urban Britain.

He dropped me off at Shakespeare's and I met up with Rob. The bar was ridiculously busy, and what was even worse was the only two bar staff they had on so me and Rob headed for another bar just down the road called The Office - which was even worse than Hamilton's. It was full of toffs quaffing champagne in their tuxedos and talking about how much they earned. So there we sat until Colin Ross showed up with his lad and had a few more drinks.

The time had come to make our way into the club for the gig and as we made our way up I felt my belly grumble. The others walked on as I stopped by a chuck-wagon for a quick hot dog. As I waited for the onions to fry I noticed a bright light behind me. I turned to see a camera man and a pretty interviewer from Scottish Television, stopping people as they came down Lothian Road. They had stopped this bloke dressed in checked flare trousers, a retro shirt and shaved/coloured hairstyle with long sideburns. They were talking to him about his plans for the night and what it was like to be in Edinburgh during Christmas, but even though I couldn't make out his replies, I was already thinking to myself how they should be covering the Neville Staple gig I was attending later on.

Once they finished with 'Winnie the Pooh', I approached and told them just as much.

"You should be covering the gig over there - Neville Staple from The Specials is playing - the ultimate Rude Boy!" I said.

The camera man knew who I meant. The young female interviewer turned her face in ignorance.

"Billy Sloan's covering it anyway," she said. "If you see him punch him for us will you?"

We laughed and I departed happy with my contribution to on-the-spot media freelancing for the night.

I joined the rest of the gang in the Citrus Club which was disppointingly quiet. The gig started with Concrete Jungle and moved through all the Specials classics like Rat Race, Enjoy Yourself, Gangsters, Too Hot and a 7 minute rendition of their number one hit, Ghost Town. Neville also covered a few of his own stuff, and despite the couple of fat topless skinheads down the front causing them to stop playing during A Message To You Rudi for their over-the-top enthusiasm, it was a great wee gig.

Some gig pictures. Click to enlarge

During the dancing of one of the numbers, I noticed a bloke alongside me with one of the infamous Dangermen t-shirts on. Only those lucky to have been at the secret Madness gigs in London back in May were able to get them and I spoke to him briefly about the gig, not immediately noticing his obvious Cockney accent.

After the gig I met Neville himself, shook hands and got his autograph. I told him it was people like his who keep it all going, and that if he stopped we'd all be f****d. Naturally, he agreed.

But that wasn't the brilliant thing to which I earlier referred to earlier.

While finishing off my last drink and discussing with Rob the merits of him giving me a lift home, Colin Ross came up to me and asked if this was the bloke he was standing with to which I had spoken during the gig - the guy wearing the Dangermen t-shirt. It was of course. He asked if I recognised him, and I looked at the man; slightly shorter than me, balding blond'ish hair and nobody I could think of that I knew.

"This is John Hasler," Colin said proudly.

I looked at him quicker and more closely at the man staring directly at me.

"Nah! Yer taking the piss!" said I in confidence.

The man pulled out his wallet and collected his bank and credit cards in his hand, fanned them out like a deck of cards and held them up before my face.

"John Hasler, Exp. 02/05" read the card I saw first.

I could not believe it! To say I was shocked as the reality sunk in was an understatement. He asked me my name and shook my hand when I wished him good health and told him was an absolute privelege to meet him.

For anyone who knows anything Madness, you will by now be sitting at your computer screen's as dumbfounded as I was that this legend was standing in a dingy wee club in Edinburgh in the middle of December at a gig with only about 100 people in attendance. I asked him why he was here - he just said 'for Neville'.

For anyone now sitting at their computers wondering what I'm talking about I shall endeavour to shed some light on this historic moment...

No doubt you will have heard of the Beatles, and of the fact there was a fifth Beatle - Stuart Sutcliffe. Well, if there is an eighth member of Madness - his name is John Hasler.

He was there when they started, and was involved with rehearsals when the band only consisted of three others: Mike Barson (piano), Chris Foreman (guitar) and Lee Thompson (sax). They played to stolen records in Mike's bedroom songs by Fats Domino and Smokey Robinson. John played drums for a bit and even had a hand in singing until he was chucked out because he couldn't sing. Then he became their manager, getting gigs in pubs in London as they built up to being a seven-piece band and the fame that eventually came their way. Madness even wrote a song about him which was also a hit - Bed and Breakfast Man.

Click to enlarge

They guy is a legend, and who would ever have thought I would meet him where I did.
Colin 11:53 pm | 1 comments |

Thursday, December 09, 2004

On This Particular Thursday...

My day went opposite to anything I could have planned. Work was tense, I was tense and the future clouded. I sound like a clairvoyant, but after an email from a good friend things did become clearer. Clearer as in the path to take and of the thoughts I should have. You know who you are; I am in your debt.

I haven’t written anything for two or three days. I’m not counting, but I am aware I have to grease the wheel and get moving again despite the change in my daily work routine. I’m getting through a pile of office work as a feeling of temporary enthusiasm washes over me. It won’t last; It's too near Christmas for that.

I watched a remarkable programme on these wee critters:

Click to enlarge

They are called Capuchin Monkeys and they are so cute and funny to watch, but they are also highly intelligent, using tools to enable food gathering and defence and co-operation and sharing between each other to get food.

I’ve not got much more to add except that I came across this picture today and I thought it was brilliant enough to share with the world. Think about where you are, and where your friends are, and maybe you will see their light shine.

Click to enlarge
Colin 10:58 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Day Of Close Shaves

When I looked at my pillow I knew it wasn’t going to be a great day. After last night’s close shave, some of the cuts on my head obviously had not closed off properly and turned my lovely white pillow into polka dot red. I turned it over so as to put Gail’s wrath off as long as possible.

They both arrived home after I fell asleep last night and when I got up Laura was watching cartoons in her brand new Busted t-shirt. She rattled off everything that happened at the concert in the space of 2.3 milliseconds and I pretended to hear it all.

With a dentist appointment at 9.45 I could relax into the day with a shower and hot coffee. I looked in the mirror as I was leaving the house and noticed three large pink scars on the top of my head, the exact size and feel that skin makes after a razor has sliced into it. I don’t know what I did last night but my scalp now looks like an overhead surveillance map of Afghanistan.

I made my way along to the dentist (it’s within walking distance) and was shown straight through to the room. Before I had even sat down the dentist had the needle ready to shove into my right upper gum.

“I didn’t know I was getting this done?” I said, somewhat alarmed.

“Oh yes Mr. Galbraith. Why – are you scared?” he said laughing and waving his needle at me.

I looked up at his young assistant from my horizontal position, and wanting to retain some amount of macho dignity I smiled uneasily.

“Course not – fire away.”

A jab, a drill and a compression later and I was back outside standing at the bus stop. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes which I was glad about as it could have been worse – I’ve SEEN it be worse.

I’m not scared of the dentist – just wary. There’s been so many scare-stories recently it’s hard not to pay attention to them. But credit where credit is due – this guy seems professional and clean. He just needs to work on his jokes a bit harder.

I got to work with half a face functioning and got down to some of the work handed over to me. As a result, today alone I saved them £25,000 by reviewing and amending the license procedure for one of the tools we support. See – I do good stuff – just don’t enjoy it as much as writing that’s all.

I have managed to get my PC at home working to an extent, by sheer luck more than anything else. After restoring a load of drivers it is semi-working but it still needs a reinstall. By the time I headed off for a game of snooker my face had returned to normal, which is just as well as I was worried about spilling my beverage down myself.
Colin 10:20 am | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Just When I thought I was Out, They Pull Me Back In

I was up and away by 7.30am this morning and into the dark calm that is Leith Links. With my stereo playing Stella on repeat and a hot coffee already in my belly, I arrived at work feeling pretty good.

I wrote Issue 38 of Hunting Jack and scribbled some longhand notes on the next few issues.

I stumbled across this interesting article:

Boca News Article (US)

Makes you wonder eh?

Gail took a half-day so she could drive through to Glasgow on time for the Busted concert with Laura and avoid the M8 rush-hour traffic. She said she was worried about the drive but I gave her good instructions to a nice parking area that will be easy to get back onto the motorway quick. I think I was more excited for Laura than she is – imagining her at her first ever concert. I only wish the gig had been in January then she could have had it for her Christmas. But I wanted her to go and I bought her a wee camera to get some pics to show me too.

I finally had it out with my boss – and his boss. In an honest and forthright meeting, he asked what I had been doing lately because it appeared not much.

“Nothing, because I am bored out my tits. You guys sit about talking about all this work and none of it arrives our way. We’ve been hung out to dry with no direction and now you have the balls to ask why I haven’t done anything!”

As a result of that statement I was handed a significant amount of work. Not any old work, but major, high profile work related to the company’s web and database infrastructure. Nice.

This means that my writing time at work is going to have to be managed more carefully. I will have to write early morning more, lunchtimes if I can find the time, and after work as normal.

Should I be happy or pissed off? Well I’m pissed off that it came to an argument with my bosses. Having to tell them direct they weren’t doing a good job probably hurt them, but at the end of the day I was the one suffering. I’m pissed off that I feel more distant to my writing career in one sudden swoop. But I’m happier because at least I now have a reason to come in here. I’ll take on the projects they handed me and deliver. But my long-term aims remain resolute – to leave this hole and write full-time.

I shaved my head after leaving the growth for too long and cut myself at the back and on the top when I shaved over a bump. It was a new razor and it stung like hell. I tried to write but couldn’t; thoughts of today’s meeting confusing my mind. I am going to have become more disciplined now that I am to work for my money.

Gail sent an MMS from the Busted concert. It made me well up seeing my wee girl at her first ever gig. Hopefully one day she’ll get to see Madness - now that would be something.

Colin 8:48 am | 1 comments |

Monday, December 06, 2004

I Don't Like Mondays

I can always tell when my hair gets too long. At about the 2mm stage it starts to get kind of itchy when I lie on my pillow and feels as if the short hairs are tickling my scalp. Last night as I lay dozing off, I had such a tickle on my head. I scratched it and it stopped. It tickled again, so I scratched and it stopped again.

Then the most horrendous thing happened. I felt the tickle MOVE from the back of my head to behind my ear. I catapulted like an Action Man figure on an elastic rope out of my bed and out of semi-consciousness, frantically flapping my hands around my head to get rid of the 8-legged beastie that had infringed my slumber. I don’t know where it landed, but it took me a good few minutes to get over the feeling that it was waiting for me to return to sleep before crawling onto me with the intent of sinking its fangs into my skin.

Work was awful. No words can really describe how tedious and parochial it all is. I almost look forward to receiving my P45 or P60 – which ever comes first. The bosses are cottoning on to the fact that most of us in here and struggling to even find pretend work. I spoke to one guy who said, “I’m just fed up trying to think of reasons why I should come in here. I mean, how many times can you use the excuse of your Granny dieing in one year?”

Which is true. Eventually they are going to realise that even with a reduced and slim-line workforce, it means nothing unless you have people who are motivated and want to be here. There is no support – they only talk about what will happen in the future. No plans, only empty promises.

Unfortunately for them it’s starting to wear thin because we’ve listened to the same old crap for months now while simultaneously reading in the papers about how great and forward-thinking we all are courtesy of the PR Department’s take on life. Bollocks! I’d love to get a 10-minute opportunity to tell a Board Meeting exactly what is going on at ground level but their heads are so far up their arses. They could save millions getting rid of the waste that is middle-management alone.

I walked home again. I actually quite look forward to it now because in the past I only did it when I couldn’t be bothered walking up the hill in the other direction for a bus. Now I enjoy the walk even though it takes me roughly an hour to get home and covers about 5 or 6 something miles. It must be doing me a bit of good; stretching the muscles and my brain too because it gives me time to think, and if I have it on me, listen to music.

I managed to get onto my home email after fixing bits of my PC. It is in a bad way – only showing 16-bit colours and unable to recognise certain settings. A full reinstall is definitely required so hopefully those disks will arrive tomorrow.

The 3 poems I submitted to Ultimate Hallucination were accepted for review. I’ll know by the end of December if they are in or not, but at least they weren’t rejected outright.

I still have one to submit – not sure where that is going yet though. I don’t like submitting poems singularly as most places I find prefer between 3 and 5 to get a taste of your style.

Issue 37 of Hunting Jack was redrafted and is now a go for submission.
Colin 11:23 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Easing Into The Christmas Spirit

When I got up the house was empty and for a minute, I contemplated a day of ttoal tranquillity. Not to be. It wass My Mother-In-Law’s 9.. *ahem* 6.. *ahem* - something significant over her 21st birthday today and so when Gail appeared back at the house to pick me up, I knew it was all over before the first sip of coffee even reached my lips.

We arrived at the house, but alas I smelt no fresh baking or bacon rolls drifting from the kitchen as is so often the case on a Sunday morning.

“Happy birthday auld yin!” I shouted as I bounded in the front door.

“Cheeky upstart!” replied my more-than-able-to-supply-equal-amounts-of-banter-Mother-In-Law.

“Do you like your present?” I asked.

“Lovely thank you – but I’ll never figure out how to use it,” she laughed.

We gave her a mobile phone you see. One you can top up but will never expire; for emergencies mostly. A couple of months ago she broke down late at night going to her work (she’s a nurse) and couldn’t contact anyone; hence the mobile.

“You’ll need to give me your new mobile number so we can send texts to each other,” I said enthusiastically.

“That’ll be bloody right. I get enough of you as it is.”

After a nice cup of tea and some biccies we headed up to town. My work has an annual Christmas party for 5 to 7 year olds and even though I hate the Company, they do a good thing for the kids. So we dropped Laura off and went round the shops to get the rest of our presents.

We came across a French market in Castle Street. There was laods of clothes, leather products and of course - delicacies. Even the market sellers were over from France for the market so I'm hopingh they do it again. The smell around the tents was awesome and we tried some of the smoked pork, fresh fruit and nuts. It was delicious and only served to make us hungry. It was a great atmosphere especially as it stood in the shadows of the Castle – so I took a pic…

Click to enlarge

With Laura being at the party for two and a half hours though, and us realising that we have got her enough for thte 25th, we went for a pub lunch. Regular readers will recognise the place we went from the other day - the Hogshead on Rose Street. A chicken wrap and a couple of pints later and it was time to pick up Laura. I’m sure Santa’s helpers could smell my breath – bet they were jealous!

By the time we got home it was late. One of Gail’s pals had her birthday today so she went round for a visit and I put Laura to bed. With my PC being out of action and tiredness creeping in, I stuck on a DVD. One of the presents we got Laura is the DVD of The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, so I sat and watched it, remembering Aslan and the White Witch from when it was first aired on TV some 16 years ago. It brought back some good Christmassy memories; can’t wait for the 25th now!
Colin 11:21 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Saturday Bliss (Almost)

Another freezing 6am start but after a long hot shower I felt fine. I wrote down some notes and things I wanted to remember to get up town later on in the morning but it wasn't long beofre Laura joined me. We watched some cartoons and had some breakfast then headed off. I got her to dancing early and left her to it. The sound of several dozen lassies with tap shoes being tested out in the corridors of the Community Centre does nothing short of bring on a headache. I'm glad I don't teach kids to dance!

Princes Street was mobbed and it was only just after 10 am when I got there. The big wheel is all set up and there is a small Christmas market built in to Princes Street gardens. All the kids are getting excited as they hold on tight to their parents' hands, dragging them into toy and sweet shops. But the parents have other ideas and the kids are force to walk the length of BHS and Marks and Spencer's. I remember those days myself only too well - it's no wonder I hate shopping now. I like to list my 'wants' in advance, then plan the shops in the right order according to the list so I can get there quick - in and out - job done.

My first stop was in Ticket Scotland for a brief to see Neville Staple (ex-Specials) play at the Citrus Club next Friday night. It should be a good thumping Ska night to which a few of us will be going. Then into HMV and Virgin before Waterstones where I picked up a copy of the Itchy Edinburgh guide to whom I applied for a freelance review job yesterday. I browsed some other books but nothing took my fancy; my 'to do' list of book sat home is immense just now anyway. I nipped into Greggs on my way back to get Laura and got back home in time for lunch.

I had a plan for the day: do a shed load of writing and plough through the stack of papers and magazines on my desk. Most of it will go out but I like to keep cutouts for ideas for stories or characters in my folders.

I was diverted from the plan when I deleted a chunk of the operating system on my PC. Frantic calls to my future brother in law, Nolon, resulted in a rescue package being sent out from Perth - my original install disk plus a new copy of Windows XP Pro. Nice one mate! But I'll have to wait until Tuesday earliest before I can get it back up and running.

As a writer of course this has an impact. Obviously I can still write; there's shorthand and my laptop. But without the internet, the business end grinds to a halt. Thankfully I can still get to my Blog from work but I can't get to any email or my personal web server.

Gail made a roast dinner and we all sat down in front of the fire and watched Saturday night TV. Well - I had things to do - I certainly wasn't watching The X-Factor (Pop Idol spin off - but worse). Other than that - it was bliss!
Colin 3:27 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, December 03, 2004

A New Character And A Pile Of Work

Incredibly, I was up and dressed before Gail. I even left the house before she had showered. Normally I will stay in bed so as not to get in the way of the females in the house as they race around getting dressed, doing make-up, looking for reading books or car keys – it’s just safer.

With the darkness lasting longer in the mornings though, for some reason I am the opposite to most of the other Scots who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - which is a crock of shit by the way – it’s just called laziness. I like the dark mornings – they make me want to get up and get out, feel the coldness, the freshness and city as it still sleeps in its SAD slumber.

Not only this, but I am more productive early morning. My brain seem sot be more alive and able to construct ideas and coherent words come more easily.

I saw a girl on the bus and she will make a great character in a story. Not that I'm a weirdo but she just stood out as someone with mountains of personality. She sat opposite me doing her make-up as the bus groaned and bumped its way up Leith Walk, yet she never slipped or smudged. She wasn’t a "yuppie" type, she looked like an art student or a grunge shop assistant at first sight with her long khaki green coat on and pink plastic earrings, her blonde hair tied back in a rush and an adventure bag holding all her bits and bobs. As I watched her paint though, I noticed she wore smart black trousers and shiny-heeled shoes underneath – does she work in an office? Quite possibly going by this new evidence. She looked like a Louise, and about 20 years old. She was probably out partying last night hence the baggy eyes disappearing with the expert brushes from her hand with nails painted pick. Her blue eyes pierced a friendly jab at anyone who caught her eye. She probably hates her job, but enjoys her evenings and weekends so much it doesn’t bother her – yet.

I got through a load of writing work today - mostly plans and notes for some short stories, Hunting Jack (the next phase) and I applied for two freelance writing jobs - one reviewing pubs and restaurants in Edinburgh - the other for a tourist company covering Edinburgh and Glasgow. The applications took a while to do but I oozed with brainstorming creativity today and made the most of it.

On my way home I spotted a free magazine in the supermarket as I stocked up on some vitals. It's called The Leither, and is a local general interest mag. I grabbed a copy and will send them some information on my story - probably offer a free subscription to my story and try and get an interview. Unlike most freebie/local rags it is actually very well put together and already covers some local arts - including a publishing company I knew nothing about.

When I got in from work I got caught up on a whole load of email and correspondence from the world's Madness fans and made some website updates. I was involved with some correspondence with my editor at KIC discussing the logo's to the website columns I have written, the radio show and the live chat forum for customers. Alas, it doesn't look like I can do the radio interview, as I would have to call California, though if there is a way round this I will find it. To top it all off, customer P4 renewed their subscription to HJ - ya wee beauty!

*PHEW* It's been a bust day. I'm off to bed!
Colin 11:14 pm | 1 comments |

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A Life Changing Moment

Four years ago today my life changed forever. I left my flat in Glasgow and boarded the train to Edinburgh. It was freezing cold but I had a fire in my belly and a warm glow like the boy in the Ready Brek advert (if you aren’t British or over 30 you won’t get that).

It was a Saturday, and I was going to meet the girl in my office who I had been chasing for the past three months. She finally agreed to award me with an afternoon of her time after watching me make a spectacle of myself over e-mail, phone and at work nights out.

I arrived early and made my way to the top of the steps outside Waverly station. It was even colder than in Glasgow and a film of ice covered the pavements. The waiting made me nervous so I went for a walk back through the station and round onto the bridge. When I returned dead on 2pm, I saw her there, waiting.

Wearing her long black coat with furry collar, jeans and black boots, she looked sophisticated yet down to earth. She saw me approach and smiled. I wanted to kiss her, hold back her dark hair and tell her, “You might be the one.”

We went for a coffee then browsed some records in a store. I started to struggle for ideas what to do next, for Edinburgh was still new to me and I new nowhere. She suggested a drink; I agreed, knowing I needed something to relax me. It wasn’t like me to be nervous around a woman, but I needed something to loosen the patter which with I thought I could impress her.

The Hogshead Bar in Rose Street was our port of call - £1.80 for a single measure spirit, or an extra 40p for a double. We talked, laughed, debated and drank those doubles.

I proposed 1 year and 23 days later.

Quick question while I change subject: what makes people think it is okay to click their fingers, alternating the clicks on each hand, while they stand behind you as you try do your job?

Jackie McCann has retuned from his short hiatus and is back in action. I re-wrote issue 37 during the afternoon after deciding where the story is to move to next if I am to get him through to Edinburgh. It is a crucial part of the plot and the scene had to be right. I needed tension, emotion, and claustrophobia with a sudden release of expectation, and I have been struggling to find a suitable location for his meeting with another character to take place. Where would be best? I asked myself a million times. Then is hit me - who says it has to be on the streets of Glasgow - why not under? The Glasgow Underground gave me my answer.

I walked home with the soundtrack of Yello’s Stella album in my ears, plotting how I am going to write the story, acting it out in my head. It’s turning into a Gothic play in 8 short scenes over 2 acts. And every time I listen to it, more ideas are forthcoming.

When I got home I asked Laura what she was doing next Tuesday.

“Nothing,” she said.

“No Brownies, swimming or anything?”


“Well how do you fancy going to see Busted in concert with your Mum? I got 2 tickets for you today – centre front.”

Her wee face lit up like a Christmas tree. It will be her first concert but I’m not sad I won’t be there to see it, Busted aren’t my thing. Besides, at the price of them it would have been a ton for us all to go. Seeing her happy like that is enough for me anyway.

I was too tired to do anything – even cook dinner - and I hit the sack at 10pm after falling asleep on the couch. I set the alarm for 6am; get some early darkness of the City of Edinburgh in my system and use it to inspire more for my evolving Stella-related story.
Colin 9:24 pm | 4 comments |

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Young Boy Is Always There

I woke to find Edinburgh enshrouded in a cloak of fog. Funny how the weather mirror’s the feeling in my brain some days.

Laura has been really excited about today for weeks, ever since we got our advent calendars in for the big countdown. I may be 31 but you’re never too old for Christmas I say. She has a Shrek 2 one, and I have The Simpsons (again). We always open them together before school and work.

At 7am precisely she came charging through to the room but Gail told her to get sorted for school first before opening anything. I’ve never seen her get her school uniform on so fast. Then it was time for the ceremony, and the finding of door number one.

I love the build up to Christmas; the promise of family fun, food, drink and preparing for a new year. The best bit is wishing for a White Christmas, and when I was young that also included Santa. My family had our own traditions that developed over the years, and when I left home these still continued. We would always wait till we were together before giving out presents, the meal on Christmas Day etc.

Now I am suddenly the only male in the house, and I am an adult. Things have changed, though I am still the same exciteable boy that always got sent out of the room by his Mum for "going over the top" - except now I am 31, and the reasons are different - but the effect remains the same.

I get excited because I watch Laura getting excited and seeing the Christmas spirit that I once felt absorb her. We open our calendar together and decide what to buy Mummy for Christmas. But now I also get to wrap her presents and put them out on Christmas Eve, then drink the vino she left for old Santa. This year, Santa has a hankering for a mince pie anda malt whisky - Heaven knows how he does it.

I had work to do in the office today – no really, please don’t laugh – so wasn’t able to get much done on my writing. I have a poem boiling away in my head that I scribbled last night after I got back in late and was hoping to get that done. The notes themselves are quite 'open to interpretation' so it will be interesting to see wht form the poem takes.

The major thing was getting my first issue sent in for the Website Development column for KIC Magazine. I’ve planned out a good few issues ahead now so I’m hoping this magazine really takes off. It will allow me to grow and help push my name forward as reliable and accurate.

This is my first foray into real article writing. I used to review gigs and shows but not seriously. Now I have been lucky enough to get involved with KIC, I am determined to take the bull by the horns and make it work. It's all a step in the right direction.

Oh - nearly forgot I am still updating my Goals, Dreams and Resolutions (GDR) List for 2005. This is a map a few of us in my writing group are working on and I am going to use it throughout next year. I am including personal and professional points in it and will reveal it in a month's time.
Colin 11:20 pm | 0 comments |