Thursday, 26 February 2009

Peace and Love Among Parly Staff

Despite the 'yah boo sucks to you' image that is shown on TV, the Parliament can be quite an affable and good natured place to work.

Today, MSP Dr Bill Wilson's Office Manager circulated the humorously well written e-mail below, which I thought (with Eric's permission) I would share:

Dear Researchers (of all parties and none)

Stefan Buettner (Chris Harvie's researcher) is off to Germany today, having accidentally purchased a Lothian bus pass for the day (only used once, excellent running order, full service history :-) ).

He no longer needs this and, as a gesture of international and cross-party friendship (not forgetting the independents), has asked me to advertise its availability. I am holding it in M5.09.

First come, first served. Please pass the favour on in some way. Perhaps it could snowball and we could end up saving the world! Peace, love and pronoia all round. ("Pronoia" is your word for the day.)

Warm regards


Saving the world might be a tad ambitious of course, and one G. Brown has already taken the credit for that anyway, but it was a very nice gesture.

It transpired shortly afterwards that the only spanner in the works was the fact that it is against Lothian Buses policy to allow a day pass to be given to someone else. But in the grand scheme of things, as Eric later said, the pass may have gone to someone who does not usually avail themselves of Lothian Buses services, and they may well be so impressed by the experience that they might become regular users.

If you (like me) had never encountered the word 'pronoia' before, then I would direct you to Eric's very interesting blog which you can find here.

Right, after all that, I'm off to Forfar now for my Cooncil Committee meeting, which may or may not be quite so equitable.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Some (alleged) Quiz Show Answers

Jamie Theakston: Where do you think Cambridge University is?
Contestant: Geography isn't my strong point.
Theakston: There's a clue in the title.
Contestant: Leicester.

Stewart White: Who had a worldwide hit with What A Wonderful World? Contestant: I don't know.
White: I'll give you some clues: what do you call the part between your hand and your elbow?Contestant : Arm.
White: Correct. And if you're not weak, you're...?
Contestant: Strong.
White: Correct - and what was Lord Mountbatten's first name?
Contestant: Louis.
White: Well, there we are then. So who had a worldwide hit with the song What A Wonderful World?
Contestant: Frank Sinatra?

Jeremy Paxman: What is another name for 'cherrypickers' and 'cheesemongers'?
Contestant: Homosexuals.
Paxman: No. They're regiments in the British Army who will be very upset with you.

Alex Trelinski: What is the capital of Italy?
Contestant: France.
Trelinski: France is another country. Try again.
Contestant: Oh, um, Benidorm.
Trelinski: Wrong, sorry, let's try another question. In which country is the Parthenon? Contestant: Sorry, I don't know.
Trelinski: Just guess a country then.
Contestant: Paris.

Anne Robinson: - Oscar Wilde, Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Archer have all written books about their experiences in what: - Prison, orthe Conservative Party?
Contestant: The Conservative Party.


DJ Mark: For £10, what is the nationality of the Pope?
Ruth from Rowley Regis: I think I know that one. Is it Jewish?

Bamber Gascoigne: What was Gandhi's first name?
Contestant: Goosey?

GWR FM (Bristol)
Presenter: What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
Contestant : I don't know, I wasn't watching it then.

Presenter: What is the name of the long- running TV comedy show about pensioners: Last Of The...?
Caller: Mohicans.

Phil: What's 11 squared?
Contestant: I don't know.
Phil: I'll give you a clue. It's two ones with a two in the middle.
Contestant: Is it five?

Q: Which American actor is married to Nicole Kidman?
A: Forrest Gump.

Leslie: On which street did Sherlock Holmes live?
Contestant: Er. . .
Leslie: He makes bread . . .
Contestant: Er . ... Leslie: He makes cakes . . .
Contestant: Kipling Street?

Presenter: Which is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?
Contestant: Barcelona.
Presenter: I was really after the name of a country.
Contestant: I'm sorry, I don't know the names of any countries in Spain.

Question: What is the world's largest continent?
Contestant: The Pacific

Presenter: Name a film starring Bob Hoskins that is also the name of a famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
Contestant: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Steve Le Fevre: What was signed, to bring World War I to an end in 1918?
Contestant: Magna Carta?

O'Brien: How many kings of England have been called Henry?
Contestant: Er, well, I know there was a Henry the Eighth ... ER...ER ... Three?

Searle: In which European country is Mount Etna?
Caller: Japan.
Searle : I did say which European country, so in case you didn't hear that, I can let you try again. Caller: Er ....Mexico?

Paul Wappat: How long did the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel last?
Contestant (after long pause): Fourteen days.

Daryl Denham: In which country would you spend shekels?
Contestant: Holland?
Denham: Try the next letter of the alphabet.
Contestant: Iceland? Ireland?
Denham (helpfully): It's a bad line. Did you say Israel?
Contestant: No.

Wood: What 'K' could be described as the Islamic Bible?
Contestant: Er. .. .
Wood: It's got two syllables . . . Kor . . .
Contestant: Blimey?
Wood: Ha ha ha ha, no. The past participle of run . . .
Contestant: (Silence)Wood: OK, try it another way. Today I run, yesterday I . . .
Contestant: Walked?

Melanie Sykes: What is the name given to the condition where the sufferer can fall asleep at any time?
Contestant: Nostalgia.

Presenter: What religion was Guy Fawkes?
Contestant: Jewish.
Presenter: That's close enough.

Wright: Johnny Weissmuller died on this day. Which jungle-swinging character clad only in a loin cloth did he play?
Contestant: Jesus

Goldie's Letter to Salmond

Dear First Minister,

Can I remind you that when you are abroad, you represent Scotland as the First Minister of a devolved parliament, not as the leader of a minority party.

In giving a lecture in Georgetown on independence you have once again abused your position as First Minister. There is no majority for independence in Scotland. Indeed, opinion polls consistently show that separation from the rest of the United Kingdom is a minority aspiration.

As First Minister you speak for all of Scotland, not merely as the leader of one of Scotland's minority parties and it would be a gross distortion for you to imply otherwise.

Yours sincerely,
Annabel M Goldie MSP

Monday, 23 February 2009

Immigration Curbs

Under fire Home Secretary Jaqui Smith, a woman who looks so similar to an ex of mine that I find it disconcerting, is proposing to stop 'tens of thousands' of 'highly skilled' immigrants from outside the EU from coming to work in the UK.

This strikes me as something of a populist reaction to the concerns of UK workers who were facing redundancy recently when a foreign company won a contract in the UK and promptly shipped (literally) a workforce in from abroad. The UK workers rightly threw Gordon Browns statement of "British jobs for British workers" back in his face.

The irony is of course that in this instance, the foreign workers were from inside the EU and not from the outside, so her protectionist measures would have achieved nothing whatsoever.

The whole thing strikes me as a tad frothy given the global recession, and I wonder just how many people outside of the EU were actually planning to come here to work over the next year or two. I know two highly skilled Australians that have recently returned home because the pay and conditions were far better there than here.

No doubt immigration will fall because of the financial climate and Westminster will attribute this to their shiny new policy.

The only mention of EU immigration (ie the type of immigration that caused such an adverse reaction to the workers down south) comes here:

"The Government also plans to change the laws regarding the deportation of EU citizens convicted of sexual, violent and drugs crimes. At the moment EU citizens can only be deported if they are given a jail sentence of two years or more. Ms Smith said that she intended to reduce this to 12 months."

I'm not sure what it takes to get a 12 month sentence these days never mind two years, but I suspect it would have to painfully serious, especially here in Scotland where Kenny MacAskill's abhorence of jailing criminals means that it is unlikely many will fall into that category.

All in all, I suspect that this proposal is more spin than substance, but time will tell.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Edinburgh Permit Charges

I see the lentil bake loving Greens have introduced higher parking permit charges for 'gas guzzlers'.

On one hand I can see the point. I'm always amazed at the amount of shiny new 'Chelsea Tractors' that are driven in Edinburgh. Trying to get to work in the morning can be like driving through the set of Stepford Wives when you go past a school. The irony is of course that most of the city dwelling 4x4 owners have never driven a vehicle off road before in their lives and a wee bit mud on their expensive wagons would induce a fit of the vapours in them.

There's no question that these things produce more pollution than smaller vehicles, but that said, what about those on low incomes with old cars with large engines that they can't afford to replace? This is especially pertinant in times like these and I'd hate to think that anyone who is struggling financially already might be hit with higher charges by the 'holier than thou' eco warriors.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Harris for the Turner Prize!

Labour MP Tom Harris has suggested that people nominate his blog as a contender for the Turner Prize.

For those of you who are blissfully unaware of what the Turner Prize is, their website describes it as:

"The Turner Prize is a contemporary art award that was set up in 1984 to celebrate new developments in contemporary art.
The prize is awarded each year to 'a British artist under fifty for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation of their work in the twelve months preceding'."

Personally, I would describe it as a collective of Guardian reading, Tofu loving pseuds who indulge themselves in an 'emperors new clothes' type of artistic bunfight every twelve months, and award a sickening amount of money to some arty type who cobbled together an 'installation' out of a couple of bricks and a coathanger. If you don't get their thinking, then you simply don't understand art dahhling.

Yup, it really is the art equivalent of a train wreck. There have been some utterly crap winners and nominees for this over the years. Look some of them up for yourself and you'll see what I mean, unless of course you are fully supportive of this type of thing, in which case you may have just spluttered some organic yoghurt over your monitor in synthetic outrage (dislodging your designer specs, which you don't really need at the same time) at the opinions I expressed above.

Anyhoo, I digress. Tom thinks it would strike a blow for us ordinary types if as many people as possible nominated his blog for the prize. I fully agree with him and am happy to support his nomination. You can find his blog post on the subject here.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

25 Random Facts

Fox in Detox tagged me to post up 25 random facts about myself. Quite a lot of bloggers have been tagged with this and there's some good ones out there. Here goes:

1) The first vehicle I was licensed to drive on the road was a 60 ton Chieftan tank. I found it difficult to learn how to drive a car after this.

2) I was a guard on the Berlin Wall for a time. Three of us got into some bother for climbing it and sitting on top for a photo at the Brandenburg Gate.

3) After school I used to work in a fish factory every night. I never eat fish.

4) I love pets. My German Shepherd died 10 years ago and I still miss him.

5) I was a marksman in the army, but have not handled a firearm since I left the forces.

6) I played rugby for my school and regiment as a loose head prop. The same position as my Dad played even though he is a lot smaller than me.

7) I love art, but no-one believes me when I tell them this.

8) I enjoy martial arts and hold black belts in kickboxing and karate. I'm a qualified blade arts instructor and former assistant Judo coach. I have broken several toes and fractured most of my ribs down one side doing this.

9) I have a large collection of historical weaponry and armour.

10) I wanted to learn jousting and had not fallen off a horse in a year until I took former fiance. Ten minutes after she arrived I fell off a very large horse. It was a tad sore.

11) I practice archery with an English longbow. It took almost a year of practice before I could draw it properly.

12) My sense of humour is very dry and has got me into trouble several times.

13) I can be very cynical at times. Actually, quite a lot of the time.

14) Japanese history and culture fascinates me.

15) I loathed primary school and did not get on with the teachers. (I could expand on this, but wont)

16) I hate cruelty to animals and sponsor a dog from a national charity.

17) I worked on oil rigs for several years. Hard work but enjoyable.

18) I get bored easily and fidget a lot.

19) I love old films.

20) I rarely watch tv except for documentaries and current affairs type stuff. I hate game/quiz/chat/magazine/car shows.

21) I enjoy reading. I prefer horror and factual stuff

22) I spend most of time working and put in hours every evening and weekend.

23) I never forgive and forget.

24) I'm 42 next month.

25) I love visiting old churches, abbeys and castles. How they were built and how the stones were cut fascinates me.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


And so the spectre of a Local Income Tax has gone. Even when unions, business leaders and many others reacted with nothing short of horror at the thought of its introduction, the SNP carried on with it regardless. Until now.

John Swinney, realising the policy was about as popular as a fart in a spacesuit has announced today that it has been ditched until after the next election.

The SNP had to be forced to honour their pledge of 1000 extra cops, the promise to wipe out student debt was a lie, the undertaking on class sizes is in chaos and now LIT has sunk without trace.

Surely there must come a time when the only people the SNP big guns are fooling will be themselves.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

There's No Place Like Rome.......

So the budget was finally passed (bit late with this I know). The Greens, as I predicted were put back in their box having ended up with less than half of what they originally had in their hand. Labour, voted for it after conspicuously failing to cover themselves in glory (not really got to grips with the idea of constructive opposition yet eh guys?).
But who was mooted as the 'party of the moment' by one TV pundit when they looked ready to strike a deal with the SNP? Step forward that collective of parliamentary charlatans the Lib Dems. They had demanded a 2p tax cut as the price of their support. This would have caused a black hole in already precarious finances of some £800m, a hole that they helpfully failed to offer any solutions on how to fill apart from some kind of 'it'll be allright on the night' type thing.
It was clear to me that the Lib Dems were never expecting to get their way when they sent Chief Whip Mike Rumbles to negotiate for them. Mr Rumbles had previously enjoyed a mild, albeit dull, notoriety after adopting some kind of bizarre maverick persona whilst the Lib Dems were in coalition with Labour, but this has failed to have any impact now they are in opposition. It was inevitable that he would give a burlesque storming out of the meeting with Swinney performance, allowing the Lib Dems to do their usual hand wringing and breast beating. In the end, they caved in for not very much at all. Smart move guys.

On a personal front, I got my Roman armour mounted on a stand:

I'm getting two more stands made for my harnesses of 15th and 16th century plate armour. My new harness of 15th century Italian armour is still being made, although the helmet has arrived. I'm looking forward to fighting in it, although I will try and avoid a recurrence of an incident when some 'friends' put a few tropical fish fridge magnets on me in places I couldn't reach. It was a colourful albeit bizarre incident which confused small children.

I'm coming to the end of the 15th week of my diet. I'm down five suit sizes, and feel much healthier, although a journalist friend phoned me up and told me that "everyone preferred cuddly Jim". Encouraging. The leader of the council also asked if I had surgery. The answer to that is no, I simply stopped eating crap and drinking alcohol.

I now train with one of these for four hours a week:

It's a Russian Kettlebell and it provides an amazing workout. If you want to see rapid results you could do a lot worse than try training with one, though be warned it is incredibly hard work.

The dreaded Valentines Day is almost upon us and having promised Girlfriend dinner in some nice and suitably expensive restaurant, I have left it too late to get a table anywhere. To be fair to girlfriend, she is being very good about it and seems to have known this would happen.

That very nice blogger Fox in Detox (who is also reticent about Valentines Day) has tagged me with a challenge to post 25 random facts about myself. I'll compile them over the next day or two and post them up (though I may be a tad circumspect given some of the people that read this blog).

I haven't booked a holiday yet, but this year looks likely to be France or Italy. If it's Italy, then we would have to drop in on my relatives, and Girlfriend isn't that keen. In a strange coincidence, my cousin was elected to his local council near Pisa at the same time I was elected here. Last time I was there was with former fiance and they lent us a car which was so impossibly small I had to have the sunroof open so I could sit up straight whilst driving. This provided two weeks of amusement for the locals as I drove around with the top of my head sticking out of the roof.

I have finally persuaded Girlfriend to come to Japan with me next year. I have wanted to visit Japan since I took up martial arts twenty years ago, but have never managed it. Helpfully, having lived there for some years, Girlfriend speaks and reads Japanese which is really the only way the trip is possible for me given my notoriously bad sense of direction.

Apart from all of that, things remain very busy both on the council and work front. The announcement by the Scottish Government that local elections will be put back until 2012, giving us a five year term, instigated a sense of humour failure in Girlfriend, but I enjoy serving the community and at the end of the day it's a privilege to do so.