About Me

I was born in Luton, known for hat making, Vauxhall cars, London Luton Airport and a great football team who once beat Arsenal at Wembley in a Cup Final, currently languishing in non-league football for the 4th season. I moved to Edinburgh in 1990 and now live in Leith, Edinburgh's 'waterfront'.

Married for 24 years to Louise (who is on day release from Fife), I have 4 children: Holly (aged 27) who's studying medicine at Dundee University, William (aged 26) at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, Alice (aged 23) and Maddie (aged 16).

We live in a 226 year old Georgian house which we are slowly renovating. We once had a note from an artist posted through the letterbox asking if our semi-derelict house was available to rent as studio space. Things have improved lately; the stonework has been repaired and we have shiny new railings. Just the inside to do now then.

Current CNPS score: 999


Header Image: Richard Bloomfield

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    Four for a boy

    Today I am a plumber. I have to connect water pipes to the new kitchen and finish the waste connection for the sink. That should enable me to finish stripping the baby’s room ready for a new floor and replastering at the weekend. I’ll only be the plasterer’s mate though, as plastering is very tricky. I am a dab hand at getting plastered, but not at putting the stuff on walls.

    There are now only 18 days to go until the new room will have it’s wee occupant. Well, 18 give or take a week or two (eek! – take away 2 weeks = Monday: try not to think about it…). Louise and I are traditionally late for everything. Even Alice had to be forcibly evicted from the womb when she outstayed her welcome. Here’s hoping that the new addition to the family doesn’t decide to buck the trend or he will find himself discovering the joys of emulsion painting along side the breastfeeding.

    There I go again; ‘he’, ‘himself’. “Do you want a boy or a girl?” Louise recently asked me, expectantly (via). I really don’t mind, although I admit I do keep making male references. I didn’t consciously decide that it’s going to be a boy, my subconscious just seems to have made up it’s own mind. Oh, and I saw four magpies together in a field a few weeks ago (four for a boy). So, it’ll be a girl then.

    Blind rage

    Ok, I’ve got a sick sense of humour. I admit it.

    I just read this about a blind man in Edinburgh who allegedly bit his guide dog. And boy, is he in trouble. But, aren’t we just jumping to conclusions here? I mean, he is blind, how do we know he just didn’t make a mistake while eating a kebab or something? Has anyone asked him?

    As usual everyone jumps into a rage at the first hint of mistreatment of an animal. Come on, give the guy a break, he is blind you know. It’s a bit much to take his dog away without fully investigating first.

    Apparently, “If a dog is confiscated from a blind person, the Association can train the owner to use long white sticks instead.” So don’t be surprised if you get clouted round the head on your way home by a white stick wielding maniac after you’ve just helped him across the road. (allegedly).

    Cordon’s off

    So, the ill-conceived Edinburgh congestion charge is not to be. The City of Edinburgh council has egg on its face. Eight million pounds worth of egg, to be precise. Our egg, wasted. Makes the hundreds of thousands spent on the rubbish dump fiasco seem insignificant.

    I voted NO. I’ve read a lot of opinion about the result today and the YES camp seem to have one take on this: the selfish car drivers voted against this because we don’t care. Well, that’s not why I voted against it. This scheme was more about another revenue raising plan for the Council than about traffic problems. Do you seriously believe that the additional taxation would be spent solely on public transport improvements? Like the money from parking fines. This referendum failed because the Council were greedy, they went a cordon too far.

    It has been suggested that the alternative will now be a ban on traffic in certain parts of the City. Great! Fantastic idea! Close the roads and you reduce the traffic. That didn’t take eight million pounds to work out, did it? I’m all for this move. What I’m not for is being singled out for additional taxation.

    Several commenters have pointed out that last week, during the school half-term, the traffic problem in Edinburgh during the morning rush-hour practically disappeared. As a parent who has to drive my children to school, it is quite apparent to me that one of the most significant things the Council could do would be to provide decent school buses. In this day and age it simply is not an option to send a seven year old to school on their own on a normal bus. However, a safe, children only bus, would be perfectly acceptable to most parents. And I could get to sleep in.

    As I walked out one midwinter morning

    Walking down the corner shop on this crisp, sunny morning to buy some bread for my bacon sandwich I was reminded of a trip to Norway many years ago. It must have been the cold, dry air and the low sunlight but, just for a second, I was back strolling beside the Strandkaien in Stavanger.

    I mentioned it to Louise when I got back to the house and she commented on how lucky I’d been to have done so much travelling when I was younger. It certainly does leave you with a full assortment of memories and, of course, one or two funny stories.

    Back in August 1980, aged 20, my best mate Pete and I decided to head off round Europe like a pair of budding Laurie Lees in my faithful old Vauxhall Viva (HA), which was almost as old as we were. We didn’t expect the car to make it home but if the worst did happen we hoped it would be high in the Swiss Alps, where we would at least have the pleasure of pushing it over the edge of a mountain and watching it crash to a fiery death. Just like the movies.

    Back in those days borders between European countries still existed, along with passport control and customs. Of course, the EEC was already created so, more often than not, you were just waved on through even though the majority of crossings were still manned. As this was our first ‘epic’ adventure we decided to stop at every border and ask for our passports to be stamped as a permanent, official record of our travels. I also knew my Mum & Dad would never believe the car had got us beyond Dover without some hard evidence.

    After a leisurely few days in Saint Tropez rubbing shoulders with the stars it was time to tackle the ultimate challenge for the car: crossing into Italy then over the Alps to Austria. The French-Italian border was only a relatively short drive so we decided to pass straight through and get the Italian stamp at the Austrian border. A couple of days later after an enjoyable but brief Italian experience, we reached the border at the Brenner Pass and parked the car. A series of single storey buildings ran in a line in the middle of the road on both sides of the border and we strolled into the first, passports in hand.

    Behind the counter were two Italian officials dressed in bottle green uniforms, burning cigarettes in hand. Both were slouched back in their chairs, one with his feet up on the desk. “Si?” snapped the first. I raised my passport, pointed at it and replied “Stampa” in my best Lutonian-Italian. “No, no!” he replied, shaking his head. “Si, si. Stampa!” I argued, reinforcing my words with a hand stamping action. He glanced at his colleague and they grinned to each other. Okay I thought, this is a bit silly I suppose but I want that stamp. I don’t care if they think we’re a pair of daft English laddies. “Si, Stampa!!“, I demanded.

    They looked at each other again, laughed and with a shake of the head Mr feet-on-the-desk swivelled round, leant forward, took our passports and stamped them. With an attitude. Again they looked at each other, laughed out loud and handed us back our passports. We quickly scuttled out and jumped into the car, our embarrassed glows merging with the fresh Cote d’Azur suntans. Sure, they had made us feel like little kids, but we had our stamps. That was all that mattered, the result.

    I opened my passport to admire the new entry: “Automobile Club D’Italia” beautifully stamped across page 7. We looked at each other, roared with laughter and sped off into Austria. Plonkers!

    Many hands

    I am sitting down here in my office listening to the sound of Dyson upstairs. I realise that leaving an eight-month pregnant woman to do the cleaning may seem a little unfair, however I simply cannot risk further serious injury with so much ‘man’s work’ still to be done. Yes, the finger is much better now, thank you. Lucky it was my left hand otherwise I may have been unable to raise a pint glass without discomfort.

    Today I’m stopping the building work for a few days and concentrating on the backlog of web development work which I’ve been putting-off so we may have a half-chance of paying some bills next month. Plus I’m getting builder’s hands and I keep scratching Louise’s belly every time I’m trying to feel the baby moving. Moreover, with only 5 weeks to go today, things are getting decidedly tight.

    So, I’ve decided to contact Professor Ian Wilmut, as I see he’s about to be granted a licence to clone humans and I thought he might consider starting with me. I need four copies: one for building work on the house & Louise’s flat, one for web development, one for looking after the kids and one for catching up on my paperwork. That leaves the original (me) for the recreational stuff. I need them in about 2 days but I know it can be done because I’ve seen it in “The 6th Day“.

    Fingered

    I am injured. Not seriously, but my pride is dented and my finger is a bit squished.

    I have been working on the house for the last couple of weeks using a variety of deadly tools such as hand saws, chisels and powered rip saws, some of which could remove limbs faster than Louise can demolish a packet of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers. I have done this without injury, apart from a couple of splinters which I took like a man and dug out with a blunt Stanley knife.

    Today we reached a point where it was worth doing a bit of a clean-up as most of the very messy work is completed (apart from the birth, of course) and it was becoming difficult to locate objects such as the telephone under the thick layer of dust. As Louise is now in a very delicate (and large) condition, I grasped the Dyson (note the trendy, modern language use – no old fashioned Hoovers in this house) and proceeded to clean up our act. I noticed that the kitchen door was still open and reached out with one hand to close it, but managed to close my finger in the door. And it hurt. A lot.

    Normally I’m not one to make a fuss, but I have to admit this had me howling like a banshee. I think it must have hurt more than childbirth, from what I’ve observed. I’ll leave the cleaning to Louise from now on (and the childbirth).