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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    Beginning of the end

    While the focus of media attention is firmly on the G8 here in Edinburgh, another historic event is taking place behind the security fences and police cordons. Today is the day that MSPs in the new Scottish Parliament are voting to ban smoking in public places in Scotland.

    I’m aware this has been blogged to death at various times but I just couldn’t let today pass without mentioning it again. We’ve all heard the arguments by both camps so I’m not expressing my opinion here to reopen the debate. I’m just making my statement on this historic day.

    Smoking is shit. It costs a fortune, it has no positive benefits and it makes you stink. Those of you who smoke are addicts, pure and simple. Arguments about enjoyment, relaxation and pleasure are fundamentally flawed. You are addicts. You only experience what you think are benefits because you are satisfying your addiction. Had you never started, you would think very differently.

    Yes, I’m an ex-addict. Here it comes, listen: “Oh, you ex-smokers, you’re all the same, you’re the bloody worst“. Why do you think that is? It’s because I’ve cracked it, I’m free, and I don’t need to do it any more. And it’s a great feeling. But there’s one remaining problem. I can’t go out to places I enjoy without having to be subjected to your smoke, without going home stinking as badly as if I was still hooked. And you wonder why I take a stance? I’m sorry, but I just haven’t heard one even remotely convincing argument against this law. Oh, you’re worried about your personal freedom, your ‘right’ to do as you please, and the infringement of your personal liberties? Eh, nobody says you can’t smoke, just stop making me breathe it. They’re not going to ban the things yet, makes them far too much money, I’m sure you’ll be able to carry on as long as you want during your lifetime.

    No SmokingFace it, smoking is archaic. In the future they’ll look back on the few hundred years where man carried out this ridiculous practice and roll about laughing. It really is that stupid. I don’t blame any smoker for their addiction, I’m not that hypocritical. Neither am I trying to be ‘holier than thou’ just because I’m lucky enough to have stopped. It’s just that now I’m free I can see the addiction for what it is, just as you will if you ever give up. I’m rejoicing that such proactive action is being taken by this government, that the beginning of the end for smoking starts today.

    Update: The bill was passed by 97 votes to 17 – 26th March 2006 it is then, mark it in your diaries. The Port O’ Leith Bar is having a smoking party on the 25th March when they are going to auction off signed ash trays for charity. Well, something like that anyway. Incidentally, I couldn’t believe the Scotsman’s flawed article on the result – I even wrote to the editor – since when did MSP’s vote at the Scottish Executive!

    Later Update: The Scotsman have eventually edited their article replacing ‘Scottish Executive’ with ‘Scottish Parliament’ and replacing ‘unanimously’ with ‘in favour’. The editor didn’t write back to me though.

    Can of worms

    Welcome to anyone dropping in from Diamond Geezer, especially as you must have clicked your way though all those links from A to N before choosing to come here. Or maybe you were just looking to book some tickets with EasyJet.

    DG must be the most productive blogger on the planet. Are we expected to believe that any single individual could research, write, publish, collate, index & archive such a volume of interesting information? Personally, I was convinced a long time ago that Diamond Geezer is in fact a team of Geezers, roving daily around East London on fact finding missions. Anyway DG, thanks for the mention. Even if Technorati did all the leg work for you on this occassion :-)

    Unfortunately you’ll not find much to entertain you round here at the moment apart from dirty nappies and baby photos. Yes, there’s been a recent addition to this family and she takes up more time than two Diamond Geezer blog posts. I know it’s self-centered, gushy, isn’t-she-a-beautiful baby mush but, hey, give us a break. It’s the last time I’ll experience this (I hope !), at least until the granddad stage.

    This week I have my ‘Bob the Builder’ hat on again as I try and complete the baby’s bedroom after failing miserably to meet the original deadline. The ceiling is down, the floor is up, the can of worms is exposed. Woodworms actually. Next job is to spray the little buggers then get everything put back together. I want to get this done by next week so I can resume proper, paid work before the debt collectors are at the door again. We’re also trying to get the wee back garden sorted out as we seem to be living out there quite a bit at the moment. I think we’ve set a new record for consecutive barbeque evenings in Scotland. It really is quite dry in Leith. Rainwise, of course, not alcohol.

    School days

    I don’t think it can have been a very difficult decision for my parents. At the age of about 18 months, we moved to a new housing estate in the suburbs of Luton which had a newly built infant school (ages 5 to 7) about a quarter of a mile away. There was one primary school about a mile away and really only one secondary school about 2 miles away. So when it came to choose where my sister and I went to school, there really wasn’t much of a decision to be made. Here in Edinburgh and with my slightly more complex family structure, the choice of both primary and secondary schools is a much greater and the decision making process much more difficult.

    Holly was the first to go to school, closely followed by William a year later. Their mother, Clare, is Catholic, so she chose to send them to a Catholic Primary school. I didn’t have any say in the matter. In Scotland, if you have children out of marriage, you may as well not exist as a father from a legal perspective, but that’s another matter. Oh, with the exception of The Child Support Agency, of course.

    I have to say that initially I wasn’t too happy about this choice of school as I don’t believe Catholic (or any other segregating label) schools should be allowed. But their mother made the decision and I had to go along with it.

    Three years ago, Louise and I were faced with the same decision with Alice. However, the local primary school has a tarnished reputation to say the least, so, partly for convenience and partly because I had come to see what a good school it was, we chose to send Alice to the same school as Holly & William.

    The time has now arrived for Holly to move on to Secondary school and, once again, I have been largely excluded from the decision making process. During May, Holly sat entrance and scholarship examinations at a number of private schools, although Clare was apparently favouring the Catholic Secondary school, St. Thomas of Aquin’s. To cut a long story short, after a tortuous decision-making process which saw her change her mind more times than the Scottish weather in an average week, she has chosen a private school. Personally, I’m pleased with the choice, albeit still at loggerheads with some of my principals and beliefs.

    At primary school, I think children are still too young to be ‘labelled’ as different by attending a certain school and I don’t think that Catholic religious beliefs are forced upon them too strongly at that stage either. Certainly Alice only seems to be achieving greater understanding that differences between people do exist; she occassionaly attends Sunday School at the local Church of Scotland church, as well as attending the odd mass at the Catholic cathedral. I have greatest difficulty with Catholic schools at the secondary school level, when I think that it’s definitely wrong to isolate one set of children, especially on the basis of the religion they happen to be born into.

    However, I’m not very comfortable with private schools either. It’s still a sad world where opportunity can be ‘bought’ and not made available to everyone on an equal basis. Sure, private schools do offer the crumbs of a few token scholarships to the gifted, not only being seen to bring quality education to the less fortunate but boosting their exam result figures at the same time. It cannot be denied that here in Edinburgh it is important which school you go to, that the tie will open doors for you. I’m pleased for Holly of course, but I wish we lived in a society without these class structures.

    I’m not paying for the school by the way, it’s way above my means, Clare is paying and Holly receives a good bursary. Even if I could afford to send one child to private school, what about the other three? It’s likely that William will follow suit but it does leave me with a big problem in four years when it’s time for Alice to move up.

    Maddie aged 6 weeks

    PIC00028_3Here’s a picture of Maddie from about 2 months ago when she was 6 weeks old. Yes, she is burdened with her father’s hairstyle.

    I know this is a bit out of date but I’m just setting up Flickr and the automatic blogging thingy. If all works well this should publish straight from Flickr…

    Sun, sea and barbie

    Scotland has some beautiful beaches, a few of which are only a stone’s throw from home, but it rarely has the weather to enjoy them, Sunday being no exception.

    We were invitied on a day trip to Yellowcraigs, a lovely sandy beach about 20 miles away, by trusty neighbours Frank’n’Steph. In keeping with the cosmopolitan nature of Leith, the full party consisted of: Louise (token Scot), Me (Luton), Frank (Manchester), Steph (Canada/Germany), Mieche (Frankfurt, Germany), Mel (Darwin, Australia), Stuart (Belfast) and of course the kids (all natives).

    Despite the heavy cloud, it was warm enough and at least we didn’t have to worry about sunburn. Mid-afternoon the weather front finally crossed with a short downpour and people left the beach in droves. We huddled round the barbie and half an hour later and we were rewarded with some sunshine to round off a very pleasant afternoon.

    It was Mel’s first visit to a Scottish beach which she politely described as ‘different’. Hailing from Darwin in The Northern Territories where the temperature rarely drops below 30° C, she must have thought we were all bloody mad.

    By coincidence, my eldest daughter, Holly, was at her class barbeque at the same beach. She is just finishing the last year of Primary School (P7) and faces the daunting step up to a new school in August.

    Grand finale

    Tonight was the ‘Encore, encore!’ of Leith Festival and what a night!

    9pm, Docker’s Club, Irvine Welsh read from his new novel (a world exclusive) and it was superb. I guarantee this book will be a hit. The man is as humble as they come and obviously enjoyed the return to his roots (he used to live 10 yards from tonight’s venue) and even came round to the Port O’Leith at the death for a last drink.

    The new novel is based partly in Edinburgh (characters in Leith and Corstorphine) and partly in San Fransisco. It’s out next year – buy it!

    Half way through the evening, we left the Docker’s Club and visited the classical music concert beneath Junction Bridge. This was a classic Leith Festival event – jaikies swigging their Export while listening to Mozart. Truly for the people of Leith! Oh, and I spotted The Village lot watching too – still haven’t met Chav Gav but I think I saw you tonight – if I didn’t that Jax has some explaining to do!

    I have to admit, I got Irvine Welsh’s autograph on the front cover of a Leith Festival programme, and why not? The kids can always sell it on EBay.

    Update: Radio Scotland were at the Irvine Welsh gig and some of it (how the hell do they manage to edit out so many swearwords!?) was on Monday’s Radio Cafelisten here. Fast forward controls only seem to work in IE not Firefox. Irvine Welsh is at the end of the programme, around the 40th minute.

    Festival city

    Well, that’s the Leith Festival past the half way point – just the remainder of today, Friday and Saturday to go. Plus the Junction Bridge concert and Irvine Welsh on Sunday.

    It’s all been a bit varied this year, some events have been very well attended but there seems to be quite a bit of apathy too. It does get me down sometimes when you think of all the work that goes on behind the scenes then people can’t be arsed to go to the events.

    Some of the events are very good indeed, people have commented that they were pleasently surprised. One of the stars seems to be the Thermos flask museum in the Kirkgate which, at first glance, might not sound too interesting. But, it’s a hoot apparently.

    Radio Four had a phone in a while ago asking for opinions on the greatest invention ever made. Louise phoned in and nominated the Thermos flask. It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold, but the best part is, how does it know? A great invention.

    Community

    This coming week sees the culmination of another huge drain on my time, once again for no financial recompense. Leith FM and Leith Festival. I really hestitate to add up the time these two ventures take up, and why? They are both thankless tasks without appreciation for the efforts given. The results are taken for granted, errors criticised, peformance questioned. The focus is always on what hasn’t been achieved rather than what has. And, the reality is, I don’t really have any free time to give to either venture, I have to steal it from other tasks which are much more important from a family perspective. It is a constant cause of friction between Louise and I.

    In the last two months I have burnt the midnight oil on the Leith Festival programme (several all-nighters), organised the Leith FM finances and licences for the current broadcast and worked on the websites for both ventures. All in the name of ‘community’. I’ve thought long and hard about why I do this and I just can’t come up with an answer. It’s certainly not for attention or recognition (most people wouldn’t even know what I do), it’s most certainly not for financial gain (more like drain) so it must just be for the feel good factor of doing something for the community in which I live. The more I think about it, the more bizarre it is. I must have inherited it from my mother, she’s very similar.