Wednesday, 31 December 2008

That was the year that was

Most normal people at this time of year, apparently sort out their finances, springclean the house, get their hair cut etc etc. I just write and write and today I've been on a bit of a writing frenzy - not of the blogging variety. However it's now time to update the blog and review the year - it's a personal review, the political one comes later!

It's been a funny old year for me - first the 3 months (Jan to April) in Sri Lanka having never been away on my own, never been to a developing country and never been away for more than 2 weeks. As anyone who read my Indygal in Sri Lanka blog will know, it was something of an adventure for me.

I then came home to find I'd been selected by the SNP as one of the European candidates for next June's elections. As we have an internal ranking system which largely determines who gets elected, I spent a fair bit of time speaking and answering questions at Euro hustings up and down the country. The "biggies" take place in February this year and the results will be known on 10 March. Almost certain to top our list is current MEP and Party President Ian Hudghton who invited me out to Brussels for a few days to shadow him in JUNE. That was a whirlwind visit, my feet barely had time to touch the ground and I know what hard work lies ahead should I be elected.

Hard work is one way of describing the month of July when we were faced with a 24 day campaign to win the Glasgow East by-election. I was delighted when the SNP's Chief Executive Peter Murrell asked me to be Campaign Co-ordinator and I did what I suspect most of our activists did that day - packed my bags, waved goodbye to my family and told them to expect me at the end of the month. Little did any of us know that we weren't going to just put in a good show, we were going to WIN the by election. I loved the international coverage as John Mason's victory sent shockwaves across the opposition parties. Yesterday I looked through the by-election photoblog and it brought back a lot of happy memories.

The by election was over and it was time for me to get on my travels again - this time to Northern Ireland and to the Republic. I spent time in Belfast, Donegal and Derry. It's the first time I've been to Ireland and I loved it.

No rest for the wicked and as soon as I got home I started a new job working for two of our MSPS - Bob Doris (who I'm still working for) and Stuart McMillan - the latter gave me the chance to work closely with the residents of a Greenock alcohol rehab centre which was closing and the former, amongst other things, allowed me to help some asylum seekers which is something very close to my heart.

SNP Conference in October I loved! And it was a very different conference for me this year. I found myself leaving parties early to read up on whatever I would be speaking on the next day. When did I get all serious?! My friends and former workmates at SNP HQ were not impressed when I didn't even make it to the karaoke night! This is unheard of for me and I got a bit of a telling off for it!

It got to November and my feet were getting itchy again so off I went, this time to visit a friend in Cordoba in the South of Spain. It's a beautiful city, if you get the chance to visit, do it.

The end of the year has been just as busy as the rest of it with various parties, friends to meet up with, family to catch up on and more reading than I've ever done. It's becoming obsessive but that's no bad thing! And after the year I've had I think it's time to relax.

I've got my own personal goals for this year which I'll keep to myself but having read all of that I can't believe I told someone last week that "not much has happened this year"! What was I thinking? Anyway I hope you all have (had) a very good Hogmanay and an even better 2009!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Christie says no to trident!

I've been helping my niece with her Higher English recently. Well, when I say HELPING, what I mean is TRYING to help. She didn't want to send me what she'd written so far because she didn't think it was good enough (defeats the purpose a bit but that's beside the point I guess)!

Anyway I've finally got it and I thought (being a lazy blogger and a proud auntie) that I'd share a bit of it with you. See if you can work out why she was reluctant!

"The UK government is planning on spending an estimated £25 Billion of the taxpayer’s money on renewing the Trident nuclear weapon system that has served us so well in the past 10 years by doing…erm nothing actually!"

Tee hee. (That's my comment btw, not the essay.)

And ...

"For the past 10 years the taxpayer has spent millions every year for the up keep of these very “useful” weapons of mass destruction. And now another £25 billion (£50 billion in total) is to be spent: not on schools, hospital, transport, police or anything as insignificant, but nuclear weapons as they are of course what we really need!"

Then ...

"You might as well get £25 billion and set fire to it for all the use its doing for us. Unless action is taken those nuclear weapons will be sitting gathering dust for the next 10 years (until we have to spend more billions renewing them) because if they were actually to be used – as is their purpose, it would be the start of a nuclear war and we’d all be dead or seriously mutated. Probably dead."

And, just to prove that she's incredibly intelligent and has been very well brought up ...

"Oh yes and where are they kept. 3 guesses. Scotland of course – on the river Clyde, just 20 miles from our biggest city, Glasgow. Imagine the uproar if they were kept on the river Thames or just 20 miles from say Manchester. You couldn’t have Trident so near to such important cities! Which funnily enough is what Glasgow is, well to the Scottish people anyway."

Finally, a good old McLaughlin style rant ...

"To the UK Scotland isn’t that important – unless you need somewhere to keep nuclear weapons or dump some nuclear waste. That’s how we got our nickname “the dump of Britain”. And our slogan – 'got waste? Bring it to Scotland'."

I suspect she's made that slogan up, even the UK govt wouldn't be that cheeky. So for that reason and because of the missing apostrophe (look carefully, Christie!) I'm only giving her 9/10 - good effort hen and good to know you were listening to that tape your mum used to play you in your sleep!!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Glasgow Vigil for Gaza - TODAY, Sunday, 4.30pm

I will be blogging about the events in Gaza in more detail later but I just wanted to encourage everyone to get along to the candlelit vigil in Glasgow today. It's at 4.30pm in George Square and the vigil is for the hundreds of people who've been killed or injured in the latest onslaught. As you will no doubt be aware, there has been no let up today. Please, if you can, make your way to George Square in Glasgow today.

Woolworths in Greenock has gone - end of an era

As regular readers will know, my first job (well, the first one I managed to retain for more than 3 hours) was as a Saturday girl in Woolies in Greenock - you'll recall I wasn't cool enough for the record counter - hmmmm! I was sad to see it was one of the first to go and yesterday was its last trading day. It's sad for so many reasons but as always, it's the human cost that matters most. I remember the girls (sophisticated grown ups as they were to me at the time) who worked there - they were all late teens, early 20s and work for them was about more than just earning a wage packet.

It's the same for most people, whether they believe it or not.

It's about having a structure to your day, being needed, have a social life. By the latter I don't necessarily mean going out partying with your workmates, you can take it in its most simplistic form - having someone remember you went home with a headache the night before and ask how you are; workplace banter, there's always someone who can make you laugh; or in the case of the full timers who worked at Woolies, even just having folk who will tell you that no, you shouldn't wear the shorter skirt on Friday night because you really suit the jeans and yes, you should go and visit your granny in Largs if you've not seen her for 2 weeks (I have a good memory)!

What I'm trying to say is that it won't matter to the folk who are being made redundant if they have a good pay off, they will miss everything else about work so much more than the money initially. We all need to relate to other human beings and we all need regular interaction - unemployment is a curse and it takes all that away. I know there are many women (there were men too - usually managers of course - but I only remember the women) who left Woolies in Greenock on Saturday, never having worked anywhere else. It will take a long time for them to come to terms with the changes in their lives and I really hope, but doubt, that there are people out there who will be able to support them through it.

Unemployment used to be my favourite topic to rant about - I suspect you'll be hearing more about it from me in the not too distant future.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

What I'm doing tomorrow

This is Toby, aged 2, member of the Clan McLaughlin, travelling from Manchester to Port Glasgow tomorrow. His Nantie (it's a family name!) can't wait to see him. This of course has nothing to do with politics but it's a time for sharing and he's so beautiful, I felt it only fair to share him with you all. (Got his mum's permission first obviously!)

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Thank God the adverts will stop now - oh and Merry Christmas everyone!

Not a great deal happening politically right now so I guess I can pack up the blog for a day or so and go and do the holiday thing! Myself and my friend Eric have decided it's best if Christmas comes but once every THREE years from now on. We are but two so it's not likely we'll win that argument. Might as well just get on and enjoy it I guess.

I do like carol singing and last night after the clan (well, 15 of us) went out for a family lunch, we went back to my mum's and sang every carol we could remember. Plus a few we couldn't but hey, you can make these things up. My cousin's wife Ann who's from Thailand pulled quite a few faces as we tried to identify how many lords a leaping, etc. Anyway it was fun.

I like having time off work and this time I've got a list of things to do when I find myself staring into space unable to cope with the boredom. I've got books to read, European campaign plans to make, writing projects, films to watch and fitness to gain!

The best thing about Christmas being over is the fact that these irritating TV ads will stop. What about that one with the guy almost whispering "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" from the start of October? Now I don't mind it the WEEK of Christmas but before then?

Top of my list of hated TV ads is the one for Somerfield. The woman who refuses help from the delightful shop assistant (has anyone ever offered you help in Somerfield - no me neither?!). Anyway she doesn't need help because "John's here"!.

She then sends John off to get the drinks. On his return he confesses he forgot the tonic water. Roll of the woman's eyes - make eye contact with the female assistant - "what are they like?" the wife says of the husband. That of course means "what are men like?" because as we all know, girls, we'd NEVER forget anything, being the superior sex. And men? Well they're ALL too stupid to remember everything on that list you made up for them. What ARE they like? What are the advert makers like?!

Anyway, off out tonight, then going down to stay at my mum's, will be tucked up before midnight in case Santa finds out. Or is it Wee Willie Winkie who grasses you up? Well, whoever it is, better not let him catch me. Have a great Christmas and if I think of anything else to moan about I'll let you know!

PS Pic is from the said clan day out!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Who wants to live in Simon Cowell Street?

This nonsensical idea of having X Factor style votes on how to name local streets and facilities, really has to be knocked on the head now. All that will happen is the only folk who'll vote will be very young people, used to this style of voting and who will they vote for? Whoever happens to be the latest "celebrity". As one guy in this BBC report says celebrity is cheaply earned and short lived.

I remember a recent vote on Channel 4 looking for the 100 greatest songs of all time and do you know what was number 1? Actually I can't remember and that's probably the point, it was something too non descript to commit to memory. It was also something current which tells us it was very young people who think music was only invented this year. And that is precisely what will happen if we go ahead with this stupid idea.

Imagine we'd introduced this a couple of years ago, we could've had ..

Goody Gardens which when she was out of favour would have to be changed to Shilpa Shetty Street. (I had to google the Bollywood woman, proving my point I think.)

Michelle McManus Avenue; Shabhaz Drive; I could go on but I can't remember half these names - again, proving my point.

There are plenty of ordinary people who do so much for their communities. Celebrities may be lovely people, they may be very caring and I'm sure many would give up their seat to an old lady on the bus if ever they travelled on a bus, but getting rich and famous is about helping themselves not their communities and I'd say it's reward enough. If we want to recognise anyone, make it local people who do what they do for no reward. Personally I still prefer to recognise trees - there are no bad trees in the world and there's nothing nicer than a Beech Avenue or an Oak Walk :-)

Now that I think about it, I believe the greatest song of all time was "We like to Party" by the Venga Boys. Hmmmm, quite like that song actually!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

New Party Announced - the ConLabatives

I've heard everything now! I mean, don't get me wrong, it's a long time since I've seen a great deal of difference between Labour and the Tories. And from time to time you read something that demonstrates what a great impersonation they do of each other. But the latest news that the Labour Government in Britain are considering charging interest rates of up to 28% per annum for social fund loans, is nothing short of outrageous. And it is proof if ever it were needed that the Labour Party has abandoned ALL of its founding principles and switched to the dark side altogether.

The Social Fund is there to help people on the lowest incomes to get through desperate times. And yet now, they may have to pay more than they would pay using a credit card. I say "may" because although the news only came out today, already they're backtracking like mad blaming the wording on the document - how you can confuse "interest will be charged at ..." I don't know. Clearly, however, the backlash is worrying them and I cannot see it going through now. That, however, is not the point - it takes a cold, unfeeling heart to sanction that kind of policy development James Purnell, Gordon Brown et al.

As a footnote, I was a voluntary Welfare Rights Advisor in the Gorbals in Glasgow many years ago and I will never forget the guy who came in for advice one day. He'd lost his job the year before and had struggled to find another. This was the late 80s when the UK was referring to the recession in the past tense whilst everyone in Scotland was wondering when it would end up here.

Anyway this guy had heard there was work going with a company in the shipyards in Greenock but there was no phone number, only a name of the guy he should contact. He got the train down twice but didn't manage to speak to the guy. He couldn't afford to pay another trainfare so the next time he walked ALL THE WAY TO GREENOCK - that's 25 miles. Finally his luck was in and the guy offered him a job but there was a catch. He had to provide his own safety boots and hat. "No problem" he thought "I'll get a loan from the social".

The reason he came to see me was because the social said no. Loans were only for emergencies and back to work related expenses were not emergencies!!! No matter how I fought with them, "rools was rools" and they would not (could not) budge. He lost out and carried on signing on. That story was one of many, now joined by today's news, that left me in no doubt that people living on benefits are the least powerful, most vulnerable in our society. I struggle to keep my composure when I hear folk talking about "folk on benefits living the life of Riley"! They have no idea ...

20 years since Lockerbie bombing

Today marks 20 years since Lockerbie.

It's a mark of the impact the bombing of Pan Am 103 had on us all on 21 December 1988, that we simply refer to it as "Lockerbie" and everyone knows what we mean.

I remember it well, I remember the shock waves that reverberated round the country. Nothing like that had happened here that any of us could remember. STV's Jim Delahunt who was a reporter with a local radio station at the time was one of the first on the scene. He wrote about it some years later, for a collection of true stories I published. I'll look it out and put it on here because it was a fascinating recollection of a truly horrific and shocking crime.

It must be a tough day for the families left behind as they think back to twenty years ago when they first heard the news and had to wait to find out if their loved ones had survived. Dr Jim Swire has been a leading light in the search for the truth. His 23 year old daughter Flora died that day and he has been relentless in his attempts to bring her killers to justice.

But what compassion and courage must it take to speak out as he does, and say that he believes the man convicted of the bombing, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, is not guilty? It takes a good man to do that, most would prefer to believe it was true if only to give a focus for their anger. A friend of mine has nominated him for the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award and I can see why.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Wilkommen, bienvenida, welcome!

I must be getting featured by Google because I've just checked my "traffic" for this blog and in the last hour I've had visitors from Loudac (France), Malone (New York), Budapest, Richboro (Pennsylvania), Duderstadt (Germany), Santiago (Chile), Pune (India), Jakarta (Indonesia), Galicia (Spain), Pretoria (South Africa), Shanghai (China) and finally, and aptly (if it were not for the fact that it's the US of A one) Bethlehem! International woman of mystery that's me!

All I want to say is hello, bonjour, hey man!, hola, guten tag, etc and hiya for all the Scottish ones still reading ... :-)

Calling all bloggers

Can someone please tell me how on earth I get rid of the glitch in the post below? Despite putting separate paragraphs into the piece, it hasn't worked. It just looks like a very untidy single paragraph. I did exactly what I always do and when it appeared like this, I edited it but it's just ignoring me and I'm not happy. If anyone can make me happy I'd be very grateful.

Support Scottish Football

Here I am pictured with Craig Brown on the day he launched his Scottish Parliament petition against forcing Scotland's football team OUT of the Olympics and making us play as Team GB!
Craig Brown is one of my favourite people, he was manager of the Scotland team when I was a member of the Tartan Army and went to every single home game.
He also wrote a story for a book I published many years ago and came along to the launch of it. I was telling him that I still have the photos of him with Fran n Anna!! And I've promised to look them out for him. I've also promised to send him the link to this blog piece so I will just finish off by saying what a great guy he is and what a brilliant manager he was for our country :-)
Good luck with the petition Craig and if any of you would like to sign it you can do so here!

There is a light that never goes out

Spooky sight on the way to work the other day. This is the Great Eastern Hotel, a men's hostel on Duke Street in Glasgow. As far as I knew it was derelict. It was something about the bushes growing out the top that lead me to that conclusion. But look! There are 2 single lightbulbs lit up. What can that mean??? Perhaps the councillor for the area will know .... or maybe we should call Ghostbusters!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The resurrection of my car

I don't want to count my chickens but it looks like the saga of the car could be over. I've refrained from giving regular updates on the whole sorry tale but now it looks like the end is in sight. And it's not going to end in the scrapyard! I've refrained from giving updates at the same time as I decided to refrain from doing anything much about it at all - sometimes you just can't face these things.

In the summer, not long after I came back from Sri Lanka, I started up the car, tried to move forward and couldn't. "Silly me" I thought "forgot to put the handbrake off"! But I hadn't .... it was off alright, the car just wasn't budging. It felt like there was something underneath it. A bomb was the first thing that came to mind (I refer you back to my fertile imagination.) On closer inspection (someone else, not me!) it became clear there was nothing underneath it so my uncle (who just happened to be with me at the time and who is a member of the AA) called the AA out and they took it to a garage in Greenock.

£120 it cost me to repair the "seized brakes".

A month or so later I was driving down a hill in 3rd gear when the brakes failed altogether! This time, my cousin happened to be with me (again, how handy!) with HIS AA membership card. Car went back to same garage, 3 month guarantee couldn't be used because it was a "different" brake problem this time.

£135 to repair the "failed brakes".

FIVE DAYS later I step outside, think "ooh it's chilly, so glad I have the car", start it up, try to move back (nope), forward (nope), deja vu, thinking "silly me, handbrake" etc. But no, it was not my fault, the brakes had seized AGAIN!

Saga continued but finally, TWO MONTHS ON, the Greenock garage sent someone up to Glasgow on Tuesday to pick it up and return it to them for inspection.

I waited with baited breath for the outcome of the inspection and finally, the phone rang with the good news that yes, indeed, it WAS their responsibility and they had now repaired the car. Joy oh joy. Today, Saturday, I will pick it up.

I'm STILL not counting any chickens because last night I got a call from my cousin telling me Greenock was inaccessible by car because of floods. This, the rest of the world puts down to higher than average (for Greenock, can you believe that?) rainfall. The readers of this blog however, will know better. It's nothing to do with rain and everything to do with me wanting to get my car back! Aarrgh!

Still, the rain has subsided, the brakes are CURRENTLY working, I'll check before I drive off that they've not drained my radiator of all water again, I'll do my best not to have flashbacks of the 2 occasions when the brakes have just stopped working ... and I'm sure all will be fine.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Tommy Sheridan postpones reality for a bit longer

Tommy Sheridan is going into the Big Brother house. Is that practice for his next wee stint in a new house? Get used to them watching you all the time Mr S! All joking aside, I don't think the comparisons with Gorgeous George Galloway stand up. I actually think that whilst BB finished GG, it will be the saving of oor Tommy. He's done some stupid things in his life (not least persisting with that ridiculous defamation case against the NOTW) but ... he's actually NOT stupid. He'll learn from others' mistakes, he knows what he needs to achieve in this (apart from making loads of dosh) and I think he's got a VERY good chance of winning it.

Tommy is a very likeable guy on a social level. He's friendly, interesting, intelligent and, I believe he is a very caring individual. (His main problem is his out of control ego but that will fade into the shade amongst the other "celebrities".) All of this will go down well amongst other housemates. The Scottish public are already fascinated with him and I reckon they'll be glued to this series. I'm addicted already and it's not even started.

I've always thought if I could place Tommy in any reality show, it'd be the X Factor. Not long after sitting in the gallery at his famous defamation case, I was listening to the following song and instead of seeing Richard Gere in his top hat and tails, it was Tommy I kept visualising breaking out into a song and dance routine. Have a shuftie at the lyrics and see if you get what I'm saying here. I've helpfully highlighted the most relevant bits!


Mr. Flynn, his honor is here


Thank you. Just a moment.You ready?


Oh Billy, I'm scared.

BILLY(Spoken)Roxie, you got nothing to worry about. It's all a circus, kid. A three ring circus. These trials- the wholeworld- all show business. But kid, you're working with a star, the biggest!


Give 'em the old razzle dazzle

Razzle Dazzle 'em

Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it

And the reaction will be passionate

Give 'em the old hocus pocus

Bead and feather 'em

How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?

What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle 'em

And they;ll never catch wise!

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle


Razzle dazzle 'em

Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous


Row after row will crow vociferous


Give 'em the old flim flam flummox

Fool and fracture 'em


How can they hear the truth above the roar?


Throw 'em a fake and a finagle

They'll never know you're just a bagel,


Razzle dazzle 'em

And they'll beg you for more!


Give 'em the old double whammy

Daze and dizzy 'em

Back since the days of old Methuselah

Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

Give 'em the old three ring circus

Stun and stagger 'em

When you're in trouble, go into your dance (Tommy in top hat I'm picturing here!)

Though you are stiffer than a girder

They'll let you get away with murder

Razzle dazzle 'em

And you've got a romance

COMPANY(The same time as BILLY's)

Give 'em the oldRazzle Dazzle


Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle

Razzle dazzle 'em

Show 'em the first rate sorceror you are

Long as you keep 'em way off balance

How can they spot you've got no talent

Razzle Dazzle 'em


Razzle Dazzle 'em

Razzle Dazzle 'em

And they'll make you a star!

Faking F*%$ers

Grrrr!! I can't stand fake people. There's only one thing worse than someone who's read somewhere that it's good to look someone in the eye and use their name repeatedly. (Makes you seem more genuine don't you know?) And that is someone who looks you in the eye and uses someone else's name repeatedly. A business contact, trying to keep on my good side, telling herself if she does the "eye contact, first name, touch your arm" thing, I'll suddenly forget all those little incompetencies. "Yes Linda, that's great Linda, oh I understand Linda, I hope you are happy with that Linda" she said over and over. "No problem DONALD" I felt like saying. Instead I smiled sweetly and resolved not to let them off with a penny of the money I'm claiming back from them! Linda indeed!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Chris Hoy - BBC Sports Personality of the Year!!

Brilliant, fantastic news. I lost my voice over the weekend, think perhaps I've just lost it again but very very happy to watch Chris Hoy getting his award. Well deserved, he's a brilliant advert for Scotland!

The SNP's gift to Labour - with love

I must deal with the Colin Deans defection before the sad little story is consigned to the history books. Colin Deans was an SNP councillor in Glasgow who, on Friday, defected to Labour. So now he's a Labour councillor. Now normally I would focus on what a ridiculously huge leap it must take for someone to do that. I can see it happening the other way (and more frequently it does), that someone who wasn't sure about Independence, over time, becomes more comfortable with the idea and eventually is committed enough to it to join the SNP. But the other way round is decidedly odd. However, I'm not really going to bother examining this in any detail because we're not just talking about any SNP cllr here, we're talking about Colin Deans.

And let me tell you, there are few folk in the SNP sorry to see him go. Trust me, I would not say that of many of our people, it's not just fighting talk and I'm not trying to be cruel to the man (albeit a man with rhino skin). I'm simply stating it as it is. Were he simply incompetent but a nice person I'd be more sensitive. Colin Deans, however, was an electoral liability because his massive ego could not believe his election had anything to do with the SNP but everything to do with Deans: The Man! Party policy? What's that? There was only Deans policy for this one. Constituents' needs? Who cares about that? Certainly not Cllr Deans.

This all started when he was disciplined by the group for writing to an Irish Diaspora group in his ward attacking the Irish in Scotland (yep all of them!) for Scotland not being Independent yet! Seriously. I mean if he wants to take that line, he may as well attack the majority of his fellow Scots because they've not got us Independent yet either. And as for how he's going to muddle along with his new Labour colleagues (who actively and often viciously campaign AGAINST Independence) I'm really not sure. (Looking forward to finding out though.)

Back to the Irish - they were naturally deeply offended and complained about him. This was not (from what I'm now hearing) the first major complaint against him. The result was that the group decided, democratically, to remove him from his spokesperson post. His response. He went on holiday. When he came back he said he was resigning, was given time to think it over (clearly bullying behaviour!), thought it over and decided to join the Labour Party - something he'd apparently been discussing for weeks with them. He took a big strop that's all, and the reason was because for Cllr Deans, it's all about him, it's not about the constituents, it's not about policies, Independence, the Party he was elected to represent, it was all about Colin Deans: The Ego.

Last thing I want to say is the accusation that Cllr Deans was bullied. I considered not mentioning this because he's talking about my friends and I do not want to draw attention to not very nice things being said about my friends. However, the accusation has appeared in so many newspapers that I feel I must say something. And that something is .... absolute crap! Now I know that it's not just wee timid folk who can be bullied, I understand that and my argument is little to do with the fact that Colin is a BIG, LOUD (EXTREMELY LOUD), CONFIDENT guy.

Rather, my argument is that I know who he's accused of bullying him and it's not just untrue, it's incredibly unfair because the two people he's mentioned have bent over backwards to work with Cllr Deans. It's not been easy because he is so LOUD and unreasonable but they've been patient and understanding and very tolerant. However, you cannot expect other SNP cllrs to keep taking the flack when one of their group continually insults constituents, does little work and seems to spend more time line dancing in the U S of A than getting on with the job of being a councillor. And yet ... when he did his final act of resigning from the group, once again they showed patience and gave him an opportunity to rethink. Personally I'd have said "yes please, sign on the dotted line now before you change your mind"! They (these two big bullies) are clearly better people than I. So they gave him a chance and next morning, they found out from the press that he'd joined the British Unionist Labour Party. The ultimate betrayal!

Ironically, I said to one of our councillors yesterday, it may not be long before we all get to like Colin because he'll cause major problems for Labour and that's definitely one of the ways to "win friends and influence people" in the SNP! As one said to me yesterday, "Deans in the Labour Party will be like King Kong in chains, he will not be able to control himself and before long he'll break free of those chains and run riot in that party too"! For the Labour Party in Glasgow to accept him as one of theirs after the way in which he insulted the Irish community, is wrong, it's stupid and it's quite clearly just so they can get the press hit. All I'll say to them is good luck but you just wait and see ...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Is this a dagger I see before me?

Somebody once told me I had a "cartoon mentality". He was referring to my ability to imagine the unimagineable. For example I used to organise sponsored abseil events but I refused to do it myself because I feared someone tip-toeing across the roof from which I was abseiling and cutting the rope with a giant pair of scissors. Well, it COULD happen. Just look at this guy's "lucky" escape and if you can't be bothered reading it, a stage actor in Vienna was loudly applauded by the audience for cutting his own throat so convincingly. The reason it was so convincing is because the kid on knife had been mysteriously replaced by a newly bought, sharp as a ... well, a knife really ... KNIFE!

So that's YET ANOTHER thing I have to remember - never to accept a role where I have to pretend to stab myself. Someone might tiptoe over and ... you see! It's not a cartoon mentality, it's just being realistic.

I was a Saturday girl in Woolies

As a former Woolies Saturday girl I am really sad to see that it looks like it's curtains for them. Woolies is a great shop, you can get anything you want there. All the really obscure stuff like fabric dye, zips, spare buttons as well as the legendary pick'n'mix along with children's clothes, household goods, and more importantly for me when I was a bit younger, the "record counter".

As a 16 year old I worked every Saturday in Woolies in Greenock. The really cool people got to work on the record counter. I was not one of them! I worked on the jewellery counter but unfortunately, I was so distracted listening to the record counter that they demoted me to the sweetie counter. There my job was really just to be nice to old ladies who weren't really bothered about the sweeties, they just liked their routines, their wee chats and a friendly smile. Being nice to old ladies, chatty and smiley - I was good at that.

Getting the right guarantees for the watch or clock I'd just sold on the "jewellery" counter - wasn't quite so hot at that one. Apparently there was a regular stream of complainers each Monday morning (when I was safely back at school) with complaints ranging from "that wee lassie gave me a timex guarantee for a sekondo watch" to "instructions for cleaning silver chains are nae use to me when I want to wind up my cuckoo clock".

It was a trifle embarrassing to be demoted in a Saturday job and I knew then that I'd never reach the heady heights of the record counter but the worst thing was the full time workers who LOVED to utter the words: "all them 'O' Grades and nae common sense"! Oh how I loved hearing it!

Still, it was a great first job and I felt very grown up wearing my uniform and clocking in (just) on time each Saturday morning. I'm not sure their memories of me (if they've not blanked them out yet) are quite so sweet but I liked my time at Woolies anyway.

First class socialists

I'll be interested to see what Labour MSPs had to say in this morning's Labour sponsored debate on the Scotrail franchise. I wonder if they'll make reference to our less than brilliant train service from Glasgow to Edinburgh. I'll be even more interested to see if Wendy Alexander, Pauline McNeill, Ken McIntosh or Patricia Ferguson commented.

And if so, I'd love to know if they talked about how awful it is to be stuck in comfy seats drinking coffee and eating buns in their first class compartment at the taxpayers' expense. I do remember reading this article a while back and laughing at the hypocrisy of the one time socialists but last night seeing three of them turn their backs on the common people and huddle together in their cosy wee 1st class carriage, didn't make me laugh, it just really just ticked me off.

I understand that, on occasion, you can't get a seat in the commoners' carriage and you can't be bothered standing all the way so you might upgrade. I also understand if you've work to do on the train, sometimes it may be easier to work in first class.

I work for an MSP who, twice to my knowledge, has needed to read through committee papers and so has upgraded to 1st class. But he's PAID FOR IT HIMSELF! These Labour MSPs buy (with our money) books of 1st class tickets, clearly planning not to mix with the great unwashed. The MSP I work for quite often comes back to the office with an issue or a constituency case that he's picked up from chatting to folk on the train.

None of these guys are likely to do that in 1st class and I guess that's what it's all about. Avoiding folk who might want you to represent their interests. Out of touch indeed!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

I could've danced all night

I've said before that I can be quite impressionable and here I am tonight. A couple of hours at the ballet and I think I know what I want to do when I grow up!
This is myself and Mary, she who is responsible for me ending up in Sri Lanka, rehearsing on Buchanan Street after we'd seen Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal.
It was a lovely evening and if you can afford it please go, I think it's on till the end of the year. It's pricey but we got in for nothing. All we had to do was pretend to be someone else on the guest list. Easy. I am joking of course.
Anyway go see it if you can, it's a beautiful production. Time for me to pirouette off to bed!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Another blogger bites the dust?

It's a big commitment to keep a blog going and I think I've managed fairly well in the last couple of years. However, I have to confess to getting a little bored with it! I'm not bored with politics or any of the issues I really care about - I am just not finding it quite as necessary as I used to, to share my thoughts with anyone who cares to read. Rather than just stop dead as so many of my blogging friends have, I'm going to see how it goes over the next couple of weeks and decide over Christmas.

I've had people tell me I have to keep doing it because I'm about to be ranked along with the 6 other Euro candidates in the SNP. But I was never doing this for votes. And the members will vote for who they believe will do the best job, regardless (I'd imagine) of blogs.

I love to write, there's no question of that, but I think perhaps it's time for something a little more creative. So if not this particular blog, definitely something that involves writing. Anyway if you're still reading, bear with me and see if my blogging enthusiasm returns!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Health Boards know best!

So, some of Scotland's health boards are objecting to having direct elections for some of the places on the board. I wonder why that would be? Something to do with single issue candidates and politicisation of health. I can see how irritating it would be if they had to accept someone banging on about the single issue of patient's rights but I'm afraid they'll just have to accept it because that's democracy for you. And to say that elections will politicise the boards is as daft as suggesting that having a government in charge prevents proper healthcare. All it will do is democratise the boards. As Nicola Sturgeon says it's massively popular and there's a reason for that - it's the right thing to do. Yet another promise kept by the SNP government.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

A festive joke

Tonight me and Dan the Man (my nephew) went to the Salvation Army Carol Concert at the City Halls in Glasgow, which I was invited to because of some work I'd done with them at parliament. It was fantastic, I LOVE singing with loads of other people, I think maybe I should join a choir.

Anyway I just wanted to share a joke with you that Major Kennedy of the Army told us tonight. Three young boys were chatting about Christmas and what they do on Christmas morning. The kid who was a member of the Church of Scotland said he went to Church on Christmas morning and the first hymn they always sang was "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". The next boy was a Roman Catholic and said he loved going to church and singing "O little town of Bethlehem". The third boy was Jewish, his dad owned Toys R Us and he said "every Christmas morning me and my dad go to the shop, look at the empty shelves and sing 'what a friend we have in Jesus' :-)

Call me stubborn but ...

Had a quick flick through a Christmas gift catalogue this morning and thought I'd found the perfect (and inexpensive) gift that would do most folk I know. It was a passport holder with the thistle and the words "Scotland Passport" (see photo). Was just about to order when I saw what they are called ... "Regions Passport"! Call me stubborn but I am giving NO MONEY to a company that refers to my country as a region. They've also got one for Ireland but why? Ireland has its own passport, it doesn't need a fake one so they don't even know that Ireland is not a region of Britain. Aaargh.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Wendy's at it!

I'm back. Arrived home Wednesday evening and for some reason went to work at the parly on Thursday morning. As I'm struggling to stay awake on the road home, I'm standing at the barrier in Waverley Station waiting to show my ticket and I spot this woman shoving in front of me. She's got a phone to her ear, talking loudly, bags and papers in her other hand and a flexi pass ticket - one that you have to fill in with TODAY'S date. Anyway as soon as I heard the voice I realised it was Wendy Alexander.

I spotted that she was holding a ticket dated 10th September and wondered if the inspector would be as eagle eyed as me. He was! She got caught! "Sorry sweetheart" he said in his Saff London accent, "you can't travel wiv a 2 month old ticket". Wendy, without stopping talking for a second, emptied everything onto the ground and faffed about on the floor of the station for quite some time (talking all the while) before finding a blank ticket to fill in with TODAY's date.

I guess someone else had filled in the date for her. I guess she just didn't know that you had to have the right date on it ...

Friday, 21 November 2008

Do I ever get a straightforward journey?

Followers of my last blog will know that I don't. Not ever. Something always happens. Today is no different. Here's how it's been so far.

4am alarm goes off and unbelievably, I get up!

4am to 4.30am I get ready because (again) unbelievably, I'm all organised and just need to brush teeth etc.

4.30am taxi turns up on time - apart from having to put up with the driver's racist crap, all is well.

4.50am Anne arrives at the airport for her 6am flight.

5.30am we're told there's going to be a short delay.

6am we're told there's going to be another delay and we'll now be leaving at 7am.

7am we're told it'll be 7.20am (I'm on my 2nd cup of horrible and expensive tea but it's something to do).

7.20am we're told it'll be 7.40am

7.40am - "final boarding call for remaining passengers to Malaga" - what a cheek, when was the initial boarding?

7.45am - we're told they've 100 folk on the flight and the screens were updated to show we were boarding but it didn't show up and when they were 80 folk short, they put the final call out.

7.45am - we all have a little chuckle at the above because after all, we're leaving now.

7.46am - we're told we can't board, there's another delay.

7.46am - we stop chuckling.

7.50am - the 100 passengers who were on the plane are taken off!!!

8am - we're told it'll be 8.15.

8.15am - they call for all smokers to meet the member of staff at gate 27a and she'll take them outside for a cigarette.

8.16am - as the branded ones queue up I consider taking up smoking just for something to do.

8.20am - the passengers tell the staff the flight will now be 10am.

8.20am - clearly pissed off staff phone their HQ to verify and yes, it's true.

Well it's true for the moment but let's not count those chickens!

Knock on effect of course is that my friend won't be able to meet me off the train now because he'll be working so after 4 hours sleep when I finally get to Cordoba, I'll need to trundle through the streets with my suitcase and find a bar to sit in till he finishes work later tonight. And, I'll have to try and stay awake. A challenge indeed.

Anyway any more delays and I'll come back on this ultra expensive internet connection and blog about something else equally mundane. Adios!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

No, quiero practicar mi Espanol

That's what I'm going to be saying constantly over the next few days - it means "no, I would like to practice my Spanish". I'm heading to Cordoba in the South of Spain for a few days tomorrow morning and I'm planning to speak Spanish as often as possible.

Our fellow Europeans however, generally expect to have to use English so I'm expecting some resistance - particularly as I understand Spaniards speak faster than Glaswegians but my Spanish is as slow as the 38 bus in the Glasgow morning rush hour.

Another handy phrase - "podria decirlo mas lento por favor?" - would you mind speaking more slowly?

And seeing as I seem to spend my whole life apologising (it's a habit, I even apologise to people who bump into me covering me in hot coffee!!), it's really helpful that there are 3 sorry words in Spanish - lo siento, perdone and disculpe - saves me repeating myself over and over again!

Anyway it's unlikely I'll be doing much (any) blogging until I'm back next Thursday so adios mi amigos, try not to freeze and I'll look forward to returning to putting the world to rights soon!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

That BNP story

Not sure how I feel about the database of the BNP being freely available. I have a copy and of course I've looked at it and within two minutes was shocked to discover an old classmate on it. Curiosity will not allow me to delete it but I'm hoping nobody else I know is on it. However, whilst I don't know how the database was leaked, I can't help but feel very uncomfortable about the whole thing.

One of the members on being interviewed by the BBC said he felt like he was "living in a fascist state". Let's ignore the irony of that - the irony, the utter ridiculousness and the fact that it's hard to feel sympathy for anyone who'd perpetrate these hateful views. Just because their views are despicable, does that mean we should have the right to know who they are, where they work and where they live? Some of them will now be sitting targets. Having said that, the BNP don't need a list of addresses for their potential targets - all they need to know is the colour of someone's skin and that's something no-one can hide.

Yes, my reasonableness is disappearing now that I've considered it properly. I don't feel comfortable with it and I don't like the idea of anyone being targetted but let's face it, there are many other people far more deserving of my concern so I guess it's just tough luck - if you're proud of your "principles" you should stick your head above the parapet anyway and if you feel you can't, you need to ask yourself why!

Union is flawed!

This is a photo I took as the train pulled into Waverley Station this morning. It shows the various flags hoisted above the Bank of Scotland HQ, the Saltire being in a lowly subservient position of course! What I noticed, however, was that the Union Flag (it's only a Jack if it's on a ship) has got a big hole in it!! That's all I want to say. That's all I NEED to say :-)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

No hope no future

It's heartbreaking to read the findings of the Action for Children Factfile Report. Apparently 1 in 5 of our young people believe they've little chance of making a success of their lives. That's bleak! If you believe you've no chance, you're probably right because negative thinking affects your behaviour and the choices you make.

I was pleased to see that the charity was warm to the SNP Government's commitment to young people and although governments have the biggest role to play in all of this, sometimes the impact of those we meet in our daily lives is far greater and has the potential to do more good and, obviously, more damage.

I came back from Sri Lanka to discover that my 16 year old niece was going into 5th year sitting two highers. She didn't know that two highers was not enough to get into university to do a languages degree. She didn't know because nobody told her. She had enough standard grades to sit four highers but the timetable clashed. She just accepted this and told nobody until I asked her.

When I explained that she wouldn't get to do what she planned if she followed that path, she resigned herself to working in the new Tesco in Port Glasgow! Obviously I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with shop work if that's what you want to do but she has a love of languages and she wants to travel the world and absorb new cultures.

What's more, she's an intelligent girl and more than capable of doing that but she was so down about her chances that it took a lot of talking round from the 3 McLaughlin sisters to convince her not to throw in the towel - at 16 years of age!

OK I'll skip bits of the story. She's now full time at James Watt College studying for 4 highers (including Spanish, thus my learning to speak it too) and actually loving it. She's full of beans and will talk at length to me about sentence structure or future imperfect verbs (I nod, say "si" and let her carry on!). More importantly she's excited about her future. She really believes it's all out there for her and so it probably will be.

My question is where was the school in all of this? They didn't tell her she wasn't doing enough to get into uni because they didn't KNOW she wanted to go. Why didn't they know? Because they never asked. Apparently she was asked if she wanted to see a careers advisor at some point and said "I don't know" in that teenage way we all once had. And that was it. She was not asked again. I've since spoken to the school about it and they admit that she was not very communicative so they didn't push it. No wonder kids at that school don't rate their chances of success if their future job plans are so unimportant that discussing career options is not an integral part of their education!

But it wasn't all kids at that school because apparently SOME get mentors. Those who are really struggling have a mentor in 4th year. Good idea. Those who are expected to do really well also get a mentor! Why? To make sure they actually DO do well. (Had to laugh when Christie described this category as "those from Kilmacolm" - I well remember that rivalry.)

And those in between like my niece who is smart enough but just doesn't know it, get left behind. If it'd been left to the school she would have slipped through the net. She'd have sat and probably passed her two highers and then discovered that it wasn't the passport to uni she thought it was. And maybe she would have given up and resigned herself to low paid shopwork. Maybe she'd have been one of that 20% of Scotland's young people who see no future for themselves.

All of our young people should be excited about the future. Of course they can't all travel, can't all go to uni but not everyone wants to do that. Everyone however deserves the right to feel positive about their future. Our governments have the biggest influence on all of this but family, teachers, youth workers, everyone around that impressionable young person has a responsibility too. Right I have to go because Christie's testing me on verb structures tonight and if I've not read up on it I'm in serious bother!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The road well travelled

Not long back from the Isle of Skye! I went with these two friends to the Skye SNP fundraiser which was a private showing of The Stone of Destiny preceded by a talk from Winnie Ewing, ex MP, ex MEP and ex MSP. It was a great night and one which I will blog on later in more detail. Anyway I'm telling you all this to put the next bit in perspective. Ian, who ran our B&B kept saying to us "and you came over 200 miles just to go to the pictures you say?" and then every so often he would add "it used to be that folk from Skye would take a trip to Glasgow to go to the pictures but I've never heard of anyone doing it the other way round"! It was a bit of a mad dash but I've had a fantastic weekend and loved every minute of it. Loads of material for the blog but later!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Speedy bonny boat ...

There has been so much I've wanted to comment on this week but I've been so busy with Spanish lessons and visits to the gym that I've not had time. Had I had the time I'd wanted to talk about a variety of topical matters, Gordon Brown's interference in the HBOS situation being top of the list. Then there's the local income tax, the stupid debate over PFI, the lack of street signs in Glenrothes, the torture that is body pump (only my fingers can still move - and my eyes!) and the incredibly good decision to award Nicola Sturgeon Politician of the Year. I will be blogging on the latter soon but for now ... I'm off to Skye. As always I do ten things at once so I'm packing, getting my hair cut, blogging and making up sandwiches as we speak!

I'm off to support Skye SNP with their brilliant fundraising idea. They've got a private showing of The Stone of Destiny and it starts off with a talk by Winnie Ewing, one time MP, MEP and MSP and famously known throughout Europe as Madame Ecosse. I can't wait - on both counts!

Just a quick story then before I go. There are many "famous" couples in the SNP, the Hunters and the Pennycooks being pretty high up those rankings. Anyway, the Hunters went along to a cinema in Glasgow to watch The Stone of Destiny, the film charting the escapades of Ian Hamilton and friends, who staged a daring raid in England to bring the Stone back to Scotland.

The aforementioned couples have been around forever and know Ian very well. Anyway The Hunters are sitting in the cinema together enjoying the film and suddenly they spot Ian Hamilton himself on screen playing a cameo role. In unison they call out "there's Ian Hamilton" only to hear an echo from the other end of the cinema as the Pennycooks who were there unbeknown to the Hunters also exclaim their suprise at seeing him! Maybe you have to know them to find it funny but seeing as most of you who read this probably do know them, I'll assume you laughed!

... like a bird on the wing!

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Reverend I M Salmond

Aaargh, I can't do the technology but click here and see one of the funniest sketches of the year!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Happy Birthday Toby!

Toby, my nephew, 2 today. Clever, cute and about to be even noisier when my birthday present arrives.

What does the Glenrothes result mean for the SNP?

Twenty years ago tomorrow, Jim Sillars won the Glasgow Govan By-Election for the SNP. It was my first election and the excitement of being part of it and particularly of winning, is hard to describe but it's something that will always be with me. From then on in I was sucked into the party and I've never managed to break free since! Never really wanted to and there's a reason for that which I'll come onto.

The following June saw a by-election in my own constituency of Glasgow Central. Alex Neil was the candidate and again, it was a real buzz of a campaign. But we failed to take it and Labour held on despite us going up by 20 percentage points and Labour going down by 9. We made the most progress but we lost. I was devastated.

At the 1992 general election, despite the people of Govan almost hero worshipping Jim Sillars, we lost the seat (due, not 'almost' entirely but ENTIRELY to *Labour lies). I wondered if the party would ever recover. I was certain that I would not.

These two events however, were probably the making of me as an SNP activist.

It sounds odd to say it, but failure and disappointment gave me the strength to fight what I then realised would be a long, hard fight. I couldn't have known that 20 years later we would still not be Independent but I certainly woke up to the fact that one swallow a summer did not maketh and one by-election, a free Scotland would not bringeth :-)

There are many relatively new members of the SNP who have only ever experienced success and will now, post Glenrothes, be feeling as I was feeling in 1989 and moreso in 1992. One or two of them may decide politics is not for them and who can blame them? It's a tough old life. But for others, this will be a positive. They will grow from this experience.

They will surprise themselves by turning up next week at their branch meeting and getting enthusiastic about the next campaign, they'll throw themselves into canvassing, leafletting and the usual round of SNP fundraisers. They'll join in the post by-election analysis and figure out how we do it better next time. And before they know it, the hurt will have gone and it will be onto the next opportunity to move forward towards Independence.

The reason they will do that is because they know, with unswerving certainty, that what they are doing is right. Independence may be a normal state of affairs for most countries but for Scotland, it's something we've had to fight for since the demeaning Act of Union in 1707.

It's about restoring pride and dignity among our people, about taking our place in the world and building on OUR international reputation, not being tarnished by someone else's. And it's about refusing to allow the people of Scotland (regardless of the complicity of some of them in all of this) to be treated like voting fodder any longer.

Right now, many of our newer members will be, like the rest of us, utterly exhausted. And they may be wondering why on earth they used up their annual leave, fell out with their partners, let down their families, missed visits to the gym, skipped important lectures, got into bother at work etc etc. It would all be worth it in the end, they no doubt thought. And they were right. What they got wrong was the end date. It wasn't 6 November. It was some day in the future, we know not when but it's called Independence Day.

It's like everything else in life - if you get an easy run, you become complacent, you care less about the cause you're fighting for. I wish, with all my heart that we'd won on Thursday - for the people of Glenrothes and for Peter Grant who is a really good guy and would have been a million times better than Lindsay Roy who doesn't even know what a Post Office Card Account is when it's a massive issue for folk who aren't in the headmaster class! I wish we'd won but we didn't and so we must take what we can from the result.

We went up by 13 percentage points. Good - we're getting MORE popular. We didn't win. Bad - we need to look at why. But I would say to anyone who is feeling damaged by this, please don't. The feelings I described in 1989 and 1992 were not just mine. Nicola Sturgeon was there, feeling exactly the same. Fiona Hyslop, Shona Robison and many many more of our people who could not have foretold that one day they would be, eg, Deputy First Minister of our country in a parliament we never knew we'd have. We didn't know HOW we would get our Independence, we just knew that we would. And we will. Look how far we've come since then.

Had it not been for the resilience and steely determination of the people I've just mentioned and many hundreds more, we'd not have a parliament, we'd not be in power now and we'd not have the opportunity to put Independence to the test in a referendum of the people.

If someone had told me in 1988 that I'd still be doing this in 20 years time, I'd probably have given up. I'm glad I didn't. I don't think it will take another 20 years, the tough part's over and we're on the final strait with just a few hurdles to get over. But I can honestly say if I thought it would take the rest of my life, I would do it. I might not do it to the exclusion of everything else (as many of us have been doing on and off for a while) but I'm in it for the long haul.

And in time, I think our newer members who are hurting so much right now, will gain a great deal of personal strength from learning the lessons of the unpredictability of politics. I know many members who don't enjoy being beaten but secretly love the hardy reputations they've gained from getting up after a fall, getting out and getting right back at 'em - maybe I'm one of them ... secretly!

In the scheme of things this is nothing more than a minor setback and the opportunity for the party and for the individual activists to reflect, renew and review. Better it happen now than in 2010.

*Labour lies in 1992 - I'll explain in more detail tomorrow.