Thursday, 30 October 2008

He used to bring me roses ....

I got the train back from work tonight with Sandra White one of the SNP's Glasgow MSPs. She was telling me about a visit of MSPs including Sandra herself, to Cornton Vale Prison on Tuesday. One of the saddest things she discovered was that many of the women said prison was the only place they felt safe. Many come from abusive backgrounds (I think 50% of women in prison have been sexually abused in the past.) and many more are in abusive relationships "on the outside". It has to be one of the saddest things I've ever heard that they are relieved to be in prison because they feel safer than they do in their own homes. And I could have wept when she told me of one woman inmate who confided that being in prison was the only time she'd ever had time for herself. I want to explore the whole issue of women in prison, it's something that interests me greatly, but it will have to be another day I'm afraid.

Will it be another STUPID WHITE MAN?

One of the (many) books I'm currently reading (I think I have an obsessive nature) is Michael Moore's Stupid White Men. It's a fascinating insight into the American Presidential Elections and how George Bush fraudulently stole the Presidency from Al Gore. As you read the book you realise you don't know half as much as you thought you did about the whole shocking episode. One example was when the supreme court (I think) ruled that yes, okay, if the votes were counted correctly and according to the law, Al Gore would have won but seeing as George Bush had already declared himself President, it would undermine confidence in him if they changed everything now! Eh?! In the countdown to the 2008 election between now and next Tuesday night, I might share some more little snippets with you. Some call it lazy blogging. I call it caring and sharing.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross suspended

I am one of the few people I know who finds Russell Brand funny. Obviously he must have loads of fans out there but I don't know many of them. Except, that is, for me. The man is so silly I can't help but laugh. And he's completely outrageous - it's not that he says all the things I would love to have the courage to say but don't, more that he says all the things I wouldn't even DREAM of saying.

There is, however, a limit. And last week he reached it. Today he was suspended by the BBC along with Jonathan Ross for the messages they left (on air) on the answering machine of actor Andrew Sachs. Quite right but let's not congratulate the BBC because they should have acted sooner. Their tardy actions would suggest they're not condemning what the two presenters did, just reacting to the furore which is lasting longer than they'd expected. And why on earth did they broadcast it in the first place? That has angered me almost as much as the phone calls.

I'm not bothered about the girl (now that I see she's selling her story to the Sun) although it's not very gallant to spill the beans when you've slept with someone. My main concern is for Andrew Sachs. Forget him being a famous actor, forget that he played the much loved character of Manuel in the sitcom Fawlty Towers. This is a 78 year old grandfather who is highly unlikely to share the cruder sense of humour someone of my generation might appreciate. But worse, the crude "joke" was about his grand-daughter.

Think for a moment about a female child in your family (she may be 23 but she will always be a child to him, let's face it) and imagine someone in later years leaving that kind of information in that kind of dismissive crude language about that little girl on your answering machine. How upset would you be? Now imagine you're someone who doesn't use that kind of language and instinctively feels offended by it. And now think how you'd feel if the world knew about it because it had gone out on a radio station and then been reported in every newspaper in the country!

It's not about being funny, not about how open minded we all are, it's about causing deep hurt and embarrassment to someone for no reason other than to get a cheap laugh. I'm glad they've both written to apologise, I'm glad they both seem to be genuinely sorry and I have no desire to see either of them punished unduly for it. But I really hope both of them will have a think about the balance between being funny and outspoken, and being downright cruel.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The joys of public transport part 2

Just to continue the rant about public transport from the other day, so glad I wasn't travelling by subway today. My car is currently on the operating table and I'm awaiting a diagnosis but so far it's the brakes, a wiring problem, a burnt out fuel pump, a dodgy radiator / thermostat and a slight concern about dashboard lights coming on when there's no key in the ignition! Anyway today's tale of the subway problem is doing nothing to convince me I can do without a car!

Monday, 20 October 2008

The joys of public transport

Since my unfortunate coulda-been-a-near-death-experience when my brakes failed last week, the car has been in an immoveable state - except for when my bro in law took it back to my mum's house (ta D!) and that was all uphill so I don't think the brakes mattered that much. Anyway I've been thinking of getting rid of the car. No, let me correct that. I doubt I'll have much choice on that one. What I'm thinking of is NOT replacing the car and managing by public transport.

However, today, I used public transport to get to Greenock which took forever. Greenock back to the office in Paisley was fine but trying to get home at night - what a pain! Battling through the rain and wind for 15 mins on the way to the station was bad enough - my Mary Poppins style brolly nearly took off, MP style! And waiting the extra ten minutes for the late train was fairly irritating but at least I got a seat, the folk on the trains going out of Glasgow were crammed in like the proverbial sardines.

But the bus journey from Glasgow to Dennistoun? OMG! Now if I was not tired after work, if I'd all the time in the world and nothing to do but write comedy sketches I'd have loved the research possibilities that the bus journey opened up for me. But I was tired, I was desperate to get home and these folk - well, they're only funny when we're watching them from the comfort of the sofa aren't they? In real life, they're mostly extremely irritating.

The two football fans kitted out in the strips, rolling about drunk and talking rubbish. When they're on TV you can't smell the drink, they can't fall into you with their fags spilling ash all over you and they don't distract you so much with their unbelievably annoying behaviour, that you miss your own bus! Aaargh. Still, it allowed me to share a journey with a charming woman who spent the whole time on the phone. Allow me to share some extracts of her one sided conversation:

"Aye but the hing is, ye don't waaant tae have a fight just for the f***ing sake o it dae ye but fur f***'s sake, sometimes when folk wind ye up."

"Tellin ye man, if I hud a stanley knife near me, she'd a f***in goat it man!"

In between times it was lots of "na't u mean?" also translated as "do you know what I mean?".

She didn't spray her ash over me, she only blew her smoke in my face, talked loudly in it and then skipped in front of me in the queue. Decided that as I had no way of knowing if there was a stanley knife in that bag or not, I'd let her do precisely as she pleased. It's not fun and I don't think I'm keen on doing the public transport thing day in day out. So, today, environmental consequences are fading into the background and the desire to shut myself into my car (A car) is taking over.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Cleaning up in the NHS

One of the highlights of conference for me was hearing Nicola Sturgeon announce in her address that she was, as of Monday, banning all health boards from any plans to further privatise hospital cleaning services. Brilliant idea. Actually, it's not brilliant it's just one of those things that anyone with a grain of common sense and a desire to drive down the instance of hospital acquired infection, would do. Thankfully Nicola has more than a grain and used the other grains to good effect too. Indeed she has announced that families on income support with a child under 5 or a disabled child under 16, will be eligible for the free central heating scheme! Told you she wasn't just a pretty face!

SNP Conference is nearly over

Well that's SNP Conference nearly over for another year. I've really got a lot out of this one but, unusually for me, it's all been about the work and the debates and far less about the hectic social life on offer! Perhaps that's because I ended up speaking in so many debates. I didn't intend it to happen but so far I've spoken on asylum seekers, racism, class sizes and Europe. Tomorrow it's forced marriages and hopefully children's rights. You can't always guarantee you'll be allowed to speak - if there are too many people for a particular debate, some will have to be disappointed. Fingers crossed for these ones tomorrow and then, I'm going home and I'm not going to speak for a week :-)

Thursday, 16 October 2008

It's SNP conference time again ...

It's with a mixture of excitement and dread that I approach the SNP Annual Conference which starts today and ends on Sunday. Excitement because I absolutely LOVE SNP conference:

seeing folk you've not seen for a year (except not this year due to myriad by-elections);

cameras flashing (they're never fast enough to catch me though ;-));

friends texting to tell you to stop pulling that funny face (when you didn't even know the TV cameras were there - disconcerting but funny)

getting up to speak in the political debates, the multitude of fringe meetings and the social life, the endless socialising.

I did say there was an element of dread didn't I? That's because I am sitting here, due to leave in ten minutes wondering if my feet will last the pace. Will my voice hold out (!)? Will I be able to cope with partying half the night and concentrating on the politics throughout the day? Course I will, I always do. But we'll all be needing a rest when we get back!

So, look out for us. I'm hoping to speak on asylum seekers, racism, class sizes, mothers in jail, the future of Europe and one or two other things besides. Can't wait!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Famous last words

I often ask myself if I have a certain kind of telepathy or a skewed psychic ability - one that means I see into the future except I see the opposite to what's about to happen. I frequently make confident assertions about something only to discover within a matter of hours that the forces of the universe have decided "au contraire"!

Allow me to give you an example. I was telling someone yesterday about how being in Sri Lanka had given me a different perspective and I felt far less of a need to keep up with friends in a materialistic sense. I gave my car as an example. I said that people kept telling me to get rid of it as it was falling apart. And yes, it's had to go car hospital a few times this year and it does have a bullet hole in its side.

"But" I (as I do) confidently asserted to the guy I was talking to "it goes and I have a feeling it will keep going for a long time yet and until it is unable to be resuscitated, I am hanging onto it".

This was 2pm yesterday. 8.30am today, driving down the hill to get to work in Paisley and I realise the brakes feel a bit soft. So I test them. And they fail. Completely. Didn't even slow it down a bit. It is the weirdest feeling driving downhill knowing that soon you'll be at a junction and getting no response whatsoever from your brakes. In the end I had to use the gears and the handbrake.

These positive thinking gurus tell you if you believe something will happen then it will. Hmmmm, perhaps I just have funny DNA. I better go and tell Tartan Hero he's not going to have my car for conference!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Happy birthday sis!

These three folk are celebrating their birthdays today. One sang about Paper Roses, one wreaked havoc on Scotland and farther afield. And one is my wee sister Christine. I'll leave it to you to identify which!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Read all about it

Those of you who read my blog when I was out in Sri Lanka might remember how overly excited I got when I started reading again. I vowed at the end of that post that when I got home I'd continue reading and I'd have more in my life than just politics day in day out, night after night :-)

So, I come back and there's a by election. And then there's another one. And another, and another. And how many books did I read in that time? Not one. Last week, however, I decided to get tough on myself. I had 5 minutes to wait for a train and being the patient soul that I am, I couldn't possibly just sit there willing it to arrive. Instead, I went to the nearest book shop and bought FIVE books.

I am currently reading 3 of them - Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope; The Gathering by Anne Enright and the one that's caused me to blog tonight ... ~The Reluctant Fundamentalist written by Mohsin Hamid. It's about a muslim man from Pakistan sitting in a cafe in Lahore telling an American about his years in the USA. I've got to chapter 11 and I'm at the stage where the other books are temporarily discarded and I completely resent anything that interrupts my reading. At the same time, I'm reluctant to read on.

As the story gathers pace I am torn between feelings of excitement and the kind of urges that children get when they cannot BEAR not to know the details of some secret - tell me, tell me I can hear myself think as my eyes trip over the words as fast as they can just DYING to know what's going to happen; torn between that and the feeling that I am almost certainly going to regret the knowing, the absolute inevitability that it's all going to fall apart, the acceptance that the pain will be sharp and raw and because you've been so drawn into the character and his life, you will feel it just as acutely as he does.

Oh I don't half get carried away with these books! Isn't it great to get lost in a story? Righty ho, I've put it off too long. The time has come. The truth must be told. I have a feeling that is precisely what the character is going to say in chapter 11 - well, maybe not the righty ho ... !

Saturday, 11 October 2008

X Factor meanderings

Watching X Factor (I know, I know!) and just laughing at the wee interviews they do with them beforehand. They all say what they are most scared of. "I'm scared I get too nervous, I'm scared I'll cry" etc so that we're all so busy praying they DON'T cry (and they KNOW they're not going to) that we don't actually notice their performance. One of the guys said "I'm scared I'll forget the words, I don't know the song that well". Guess what he sings? The Foreigner song that was played 40 million times over in his teenage years - "I wanna know where love is"!! It goes like this:

"I wanna know where love is,
I want you to show me,
I wanna know where love is,
I know you can show me."

Then it goes:

"I wanna know where love is,
I want you to show me,
I wanna know where love is,
I know you can show me."

Yep I can see why he was worried about that one. Funnily enough he managed the lyrics quite well. It hurts me to say this because he seems like a nice guy and I'm a nice person but if you ask me, he managed the lyrics better than he managed the tune. Sorry sorry!

Sorry (again), just got to quote you one of the other contestants. Alexandra. Aged 19. Lovely girl but listen to this.

"Being picked for the final 12 for the X factor is the biggest thing that's every happened to me. In my ENTIRE life." No! Really? So you've not won any gold medals at the Olympics, carried out a life-saving operation or written a best seller? Talk about underachievement! What have you been DOING for 19 years girl ...?

I have a dream

Testing day today - got an eye test, a fitness test and then Scotland plays Norway!! Don't know what I'm more worried about but if I could have only one wish I think it would have to be for Scotland to win its big test today. Okay I'm cheating a bit because the eye test was this morning and I know I passed that. The fitness test - I think they test where you're at and then advise you how to get fitter, so there's no pass or fail. But this match today??? If we don't win, the chances of us getting through to the finals are almost zero. So it's definitely pass or fail for the boys today!

I thought I wouldn't have time to watch the game seeing as it's only on Sky and I've got loads to do in the house today but ... apparently I can watch it *here for free. This is "muy bien" as they say en Espagnol.

To get you in the mood why not watch this - it gets me very very excited and I almost forget it's not real, not even for the singer, he's only dreaming! But it gets you believing that getting to the finals need not be a mere fantasy for us anymore. Fingers crossed. Right I'm off for my fitness test ....

*I've since removed this link because I can't do it without downloading things and giving them my mobile number so not sure how genuine it is. Have to make do with radio :~(

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Sexism Estilo Espagnol

Have started taking Spanish lessons mes amigos and thought I'd pass on an interesting little snippet. As with most languages there are male and female forms of many words. Allow me to give you an example.

To say "welcome to Madrid" you would say "bienbenita a Madrid" but only if you're talking to a female. If talking to a male, you say "bienbenito a Madrid" - with an O on the end of the word for welcome, rather than an A.

If, however, you are addressing mixed company, even if there are 99 women and 1 man in the company, you use the masculine! Can you believe that? Yes of course you can, it's not surprising really.

I'm not doing it however. I have informed my tutor that I just won't recognise that particular rule and when she stopped laughing and realised that no, I wasn't joking, she got to quite like the idea.

It reminded me of a driving lesson I had when the instructor said "at the roundabout ahead ...". He got no further as I interjected with: "no, sorry, I don't do roundabouts"! (I won't tell you how he responded but I don't think he learned that technique at instructor training school!)

Of course the driving lesson was a bit different to the Spanish lesson as realistically, I had no choice but to "do" the roundabout seeing as it was less dangerous than reversing off of it. I'm not the only one however who is unhappy about having to use the masculine for a male/female group. Apparently politicians in Mexico now address males and females individually to save causing offence. Good move. Stops me being a trendsetter but I like it!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Glenrothes by-election date set!

So, the date is set. Thursday 6th November will be the day for the Glenrothes by-election. Two days after the American presidential result and one day after Guy Fawkes Night. So, will it be "remember remember the sixth of November?" I have a feeling it just might you know!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

There are SOME honourable members of parliament but only SOME

Here I am today with John Mason, Scotland's newest MP (yes, he's one of the hon MPs). I was at Central Station this afternoon with a big group of Saltire waving SNP members, to wish him well as he got on the train to go to his official affirmation as an MP in Westminster. We are all so proud of him for his tremendous victory and we thought it would be nice to give him a good send off.
"Nice" however is not how I would describe this little performance from Labour MP and former Deputy Prime Minister! Although I am reporting on it and was right next to Mr P when it happened, I have to confess I completely missed it. I was utterly oblivious to his presence. I heard our lot getting excited and wondered why. By the time I asked, Prescott was on the train and I'd missed him! "Probably just as well" offered one of our members by way of comfort - her reckoning being that I would not have been able to resist giving him a piece of my mind. Probably true. Particularly when everyone who did see him tells me that it was not a 2 fingered salute but a 1 fingered salute that he gave to our members!
Update - I love this post from Alison Thewliss where she captures the moments I managed to miss.

Life over at 16 and a half

Watching the repeat of the X Factor from last night and a wee boy waiting to hear if he's got through to the final 12, is crying. Asked why, he tells us it's the "biggest opportunity I've ever had in my life". Somebody please tell him that the majority of folk work their way up to big opportunities over a period of several years if not decades and even then it's rare to have an opportunity like he's got.

So ... enjoy it. Stop living in the future, live in the here and now and don't put all your emotional eggs in one basket! If this doesn't work out now, it might in the future and if not, something else will. I once made some comment on the blog about something similar and my sister emailed to suggest that I was describing myself and fellow members of the SNP. So before she does it again, let me just say, I would argue that the future of a nation and all of its people is a little more important than whether or not some kid gets to the final of a talent show. And therefore, a little more worth getting emotional about.

Why am I blogging about the X factor again???

MSP for Motherwell, Wishaw AND Malawi

I shouldn't laugh really because it's seriously taking the p**** out of the constituents of Motherwell and Wishaw but ....

Jack McConnell is now to delay becoming the High Commissioner for Malawi, he says in this interesting (for lots of other reasons) article because his constituents have been phoning him asking him to stay. Yeah, well I'm sure if the rest of them had known that, they'd have been phoning asking him to book his flight asap.

I'm quite sure the good folk of Motherwell and Wishaw didn't realise this was one of those phone poll votes!

I think the reason I'm laughing is down to hysteria and relief that we've only got one parliamentary by-election to fight. I'm sure we've all aged ten years since June and I, for one, want a break.
Hysterical laughter aside, McConnell's now to be a special envoy to Africa. Plus he's to remain as MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw. So what I want to know is how much of his time is going to be spent NOT doing the job he's being paid to do ie representing the folk who have apparently been pleading with him not to leave them?

Of course we all know the real reason. The Labour Party cannot take the risk of losing to the SNP at yet another by-election. In particular Gordon Brown can't take the risk.
Gordon Brown, you're a CHICKEN ...!!!

East End Bus Journey

I've just come home on the bus. It's midnight, city centre to the East End of Glasgow. It's always going to be entertaining and tonight I was not disappointed. Big fight between a guy who's started smoking and the guy who's telling him to put it out.

"All you had to do was politely ask" says the smoker.

"I shouldn't have to ask Mr Cancer Man" replies the bus bouncer!

"There's no need for your violent attitude" yells Mr Smoker.

"There's no need for you to give me your cancer" counters Mr Lifesaver.

It went on and on like this for a while much to my amusement. Of course the smoker shouldn't have lit up and of course the other guy didn't have to be polite about it - he was entitled to tell him to stop. I'm not really commenting on that, more on the style of the sketch than the content.

Honestly, that's what it was like, a comedy sketch. Actually it was like a not very good amateur dramatic society doing a re-enactment or a public service info film.

I stopped stifling my laughter after a while and just let it all come out. I have to say the award for funniest moment goes to the driver for his contribution. He stops the bus, slightly opens his driver door, leans out a little and says:

"Right you, you've not to smoke. And you - you've not to have a violent attitude. There you go then."

And that was it. I don't think either of them noticed as they carried on demonstrating their collective manliness. I'm telling you, I was sorry to have to get off the bus!!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Mandelson faking it

I've been behaving myself recently. I used to get told off a lot for trivialising things on my blog. "They'll not take you seriously as a politican Anne" was one of the dire warnings I heard many a time. So, I've been good but tonight, well I just can't help myself. I just have to tell you that when I saw Peter Mandelson on the news earlier all I could think to myself was why on earth do people get Botox! You don't look any younger, you just look kind of plastic and a little bit fake. Can't think why that sprung to mind just as Peter Mandelson appeared!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Come to Springburn SNP Richard

This is Richard Bache, one of the most organised organisers the SNP has ever had. He's pictured at the annual Race Night he organises for Govan Riverside SNP to raise funds for whatever campaign is being fought. He's done it for the last couple of years and I have to say he must be exhausted by the end of it because not only does he organise the entire evening and put in months of preparation but he makes the food. And here is where I really have to pay tribute to Richard. He is a vegan and all the meat eaters are always astonished to discover what a fantastic feast Richard puts together. It's a terrible thing but non veggies / vegans seem to believe if there's no meat, it will be tasteless. (My cousins at my sister's vegetarian wedding wanted to go for a sausage supper afterwards!) Anyway, nobody who's tasted Richard's cooking would ever describe it as tasteless, it's top knotch. And he raises more than £800 a night. I am writing this tribute in the hope that he'll realise Glasgow Springburn SNP is where he really wants to be - and then he can come and organise all of our events :-)

Glasgow to Glenrothes

The Glenrothes by-election continues and Glasgow SNP's support for it grows. Bellgrove Belle took this photo last Saturday as the 17 members arrived to fill the minibus. Little did she know that this week we'd be so overwhelmed with SNP members wanting to go through and campaign in Fife, that she would have to drive the additional minibus. So that's 2 busloads heading through in the morning. We've all started looking forward to our Saturdays which will sound odd to the non politicos who read this blog. But it's a laugh, we all love campaigning, we're all passionately committed to the cause and ... our fellow nats in Fife are always so happy to see us and so welcoming. How could we not go?!

Feed the world ... well p1 to p3 for a start

Free school meals for all children in primaries 1, 2 and 3. I can't describe how proud I am to be a member of the party that's introduced this policy to Scotland. It's particularly important when you consider cities like Glasgow have such a dreadful health record and such horrendously high levels of child poverty.

There are a number of reasons why this move is such an important one. For a start, it guarantees that regardless of what happens at home, these little people will have at least one healthy nutritious meal a day. Secondly, it takes away the stigma of being a "free ticket kid". And the evidence for that was clear in the findings of the pilot schemes - with an increase in the number of children who were already entitled to free meals actually taking them. If everyone else was doing it, they would not stand out from the crowd.

The policy of free school meals is anti poverty, anti obesity and pro health and I believe it will have a tremendous affect on our future generations. It's a policy the whole of Scotland should be proud of.