I’m Angry

I’m struggling with this one. The events of Saturday have really angered me. I’ll admit from the start that I wasn’t there so my thoughts and views are partially tinged by watching BBC News 24 for most of the day but that in itself is one of the reasons I’m angry. My wife was there however.

It’s not just that there was violence. Don’t get me wrong there is a place for non-violent protest and a place for violent protest. It’s the hijacking, for lack of a better word,  of the protest march by those intent on making their own news that is really getting to me.

I’ll get the anarchists out of the way first. Give them an event, national and worldwide media and a chance to ‘give one to the man’ and they will be there. The thing is they don’t seem to have any real or valid ideological beliefs that I can find other than declaring anyone that has money to be the enemy. These aren’t protesters. They are people that just want to cause damage. In other words they are dicks and until they prove otherwise they will always be dicks. The anti-capitalist claims of most seem to be blown out of the water with some taking money from journalists to throw bricks and cause damage.  Don’t worry I’ll get to the journalists later.

When we went to the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh in 2005 you had a crowd of comparable size. Estimates at both range from 250,000 to 500,000 depending on who you talk to. I’d place bets that the make up of the crowd was very similar as well. Seasoned protestors, union members, families, activists, first time attenders were all in attendance at both. We even had the black clothed, mask wearing, flag waving youths then as well. On a day where you had the G8 meeting barely a short drive away the day went by without much trouble. A few scuffles between the anarchists and the police but that night and the next day they involved in running battles on the streets of Edinburgh. There was a huge level of media attention before the march but afterwards all you heard about was violence. Completely ruined the impact the march was supposed to have in my eyes. If you ask anyone about the student protests in London last year all most of them remember is the violence that ended them. A bunch of dicks just ruin any message.

As for UKUncut I get where they are coming from. I honestly do. I don’t necessarily agree 100% with how they are doing it but I’ll give them their dues they are highlighting in a completely non-violent way the problem a lot of people have with the tax laws in the UK. Where I think they are going wrong is that they seem to be blaming most of it on the companies themselves. Calling them tax dodgers and claiming they are the ones at fault when all they are doing is not only legal but if they didn’t do it they would get into trouble. They have a legal responsibility to their shareholders to make as much profit as possible. Why not make it a point of their protests to highlight that it’s the tax laws that are the problem and the government to blame? Point the finger at the people that actually have the power to change the laws rather than hope the campaign of misinformation, and that’s what it is when you get down to it, puts enough pressure on the companies targeted for them to say something to the government to get things changed which is far less likely to happen.

I also don’t get why they chose Saturday to have a ‘super secret’ protest alongside the main march. Once again splitting the message and taking the media coverage away from the huge march the TUC organised. I call it ‘super secret’ because they had posters up everywhere telling everyone which street they were going to occupy. The only thing really secret was the focal point of their protest which as it turned out was Fortnum and Mason. A company that is part owned by another company which in turn owns a company that has ‘dodged’ £40 million. They claim F&M are the tax dodgers but back that up by saying it’s really someone else they have an issue with. Makes sense. Honest guv. If your going to mess up the days message by taking the media away from main protest then at least make your message clear and make it a big one. Don’t pick a target like this where there is to much confusion over who your actually trying to blame. It just makes you look like your trying to fuel a class war rather than highlight something our government is doing wrong.

From UKUncut we’ll move onto to Laurie Penny from The New Statesman as she was with them. I like a lot of what she writes and love the fact that she is so involved with everything going on but I cannot help but read everything she tweets as if she’s an excitable school girl at times. Yes she was inside F&M and was one of the bigger voices letting people know what was really going on inside but when she tweets one minute she’s tweeting about it all being so civilised and then she writes as if she’s jumping with joy because “Apparently they’ve taken the ritz!”

That isn’t the UKUncut crowd and whilst it wasn’t extreme that wasn’t non-violent. I don’t care who you are, I’ve been on the receiving end of the smoke grenades and thunderflashes they were using, throwing them into enclosed spaces is dangerous. Not just because the noise can deafen or the smoke grenades burn really hot and can start fires. I’ve seen the damage the higher quality pyro can do if they are used incorrectly or damaged and wouldn’t go near the cheaper ones the protesters were using. I take it everyone forgets the fireworks H&S posters everywhere gets plastered with in October every year?

I get why journalists get tarred with the misinformation stick at times. Some have to stick to strict company lines and because of that I don’t give anything they say any credence. Others work with the information they have and to openly guess what’s happening just out of sight so that they have something to say to the camera. A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on then explains how the game of Chinese Whispers the anchors then play ends up with them being accused of misinformation and lying. Bribing people to throw things at the police or windows doesn’t just step over the line, it jumps over it and hits everyone on the right side in the face with a brick. If you ever see the footage of the guys ramming the windows and doors of the Santander branch that was smashed up you start off thinking that there is a crowd of about 30-40 guys intent on breaking the place up. As soon as the window goes however almost every single person pulls out their cameras and starts taking photos of the one or two guys that are actually doing the smashing. I know they aren’t the mainstream media but you can bet a lot of that footage will end up on blogs and only serve to encourage the violence at events like this.

I’m not angry at the police as a whole. I’m royally pissed that a lot of completely innocent folk where assaulted by a few police who think that because they have body armour and a baton they have to use to deal with ‘problems’ that would be solved any other day by talking or, even better, ignoring it. I watched the aerial footage as the day went on of the roaming groups turning on the police and actively trying to goad them into escalating the trouble. In a lot of the cases I completely understand why and how the police went about doing what they did but it gets to a point where they have to say enough is enough and close the place down. Non-violently resisting arrest is one thing but having other people pull you away from the cops trying to arrest you and kicking out with your feet and generally ‘not wanting to be arrested’ is just going to escalate things. All those saying there is nothing wrong with resisting like that in situations like Trafalgar Square on Saturday night should take a look at themselves. Anything you do to escalate a situation like that which had been building all day is your own damn fault if you ask me. I guess it’s the pacifist in me coming out.

Laurie Penny actually quoted someone in her latest article that sums up everything that went wrong with Saturdays demonstrations.

“We’re fucked,” says the young man in the hoodie, staring out through the police cordon of Trafalgar Square, towards parliament. “Who’s going to listen to us now?”

The moment that the first dick decided to start the violence any hope of a positive message coming out from the day went out the window. You may all have had a great idea for a peaceful side demonstration but when your hangers on turn out to be brick throwing idiots and the riot vans come out then keeping your head and being smart about it all is the way to go. Just because you think you have the right to that peaceful protest, and 99% of it was with some of the best banners and messages coming from UKUncutters, sometimes it’s best to swallow some pride, go home and pick a fight another day.That’s not giving in. That’s using your brain.

In saying all of this the crime rate at the march as a whole was something like 0.04% or something like that. Tiny in comparison. The main march went by with no problems and it got it’s message out. I just wish it didn’t have to fight with the problems for air time in the media.

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Do You Have A Family Room? – Holiday 2009 Day 4

Hungover is no way to be when your in a strange city with four wide awake kids and a checkout time that is stupidly early. Thankfully I wasn’t that bad though.

With a squash and a squeeze we managed to fit everything into our bags and put them into the left luggage room at the hotel. We had most of the day to spend in London before heading out so we thought we’d go to the Natural History Museum as we never managed it during our last visit. As the museum was just along the road from us we decided to walk thinking it was only a ten minute walk away. An hour later we arrived at the museum only to have to walk all the way around the outside to get to the entrance that had a lift for the pram. It was quite stressful.

Nairn seemed to love everything and ran about shouting and declaring everything to be ‘way cool’. We wandered under the giant escalator and through into the rooms full of stuffed birds. The owls were particularly cool but Nairn was very taken with the giant ammonite fossil he found.

Nairn and his ammonite

It was here that we decided to find somewhere to eat as we were all starving and also here that the day started to go downhill very fast. We loaded up our tray with kiddie meal bags as they looked far nicer than most of the other meals on show and started to head towards the till. That’s when we realised we’d left Vonnie’s purse back with the bags at the hotel. We decided to cut our losses and let the kids see the dinosaur exhibition and then leave in the hope that we’d get back to the car before we collapsed due to lack of food.

The dinosaur exhibition is really good but it has to be the busiest part of the museum. We queued up to get in and then pushed along by the crowd like a conveyor belt. The pathway that runs over the top of the exhibits scared the hell out me but then I’m terrified of heights at the best of times but when your on a suspended bridge holding several hundred people moving from side to side I panic. When we reached the far end we weren’t sure what was next but we could hear a tape of a dinosaur shuffling and grunting and thought they just had a video on the go. When we turned the corner there was a giant animatronic T-Rex, it might have a smaller dino though, moving about it’s enclosure. Needless to say Nairn and Erica stood where they were and started crying. We eventually got them moving and the rest of the exhibition looked really cool and if we’d have had the time we could have spent all day in there alone but as I’d left Vonnie back at the restaurant with Greer I figured we should hurry back.

dino

It was when we got back, and I chased away the Australian photographer that was chatting my wife up, that the kids met Charles Darwin. He came along with his box of beetles and his magnifying glass and taught the kids about evolution. He was quite funny and the kids seemed to love it when he talked about dung beetles and giant balls of poo.

The kids meet Charles Darwin

So we left there and got the tube. After a little confusion at Embankment thanks to the Victoria line still being off we eventually made it to Clapham and eventually found the car. I was terrified the car would be clamped as the visitor pass we had was for 2008 I think but I shouldn’t have worried. After scoffing some of the food we’d left in the car we headed back to the hotel and off on our way to…well we didn’t know at that point.

It wasn’t until we had picked up our bags that we decided that we weren’t heading back up to Scotland via Derby. Vonnie decided it would be waste to have come all that way and not done something else down there. As I’d suggested Brighton, it was one of the places I’d phoned campsites for earlier in the week we headed there. It took us almost two hours to get from Kensington to the M25 and that was on a Sunday afternoon/evening. I’ve no idea what it would be like on a week night! Eventually we started phoning up the campsites I knew about looking for any spots they might have. Not one single campsite answered thier phone. As we got closer and closer to Brighton I started to panic and we ended up just turning up at the campsite that had originally told me to just turn up if we went down that way as they were sure there would be last minute cancellations. We arrived to find a notice on the gate saying the site was full despite being able to plainly see only half the pitches were taken.

Vonnie took charge at this point and started checking every hotel we passed as we finally drove into Brighton itself. Noone had a family room. In total we must have tried six or seven campsites and about 15 hotels and no one had space. Eventually we found a Radisson just behind the sea front that had a family room available for a small fortune but once we seen it and spent the night there we booked it again for the next night. The ids had a room to themselves with a huge flat screen TV with CBeebies and CBBC to keep them occupied while our room had a four poster bed with another giant TV and a huge bath in front of the bay windows. The wallpaper was £45 per roll! Don’t ask how we know that last fact.

By this point it was late and we were shattered so we got the kids in bed and had an early night ourselves.

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The Start Of An Adventure – Holiday 2009 Day 1

Our plans were to leave on Friday the 17th straight from work and camp on our way down to London. We weren’t due in London until Saturday the 24th for Zara’s wedding so we had a lot of time to use up and had many plans involving the National Transport Museum and all the viking stuff around York as well as popping in and see family.

And then the rain started. It wasn’t just your normal rain either that would come and go and if you were unlucky be really heavy for an hour or so. This was the kind that started heavy and didn’t stop being heavy. I phoned a couple of campsites to find out how busy they were and most said they were fully booked but with the weather they didn’t expect many to actually turn up so they felt quite confident that if we turned up on the day we should be able to get a space. We started ticking the days off as the rain continued and eventually we arrived at Wednesday before the wedding. We had no choice. We had to travel down the next day or we wouldn’t get there in any fit state and besides we had already planned on being in London on the Friday and had booked a hotel for the night as well as for after the wedding.

So we packed. And looked out things we would need. And went to the shops and bought the things we forgot to get when we were supposed to buy everything the previous week. And then it was Thursday morning. As time went on the rain didn’t stop, the car didn’t finish getting packed, the house barely got any cleaner and we were struggling to find somewhere that we could be guaranteed to get a pitch at. People got stressed and eventually the decision was made to drive through the night. Kat was housing sitting for us and actually arrived after work before we had left the house.

mess

Still packing at lunchtime on Thursday

Eventually we left and I thought that it might actually be plain sailing all the way down. We’d learned a few lessons on the France trip last year and we’d miss the ‘rush hour’ with leaving so late. Five minutes after leaving the house we came off the Whirlies roundabout on to the Hamilton Expressway only to arrive in a tailback as the had closed the east bound carriageway and were diverting two busy lanes of 70 mph traffic down single lane roads through Blantyre and then Hamilton. The way the diversion was going it was going to be like that all the way to Strathclyde Park. It took us an hour to travel maybe 500m to get to a point where we could turn around and head back past past Allers and down through Cambuslang to get on to the motorway at Carmyle.

We were on our way.

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Is it bad?

Originally published at The Apochrypha. Please leave any comments there.

That Findlay was given a late Christmas present of a Lego ambulance and I’m more excited about it than he is?

I need a night out. I get so antisocial and hermit like over time that the only way I can snap myself out of it is a good night out usually. It works every time. Just need to try and secure a babysitter so that Vonnie can join me and I’ll be all set ':)'

On another Lego note when we were in London we seen the original scale model they used for building the Forth Bridge. Someones only gone and made a Lego version of it!

Click the pic to go to the guys blog.


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*Beats Flickr about the head with a big stick*

Originally published at The Apochrypha. Please leave any comments there.

Have you ever been so insistent that you get something done a specific way that when a problem crops up that halts you in your tracks you come close to hitting something very fragile with a hammer, stapler or some other such heavy object that smashes things with ease.

With all the uncertainty and confusion over the last week and yesterdays trip by Vonnie to take the little one to A&E after she turned yellow I figured a nice and uplifting post was in order. I had the text all written and I had the perfect photo for it that I took in the Science Musuem in London. So I logged onto Flickr to get the fixed address for the image I wanted as almost all our photos are kept private for friends and family and Flickr is broken. You can look at our pictures but if you try and look at the other sizes it throws a wobbly. And the worst bit being the photo I want hasn’t even been uploaded anyway. So I’m left without a picture for my post which makes it nowhere near as nice and positive as I want it to be.

I’m stuck.

Then I remember the photo should still be on my camera which is in my bag. I get the camera out and hook it up to my laptop only to realise just as I turn it on that when I downloaded them to my PC at home I had the software delete them from the camera when it was finished. So still no photo!

I guess it will have to wait but I promised myself I’d get a post with a picture on here so heres one.


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The Bad Stuff – London Edition

Originally published at The Apochrypha. Please leave any comments there.

Yes it it was great but by god did some things I seen and heard really make me want to rock back and forth and murmur about taking the bad man away from me.

The Tube
For all the London Undergrounds got going for it they sure know how to piss off people. It’s Christmas time and Covent Garden tube station still isn’t open properly. Once the platforms full they close the gates on you and say it’ll be quicker to walk to Leicester Square and get the tube from there. That would be OK if it wasn’t for the fact that Covent Garden is a huge tourist trap and so no one knows where anything is. The only reason we managed to find it is because we had walked to Covent Garden from there earlier in the after getting the Northern Line down from Camden Market. I lost count of the number of people trying to ask for directions and being completely ignored. And don’t get me started on Camden’s tube station. How can they possibly think its OK to allow prams and wheelchairs to be carried up those 96 steps that are in use because they’ve shut down every other way of accessing the station.

Upper-class goth kids with the social skills of logs

What the hell is that all about? Walking through the pissing rain we managed to make it into one of the markets in Camden that had the walkways covered by umbrellas. I heard a squeel in front of us and two girls blocked our path.

*puts on posh North London accent and inhales some helium*
“Ahhh, I wish I’d worn a belt my jeans are falling down”
“I know what you mean. I’m the same but I just couldn’t find anythi..”

“KNUCKLEDUSTERS! KNUCKLEDUSTERS!”
“Where? Where?”
“And they’re pink! I so have to have them”
“They look so cute.”

“They’ll go with my *insert fashion designers name* zipper top”
“Oh they so will”
“Wheres Daddy’s credit card?”
*fumbles in bag*

ARRRRGGHHHHH!
*Bangs head off desk*

City Hall, Westminster
Who’s bright idea was it to place 4 mannequins brandishing guns on top of the entrance to City Hall just metres from the bridge leading to the Houses of Parliament. It might have been OK if they looked a bit like armed police but they don’t. They have stuck 4 Imperial Stormtroopers from the Star Wars Exhibition on the roof of the entrance and I don’t think anyone that seen them didn’t get a fright until they realised just what they were. It’s just asking for an elderly person to hobble past, look up and then have a heart attack.

Hamleys staff
The amount of nonsense they spout just to get a sale. The Astrojax ‘rep’ was showing off and his spiel was tripping off his tongue until I heard him say, “We sell 6,000 of these every day.” Now I could believe that if it weren’t for two things. They only have two shippers in the whole shop and they hold something like 20-odd boxes each and although the guy refilled them whenever he passed by I spent a good half hour and not one box was lifted during that time. Add to that the fact that they aren’t sold on the website means I’m lead to believe he meant Hamleys as a chain rather than a single store. If thats the case 6,000 Astrojax a day isn’t that much considering. I only found two members of staff that actually made sense and were helpful without sounding as though they were a circus performer or a street market seller. One was Santa surprisingly enough an the other was the deep voiced mad professor guy from the Lego dept.


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Sorry for the lack of updates

Originally published at The Apochrypha. Please leave any comments there.

Between Erica and work I’ve not really got my head around anything right now.

I’ve been playing about with the tags and categories when I get a spare second here and there so expect a few, if minor, changes to the way the website looks and runs. I upgraded to WP 2.3 before I ran off to London which messed up most of my plugins so now I just need to go back through them and get it back to the way I want it.


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So…the holiday

Originally published at The Apochrypha. Please leave any comments there.

We were very close to not going on this holiday. Between the stresses of the house and straining bank accounts from Christmas and the upcoming wedding it was a close run thing.

Thursday
I’d managed to get a half day to help finish the packing as we’d only finally decided to go that morning. Once Finn got home from school we headed straight to the airport. I’d never flown from Prestwick before and to be honest its certainly not my favorite airport in the world. Largely forgettable and the closest I’ve ever gotten to finding an airport that looks like the one I flew out of Moscow from. It is a barn. Anyway on the way there the wind and rain were terrible and we actually thought we’d either be delayed for hours while it calmed down or the flight would be canceled. In the end though it went ahead but the turbulence was horrendous and the landing was the worst I’d ever experienced.

Yet again I was using an airport I’ve never been in before. I usually fly into Heathrow and get the Heathrow Express right into Paddington so I know my way about the Circle Line and getting to and from Victoria. Getting the train from Stanstead to Liverpool Street totally threw my bearings. Thankfully where we were going was on the Central Line anyway so it was actually quite simple. Kirsty’s brother Simon was kind enough to let us stay at his flat while he was in Barcalona for the weekend so financially we could actually enjoy ourselves. Simon met us at the station and led us round to his flat we’re we took over his bedroom. Both Nairn and Erica were beyond tired though and so screamed for at least an hour. It couldn’t have been good for Simon or his flatmate but at least they were in a different room.

Friday
We hadn’t actually worked out what we were going to do during the weekend other than to say what we’d like to do in general. We got up that morning though and decided to hit Hamleys first and start off as we meant to finish and let the kids enjoy this weekend as much as we hoped to. We managed to navigate from the flat to Leytonstone Tube Station very easily which was actually a sign of things to come. Being fifteen minutes by train outside of the centre of London sounds great until you realise that it can take another 30 minutes at least to get from one side of the centre to the other and even more if it involves changing trains. Anyway we got off at Oxford Circus and sauntered round to Hamleys. It was mobbed. We managed around the top 3 floors but had to leave after Findlay spent a while playing with a remote control car and bike. It was just to claustrophobic but the boys were loving it though.

We then headed down the Victoria Line and got off at Victoria Street Station to head up past my work and onto Buckingham Palace. I took everyone along Victoria Street until we found Westminster Cathedral. WE wandered around there for a wee while before I dragged them up Palace Street past my work whilst confusing my mate who was in the office by asking him where I could get a bottle of juice from. Buckingham Palace isn’t really much to see. Unless you catch the changing of the guard I can’t quite work out why such large crowds would come and see it. Anyway we walked up past a park and down to the riverside. I’ve seen the London Eye from a distance before but even although its ‘only’ 135m high you just don’t quite get how high it is until your standing underneath it. We’d had a choice to make earlier about whether to go up during the day or go up after the sun had set. Thankfully we went up when it was dark and the whole of London was lit up. It made it look more like a toy town from the very top than the grey mass it really is that you see during the day. We managed to get back to the flat for about 8pm going past Tesco on the way. There is a Christian charity shop on Leytonstone High Road that has some of the most amazing furniture and we clocked this amazing dolls house in the window but on closer inspection it was actually a birdcage!

Saturday
It rained. And rained. And rained. It was also bloody freezing. Did I mention it was a bit wet? I don’t know wether it was stupidity or sheer brilliance but we headed to Camden Market that morning. I really must look more into the tube stations though before we do things like that. Trying to carry an occupied pram up and down the 96 step ‘emergency’ stairwell because its the only way in and out is just sheer lunacy at the best of times but when you’ve got a train full of folk around you as well it just gets silly. We made it though. And this is where we discover the one thing that annoys the hell out of me about London. Unless your at a huge supermarket or a tube station there are no speed bank machines anywhere! We walked the full length of Camden looking for one until we hit Morrisons and ended up in there for a cup of hot chocolate. Thankfully the boost of heat brightened up our day so we went back around the markets for another look. Vonnie was a bit disappointed that we only spied one ‘fake’ celebrity in the form of Peaches Geldof but in a town of 5 million people what are your chances? We came to the conclusion that we could actually live in Camden but I can’t stand the commuting ':('

After that we headed over to Covent Garden for some more markets and shops. It looked lovely but my god you get some amount of pretentious folk down there. I was also in what has to be the worst laid out shop on the planet. Lush in Covent Garden really needs some traffic lights and a one way system put in. I’m not joking when I say there is barely enough room for one person to move in an aisle never mind a shop full with bags of shopping!

We finished the night off with the Transport Museum. I didn’t think it was as good as the one in Glasgow but then it only deals with London transport rather than any and all forms. No row upon row of old cars but plenty of buses and trains. The kids loved it though which it why we were there.

Sunday
We were up early so that we could meet Despina and her family for a jaunt around the Science Museum. Lovely people and Findlay got on great with Josh. I don’t know how we managed it but we managed to spend about 5-6 hours in there and it flew past! Nairn did a bunk at one point though from one of the kids areas and almost made it to the lifts but we caught him just in time. On the way out we were surprised to find a piper so Vonnie had to get him playing Flower of Scotland and Scotland the Brave! We went for dinner in a wee Italian restaurant around the corner which was nice. The pasta was a bit weird but still nice despite that. I don’t actually remember much after that as I think I dozed off on the tube back to Leytonstone.

Monday
How there wasn’t any bloodshed I really do not know. We headed back round to Hamley’s to pick up a few things and then jumped the train back out to Stanstead. We decided that rather than rushing about with the kids and possibly being late for the flights we’d get there early and try and relax. Between all the carrying of prams, bags and very little sleep from the night before I was a walking wreck and how Vonnie didn’t snap and stab me at several points I really do not know. Anyway we made it onto the plane only for Erica to scream the entire flight and Nairn to act up. If he wasn’t headbutting Findlay for his toys he was trying to open the lifejackets under the seats. We did win a free flight out of it though so its not all bad. We will be using that for a night/weekend away for us and ntothe kids though as I don’t think we could handle that again until the kids are a wee bit older.

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No net

Originally published at The Apochrypha. Please leave any comments there.

We’re planning on heading down to London for a few days soon which should be something we all need. I have absolutely no idea what we’re going to get up to during that time but I do have one fear. No internet access. I can take or leave my net access these days I think. I used to get wound up after a few days without it but as the only real time I get to spend on it is my lunch breaks at work I’m getting used to the idea of a netless world. Vonnie on the other hand… her blood pressure starts to rise if she’s not clicked on her new mail icon in 2 hours and she gets the shakes if Livejournal’s servers go down for any period of time. I’m only jesting dear your nowhere near that bad. In fact I think you usually end up with less net time each day that me and thats saying something!

I’ve been to London on many occasions with my work but other than train stations, hotels and the Victoria Street Burger King the only touristy thing I’ve ever done is go see Buckingham Palace when I was staying in a hotel a hundred yards down the road. Even when I did make it to a museum it was at night for a launch of a governmental white paper so it was all shut off apart from the reception area we were in. Quite looking forward to it now ':)'

On another note when we get back I’ll be upgrading to the latest version of WP so expect me to mess up the install so rather than being down for 5 minutes it will be down for 3 days and I’ll lose all my posts as the database will end up getting corrupted.


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Memory 1

Originally published at The Apochrypha. Please leave any comments there.

I think I was about 15. I know I was in 3rd or 4th year and the more I think about it I think it was 3rd year. I’d been in school that morning and everything was fine. For once I didn’t have a problem in my English class and I’m sure we’d had PE that morning. I went home for lunch as normal and while I was waiting on my lunch going ping in the microwave and Scott arriving with his mates the phone rang. It was my dad wanting to know if my mum had called. He said my Grandad had died that morning. The only other thing I remember from that phone call was my dad asking if I was OK. I must have been OK enough to convince him though as I ended up back at school. I can’t even tell you if Scott ever came home that lunchtime. I sat in a daze during French which didn’t phase Mrs Hughes as it was my worst subject anyway. I can’t even tell you what the last period was. I say it was Geography if you were to push me for an answer but that would be a guess to be honest. He was gone and I couldn’t get that thought out of my head.

Talk to anyone that has known me well enough and they’ll know that my Grandad was my closest relative outside of my immediate family. Some have said I hero-worshiped him. I wouldn’t go that far but being so close to him and him being the only member of my family that I remember dying sort of puts him on a pedestal. My Gran died when I was 6 months old so I never really new her. He taught me how to swim and took me away almost every summer with my cousins youth hosteling around Scotland. We joined the Claremont Rambling Club when I was 10 and traveled all over Scotland with them every fortnight. It was only when his body started hurting to much that we gave that up but he stilled looked after my brother and I every summer while my parents worked. As a parent he had raised 9 kids, 4 of his own, 4 fostered and 1 adopted and was working his way through his grandkids as well. I could go on and on about him and his involvement with the labour party and the CND but this is about my memory of him and not about his life in general.

Then he started going downhill. I found it really hard to see him that way. He, to me at least, quickly went from being able to look after himself to having to sell up his house and move into sheltered accommodation where he spent most of his time not able to get about under his own steam or without help.When he went into hospital Scott and I managed up twice to see him I think. I really didn’t want to see him like that but I understood why I had to go. My mum said afterwards that he seemed to have an extra wee spark of life in him when we were there even although he had trouble remembering who we were at times.

Then he died. There’s been a lot said in the past about what happened at that point. My mum was down as the person to be notified should anything happen as she worked across the road from the hospital and could literally be there in minutes. Somehow though my uncle Raymond, one of the fostered members of the family, was there before her and had contacted everyone. I think my mum got there before he died but I can’t say for sure. I know I found out at the time but as I said I wasn’t really concentrating that afternoon or the days after it. To make matters worse for my memory I can’t bring myself to actually ask my mum about any of it. I don’t know if its to stop my mum feeling down because of my asking her to remember about it or whether I just don’t want to remember myself. I can’t actually tell you the date he died. Something in me tells me it was the 14th of April but again I have no way of knowing for sure. I think we have a copy of the death notice from the paper somewhere in my parents house but its an awkward thing to ask for.

The day of the funeral came and its about the only thing I have any fixed memories from. In fact I can still see it in my head as clear as the day it happened. As the only blood family left living in East Kilbride, I think that was why at any rate as one of his foster daughters still lives here as well with her family, the funeral procession started off at our house. I woke up and came downstairs to find half my extended family already here. They’d been going through some of his possessions to find his will etc when they found a letter he had wrote to the family. I really want a copy of it but I haven’t a clue who has one as I’ve never seen one in the house since that day. There were a lot of things in there that we sort of knew anyway but he never confirmed them to anyone. He joined the communist party during WW2 in order to get a job so that he could support his family at that time, I’ve no idea though how he wasn’t conscripted, and he had a lady friend in his later years. We knew all about Betty and she was a lovely lady but my Grandad didn’t want to take the chance that he’d hurt any of his kids feelings by telling them he’d found someone else. He kept nipping away for weekends with the CND or the OAP’s and it turns out half of them were actually with Betty going down to London for the weekend or whatever. The thing that stood out for me was that one of the lat lines of the letter was my Grandad asking us not to cry for him. He’d had a hard few years and was at rest which could only be a good thing.

We arrived at the crematorium early as we were in the first car after the hearse and so we got to see all the people arriving. To this day I’ve not seen a funeral procession that strange looking. At the front end you had the big black cars for the family followed by your usual every day friends of the family. In amongst all this though there were the die hard CND supporter with the colourful cars and back windows full of ban the bomb stickers. Then at the end there were a couple of motorcades. That was the weird bit. I knew my grandad was involved in politics over his years to but to see the provosts old and new of East Kilbride and Glasgow turn up and a few labour folk as well including Adam Ingram it was surreal for me to say the least. I sat throughout the service with one thought in my head, ‘I must not cry’, but could see folk around me bursting into tears. I think it was because they were crying that I managed to make it through without doing it myself because I was young and stubborn enough to insist that at least one person made it through without shedding a tear of grief. My uncle David was supposed to be the one at the front telling people about my Grandads life but he couldn’t. He tried but my Uncle Mike had to take his place.

I still don’t feel as though I’ve really said goodbye to my Grandad. The ceremony didn’t mean anything to me and in his last few days I never seen him at the hospital either. Every time I go camping the thought of him is always there and when I was on the march in Glasgow against the invasion of Iraq I couldn’t help looking back down the hill to George Square, seeing all the people out that day and thinking of him.

I promise the next one won’t quite be so down ':)'


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