Monday, November 27, 2006

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tom Cruise

I watched a great movie tonight.

On Sky Television.

When we came to Tiree 13 years ago we didn't have Sky Television. In fact, as far as I can remember the technological revolution was really yet to get into full swing, here on Tiree or anywhere else.

Back when I came here I remember finding it difficult to get typing paper. I had to order from the mainland and have it sent over. Same with cassette tapes. If there was an 'Internet' movement in the UK in those days I don't remember hearing about it.

In fact when I came to Tiree fax machines completed amazed and baffled me.

Everyone had a catalogue.

Over 13 years everything has changed. So much so that - by the wonders of the internet - I can contact my boss in Oban quicker than someone down the corridor from him. I will email him or I will phone him on his mobile.

Fax machines are old technology.

As for the catalogue you can always get it cheaper online if your 'shop around' on the world wide web.

For four years I hosted a very popular Tiree website which kept folks living all over the world in touch with this little island.

Every thing has changed.

When we came to Tiree we had trouble getting TV reception wherever we stayed. Then we finally bit the bullet and got Sky. It hurt me because Rupert Murdoch isn't one of my favourite guys. But we did it anyway.

Now we have great reception, something like a thousand channels (if we want to pay a little more) and still nothing to watch.

But I have to admit, Joanne and I just watched a great movie. It was called 'War of the Worlds', it was directed by Spielberg and it starred Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise. What a guy.

Like most people on this planet, I find Tom a strange guy.

I've more or less always liked him as a 'blockbuster movie' actor. I don't ever expect to see him do Shakespeare but that's not what expect or even want from him.

But he's not a terrible actor. Far from it.

What bugs people about Tom is Tom. Tom's been acting weird lately. I don't go in for putting people down for their religious beliefs and while Scientology is a bit 'iffy' in my book no one is getting hurt and there are some positive things you can say about it.

Most of the criticism has been down about Tom in Love. There was that totally strange episode where Tom was leaping about Oprah's settee, shouting out his love for his then fiance.

Everyone knows how he has criticised people for taking medication to heal their ailments rather than ... well, whatever Scientology prescribes.

So when I lined up War of the Worlds tonight for our evening's entertainment I had a reservation or two at the back of my mind.

But the movie was brilliant. As always, Spielberg's direction was superb. And there wasn't the usual overly sentimental conclusion which mars a lot of his work.

But Tom was great. The script was great. The special effects were awesome.

The movie had me and Joanne on the edge of our seats. It was scary and exciting.

Fast paced. And unpredictable. Well , unpredictable up until the point where the aliens got the flu and died. Or had a tummy bug. Something like that.

Tom needs to wise up. I think it's a shame - but totally understandable - that Paramount let him go. By all accounts it's a shame, too, for Mission Impossible: 3. Those is the 'know' think it's a really good movie. It's just that no-one wants to go and see it because they're all pissed off with Tom.

He's married now, of course. That should calm him down.

Friday, November 24, 2006

RANT ON FRIDAY: I hate this stupid man and his stupid wife.

Recognise these two?

Yes, it's that couple from the 'Picture Loans' advert on the telly.

You know the one: he's on the phone to this guy from the loan company, talking about the loan, punctuating this very important conversation with talk about football, the weather. All the time his stupid wife is following him about with a camcorder, recording the moment when they got into £42,000 debt.

"You know," he says when he's put down the phone, "it's really easy to talk to those people at Picture."

Yeah, you'd better believe it mate. You just borrowed £25,000 to 'consolidate' your debts and, according to the figures on screen, that will cost you £42,000 in total repayments.

I'm not necessarily knocking the fact that some of us do accumulate too much debt and can't seem to live on a week to week basis without scrimping and saving. In certain circumstances it may be a good and sensible thing to consolidate.

As long as you don't get into any more debt.

But when I look at this advert and I think about how this couple are portrayed it's hard to feel any sympathy for them. You can just tell they're stupid and they will continue to spend, spend spend. No doubt another call will be made to those 'nice people at Picture for another wee top-up.

Of course the people in the advert are just actors. And let me tell you, they do their job well.

So much so that I wish I could reach in through the television screen and give him a slap about the ears.

When debt overwhelms you need to do something about. But it's a serious issue and presenting it in such a blase style annoys to chuff out of me. Consolidation will help in the here and now. But is it worth paying £17,000 interest? They present this little domestic scenario as if it were a public service announcement.

Better to grin and bear it in the short term, perhaps. Or take real advice from someone like the Citizens' Advice Bureau.

Picture this: a few years tightening belts and £17,000 in your pocket.

And this: a 'picture' broken over the heads of this lovely couple, the frame around their necks like a collar. That's an accurate image.

It's really easy to hate those people at Picture.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Radio Dallas

22nd November 1963. A date forever etched in my memory. GMT, I remember the events of that night with crystal clarity.

Just going online now a mix of music, 'live' radio reports made at the time and samples.

It's called 'Radio Dallas' and I hope you ... well, take something from it.
It's being uploaded as I write this so hopefully it will be available very soon.

Click on the link, top right, the one that takes you to my 'work in progress'.

A Minister for the Islands

Interesting to hear Tiree man, Councillor Ian Gillies, on the radio the other morning. Ian was promoting the idea of the Scottish Executive appointing a minister for the islands.

Ian told the press, "We might never expect to realise the full potential of our islands unless they are represented at the highest level within the Scottish parliament by a minister responsible for their development, fate and future."

Iain is urging the Scottish Executive to look to the Republic of Ireland, which has only 30 inhabited islands and 3.4% of Scotland's island population, but for almost 10 years has had an islands section in a government department.

Ireland - and by this I don't mean Northern Ireland, which is, of course, part of the UK - provided Scottish Ministers with the inspiration to press on with the smoking ban in public places (even though this yet to be adoped completely south of the border in England).

Here's hoping MSP's take another leaf out of the Irish book.

My boss arrived on Tiree today. Among other things he told me how much he enjoyed reading my blog. I had no idea he did.

Days go by without my blogging. I think that's because sometimes not too much happens out here and I don't want to necessarily bore you with my reflections on nothing in particular.

Meanwhile, across in Ontario (got it right this time), my friend Scott Cameron is blogging like a man possessed and showing me the way. Check out his site down below in the side bar.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wild Weather 2

Storm Force 11 here according to the Met., Office. Strangely enough we're not hearing it so much now because our gable end faces sound and that's where the wind is coming from.

Wild Weather

Man, it is wild outside and probably set to get wilder. I was out at work fairly early this Sunday morning - before 8 AM - and it was fairly mild then. Just about 10 AM the wind picked up. It's now gusting at anything up to 60 mph out there and set to get stronger.

I had another one of THOSE days. I stopped by at a skip to throw a bag of garbage in for a friend. I had stowed it in the foot well of the passenger side of the car. I pulled up at the skip, rolled down the window, picked up the rubbish and threw it into the skip.

Next thing is I see my mp3 player go flying past my nose, out the window and into the skip after the garbage bag. The little earpieces had fallen over the passenger seat and somehow got tangled up with the bag.

So it was out of the car and into a skip full of crap to retrieve my mp3 player. It could only happen to me.

Today's photograph was taken on our recent trip to Oban. We'd gone out one evening to the place down by the north pier (I think that's what you call it), the one that specialises in Italian food. I put the camera down below the ice bucket with our bottle of wine and took this rather grainy photograph.

It looks rather incriminating but I have to admit that Joanne drank little of the white wine and the lager bottle was also mine. Still, she looks rather merry, don't you think?

So anyway, we're battening down the hatches tonight. The gale force/storm force weather is set to continue into the morning and way beyond. The Met., Office is forecasting gusts up to 70 mph.

See you at the other end - I hope!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Something In The Bedroom

When I got home from work today my dear wife Joanne insisted I follow her upstairs to the bedroom. She had something she wanted to show me.

Well folks, I was tired, it had been a hard day. But when you get an invite like that from the missus, well ... what else can you do but follow.

Turns out she'd bought us a new matching pillow-case and duvet set. And yes, that's it in the picture above. Kind of cute, eh? As for the motto 'sleeping is an art' I endorse that whole-heartedly.

My friend Scott Cameron, the guy I was talking about in this morning's blog, sent me back an email to remind me that he actually lives in Ontario, that he ran 12 miles a week after he completed the NYC Marathon and that he finished that race in 3:26:59 - not 3:27 as I stated.

Of course the last correction is offered by Scott somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But I have to say that if I was him I too would want that single second back.

Oh and by the way Scott - I'll be going to see Peggy and Bobby in a couple of days - I'll say you said 'hello'.

It's been one of these days. Today when I was parked in the company vehicle transporting people to the Lunch Club I tried to put on my fleece without taking off my seat belt, mistook Heylipol Church for a private residence and even attempted to put a coffee jar lid on the teapot.

Next Year Beckons

Well folks I seem to have emerged from my encounter with the dreaded lurgy. I started back to work today, a little tired to be sure, but glad to be back on my feet.

I have now passed the bug on to my wife and daughter. Generous to a fault, that’s me.

I was delighted to hear from my mate over in Manitoba , Scott Cameron, that he’s started his own blog.

Scott is a remarkable chap. Mid-40’s (I think), runs like the wind. Can’t get enough of it, actually. He finished the New York Marathon (26.2 miles) in a time of 3:27.

The next day he went for a 12 mile run to loosen up.

Yeah, guys like him drive me nuts.

I have to get some goals set for 2007. First of all I have to lose some of the weight around my middle. Then I have to get back into training – for what, I don’t know. I have to do some web browsing and sign up for some events.

I’m already thinking about a few events coming off in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I had seriously given some thought to the London Marathon but I think I may be taking things too far.

As I write this I’m aware of an annoying ache in the fingers of my left hand. And the discomfort in my left knee seems to be doing something of a comeback.

But I have to do something. I feel for the first time in many years that I’m managing to do something constructive, something with meaning. I never in my wildest dreams thought I could run a 10k or a half marathon but this year I did both.

Joanne says I am much more adventurous now than when we met, 28 years ago.

And on the subject of years we still haven’t decided how to celebrate that big 25th anniversary when it comes along next July. Hopefully, it will be abroad – either France or maybe Canada. But nothing definite has been decided yet.

I had hoped last year that we could go trekking in Nepal, maybe catch sight of Mount Everest, but we abandoned that soon after Joanne had her slight stroke at the start of 2006. Even though we had decided on an ‘easy’ fairly low altitude trek ANY kind of altitude could be dangerous for her. Well, at least that’s the way it seems to me.

Never say never, however.

We’ve been rather storm lashed this past week. As far as I know the weather observations for Tiree are still off-line. That tells you how bad it’s been.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not Intended As Medical Advice

An email from good friends in Canada:

Good Evening Gordon

An old fashioned Manitoba cure for colds and flu:

(1) get a large bottle of whiskey
(2) set out a rather large glass (8 oz or larger)
(3) Need to have a spoon and honey
(4) Fill kettle with water and Put the kettle on to boil.

Mix 1/3 glass whiskey, add a hearty dollop of honey, fill glass to top with hot water and stir.

Put on your flannel Pyjamas, place a hot water bottle beside your sock covered feet, and get into bed. Pull blankets up to your chin. Then slowly sip the above medicinal drink.

Keep repeating until you can't see your feet...(they may seem fuzzy).

Than go to sleep. You should be fine in the morning.

Keep well!!!

Warm regards from Wallace & Jeanette

Fortunately, I only just checked my email this morning.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sick Report

Hey Guys, sorry I've been away from the blog for days and days. Truth is, I haven't been very well for the past couple of days. Just a cold but needless to say I've been feeling very sorry for myself. Today (Monday) I missed work and I'm not sure what's happening tomorrow. I had a lousy night's sleep last night - lots of feverish tossing and turning - and for most of today I've been asleep on the settee or clicking through the Sky channels, watching crap like Baywatch.

Yes, Baywatch.

Actually, it's just the kind of weather to be ill. For days now the Isle of Tiree has been lashed by fierce gales. In fact, the weather has been so bad that the weather data transmitting service at Tiree meteorological station went offline sometime on Saturday morning!

So I'm really just checking in here to say that yes, I am still alive. I hope to have something of substance to tell you shortly. In the meantime, it's back to the cough medicine for me,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Germany Calling

Just got word by email tonight that I was featured last week on some obscure German radio programme. The theme of the programme - which I listened to online tonight - seems to be experimental music. The song of mine they played was Family Demands. I'm quite pleased about this, needless to say. Most of the other music played sounded very professional and accomplished so I'm additionally pleased to be categorised with the other artisits featured from all over Europe. You can listen to three of my whacky compositions by clicking on the link in the sidebar. More soon.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Slip of the Pen

In my last blog I incorrectly stated the maker of the fine scarecrow at the Children In Need fundraiser was Hugh MacKinnon. Of course this is wrong: it's Hugh MacInnes. The thing is I know Hugh's surname is MacInnes. A slip of the pen! Sorry Hugh.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Children In Need

After this morning's Circuit Training at An Talla we went next door to the small hall to look in on the folks organising the Tiree contribution to this year's Children In Need fund raising efforts. The folks in the Royal Bank of Scotland in Scarinish never fail to make a really concerted effort to raise money for this very worthwhile event and this year was no exception. The theme this year was The Wizard of Oz. Serving up the tea and home baking were the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy (played by Dorothy Connor), the cowardly Lion and the Tin Man - who was doing a sterling job of selling raffle tickets the last time I saw him. Oh, the scarecrow was there too - a fine scarecrow made by Hugh MacKinnon of Salum. Here's hoping it all went well and their efforts were rewarded with lots of cash for the kids. If anyone still wants to make a contribution get in touch with the folks at the Scarinish branch of the RBS.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


At about 3.30 yesterday afternoon the building in which I was working shook. So did An Talla, a mile down the road. So did my house in Cornaig, three miles away, where Joanne felt the house shudder. Everyone rushed outside. We thought a plane had gone down.

Turns out it was a sonic boom. Joint operations going on in these waters at the moment between the navy and the air force. First time I've ever heard one of those things. Honestly, it was like a bomb going off somewhere nearby.

Later that same afternoon I joined a team representing Argyll College (Tiree) in a video conference quiz. Our team came 4th out of the eight taking part throughout the highlands.