Tag Archives: postaweek2011

National Niceness

8 Sep

Racism is bad. We know this. Few attitudes are less socially acceptable. However, there is a form of racism which does seem to be acceptable, to society at large and to the ‘victims’: positive national stereotypes. The idea that Scots are good with money, Germans are punctual, the English have a great sense of humour. An Irish person might well object to being labelled stupid or hot-headed because of their nationality, but would they really mind if people think they know how to party?

The reason my mind is on this train of thought is that I had to make a phone call to Canada to check a reference for my new lodger. Calling complete strangers, it might have been awkward, but instead we had a cosy chat, and if it hadn’t been a phonecall we would probably have ended the conversation with a hug. The point is this: Canadians are nice. Has anyone ever met a nasty Canadian? (I may have done, but I can’t remember if she was Canadian or American, so she’s not a very good counter-argument.) Perhaps I should keep an eye out in future to see if I meet any Canadians, or members of other nations, who counfound or confirm their national stereotype.

As for me, a canny Scot, am I good with money? Well, after negotiating my latest contract with Orange (£39 reduced to £10.60), I’m feeling pretty canny at the moment.

Frightfully Good

3 Sep

Well I did go and see the first showing on the Friday that Fright Night (2011) came out, and it was great!  I was grinning widely from the opening credits (good choice of music, nice reference to another good vampire film), and enjoyed pretty much all of the film.

Colin Farrell is excellent as Jerry, the worst-named vampire in history.  He brings to the role that effortless menace that you can find in his gangster-type roles, along with lots of manly confidence and wry amusement.

David Tennant is a legend, as ever.  It looked like he was going to be a bit of an OTT psycho until he started slurping the absynthe and pulling off his silly costume, dropping used sideburns casually over the side of his chair.

The teenagers in it were good, too.  Imogen Poots was fine.  Her main role was to look pretty and she did it very well.  I had never heard of Anton Yelchin before but he was fairly impressive as the hero, Charley.

There were bad bits, though.  One scene where Jerry can’t get into a house and so gives a strange, rambling sort of threatening homily went on for far too long.  So did the scene where Charley’s best friend, Ed, comes back as a vampire; Christopher Mintz-Plasse hammed it up unbearably.  Background details on the characters and the situation seemed to be sketched in rather quickly, and although the film is not short it could have done with more time for that kind of scene-setting.  Perhaps they should have taken the time from the annoying, over-long scenes.

On the whole, though, Fright Night 2011 is a funny, slick, fast, knowing comedy-horror, and not just one for Colin Farrell fans. If you are a Colin Farrell or David Tennant fan though: unmissable.

Frightful Anticipation

31 Aug

I am so desperately looking forward to “Fright Night“. I haven’t looked forward to a film as much in a long time. Yes, I know it will be full of annoying teenagers, in the audience and on screen. Yes, I know it may well be terrible. You may already have seen it and be able to tell me for sure – but don’t! Let me wallow in the anticipation of Colin Farrell as a vampire – and not one of your angsty, spotty, woebegone teenage vampires, either – a proper, grown up, evil vampire.

What vampire film-makers seem to have forgotten in recent years is that a vampire has to be such that you want them to “kiss” you.  It’s not so much about external good versus evil, as the internal pull of the things you shouldn’t want, but do.

David Tennant is in “Fright Night” 2011 too, as a slayer, and he is good in just about everything, even the drippy “Single Father”. I’m trying not to find out too much about the film so as not to spoil it. I haven’t seen the original, so apart from the one-line synopsis, I know nothing.

The film is out on Friday. Usually I’m strictly an Orange Wednesdays kind of girl, but in this case I may have to make an exception.

[See my review of Fright Night.]

Goldfish Shoals Nibbling on my Toes

27 Aug

On Thursday had my feet gently hoovered by a shoal of little fish called Garra Rufa.  They are a species of Turkish fish that seems to like nothing better than to nibble on human feet, for whatever reason.

Having a fish pedicurech

The lady in the shop said they don’t actually eat the tiny particles of skin they remove, so the shop has to keep them fed on fish food as well.  I suppose that means they won’t be tempted to take people’s toes off if they go too long between customers.

I had wanted to try a fish pedicure for a while, and then one came up on a KGB deal, together with an OPI polish (specially strong nail varnish) and not too far from the city centre.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it, so the deal gave me the excuse to

go ahead; at least if I didn’t like the fish nibbling, I would still get pretty toenails out of it.  As it transpired, I liked it very much.  There’s a bit of a shock at first when they all descend on you at once, but after that it’s a really pleasant feeling, if a little bit tickly sometimes.

I had half an hour of fish hoovering, which I thought was very good value for £9.   My feet felt a bit smoother afterwards, but there wasn’t really much effect.  I think it’s more the novelty and the sensation which is the point.  If you didn’t enjoy tiny fish swimming round your feet it wouldn’t be worth it even if it was free.  The file and polish was a bit of an afterthough once the fish had done their stuff –

for the salon as well as for me, it felt like.  Still, I now have lovely pale blue sparkly toenails.  Not that I’ll be showing them off any time soon; I just got half drowned in a torrential rain laced with hailstones the size of jelly tots.  Ah!  Summer in Glasgow.

Albania – the Other Side of the World

16 Aug

As soon as I got back  to Britain, Albania started fading like a dream.  When I’m in the UK, Albania seems like a crazy, imaginary place, and when I’m over there the West just seems like a story.  They are two different  worlds and it seems impossible that they could both be true.  Before the last rays of sunshine trickle from my memory I’ll set down a few of my favourite, and least favourite, thing about Albania.

A Roadside Building in Albania

A Roadside Building in Albania

+ve Buildings with bold geometric shapes and contrasting colours, with supporting columns thrown out at energetic angles.   These are typically roadside garages or “kompleks” (small service stations) but you also get hotels and apartment blocks in this form.  I think it’s probably a combination of the survival from the communist era of an appreciation for strong, clean lines, with a post-communist rebellion against the constant grey and lack of decoration,  but I’m hardly an expert on architectural psychology.  The photo is terrible, taken from a moving car with a phone camera, but it gives you an idea.  It may not be to your taste, of course – after all, I’m one of those people who like wind turbines.

+ve The food.  I love Albanian food, generally speaking.  That’s not to say I haven’t had any number of bad meals in Albania, but when it’s done well, Albanian cuisine is amazing.  This, like the buildings, is also a matter of taste.  It tends to be greasy and salty and generally bad for you – but then, I’m Scottish, I’m designed to like that kind of stuff.  My favourite kind of Albanian food is the fast food – byrek me gjise (salty white soft cheese inside flaky filo pastry) and sufllaqe (pork, salad, and chips in a pitta, with lashings of  ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise).  I always make a beeline to my friend Dajana’s sufllaqe shop whenever I return to the town of Lushnje.

+ve and -ve  Sunshine.  Now, this looks like it should be a clear-cut positve, but you can have too much of a good thing.  When you’ve been suffering through Scotland’s excuse for a summer, constant hot sunshine is great, and that’s true up to about 35 degrees (in the sun).  Once it starts to climb above that, however, you start to remember that the sun can kill you – and indeed it feels like it will when you’re struggling through the blazing 40 degree sunshine, gasping for the next patch of shade and glugging litres of water.  Most of the time this trip the weather was perfect – hot enough to persuade you into the sea / lake / river, not hot enough to make you want to drown yourself there.

+ve and -ve  Another plus and minus combined is the driving.  On the one hand I love the freedom of not having to wear a seatbelt and the innovative way people deal with road regulations, such as improvising their own contraflows (when I’m being driven – driving myself would be fairly terrifying).  On the other hand, most people do seem  to drive like idiots, park in the daftest places, and accidents are accepted as a natural hazard.  I saw two while I was out there in less than two weeks.  Neither was serious, but it gives you some idea of the condition cars and bikes – and, in some cases, people – end up in.

-ve But if you think driving conditions are bad, you should try being a pedestrian.  There’s a reason why people walk down the roads, despite the crazy driving, and it’s that the pavements are more hazardous.  The slabs are often broken or missing, and in some places there are uncovered manholes and drains (although this problem is not as bad as it used to be).  It’s not that bad in sensible shoes in the daytime, but throw in the complication of high heels, or nightime, or both, and things get very hairy indeed.

-ve Worse than the broken pavements was the broken sleep. Now this isn’t a typical Albanian thing like the others on the list, it’s more a result of being there in the holidays when people are coming and going and everyone wants to fit as much in as possible.  So there were 4am wake up calls to go fishing, the husband coming in from a local bar in the early hours, relatives arriving from Greece at three in the morning – and sometimes more than one interruption in a night.  I spent a week without a whole night’s sleep and I would have become homicidal if it wasn’t for the siestas.

+ve Affection.  In Albania, your friends show you that they love you, and you can do the same back without fear of being misunderstood.  There’s so much more platonic touching – holding hands, kissing on both cheeks, walking arm in arm.  It’s also true that people can fake affection, particularly when circumstances dictate that they’re supposed to love you, but don’t.  However, that is more than made up for by the genuinely warm welcome my old friends give me (especially my Christian friends), and the sheer joy of spending time with people who truly care about you and aren’t afraid to show it.

(f you’re interested in visiting Albania, you might want to check out my article on Albania as a holiday destination.  Be aware, though, that the advice on visas and using credit cards is a bit out of date – things have moved on and it’s easier to visit and to use plastic than it used to be.)

The Joys of Dyslexia

19 Jul

Tom Pellerau, who astonishingly won The Apprentice despite being a nice chap, was talking on “You’re Hired” about how his dyslexia had been a boon to him, allowing him to turn around inventions in his mind, a thing that other people don’t seem to be able to do.  I can’t do that either, since dyslexia is a very flexible disability which varies from person to person.  However my own dyslexia does provide some benefits – chiefly, the amusement I get from hastily glimpsed signs.

The dyslexic brain often grabs at the shape of words rather than reading all the letters, which means (out of context) I have the ability to misread things more dramatically than the average person.  Here’s a selection of my favourites:

Eat your peas = Eat your pets

Trinny and Susannah = Tyranny and Susannah

Gordon Street = Gorilla Street

Providing life-changing services to people with sight loss = providing for the vices of people with sight loss

What’s on this month = What’s on the moon

Ignite your imagination = ignore your neighbours

Recycle your batteries here = recycle your enemies here

Krushems = blaspheme

coffee shop = chlorine

Experience the wisdom of the OT in a new way = Experience the wisdom of the OT in a new wax

The Bible played a central role in Calvin’s life and work = The BBC played a central role in Calvin’s life and work

disaster = distasteful

cafe and picnic area = cafe and piñata area

2 for 1 dining = 2 for 1 dripping

tapers in Universal Credit = tapas in Universal Credit

serviced offices = sacred offices

catalogue specials =  cast a spell on us

celebrating fine coffee = celebs rating fine coffee

reduce arrears = reduce Andy to tears

Special Promotional Rates = Suicide Promotional Fares

Who will you back? = Who will you kill back?

Salsa and Salsacise classes = Salary and Sausage classes

Touch Blue Telecom = Touch the Blue Pelican

Fasten your seatbelt = Fasten your breakfast

Recruiting mechanics now = Recruiting maniacs now

FedEx = feck it

Putting customers at the heart of everything we do = Putting cushions at the heart of everything we do

A&FNY = Agent Firefly

Internal management plans = Infernal management plans

Baggage reclaim = try to remain calm [particularly apt, I think]

The cosy poncho = The cosy psycho

Bifocal contact lenses = Biblical contact lenses

Professionally formulated with argan oil = Presumably formulated with argan oil

liposuction = lapsang souchong

Welding engineers = wedding emergencies

Sit-in restaurant meals = sit in respectable schools

14 days of unmissable tennis = 14 days of unspeakable tenor

Bring Back Rob McElwee!

11 Jul

I have started a petition to bring back Rob McElwee, the BBC weatherman.  His forecasts were a joy, full of idiosyncratic phrases and anthropomorphic weather systems.  He was cut by the BBC earlier this year, much to many people’s dismay.  I know I’m not alone in this – there’s even an appreciation page on Facebook, as well as a page calling for his reinstatement.

If you are a fan of intelligent TV, please sign my petition.  When I have enough signatures I’ll be contacting the BBC directly.

You can see an example of Rob’s presenting here: Rob McElwee forecast
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Harmony Beauty Salon, Cathcart

8 Jul

Massage. Is there anything else which is so good for you and at the same time so pleasurable? Yesterday I went for a massage at Harmony in Cathcart. It was free (of course – I am the Freebie Queen) because my sister had given me her O2 reward. I had the choice of facial waxing or threading, manicure, pedicure or massage, and went for massage.

Harmony is less than a ten minute walk from Cathcart station, but it’s a bit off the beaten track and you have to know where you’re going – which I didn’t. I was wishing I had brought a map by the time I finally found Ashmore Road. The door was locked because there was only one person working (Caroline) but I was let in almost immediately and left in the small waiting area opposite a wall full of reassuring certificates.

The salon smelt of wax, as all beauty salons do. It’s not a strong smell, nor is it unpleasant, but it is very pervasive. (If you don’t know what it smells like, pop your head round the door of any beauty salon in the country.) The waiting area could have done with a better selection of magazines; my choice was Woman’s Weekly, trashy celebrity magazines or a shopping catalogue. I’ll leave you to guess which I chose. But I didn’t go there for the reading material, did I? I went for the massage, and that was lovely.

The treatment room was small but clean and tastefully decorated, with the usual soothing music on the stereo. It had a proper massage bed with a hole for the client’s face, which was good for me, and adjustable height, which is good for the therapist.

Caroline offered me the choice of Swedish or aromatherapy massage, and a choice of aims for the aromatherapy – relaxing, energising, etc. During the massage the room was very dark, the music quiet, Caroline’s hands warm, and it was very easy to relax. I’m sure I got more than the fifteen minutes I was entitled to, and even my legs got a bit of treatment. At the end my back felt wonderful and all the knots were worked out of my neck. My lymphatic system was also stimulated and my levels of cortisol (stress hormone) reduced, but perhaps that’s a bit too sciency. The point it, massage is great and everyone should do it, and Harmony (provided you have a map) is a good place to have one.

Stories for Nine Year Olds

5 Jul

I was at a friend’s flatwarming the other day, had a look at her bookshelves and saw Stories for Nine Year Olds!  This was one of my favourite books from childhood.  I worked my way through the small school library, and came across it on my way.  It was one of a series (you can probably guess the names of the other titles) but the Nine Year Olds volume was by far the best.

Stories for Nine Year Olds was my first introduction to Saki (“The Lumber Room”) who became a favourite.  It has “The White Seal” in it, a wonderful Kipling story.  It also has the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, which must have been one of my earlier encounters with Greek myth and the ancient world in general.  I don’t think it’s still in print (although there are other books with the same name) but if you can get hold of one it’s a great read for any age.

Dinky Laptop

5 Jul

I think it’s about time I sang the praises of my new netbook. It is an Elonex Webbook which I bought on Ebay for about £55. It’s tiny (7 inches!), it’s ancient (Windows CE 6.0 if that means anything to you) and it struggles to do much more than let me type, but I only got it so that I could write on the go without having to type it up, and it fulfills that purpose admirably.

Someone commented that it’s too small to be of any use, but I must have particularly nimble fingers, because it’s not giving me any serious problems – a few more typos than usual, that’s all. It fits in my handbag, which is not large, and means I can take it with me on the train to work. It takes about 15 minutes each way. Allowing for time to sort myself out, turn it on, save my work, turn it off etc. it give me another twenty minutes of writing time for every day I travel to the office. That may not sound like much, but when you struggle to find time to write (lack of discipline, really, rather than lack of time) it makes a huge difference. I’ve written an entire short story (A Recipe for Summer) and a few chapters of my novel Vermin on it. Well worth £55 – especially since it’s tax deductable 😉