Monday, February 22, 2016

Well Guess What?

Ha. I guess it has been about twelve months since my last post.

Just a quick update to let the world know about my upcoming gigs. Yes, this guy is back on the scene.

Kicking off this Wednesday at 8pm and then subsequent Wednesdays. I'll see how well I am received and then decide if it'll become a permanent fixture.

Anyway, if you're anywhere near Ardersier on Wednesday nights, pop into The Star Inn for some tunes.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

This Wonderful Annual Update

Greetings Folks,

I occasionally think I should update more often but more often than not more important things get in the way.

The last twelve months have been tumultuous in many ways but the most distracting thing has been the addition of Rudi Ising to our family.

Maybe he didn't look so bonnie when he first squeezed out but at the time biology took over and he looked just fine to me, even the hint of ginger that could have just been a bit bloody seemed to turn blonde, or even invisible.

It wasn't long before he got simply adorable.

He was teeny-totie when he arrived. 6 pounds 10 ounces (3kgs) which was a fraction smaller than Isaac was at birth but Rudi was a couple of weeks earlier. He did take us quite by surprise but didn't take long to emerge once the pushing started.

Even the tiny baby clothes seemed to hang off him. Changing his nappy was a delicate operation: he resembled a baby bird who had fallen from the nest. By contrast, changing Isaac's nappy became a revelation at how big he had grown. Gripping his ankles I had the feeling that he was more like a teenager than a toddler and was time he abandoned the nappies altogether. A journey we have commenced this week.

Rudi's fontanelle was quite pronounced, more so than Isaac's. I wondered if Rudi was, indeed, a Mason.

Rudi was also born with this weird left foot which splayed all the way back to the shin. His Mumma assures me this was the foot that was stuck into her ribs for the last few months of his incubation. His feet are fine by the way, I haven't tested whether or not he still has this unique flexibility.

He did, and still does, sleep soundly for long stretches. Neither Mumma nor I remember Isaac complying so peacefully.

From the beginning Rudi seemed studious in his demeanour. Isaac was a very alert and wise looking baby, but Rudi has always been a little more serious.

Except, of course, when he's hungry. Which is probably as much as any newborn except that, in contrast to Isaac (who we swaddled and did a kind of 'controlled crying'), Rudi is 'on the boob' nearly 24/7.

Again, this has resulted in a more content and studious/serious baby.

The other thing this 24/7 suckling has mean for me as a father is a level of disconnect I don't recall having with Isaac. Rudi has a bond with his Mumma that is a beautiful thing, however there has been less 'Daddy-time' and sometimes I'm frustrated that he doesn't settle as easily with me. I feel like an outsider in his life, especially because I am now more responsible for Isaac's attention than ever, but it means that the time I get with Rudi is very special. Now that he has started smiling it is an amazing rush to be able to make him smile. We've got this thing, Rudi and I, where I puck a kiss on his lips and he starts to laugh. Very nearly makes me cry.

Isaac was a very colicky (sp?) baby. Because his stomach was so small he was hungry all the time and cried inconsolably for close on six months. Rudi, possibly because of his 24/7 boobage, hasn't exhibited the same symptoms. Indeed Rudi has pretty much doubled his birth weight at six weeks. He's a right wee chubster. Very cute with it. His thighs have a lot more meat on them than Isaac ever did. I look at Isaac's early photos and, whilst he was and remains a gorgeous child, there was a certain skinny rat-like quality to his face which of course we were blind to at the time. Rudi is a lot more baby-like.

It's taken until the last couple of weeks before Rudi has blessed us with smiles. Sure most of them are probably wind related, but there is every reason to believe that our second-born son has a similar happy disposition to his older brother.

In this final (for now) picture you can see the ginger peeking out. I really think we've got ourselves another keeper. Apart from the colouring and the healthy weight Rudi is the spitting image of his older brother at the same age.

I guess we'll see where we are at the next update which, hopefully, won't be in another twelve months. One thing is for certain, there won't be another brother or sister to gloat about.

Love to you all always.

Craig D. Ising Esq etc.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Reasons to be Cheerful

Hello friends far and wide,

2013 has been an amazing year in our household.

This Wonderful Year has even included swimming, yes swimming, on our own beach.

I'm sure you are all well aware of our beloved Isaac's continued development via our previous correspondence both personal and social.

It's been a year that seems to have reached its conclusion prematurely, although in some respects it seems to have taken the longest time. Isaac's sleeping challenges as a wee baby gave way to a boy who seemed to have no trouble sleeping soundly from 7pm until 7am each morning, until . . .

2013 could well be referred to as the 'Year of the Teeth'. Any of you holding on to the mysterious belief of Intelligent Design need look no further than the process your God designed for seeing in that first set of baby teeth. The first ones seem bad enough. Sharp little incisors slicing their way through the tender skin inside a small child's mouth. Redness of the cheeks, litres of saliva produced, leading to unmentionable issues inside nappies and the ensuing rashes and soreness, and general grumpiness and difficulty settling after those brief wakes throughout the night.

There's also the doubt that that perfect little face won't be nearly so cute with a face full of teeth, doubts that quickly evaporate when he flashes that handsome smile dotted with perfect square teeth.

It seems, though, that the first few teeth are the easy ones. The next to come aren't nearly so sharp and take a lot longer to grind their way through the flesh. The same issues as the first ones repeat, only this time it seems a more drawn out process. Isaac didn't lose his sense of humour during this period, and for all his discomfort he remained a happy and alert little camper.

One Happy Camper
Throughout all of this Isaac continued to attend Country Bumpkins Nursery two afternoons a week. He has now graduated from the baby room, which he lorded over for some time. He quickly dropped his afternoon naps, as there was simply too much to distract and entertain him whilst at nursery. His daily report card evidence of a little boy happy within himself and comfortable interacting with his little friends as well as the lovely staff.

Naked Boy with Horse (on Isle of Arran, Sept 2013)

There were a couple of notable benchmarks:

His first word (apart from the obligatory mumma and daddy) was button.

His favourite song is The Wheels on the Bus. Repeatedly.

His favourite books are the Meg and Mog series. Ten of them. One after the other. Repeatedly. However when I mention that he has favourite books I'm glossing over the fact that he loves all of his books. Most days, all of his books. Repeatedly. What they don't tell you in anti-natal classes is that practically all books for 0 - 2 year olds are complete and utter rubbish. Yet we still have to read them. All of them. Repeatedly. Every day. Sometimes a few times a day. Sometimes from the minute he wakes to the moment he sleeps. Dozens of crap books with poor character development, inadequate story arcs and dubious morals and conclusions.

Mr Handsome on the Bus goes Pose, Pose, Pose.

His favourite companion is Meow. His black and white cat that not only sleeps with him, but accompanies him most everywhere. He also commits unspeakable acts to every part of the defenceless animal. Poor Meow was so worse for wear that Mumma decided it needed a cycle in the washing machine. Worried that young Isaac would be distraught at losing Meow for just a couple of days, a twin was purchased. Now Isaac has two Meows that he must sleep with and molest each night and carry everywhere he goes. Poor Mr Elephant, his constant companion for his first six months, is now a sad and disconsolate recluse.

Isaac Ising plays the Blues
His favourite toy has been the Duplo cars that Uncle Ken and Auntie Vandi brought from Amsterdam. 'Make a Lorry' is Isaac's favourite game. Make a Lorry. When he wakes up 'Make a Lorry'. When he goes to bed 'Make a Lorry'. When we have guests 'Make a Lorry'. What has been remarkable has been his fine motor skill development. From a boy who could only knock down a tower of blocks, he can now construct cars from Duplo. His favourite is a cow car, combining two separate sets of Duplo. So proud.

Naked on the Beach, again (Nairn July 2013)

Bath-time was another challenge for the very young Isaac, but that has turned full circle. It would be hard to find a boy who loves bath-time more. This has also led to his graduating from bath to swimming pool. Isaac has completed two sessions (2x 6 weeks) of baby swimming lessons. Not that he needed any tutelage. He has taken to the water like a fish . . . to . . . water. He led the class in diving underwater to salvage the sinking rings. Remarkable.

Mr Handsome's First Haircut
His bath is now home to a full set of letters, numbers and shapes. His favourite number was number 2. Number 2. Number 2. Number 2. Though that has now expanded to liking every number. He can practically count to twenty. This is remarkable. Twenty! He can also spell his name. Not exactly in order, but he knows which letters constitute Isaac. His favourite shape is the triangle.

Butter wouldn't melt
His favourite colour is orange. And by that I mean that it is the only colour that he can correctly identify with any regularity. That is probably because he eats plenty of oranges. And grapes. And mangos. And apples. The whole apple, core, pips and all. The only impediment to his appetite has been the teething I referred to earlier. But the boy will eat anything. So proud.

This one's finally paying for itself

As for me, I'm still churning out 80s Flashback Showbiz for Paul Stephenson's 80s Rewind Show on MFR2 on Tuesday nights. 2014 is already almost booked full of visitors and trips away. Visit the new website (if you're not here already) at: and follow the links to the portfolios of my music and radio stuff. Let me know what you think.

Stay tuned, who knows when the next update may be.

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The New Daddy Blog


I've only just realised that I never told you all about Isaac.

I had planned a whole new blog called 'The New Daddy Blog', and I might yet. Y'see there is dearth little information on the intermaweb for us males of the species waiting to become fathers.

There are a couple of sites, but given us men are responsible for close on 100% of all pregnancies I was surprised at how few there were.

But enough of that, more of him!

He put it there himself

This is close on the most recent photo I have of him. He is really enjoying his bath-times now, which is a massive relief as there was a period of a few months when he was having none of it. I think he liked his very first bath, but the second (I maintain) was a bit warm for him and spooked him out of it. He never seemed to fully recover, but now, like magic, he is one happy bath-boy.

Adorable. I don't have to say it,  but I am programmed to say it.

We are genetically programmed to find our own children adorable. It's part of evolution and ensures we don't just leave our kids in the dumpster at Tescos. But wee Isaac Ising is probably the most adorable child I have ever met. Yes, of course I am biased, but look at him. He is the brightest, happiest, most alert baby. He seems much older and wiser than his (now) 5 months would indicate, without looking like one of those babies that looks unnervingly like an old person. He looks like a fully functioning toddler, despite the fact that he is still just a baby.

What's not to love?

He is very unlike both his parents in that he is a very photogenic kid. It helps when you're happy most of the time and have a big gummy grin on your face. The gummy smile won't last long though. He's currently a little gurney (I think that's a Scottish saying but sounds like what it means) because he's teething. Terrible stuff. I have the occasional teething issues with my wisdom teeth and it's no fun at all. And I'm old enough to rationalise it all and put up with it. But he's such a delicate thing that it tears at your heart to see him struggling with the discomfort of it. Imagine a couple of little teeth in that mouth and he'll still be gorgeous.

I love book!

Getting him used to a bedtime routine has been a real challenge as well. There are plenty of books and plenty of advice from friends and family about how best to work this, but in many respects you just have to figure out what works best for you and your child. We're still trying to work out what works best for us and our child. One of the things that is hard for the books to prepare you is that as soon as you think you've got an aspect of it to a point you can move on from, something else happens in your child's development to set back your routine. Isaac seemed to be a little miracle and had seemed to work out how to drop a feed and sleep for close on six hours. This was a remarkable development at the ime, however it only lasted a few days before he kicked into another growth spurt and had to wake every two hours for another feed. Now, as I mentioned, it's the teething. As content as he now seems and as long as he can stretch from one feed to the next, if his teeth are bothering him in the middle of the night he's not going to settle no matter what you do. Even the baby Nurofen takes a while to activate!

But at bedtime we make sure to try to do the same things to help him differentiate night time sleep from day time naps. We read him books before bedtime (after his bath now that he can handle that, too) and each night end with the same soft-paged sleepytime book. It's a sign of our current babybrainess that it's only three pages long and neither of us can yet remember the words verbatim. He seems to like it and just this last week has reached another developmental milestone in his increased awareness of the things around him. No wonder he can't sleep - life's far too exciting right now.

Mr Blue Eyes

Now that you've met Isaac Ising I hope you will be seeing more of him.

It must only be a matter of weeks until his first words and first crawling (he nearly crawled yesterday), his first steps and his first solid food. He has just had his first real knock to the head. We were looking out the back window with him in his bouncy chair (pictured above) and I was distracted by another child who was staying with us for barely a moment and Isaac had tried to take his sock off or something and tumbled out of the chair onto the bench with a loud crash. Oh how he bawled. I nearly died. He had already had his morning dose of Calipol so that pain didn't last and, thankfully, neither did the screams. It didn't even bruise.

On a side note we did watch David Lynch's Eraserhead last night. Any of you that are new parents that haven't seen the film, don't! Having a new baby in the house puts a new and not altogether positive spin on the old classic.

Thanks for reading. I've missed you guys.

Craig & Mr Isaac Ising

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Back. Happy New Year!

Hallo Bloggofolks,

Yes, like a phoenix I have risen from the ashes of 2011.

Where have I been? I'm glad you asked.

Since migrating to Inverness (and my subsequent move to Ardersier) I have been engaged in a rather fruitless search for gainful employment. I have been waiting for some good news to post but, alas, I have had my hopes raised only to have had them dashed on a number of occasions. So, in lieu of any good news I've decided just to get on with my life.

Actually, that's not altogether true. There has been some rather good news. Last year I submitted an application to join the local RadioSkills course. This is an only-on-of-it's-type course run by the Moray Firth Media trust (which is just a fancy name for that bit of Moray Firth Radio that does the RadioSkills course) financed by the European Social Fund.

So, why haven't you told us about this before? Good question.

There are two groups to this training course. There are those selected to come in four sessions a week Monday to Friday and train as part of the day to day operations of the radio station proper, and then there are those who are selected to attend on Monday evenings and learn in an empty studio.

For whatever reason, despite my clear desire to be one of the fortunate few selected for a coveted daytime spot, I was put onto evenings. Those that know me know that I tend to take such disappointments personally. So, despite the fact that I had been placed on this awesome course and was presented with an almost-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I wasn't much in the mood to trumpet my new status to you, my loyal readers.

So why are you telling us now? You guys ask all the right questions.

I've been trying, boy I've been really trying (and only those that know me know just how trying I can be) to impress during the evening shift of RadioSkills. And, to be fair, the coordinators of the course explained that they would try to get me onto the daytime shift at the first opportunity. And someone else's misfortune has become by opportunity. Unfortunately one of the daytime crew now has personal commitments that prevent them from honouring the requirements of the course. This is a real bummer for them, as he seemed like a really good kid who would have done really well with the break RadioSkills may have provided him. But that chance has now been handed to me, and I'm going to do everything I (reasonably) can to make sure I make the most of whatever comes my way.

This is my first week in on the daytime crew. It's demanding. It's hectic. It's exciting. And importantly, I feel like I belong. From brainstorming with the S&P Manager, to running through link ideas with the breakfast host, to selecting stories for business and show business news, even (what I've already taught myself through home recording) the studio stuff and creating packages - it really feels like a great fit for me. I hope I'm a great fit for them, also.

Phew. That was a relief, and a lot off my chest. Now that I have popped my 2012 blog cherry stay tuned for more incredible news, including the latest on wee Junior, who is now around 1.3-1.5kgs, still in Mummy's tummy and two months from taking his or her first breath.

How excitement, much?

It's nice to be back with you all again.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Patience, Peeps.

I will be updating this space very soon.

I know it's been a while, but there are reasons for that. I'll let you know soon.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Hello everybody.

I have just returned form a weekend in Amsterdam, hosted by the charming and affable Kenneth and Vandi. First up I'd like to extend a hearty public thank-you to them for putting us up and showing us a great time.

Next up I want to wax lyrical about the intriguing and spectacular city of Amsterdam. Upon arrival in The Netherlands I was struck by the flat and almost completely featureless geography of the place. Even coming from Melbourne, whose suburban landscape is mostly devoid of contours, it was strange to encounter a place that seemed to stretch forever with not so much as a bump on any horizon. I could suggest that the topography of Holland is boring, but that doesn't convey the eerie feeling of being in a place completely different from anywhere else I have ever visited.

I will also suggest that the social differences of Amsterdam contrast directly with its unspectacular geography. In fact I will go so far as to suggest that the current conservative elements in Dutch society that are lobbying to rid Amsterdam of its other liberal attractions are in danger of turning The Netherlands into the most boring place on the planet.

A visit into town to showcase these attractions, whilst altogether too brief, was an enlightening experience. We caught the train into Amsterdam Central and walked to the museum district past canals and marketplaces. Like my recent trip to Sweden I was exhilarated by the bicycling culture there. It is such a way of life that the bicycles mix with pedestrians and automobiles without incident. As a newcomer you really have to be alert to avoid the darting cyclists, but I did not witness a single incident where any antagonism existed between any cyclist and a driver or pedestrian. It is possible, and Melbourne especially can learn a lesson in how to share public roadways.

But the thing that attracts the many tourists to Amsterdam town isn't the bikes. It is, of course, the sex and the drugs - the scourge of modern society elsewhere. Governments around the world are intent on clamping down on people's personal freedom to explore the limits of indulgence and desire, yet Amsterdam, at least for the present, is able to function as a modern, thriving, cosmopolitan city whilst exercising tolerance - even promotion - of these vices.

I am not for a moment suggesting that the place is perfect. I was not there long enough to gather enough evidence to mount a contrary opinion. But what evidence I did gather was, for me at least, compelling. There may be a down side to the drug culture in Amsterdam. But I didn't see it. There may be deep rooted social problems with regards to prostitution and sex slavery. But I didn't see it. I'm not going to pretend these things don't exist, but what I did see was happiness. Everywhere. I'm not kidding, or being glib. I have never, ever, ever been to a place where people were so openly and undeniable happy. Walking the streets of not only the red-light district, but much of the entire city, I have never seen so many smiling faces. Not in Sweden or Denmark, where the living seems easy, were the people so content as to wipe the serious, rat-raced, too-busy-to-care blank looks from their faces. In Australia, the lucky country in so many ways, the urban population, whilst friendly, do not exude the same delight whilst just getting about their business. Granted the day I visited was a picture postcard post-summer delight, but that surely was not the only reason for the relaxed countenances of the general population.

No. What we have in Amsterdam, at least to my casual observance, is something approaching a modern utopia. Was everyone high? No. Was everyone visiting the ladies (and ladyboys) of the red-light district? No. But the fact that the Dutch are trusted to indulge in mind altering (mind soothing?) drugs and pleasures of the flesh empowers them to exist in a tolerant and carefree state. My visit to The Grasshopper and subsequent sojourn through the red-light district and past the shopfront booths of ladies of ill-repute was entirely devoid of shame or fear. Contrast this with London's Soho district, where the atmosphere is dirty, cheap and threatening, and you have a window on what the world could be like if governments allowed people to exist without arbitrary restriction. I have long believed that prohibition, in almost any context, serves no other purpose than to criminalise behaviour and make it dangerous. If something is illegal there is nothing to stop those that control it (usually organised crime syndicates) from employing further criminal activity to secure their control and profitability. Remove the criminal element and you allow people to find their own limits. Are people spending too much time and money on drugs and hookers in Amsterdam? Very likely. Yet I cannot fathom that the Dutch spend any more of either  because of their free access to both. I would argue that people everywhere else are more susceptible to the evils of the sins due to the criminality and illicit nature of the acts where they live. Indeed, in my new home town city of Inverness I see many more junkies upon every street than I saw in the whole of the Amsterdam red-light district, where I saw a grand total of one guy who looked like he might have been on smack. Maybe.

I took only a few photographs of Amsterdam on the weekend. There was very little to capture my imagination as an amateur travel photographer. Amsterdam's  visual charms (if you don't count some of the stunning examples of femalehood on display in the windows) are few. It is what Amsterdam contains, what it stands for, and what it proves to the rest of the world that make it such an amazing place to visit. And I hope I will have the opportunity to visit again soon.

Local Market Colour

Mmm. . . Boobies.

The Happiest Place on earth?

Until next time.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Witness the Fitness MkIII

Just a quick update to let you know that another 'fun' run has come and gone, and I've survived.

Despite the rest of the UK sweltering from heatwave conditions, and a forecast for fine weather up here, Inverness turned on a typically dreary and misty day. You might say perfect for running. You might.

As my previous post indicated I held no great hope for my time for this 5k. Like I said, I was happy to just finish. And I did it comfortably under 30 minutes and was pretty fresh at the end. If I had have known how fresh I might have pushed a little harder to get my time down, but I did want to make sure I made it to the end in one go and in one piece.

I totally destroyed that little kid in the pink.

I'm pretty sure I was spot on 28 minutes. I was about fifteen seconds out from the line when the gun went off, and the clock said 28:15 as I crossed the line. My Runkeeper™app didn't do me any favours - it took almost a minute for me to press 'completed' with my phone holder all wet from the mist.

As I crossed the line I was 'awarded' another medallion to add to my collection:

The award that says 'Everyone's a WINNER!'

I also got a showbag with a few random goodies and a dinky little t-shirt with a picture of the Loch Ness Monster on it.

All in all I'm considering the whole excursion a moderate success.

I promise another update soon.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crystalassis perfectamiossis

My fitness regime commenced again in ernest after the whirlwind of moving house had subsided. Living on the beach presents me with a perfect, scenic daily run. It is too good for words.

Next on the running agenda is the Loch Ness Marathon. Don't be stupid, I'm not doing the marathon! I'm doing the 5k. I was on track to do the 10k before what little of summer we had distracted me. There was a lot that stopped me running for a couple of months but now, damnit, I'm back on track.

Well, I was back on track before an acute case of Crystalassis perfectamiossis struck. Crystalassis perfectamiossis? I hear you ask. Well, I could tell you that I had a recurrent bout of gout. See what I did there? No? Well, I was shocked to discover that I have been ashamed to tell people of my gout. why should I be ashamed? It is historically the affliction of the well-to-do. Kings get gout. The landed gentry get gout. Damn it, I get gout! But there is something about it that makes it difficult to confess. It sounds so . . . so . . . shameful.

Let me give you brief description of the condition. Foods high in purine (good stuff, like salmon, anchovies, red meat, mushrooms, spinach) causes an increase of uric acid in the bloodstream that crystalizes in the joints. Long story short, this feels like somebody has crushed glass in your toe. Right in there in the joint. It is incredibly painful (at worst - the first time I had it), and very uncomfortable (at best - this second time).

But the name sucks. It is so blah. It is not at all descriptive of the condition (in fact, gout in the big toe - like mine - is called Podagra, WTF?). So I've invented my own name for it. Crystalassis perfectamiossis.

What's in a name?

So, despite the fact (has anyone counted how many times I say that?) that the condition has interrupted my training, I've been in a fair bit of discomfort this week. Not helped by the NHS. I didn't have to go to the GP in order to obtain a prescription for pain relief. I phoned the practise, played a bit of phone chasey, and ended up having a telephone consultation. That bit was fine. In fact, it was great. I knew it was Crystalassis perfectamiossis and already know the symptoms and treatment. So it would have been a waste, not only of my time, but of the precious resources of the NHS if I had have been required to attend the surgery.

Brilliant! Well, not exactly. Hang on . . . I know I promised a good news story and here I am lapsing into a defacto rant. Well, I guess over here even the good things don't come without a cost. But bear with me. Where was I? Oh yeah . . . things were going brilliantly. The GP promised to fax my prescription to my local pharmacy by the next day (Saturday). So come Saturday (and at the point of my affliction when I was suffering the most pain) I had to hobble down the street (funny, someone else didn't offer to go for me) to the chemist to get some relief. But the pharmacist had not received any faxed prescription. We discussed my options at length, which included attending a hospital emergency department; an option I was unwilling to consider, even with the pain I was enduring. I decided I would just return home and phone the medical practise and have them re-fax the prescription through.

'Oh, you won't be able to do that,' says the pharmacist.

'And why not?' I reply.

It seems that medical centres are not open AT ALL on the weekends over here. What? Are you joking? No? If you want any sort of medical attention over the weekend you have to go to an emergency ward. I'm not making this stuff up. No wonder the system is barely coping. No wonder it costs so much to run.

So I limp home and suffer in (relative) silence through the pain for the remainder of the weekend.

I call the medical practise on Monday and they (re?)fax the prescription through. So I limp down the road again (only the symptoms are much less severe by now) and collect the drugs I have been prescribed. I pull out my wallet and get out my debit card and try to hand it to the pharmacist who looks at me incredulously.

'Oh, you don't need to do that,' says the pharmacist.

'And why not?' I reply.

It seems that nobody has to pay for their prescriptions here. Not anybody. Not ever. What? Are you joking? No? I'm not making this stuff up. No wonder the system is barely coping. No wonder it costs so much to run.

So anyway . . . it might not have seem like a story of big ups, but there it is. FREE MEDICINES! I seriously cannot believe it. But I guess it's something that's worth celebrating!

Meanwhile I recommence training by the sea tomorrow, barely in time to get enough miles in the legs to make it to 5kms next weekend. Oh, don't worry. I will be sure to let you all know how that goes*.


* A good time for me for 5kms is 26mins. At this stage a really good time for me will be 27:30. Realistically, I'll be moderately pleased to do it in under 30 mins. Ah, who am I kidding? If I manage to finish at all without the intervention of the paramedics I can consider myself to have succeeded. 

Can't Resist the RANT!

Hallo fiends.

The requests for an update have been overwhelming (no, really, for once I'm not making this up) so, in lieu of anything major to report, it's time for one of my patented 'one size fits all' rants.

The move into the new home is complete. It's unfair of me to gloat, but we really have lucked out with our house and everything about it. A close friend describe our existence as 'idyllic' and it's hard to disagree. Apart from the fact that one of us has to go to work (practically) each day is beside the point. That it is both 'apart from the fact' and 'beside the point' would indicate that it is important nonetheless.

So what do I have to rant about? I'm glad you asked, but I fear you soon won't be.

Firstly (yes, there's going to be more than one) I return to a previous rant about everyone's favourite telco - BT. FFS! I'll get the thumbs up out of the way early; the move of house (as far as our phone/interweb is concerned) went without a hitch. Thank you BT. But her parents came to stay a couple of weeks ago. Her parents cannot live without television. So, while we could care less and have done splendidly without it, we decided to hook up to a BT Vision package in order to entertain the 'in-laws' during their stay. Yeah, 'sif! I ordered our BT Vision a week or more before they were due to arrive only to be informed that the 'activation period' (WTF?) would be ten days. Brilliant. So we're going to have to talk with them for three days of their stay, but's that's alright I suppose. So I order it anyway. The day before the equipment is due to arrive she says 'You don't really expect it to arrive on time, do you?' to which I replied, 'Of course I do, what could possibly go wrong?'.

I am obviously an idiot.

The morning of our BT Vision activation comes and goes with no sign of our equipment. So I go online to check the status of the order. As is de rigeur for such interweb sites I get a message saying the website is unable to provide details of the status of my order, so I'll need to call them on the phone. A chill runs down my spine. I've tried phoning BT before, and the results still terrify me. Anyway, long story short and all that, they tell me that my order was move to their credit department for a credit check. What? That's right, a credit check. Despite me paying our phone and internet to BT on time every month for the past six months via direct debit they decide to ping me for a credit check. WTF? Obviously our recent change of address has flagged something, but my previous credit check and account status apparently means nothing. And it's not just the fact that I've been credit checked again, but the fact that (despite giving them my phone number - which THEY gave me remember - and my email address) they failed to advise of this development made me steaming with rage. Add to this the fact that not only had my order been transferred to the credit department, but the credit department had not processed my credit check and had somehow forgotten all about it. To say nothing of the fact (except that I'm actually now saying something about it) that after they phoned me back to explain what was going on they advised me that they could proceed with the order but would have to charge me a ₤50 deposit. Apparently I'm now a greater credit risk in a home I have just bought after paying them on time for six months. Are they mental?

So furious, I concede to their burning hoops and ask for them to proceed with my order. Great, let's just leave all of this nastiness behind us, shall we? However I am then informed that, because my order was in credit check, it never actually proceeded in the first place, meaning they have to schedule a new activation date. Some seven days away. WTF? The 'in-laws' will be gone by then. I ask to speak to managers up the line (I know you call centre people hate folks who do this, but I was livid and was going to exhaust every avenue) who all assured me that there was nothing they could do to expedite the activation period. So, because the 'in-laws' were going to be gone by then I had no need for their televimetric broadcast reception device and could they please cease with my order. And then they had the gall to talk to me as if I was being unreasonable. FFS!

BT, you are a joke. A ridiculous, brain-squeezing, stress-inducing JOKE! Where do I get compensation for having to speak to the 'in-laws' every single day of their stay? Oh, the HUMANITY!

Which brings me neatly (some would say segues) to my next rant. Television Licensing. For my Australian (and other international) readers, the BBC is partially funded by the issuing of television licenses to (almost all) UK households. It's not exactly cheap. It's around ₤150pa. But for those who can't afford it all in one go there is the option to pay in instalments. Brilliant! Now, because we've incurred a few incidental charges lately (like buying a frikken HOUSE!) I decide we'll opt to pay by instalments. I was going to pay upfront, but it made some sense to spread it out. That is until I got to the online checkout. Having chosen 'pay monthly' the site paid me the courtesy of listing the scheduled monthly deductions before I hit 'confirm'. I glad they did. My maths isn't terrible. I can do most sums in me 'ed. I don't always get the perfect answer to problems arithmetic, but my approximations are always pretty close. So I figured I'd be up for around ₤12 per month. However, this TV licensing website was going to charge me closer to ₤30 per month. WTF? My maths isn't that bad! It took me ages looking at various websites (not all of the relevant information was easily to hand on the TV Licensing site) to discover that the penalty you pay to pay via monthly deductions is to be charged six months in advance. Whose idea was this? The people who are most likely to have to opt to pay in instalments are those that are less likely to be able to afford to pay more than those who would likely choose to pay the fee upfront. Am I wrong? so why are you charging them six months extra? And don't try to tell my that it's a one-off advance. It's forever. You are NEVER going to get that six months advance back. You are always going to paying an advance in your TV License. Do they refund it to you AFTER YOU HAVE DIED? Seriously?

Deep breath.

After by BT debacle I have saved the TV License fee. But not before they have sent letters resembling court summonses threatening me with prison unless I fork over the cash. Pfft.

Thirdly, and finally for now, I will rant about car insurance. I have been driving for around twenty years. I have never had an accident. Ever. I have had a couple of minor (and a couple of major) indiscretions during my driving career, but nothing that has resulted in an insurance claim. I drive like a granny - usually. I have had advanced driver training whilst obtaining my motorcycle license (via an intensive, competency-based program). I am also over (well over) the age that insurance companies deem that I am an automatic threat to society given that I possess a penis (although I hear that that form of mandatory discrimination is now illegal). So I have just obtained my UK drivers license in order to be added to her car insurance - in the unlikely event that she would ever let me drive her car. I couldn't be added without a UK drivers license. So now I've got it (complete with the obligatory photograph that makes me look like a criminal) we phone the AA to get me added. so after all of the questions and back and forth, some 30-40 minutes (thank your non-existent god it wasn't me on the phone) the deal is done. Then she tells me that it cost an extra ₤400pa to add me to her insurance. Her insurance was originally ₤600. Now it's ₤1,000! That's a 66.6% increase (I told you my maths wasn't bad). WTF? It's the same car. It's not like it can be driven twice simultaneously. It didn't suddenly increase in value (in fact I guarantee you that car isn't worth half what she paid for it - but don't tell her I told you that). There is nothing that adding me as a driver could possibly add to the risk concerning an insurance company. Nothing. I would have gotten in a lather had they added ₤100 as some kind of 'administrative charge'. But no, they are extorting us out of an extra ₤400pa. I think I've got a right to pop a freaken nerve. ₤400? They have got to be joking? And it's not a one-off charge, either. It's a charge that will exist (decreasing incrementally for each year I hold a UK license) for around ten years. This theft is enshrined in law. It is illegal to drive without insurance. The insurance companies are all colluding to ensure that you cannot escape these charges. It is not only immoral, it is unjustifiable.

And I'll give you a quick lesson in insurance for anyone that may doubt me. Insurance companies don't hold your money in a box ready to pay you when something goes wrong. They invest it. They earn money (BIG money) on all of the premiums they collect. But it's not like they are some benevolent care givers earning revenue to distribute to people forced to make claims. No! Insurance companies actively (and in some cases menacingly) seek restitution of the monies they pay out in claims from those responsible for the claim. This means that when you are in an accident and the insurance company pays money for repairs it is not the end of the action as far as the insurance company is concerned, even if it is the end of the transaction as far as you are concerned. The insurance company will HUNT DOWN those responsible and take COURT ACTION against them to recover the funds. So in fact the insurance company rarely, if ever, pays for the cost of the claims out of the money they have collected (and subsequently invested) from you. and this extortionate profiteering is all sanctioned by government legislation (as opposed to any other random kinds of legislation).

Another deep breath.

Before I resort to extreme profanity I am going to curtail this ranting post. I've got a lot of things off my chest, and I thank you for listening. I am about to go and pour myself another coffee and promise to return with a post of EPIC WIN. Really. It's not all bad news.

Until about an hour or so . . .


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August Stuff

Greetings everybody,

Well as you know the house move has gone well. Well enough that I'm back writing, which is nice. So I figure if I'm back writing I may as well reflect on recent events. Random events.

First I'll share with you a few shots from an event held on our street a few weeks ago. Let me explain. High Street Ardersier runs through to Fort George. Fort George is an 18th century fortress that remains in use today. It is a magnificent piece of kit and well worth the visit if you're in the area. It is situated on a peninsula that extends into the Moray Firth. The whole of the peninsula is occupied by the fort, but you can wander around pretty much at your lesiure any time you like - except for when the red flags are displayed. his, apparently, is when they are shooting live rounds of ammunition. The shooting ranges are quite surreal.

Shooting Range - also used to help soldiers learn to count all the way up to 12

Anyway, there is just heaps of land that will likely never be sold or built out. It is kind of like having our very own National Park at the end of the street.

So where was I? Oh yes . . . a few weeks ago Historic Scotland put on a(n) (h)istoric weekend complete with military recreations from the ages, as well as mediaeval displays and modern weaponry demonstrations. It really was rather good. The highlight, of course, was the recreation dogfight between a Spitfire and a Messerschmidt (which we were able to preview on the Saturday from our backyard).

The photography of the dogfight was best left to the professionals, my camera phone just was not able to capture the majesty of the spectacle. You can see how close these things were getting to the ground from the above shot - but not much else.

There was a lot to see. Many freaks folks dressed up in period costume. A lot of people went to a lot of effort for our entertainment. The barracks providing a spectacular backdrop. The major fail of the day was the manifestly inadequate catering options available. We were forced to have some manner of barbecued vegetable skewers on dry bread. I know it's a barracks after all, but to feed us like POWs? I'll let the remaining pictures speak for themselves (with some help from captions).

Ye Olde Midiaeval Army Camp

Shoots Actual Arrows

Shoots Actual Cannons

Does my bum look big in this?

Mmm... bombs look delicious.

A kite - no military relevance whatsoever.
Also in the merry, merry month of August was our summer holiday to Sweden. I think the reason I haven't posted this already is that it was so good that I can't believe I haven't posted this already - if that makes sense. We flew over on the day after we had moved into our new home, so you can appreciate it has all been rather hectic.Edinburgh to Skavska (Stockholm) isn't the worst journey in the world, and even Edinburgh Airport (which is close to worst in the world) was strangely bearable this time around. Once we landed we commenced something of a game of TICKET FAIL. This is a new game wot we invented which consists of someone managing to stuff up as many ticket purchases as possible. Firstly we got a bus ticket from Skavska to Stockholm, instead of the ticket to Lindskoping. We were rather lucky to sort that out without loss or disaster. Then, once we were at Linskoping Station we realised we were slightly early for our train. I could segway here to a dissertation about the train habits of the British (habits that stretch my patience and boil my blood, not to mention stress me out) but that would be too weary a distraction. However, in the vein of poor British train habits our next attempt at TICKET FAIL was enacted. The train we were supposed to catch was an Inter-City train. The next train due at Lindskoping which stopped at Lund (our destination) was an SJ-X2000. The XJ-X2000 is a super-duper high-speed tilt-train (personal record for consecutive hyphenated words) that gets to Lund in 3 hours (instead of the good old Inter-City's 4.5 hours).

I suggested that we may not be able to do this. The ticket we had was clearly marked. But no, good old-fashioned British train etiquette won out. We would just try our luck. Signs seemed doubtful when it was apparent that not a single person was not sitting in an allocated seat. Had this been Birmingham-London or Aberdeen-Inverness you'd just have to take your chances. If any of the reserved seats aren't taken it's probably because those with reserved seats are sitting in non-reserved seats. Or that the reserved seat you paid for is now on a train that no longer has a policy of reserved seats. Or there is a family of chavs drinking Tennents and Buckfast in what were supposed to be your seats. Either way, you'll be leaning against a rail opposite the toilet for the length of your British journey. Sorry, did I get distracted? Anyway, here we are on a SWEDISH train that has EXCLUSIVELY reserved seats. Boarding such a train without a valid ticket is apparently such an uncommon occurrence that the ticket inspector lady had no idea what to do with us. This resulted in us making it all the way to Lund without being booted off the train, but it was a close run thing, and of course what you want from your holiday is all that stress, especially after already purchasing the wrong bus ticket.

But we made it safely to Lund, so I guess I should be grateful. Another thing this incident taught me was that (similar to my Zurich experience) everyone can speak English to varying degrees (and varying levels of American accents) and most are only too happy to help you in English (I guess as a simple way of brushing up on their language skills). This is nice.

So Lund. Lund is beautiful little city. It is about the perfect size. Described as a university town, Lund is small enough that you can walk (or cycle) comfortably from one side of town to the other in little time at all. And boy do they like to cycle! From wikipedia: "Lund has been praised for its cycling infrastructure. There are 5000 bike parking spaces in the town, including a multi-storey facility, 160 km of cyclepaths, and 45% of commuters travel by bicycle. There has been no increase in car usage for the past 10 years." Just fantastic. My kind of town. And the bikes were all way cool. Many were like my pride and joy old Indian town bike. I was in bike heaven. There was a bike in a shop window in Copenhagen (where we visited for a day) that was made of leather.

Yes. Freaken LEATHER!

So here are a few random shots, helped once again by my friend Mr Caption.

I did say random pictures. What could be more random than shop window piglets?

Lund University. Rather majestic.

Gustav or Leon.

Leon or Gustav. Or is it the same one?

Jen's summerhouse, where we divided our time, was here on the other side of town. Nice.

Malmo Police Station. Thankfully I only saw the outside.

Watchmaker in Malmo.

The lovely Jen at a lovely cafe in lovely Copenhagen flanked by a lovely flower. Feel the love.

I probably should have read the history of this little guy in Stockholm. He's undoubtedly someone famous, if only for having a statue of himself in Stockholm.

Shop window - Stockholm.

Gorgeous laneway in Old Town - Stockholm.

Street Art - Stockholm.

Fountain thingy - Stockholm.

The most remarkable thing occurred whilst we were walking through Stockholm (our only day in Stockholm) on the last day of our holiday. We took a couple of turns and vaguely followed some music, only to discover hundreds of American cars doing a street circuit of one of Stockholm's main streets. It was hilarious. I was like it was AMERICA DAY or something. Some cars had loudspeakers blaring out bad music, there were girls in rock-a-billy outfits, there was big hair, there were tattoos. In fact the only thing missing was AFB and Eddie Best. I miss you guys! Anyway, here's a couple of the gas guzzlers on display.

Civic building - Stockholm

Station architecture - Malmo

Station architecture #2 - Malmo

Street Art - Copenhagen

Department store shopping - Copenhagen

Department store shopping? Are you kidding? I go to Copenhagen for one day in my life and we end up in a major department store, doing the same thing we could have been doing anywhere else in the world. Sense of humour was not able to get out intact.

Copenhagen was kinda cool. Kinda grungier than Sweden, but wherever we went (especially the cafes) everyone looked like an architect or industrial designer. Could they all be any more cool?

Anyway, I've bored you all senseless by now without mentioning all of the good stuff, so I'll leave this off with big ups to Jen and her kids Lulach and Saorla for the most magnificent hospitality we could have hoped for. We will be doing it again sometime.

Until next time.