Thursday, March 31, 2005

30/03/05 More Repair Woes

I had to spend most of yesterday reading and replying to emails relating to the
communal building repair fiasco. Everyone is at the end of their tether, and if we lived in the USA, I think it would be inevitable that at some point a disgruntled owner would lose the plot and engage in a shooting spree, before turning the gun on themself.
Scotland Today would solemnly report on "yet another" Communal Repair Massacre.
Thankfully, we live in the UK, where our main weapons are sarcasm and moral indignation.
I've got an interesting collection of gigs coming up in the next few days.
I'm making an early morning appearance in a 36 Hour Continuous Stand-Up comedy show in Edinburgh, ( ; tomorrow I am doing a lunchtime show for call centre workers in Airdrie ; on Saturday I am playing Keir McAllister and Paul Pirie's club in Dundee ; on Sunday I am doing the Gong show at Manchester Comedy Store, and on Monday I am in the 2nd Heat of the Amused Moose Starsearch 2005 competition in London.
An interesting variety I'd say....
Tomorrow night is the 5s Football Annual Awards ceremony.
A group of friends of mine have been playing 5s football since the 1980s, and we have taken to having an awards evening in which beer is taken, and anonymous nominations with witty justifications are read out.
I previously have held the titles of "worst dressed player", "biggest whinger",
and "person least likely to receive a pass from".
I'll post any awards I receive on this Blog. I can hardly contain my excitement.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

29/03/05 Mr Awkward

My upstairs neighbour has created a new "Mister Men" character, called Mr Awkward.
His principal characteristic is to always choose the line of most resistance in any situation, and could best be described as a keen sociopath.
Organising communal building repairs is the most effective route to insanity I've ever come across.
Mr Awkward was in my flat yesterday as well as an architect and other neighbours affected by the repair. Regardless of any argument, he repeated his insane views like a mantra. He hasn't paid his cash yet. We have now been trying to organise this for a year. Work is due to start next week. It won't if all the money is not in. It's tense. Tempers are fraying. Insults are flying.
This is a boring subject for a blog entry. But the truth is, Mr Awkward was the central character in my day yesterday.
Tomorrow will determine if we're going ahead. If he refuses to cough up, we have to hand the running of the project back to the Council. It'll cost us more. We'll have no control. It's the nightmare scenario.
More seriously, I have bet on England to score more than 2.5 goals tonight against an unspellable former Soviet country. It's half-time, and it's still 0-0. Oh dear.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

28/03/05 Jim In Two Finger Whistling Sensation

For the first time in my life I can successfully execute a two fingers in the mouth type whistle (is there a more succinct technical term for this method? ).
Until today, I'd only been able to perform the standard pursed lips whistle technique. Not particularly impressive. In fact I don't think I've ever met anyone who couldn't achieve this basic standard in whistling ability.
However, thanks to a bit of coaching from my friend Paul on Saturday, it all came together yesterday.
It's all too little too late really though. I always wanted to have this ability during the era of my life when I was a regular consumer of punk rock concerts. I always thought it was a lot cooler to let fly with earpiercing whistles at the end of concerts, to encourage a band back for an encore, rather than the standard clapping and cheering thing.
So now I can. It's comforting to know that if I think in future that James Last & His Orchestra have played exceptionally well, I can show my appreciation with a deafening whistle. I can't wait!
I can now tick "two finger whistling technique" off on my life chart.
My next challenge is to play tenor saxaphone to a professional jazz standard.
I'll keep you posted.

Monday, March 28, 2005

27/03/05 Easter Sunday

Last night I was dining with some good friends who originated from Bath.
Towards the end of the meal we all listened to a "Best of the Wurzels" CD.
Some of the more mature guests had slight hearing issues, and consequently the Wurzels were played at a decibel level more appropriate to a Motorhead gig.
Nonetheless, I found it all very enjoyable.
As I said yesterday, as opening lines of songs go, "I drove my tractor through your haystack last night!" is one of my all-time favourites.
Wurzels afficionados will of course recognise this from the Wurzels smash No. 1 hit
"I've Got A Brand New Combine Harvester", itself a reworking of the 1970s Melanie hit "Brand New Key".
On the way home I inadvisedly let slip to the taxi driver that I was an apprentice dabbler in stand-up comedy and was hassled to "tell a joke" for all the journey home.
I was too tired to trot out the standard "I don't do jokes, I just do observations" line. It was a long journey. I eventually told him a joke about Willie the shark owing Steve the Crab £6, and how he bumped into Jimmy the squid (who wasn't feeling too well).
But you don't want to hear the rest of it. You're way too sophisticated for corny old jokes like that.

26/03/05 Rolling Eggs

I can't remember the last time I rolled a badly painted boiled egg down a hill.
Anyway, myself and a good few others achieved this feat on the slopes of Leith Links on Saturday. I think this is 2 days ahead of the proper timing and therefore lost a little of it's intended symbolism, but nevertheless it was an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon in Edinburgh.
The eggs got a bit mashed up through repeated rolling. However a large posse of seagulls arrived shortly after we departed and ate all the evidence.
After a swift pint, there was a parting of the ways. I ended up watching the Scotland v Italy World Cup Qualifying match with some friends and some Tennents lager.
Alas there was no miracle, and Italy won fairly comfortably.
Betting on Italy to be ahead at half-time and full-time, I won £45, inviting comparisons with Judas.
I would have liked to have seen Scotland win though. It was just an "insurance" bet.
Regardless of the outcome of the match, I would retain my cheeky chappy demeanor.

25/03/05 The Normal Length Good Friday

Other than during Mark Lawrenson's attempts at humour on "Football Focus", I'm most likely to be seen shouting profanities at the TV when the news is on at Xmas or Easter.
There's always a little intro along the lines of, "Britain's airports were reportedly extremely busy today, as many decided to head for the sun over the holiday period".
We then get a series of hugely uninteresting interviews with people at the airport.
"We just thought we'd have a wee change!", "...well, it's nice to get a bit of sunshine...!" These are examples of some of the more perceptive quotes.
Is this "News"? It's about as newsworthy as hearing that my upstairs neighbour reportedly scratched her arse during a game of cribbage.
As a TV reporter, you must realise that your career is on a steep downward trajectory when you find yourself being assigned to the pre-Easter/Xmas Airport "vox pops" job. They must reflect on their shattered dreams. How watching "All The President's Men" as a kid got them interesting in journalism and getting to "break" a world shattering story, or their hopes of becoming an all-action War correspondent, admired for their dedication and courageous search for the truth....

Friday, March 25, 2005

24/03/05 Chairman Meow

Ted the cat had to be escorted to the vet to get his booster. 38 quid thank you very much. Did he appreciate it? No he was pissed off and yowled his head off in the waiting room for half an hour. I tried to explain to him that the visit was arranged in his best interests, but he was having none of it.
I exchanged a bit of cat small talk with a couple of genteel, elderly Morningside ladies who had also brought their cat along.
Its funny how people are much more relaxed communicating with each other when there is an intermediary present, ie the cats.
Perhaps if everybody took a dog onto the London Underground, the atmosphere would change overnight from the repressive "Don't even THINK about trying to talk to me!" atmosphere, to a haven of chatty banter, with everyone eagerly exchanging comments on their respective pets.
However, this idyllic scenario would go horribly wrong if the dogs started fighting and kicking up a rumpus, as I suppose is sadly inevitable.
In the packed trains at rush hour, it is likely that some commuters would have their throats torn out by over excited pit bull terriers, and in the ensuing scandal, my
brave new transport initiative would be abandoned.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

23/03/05 Blue Parrot

I spent last night in the Blue Parrot restaurant with a posse of 20 people. We were all there as a surprise cheerio to Fiona who is heading off to South America at the weekend to join up with a big yacht and then spend 6 weeks sailing around the world.
Not right round the world in an Ellen McArthur way, but taking in the east coast of South America, Barbados, USA and a few other places. Sounds like quite an adventure.
There were a whole load of jugs of Margharita continuously arriving at the table throughout the evening, and very nice it was too. The chirpy banter was also flying thick and fast. Actually, there was probably enough Margharitas consumed for Fiona's yacht to float on and sail through Stockbridge, startling the locals.
Adhering to the philosophy of "If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing", we sauntered across the street to The Antiquary bar and had an additional couple of beers/whiskys before retiring for the evening slightly the worse for wear.
I bored Jo with my lengthy tale of how I was a model, swotty pupil until aged 12, when I was given 6 of the belt for an offence which I was totally innocent of.
(I invoked comparisons with "The Guildford 4" and "The Birmingham 6").
What happened was a few people were larking about on a stage in the gym hall, and were given 3 of the belt for it. Because I protested my innocence to the last, I was given 6. The thing is I was nowhere near the stage. It was obviously a case of mistaken identity. The simmering sense of injustice turned me into a rebellious, disruptive little twat overnight, and my previously good academic performance went into a period of decline.
So you see, I could have been a contender, but I ended up getting a standard single fare to Palookaville. Tragic.
I feel fine today though. Remarkable. Quite remarkable.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

22/03/05 Fore!

As part of my brief to search for comic inspiration I played 2 games of golf today.
I played 2 holes at Dundas Parks before giving up. There were foursomes dotted round the whole course and it looked like they were playing in slow motion. I was seizing up waiting to play each shot.
I abandoned ship and nicked down to Dalmeny and had a swift 9 holes there instead.
I played quite well. Is anyone still reading this? Golf? boring? don't be ridiculous.
It's a great "character building" activity. In golf you get to experience dejection, desolation, dashed hopes, disappointment and despair on a regular basis.
I feel, this is ideal preparation for a lifetime of being Scottish. Invaluable.

21/03/05 Red Raw

I paid a visit to ""Red Raw" night at The Stand comedy club. It is very competitively priced at £1, which just fits in with my present restricted budget.
I was meeting John Burns there. We met doing the "Amused Moose" beginners' comedy course at the Edinburgh Festival in 2003. He's based in Inverness but was working for the day in Edinburgh and decided to sample a bit of that old comedy thing.
As ever, it's a really good night. A varied mix of styles and abilities, but generally every act getting a few decent laughs.
The Grampian TV cameras were filming as one of their newsreaders was trying stand-up for the first time as part of the Grampian programme "Just Do It!".
He did fairly well, although as you might expect from a confident, media person he probably wasn't quite as terrified as someone would be with a slightly lower self-esteem, and perhaps in a more mundane kind of job?
I walked to The Stand and back from my flat, shunning the easy availability of buses. This is part of my co-ordinated attempt to become leaner and meaner.
The fitness benefit of walking along Princes St late at night is slightly offset by the clear and present danger of getting in a conflagration with a cluster of aggressive delinquents who patrol this area in a slightly intimidating fashion.
But thinking positively, if I got chased by a gang, the fact that I would have to break into a full sprint for an initially unspecified time and distance, would make the exercise even more demanding and beneficial. Obviously, this benefit would be instantly eroded if they caught up with me and performed a Scottish version of "River Dance" on my head.
So there is obviously a fine line between having a healthy lifestyle and experiencing a violent untimely death.
Thankfully I survived and lived to fight another day.
However I really do want to fight one of my neighbours who is being really obstructive about getting a communal repair done. But now that I've put it in the Blog, I'd better not. It might get out of hand and I might kill him, and now I've left evidence on the Internet of a clear motive, and consequently would be unlikely to get way with it. Damn.

Monday, March 21, 2005

20/03/05 Sunday Flippin' Sunday

Had a chaotic dinner last night at the ancestral home in South Queensferry.
There were 18 people there, including a gang of noisy nieces.
Selected adults were ordered to take part in a variety show after dinner. Resistance was useless.
I performed my tried and tested "disappearing handkerchief" routine to (what I thought was) general astonishment. I have to admit though to being slightly deflated to discover that Amy (aged 5) had assessed me as the "6th Best Magician" she had ever seen.
I obviously need to do some work to break into that exclusive "top 5" place.
It was good fun though, and I like the mad energy that all the kids bring with them when they visit.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

18/03/05 In search of the 20 minute set

I spent Friday night nursing a view beers with Billy and Dave who I used to be at Stirling University with in the previous millennium.
We started in the Guildford Arms. Apparently this pub was featured in the "Trainspotting" film ; most memorably when Frank Begbie throws a pint glass over his shoulder towards the gathered throng in the bar below from the balcony. Interesting.
We then proceeded to "All Bar One" in George St, which has no historic notes of any interest, other than that I used to get regularly ratarsed in it of a Friday evening, after a hard week's slog twiddling with the computers at nearby Standard Life.
We finished up in "The World" in Thistle St, and listened to a Hen Party commit a variety of atrocities with the aid of a Karaoke machine.
It was overall a very enjoyable evening of chirpy banter with not too much of a sore head the next day. This is mainly due to the recent end of my close relationship with premium strength lager. I've gone back to "cooking lager". It's much safer, and I can actually do things the next day rather than spend it lying comatose on the settee.
I've pretty much decided to be involved in a Fringe show this year. The idea is to share an hour with another 2 newish comedians and do 20 minutes each.
However I've only done 10 minute spots up to now so need to crank up the quest for new material.
I've spent the last couple of days working on some new ideas. The content matter is ; tips for Alien invaders, unnecessary facial expression changes, and Golf...comedy gold, huh? Well it certainly had me chortling away, but that is not a reliable indicator of anything, as I have regularly discovered when some new comedy "dynamite" I've confidently added to my set prompts tumbleweed to roll across the stage.
It's unseasonably mild this weekend in Edinburgh. Yesterday was like a summer day. Weird. Last weekend was like a bad night in Siberia. You never get bored with the weather up here. It's like the Royal Variety Show. There's something for everyone.
I was amused to see that the supremely clever and funny Stewart Lee has a photo of himself on his web site ( sitting next to a sign pointing at him saying "Old Man".
This is in Orkney, on Hoy, on the walk to the famous sea stack "The Old Man of Hoy".
Pathetically, I felt smug in that he'd had the same flash of comic inspiration to get photographed next to the sign as me. I have the same photo with me cast as the "Old Man"
Of course, probably everybody who visits Hoy does this, and the locals will wearily roll their eyes as they see another tourist crediting his original, comic vision in coming up with the idea.
Orkney is a target rich environment for this kind of thing. You can also visit the village of "Twatt" and have a photo taken next to its sign as well.
The worst example of this phenomenum occurs in Pisa, where every day dozens of tourists get their friends to stand between them and the old leaning tower, and create a hilarious trick photo of their friends pretending to exhert themselves pushing back the tower. Hilarious.
I don't suppose the locals will be that bothered though. They're probably just eternally grateful that some extremely dodgy construction work has given them a very lucrative tourist attraction. There wouldn't be much other purpose to go to Pisa if the tower wasn't there.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

15/03/05 Arnold Brown & Talking To The Telly

I went to see the legendary Arnold Brown at the Stand on
Tuesday night. Very enjoyable. I'm ashamed to admit it's
the first time I've seen him live.
The Stand can often be quite an edgy venue with a prevalent
in-house compere technique of ripping into the audience mercilessly.
Of course this can be hilarious. However it's nice sometimes
just to sit back and enjoy the show without your sphincter trembling in anticipation of being caught in the gaze of a predatory compere.
Arnold does employ a bit of audience joshing, but it's a fairly benign assault,and the fact that he sits down throughout his set adds to the laid back feel of the evening. Anyway, about 90 minutes of quality material followed.
Not too many "fall off the seat laughing" moments, more a long succession of hearty chuckles, but ultimately highly enjoyable, and a pleasure to witness a seasoned pro doing the business.

When I was a kid I used to suppress giggles at my Gran when I witnessed her speaking to TV presenters (while they were on television, as opposed to in real life).
As the news programme "Scotland Today" went on air, the presenter would open the show by announcing "Good Evening".
My Gran, sitting in the "box seat" next to the TV, would reply "Good Evening".
I think latterly she really did believe the newsreader was addressing her personally.
Worryingly I did exactly the same thing last night whilst
watching "Scotland Today".
It just slipped out.I don't actually believe that Shereen Nanjeeami (STV presenter) was speaking to me personally ; but neither did my Gran at first. Perhaps I need to get out more and watch less regional news programmes at teatime.

Jim Park True Tales Episode 1.

When I lived in a communal flat in Bellevue in the 80s, we amused
ourselves by playing the robot challenge.For some reason we came in possession of a large cardboard box.In a moment of "Blue Peter" type inspiration, we decided to make the box into a robot disguise. We cut eye holes and drew a ridiculous big smiley face on the front of the box, and cut armholes on each side. A volunteer was selected, usually on the basis of losing a game of cards or dice.
Wearing the box, the volunteer was required to run down the street and repeatedly cavort across the main road in front of oncoming vehicles in a demented manner, waving his/her arms around incoherently.
This spectacle was observed with great glee by the other flat occupants. The main enjoyment stemmed from the bemused reaction of passing pedestrians and motorists.
I hasten to add that there was a safety element involved, whereby guidelines were set stipulating that the oncoming vehicles were deemed far enough away to prevent the likelihood of a "Bizarre Road Death" headline in the Edinburgh Evening News on the following day.
Unfortunately we didn't secure copyright and Dom Jolly went on to become rich and famous with "Trigger Happy TV".

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

13/03/05 Scottish Sporting Excellence

I watched Scotland get demolished by Wales at rugby on Sunday.
Why,oh why, oh why are we so crap at sports these days?
Whilst the Welsh were pacey and incisive all over the park, the Scottish team looked like they had spent the last few minutes before kick-off eating a large "Chinese banquet for fifteen" , (with extra helpings of banana fritters), plus a couple of "yards of ale" each to wash it all down.
Why can't we run fast? We look leaden-footed and bereft of imagination.
Luckily I won £50 on by predicting Scotland would lose by more than 12.5 points. Like taking candy from a baby.
I do feel like a treacherous scumbag though in making profit from my nation's ineptitude.
And I do have previous form here....
The reign of Berti Vogts as Scotland football team manager has provided me with a handy income.
You see on the Betfair site, you match up bets made by other punters.
(generally better odds than the household name bookies)
There are always enough blindly optimistic patriots around who invest a few quid on the Scottish team which you can match up to, and then laugh all the way to the bank.
Well, "laugh" is probably the wrong word....I'm a big sports fan, and I want to see Scotland
do well...ultimately...but I still have to make a living somehow....
Will it be a different story under the management of Walter Smith?
I'm not too sure...I remember a lot of bad European nights in the Champions League with Rangers where Walter didn't exactly cover himself in glory in terms of tactical nous.
Anyway, that's enough about sport....
Never one to watch soaps, I've started watched "Eastenders".
I read in the papers that it was "ailing", and was attracted to watch it by that similar urge which we experience when we drive past a car crash scene.
The death of Dirty Den was certainly one of my 2005 comic highlights so far, with the dodgy ensemble acting on display making my local drama group look like the Royal Shakespeare Company. It can't have long to go before the axe falls.
Previously I have enjoyed the death rattles of "El Dorado" and "Crossroads".
It'll be interesting to see how the writers finish off "Eastenders" if it gets the chop
Perhaps a "dirty bomb" in the Queen Vic?
Or maybe a previously undetected Supervolcanic Eruption underneath the fruit and veg stall?
A nation holds its breath....

Friday, March 04, 2005

04/03/05 Hypocrisy Is The New Rock'n'Roll!

In the past, I've been guilty of sneering at practitioners of "Blogging".
I viewed them as desperate, obsessive anoraks sadly trying to attract attention to themselves by documenting all their innermost thoughts, to an absurd level of detail, targetting a worldwide internet audience.
Well, there's a new "desperate, obsessive anorak" on the block, kids!
I've decided I want to keep a blog, mainly as a means of disciplining myself to writing regularly, and hope that'll it'll help me come up with new ideas for material etc
I usually do freelance Computer work, (of the boring far from cutting edge, creative excitement as is possible), but the market seems to have imploded.
This hasn't happened at the best of times as I have just had to pay £21000 to have a building repair done.
I just paid this last week. This was in the days when £21000 was considered a lot of money.
My despair is lessened by anticipating the excitement of seeing the brand new chimney stacks when they are completed. I can't wait. It should make everything seem worthwhile.
I went for a 2 mile run this morning and managed to complete it without stopping or collapsing.
Impressive (to me anyway).
I noticed that whenever I have to overtake a pedestrian, I subconsciously start running faster as I go past them.
Although the fact that I notice myself doing this obviously implies that it is a conscious act rather than a subconscious act, but I ain't gonna get philosophical on ya ass any more than is strictly necessary.
Am I trying to kid them that I'm some kind of conditioned athlete training for the Olympics, rather than a wheezing alcoholic struggling to achieve a basic level of fitness?
Just heard the happy news that my old pal Mitch and his partner Jo have had a baby son today.
That makes 2 sons now, with Jem being "number one son" as Charles Chan Esquire used to say.
Mitch runs Edinburgh Film Studios,, and provides a great location for any kind of filming project. Well, there's your plug, Mitch.
I just got offered a gig in Drumnadrochit next Friday (11/4). This could be an opportunity to
combine comedy with a bit of snowboarding. Hopefully the snow will still be there next week.
Apparently, conditions are fantastic oop North at the moment.
Just watched a tape of the "Panorama" show "Scotland's Secret Shame", featuring the the wacky world of Religious Bigotry and Sectarianism in Scotland, and how it is all inextricably linked to Rangers and Celtic.
It makes uncomfortable viewing ; particularly as the programme was shown UK-wide.
Not the greatest piece of PR for Scottish tourism, I'd say.
At least there seems to be a genuine political will to tackle this nonsense head-on these days.
On a more serious note, I found this traditional poem (anon) on an old school jotter and thought I'd share it with you ;

"The Cuckoo is a very strange bird,
It sits upon the grass,
With it's wings neatly folded,
And it's beak up it's arse."

"In this strange position,
It utters twit twit,
For it's very difficult to say cuckoo,
With a beakful of shit."