Sitting in Starbucks, Ocean Terminal, surely the hangout of last resort - the final acknowledgement that you ain't talking to a soul til tomorrow. Hopefully, even if then.
A fat young woman pretends to be lost in a book. But she's not, I can tell. What she's really lost in is the same black hole as all the rest - coffee as hot love. Two quid a shot, and no questions asked. And you never, ever get upset when it doesn't call you tomorrow.
Starbucks. There needs to be a symphony. Me, I'm a recent convert. "Venti Americano", says the young man. Barrista or some such foreign muck. "Large Americano," I echo... " - I'd rather speak English." He ignores me of course. Trained.
Downstairs in Phones4U a guy in a pink sweater is almost hitting the young saleswoman. Bought his phone on Monday, he shouts. And it hasn't worked since. Cost him three hundred quidsworth of business.
"Can't help," she says, not intimidated. "Get the manager," he demands. "There is no manager,' she replies.
It's getting ugly. Various male staff there - none come to her assistance. Eventually one does. Guy calms quite quickly. Strange that. Me I was pretending to look at N96 stuff while feeling both their pain.
Haircut today. Face and neck so thin in that mirror. Shadow of my former self. Once again she didn't charge. Not enough hair to charge for, you see. I told her the last one had been free too. Just pay me the next time, she insisted. Janet. Traditional Barbers, Leith Walk. Leith Tramworks are ripping the heart out of local business.
Yesterday's little post below has become a surprise critical hit. Post of the Week nomination. Thanks, mike. Thanks all for comments. Sometimes we forget our real purpose which is to write. Get all hooked up on commenting on affairs.
But talking of which, isn't all this Mandelson v Osborne stuff so wonderful? When I said they needed a queen to style the Cabinet decor, I clean forgot about the drama element. Queens love drama. And rich people. Famous, of course. And beautiful. Not always quite so much kind, quiet and considerate people.
Well this Starbucks is filling up! Must repair to my hovel. Straight home or Lidl? Straight home or Co-op? Darling Zoe then and Friends. Central Perk. They're all at it.
Wow! What a ten minutes yesterday, acting my shoe size on top of Turnhouse Hill. Into the gale, leaning forward, arms stretched out, Jesus-style for max support. Thought of getting the Nokia out to make a nice vid for you - ripples across the cheeks. But then I reckoned I'd not be able to hold it steady enough for a coherent pic. Windy. Very windy. Why be sixty when you can be ten? And then I saw a figure approaching from below.
I knew the tops would hold that mega-draught... the forecasts for once were unanimous. Fifty miles per hour, they said. Pink rectangle for pink danger. But on Turnhouse it's always more than the forecast. Pressure wave, a guy told me once. Funnelling from the valley below. Air's got to go somewhere, so it speeds up. I remember I gave his dog some sandwich. (In those days I had to sit down and eat after climbing Turnhouse. Now I can do five without stopping.) Gave the dog some meat, but I think the guy thought I was coming on to him then, doggie style. Or maybe that's me being paranoid, for a change. But it was all ages ago. I don't chat to walkers so much these days, as the novelty's worn off. The figure below me got closer. A young woman.
It had been a sociable day throughout... one of my bingo ladies was on the country bus - going to visit her daughter at Nine Mile Burn. Ryan the barman from the Flot got on. I gave him some laptop brochures then meditated. He's just been to India. A fellow alopecia sufferer.
At Nine Mile I had to detour a bit to avoid some cattle. I'd have had to step off a stile right into their midst, and do you know that didn't appeal one bit. Hate cattle. Well, not strictly true. Don't mind eating them, but have no desire to socialise. Size matters. My detour was long, boggy and boring. Took a turning to get shelter from some threatening rain, but it transpired disadvantageous. Wrong side of the valley. Down then up? Or circle the valley head? Decisions. Decided on the latter, and after that plain sailing.
Two loud English guys on top of West Kip. Lunching. Closer to them than you normally would, but in the wild you sit where best you can. Friendly, but after eating I ran down the far side to make some distance. Turned out unnecessary, as they weren't that fast. Nothing worse than same-speeding. One party or the other has to take the lead and make space. Then you can feel rushed. But not usually me, as I am super fit. Ish.
East Kip, Scald Law, Carnethy Hill. (Three words for 'hill' there, for the lexicographers among you.) So easy they were, due to literally getting blown up the sides. Arms spread, wildness of nature. Push! Push! Push! At the top of Carnethy I dared to turn round to face into the gale. Holding my hat. Although I had a spare, it wasn't quite as warm as this one. North Face. But then I don't wear it on the telly. "I see the weather is sponsored by Berghaus today," I texted to the BBC recently, after one particularly blatant product placement. They improve for a bit, and then relapse. Me, I'd just sack the presenters. It's perfectly easy to buy warm clothing without the manufacturer's name emblazoned all over. Perfectly.
The young woman on Turnhouse had no such warmth though. "Hi!" she said, grinning. "Do you know these hills?" (Eastern European, probably but not certainly Polish.) Gorgeous teeth. Most of the Poles do. They probably eat real food, instead of processed pap like we do.
"Certainly," I replied. "This one is Turnhouse."
"Still Turnhouse?" she asked.
"Yes, it has twin peaks. Mebbe even three."
"I want to make a nice walk. How many hills should I walk?" I looked quickly over her clothing. Knitted tights, denim skirt, wool coat. "Well, really none at all," I replied. "Just five more minutes and you'll be into one degree temperature and fifty miles an hour wind." (The part we were in is notoriously sheltered, and gives little warning of what is soon to come.) "Even what I'm wearing is the absolute minimum," I cautioned.
"But I was feeling spontaneous," she said. "Spontaneous is good," I agreed. "Look - why not do Turnhouse today, and at the far side drop down into the sheltered valley." She had a map. I pointed the way, with precise instructions, hoping she would understand them. She was quite gorgeous, I could tell. Plucky too, up there in a soon to be gale, chatting in a foreign language to a strange old man. (And honey - they don't come much... :)
We parted then, after a sincere good luck, and a final, formal caution not to go on. Descending quickly to the comfort of the Flot, I kept looking back up, seeing her stark and alone against the blackening horizon, quite definitely in the gale now. Ten minutes later the heavens opened, and again I thought of her so exposed, in just tights and a skirt and a loose woolly coat, soaking wet in the horizontal freezing rain. Spontaneous. But she'd make it. Built of the right stuff.
Back in the always-welcoming Flotterstone Inn I was recounting this tale to Ryan. "I should have just taken her home and married her," I mused. "Or brought her here and I would have married her," he laughed. "That might have been more useful," I declared.
Lunch was very nice. Italian sausages with gorgeous veg. Mashed spuds and baby carrots, still with their heads in. (Italian sausage here means Scottish sausage with a dusky red sauce. Recommended.) I wonder if she's warmed up yet. Had a nice Scottish sausage.
Happy seventieth indeed to the queen of the Scottish pub trade, the Tibbie Shiels of the age, Mary Moriarty.
Party tonight in the Port Inn, her daughter's pub next door. Sadly our invitation seems to have got lost in the post but it truly doesn't matter. Nothing can undo the near three decades of close relations, and the recreational glory of those naughty early nineties. Mary remembers that - and so do we all.
Mrs Moriarty I salute you - and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you gave. Without you we would have had a lot less fun.
(Still should have invited me though. Story and pics round the world in no time. You would have done in the Scotsman days.)
A market is traditionally a place where dodgy geezers sell dodgy goods.
This week shows what happens when you put the world's economies in the charge of those same dodgy geezers.
As the Prime Minister said: This is no time for outdated dogma.
There will be much turmoil whilst the new order shivers and shimmies to the surface. But it will. A loaf of bread will always be a loaf of bread - never anything else. Fat cats catch fewer mice, and thus become less fat.
[Ed: Enough already of trying to sound like the Tao te Ching. Tell us what's been on the telly...]
[Me: Shows how little you know, sucker. Yesterday our little penses appeared in the New York Times. And no - it wasn't about Friends. The times they are a-changing.]
Well it had to happen. Over the years we've been on the radio twice... Guardian so many times I've lost count... Bloggie awards of course (in a non-winning role)... and yesterday - surprisingly - the NYT. An international platform for a global crisis.
Does Rupert own that one btw? Better not.
Clearly online newspapers change every minute, but here you can see us almost dead centre in this pic. Just above CNN Money. *Smiles round the room, magnanimously.*
Today we're still there: check this Blogrunner page. The featured blogs are personally selected by NYT editors.
Infamy, as I say. Now where's that damn column?
Quote of the Day: Diane Abbot on Andrew Neil's show last night: "Gordon's had a good financial crisis."
Over the last couple of days we've been roundly denouncing the government's decision to spend my money (and yours - oh I never forget you) spend our money bailing out the greedy and feckless who put their money into unregulated foreign banks. That is what I have written about, and I retract not one iota.
Well, you could have knocked me down with a Treasury blank cheque when what should I see on the News three minutes ago but that individuals are not the only perpetrators. Oh no. It appears that (hold your breath) local authorities have been doing the exact same thing. Except their losses amount to not tens of thousands, but actual millions. And not their own millions of course, but the public's.
And they're demanding compensation.
Compensation from whom?
Why from the public of course.
Raising the incredible Alice In Wonderland scenario of each and every one of us bailing out OURSELVES.
The words "couldn't" and "make it up" come to mind.
Hanging's too good for them. Gits.
IN OTHER NEWS
I'm sensing you're not that interested in politics.
Watched the Simpsons Movie. It's OK, but wait till it comes down to three quid. (Currently seven at HMV.) Bought a mobile game called Virtual Villagers. Might be quite good once I get into it. Tempted to beat the credit crunch by getting a free laptop from PC World for buying Vodafone Broadband. (This would replace my current Virgin supposed 20Mbps deal, which actually runs at 4.5)
Tricky keeping up once you get old.
Back at work yesterday after my little break. I told them the Prime Minister and Chancellor were dropping in to win some money to save the country. They laughed.
Oh goody! Watching the news this morning, and it seems I was right, so right in the post below.
My government has kindly given TWO THOUSAND POUNDS of my money (no, of course I haven't got that much - and because of them I damn well never will now) 2,000 pounds to 'bail out' rich depositors. Including those too damn greedy even to put their money into British banks.
Everybody knows the Biblical saying, "To them that hath shall be given."
Not so many know the next line: "From them that hath not, what little they do have shall be taken from them."
I have fired off an angry email to the BBC, which will achieve nothing at all.
Maybe it's time for a revolution. (Thanks to Chav Gav for the 'Eat The Rich' slogan, btw. So much more palatable than the unemployed.)
It just keeps getting better. How much is the Icelandic government giving to Icesave depositors?
How much are you and I giving to those greed-motivated British investors?
The Chancellor has just said that he will guarantee their money totally. Couldn't make it up.
It's time to dig in. Get strong locks on your front door.
Much is being said today and previously about governments "guaranteeing" depositors' savings.
Let's look at two words there: governments and guaranteeing, and let's be quite clear what is involved. What is involved is that people (like me) who have nothing, but have paid taxes honestly all their poverty-drenched lives - probably people like you too - those people are going to pay STRAIGHT OUT OF THEIR POCKETS so that the rich might not suffer any loss.
This is particularly apt today, after the collapse of a bank in Iceland. IceSave. British people (lots of them) had put their money in that institution for one reason and one reason only: greed. Whilst in the past they could have given their business to any one of a number of British banks, they instead gave them the finger, and deposited in Iceland for a higher rate. (The country, not the food store of course.) For a while. Until the bank followed suit with the food store and is today more frozen than a packet of oven chips.
But I shouldn't joke. It's fucking serious. It makes my BLOOD BOIL to hear these twats bleating on the television today demanding the British authorities (ie you and me) make good their losses. Blood boil I tell you. I would rather hang from the very gallows in the Grassmarket than give those leeches one penny from my meagre salary. One penny.
In fact, here is the only thing an IceSave depositor is good for: (the head would look a little different, but the idea's the same.)
There we were yesterday, just sitting down to elevenses when three llamas turned up. Boy did we laugh. Look at all the camera action going on!
Zooming in a little...
After that, the day could hardly go wrong.
Yesterday I repeated Tuesday's trek from Galashiels to Innerleithen, 14 miles in length, and over half a kilometre in height at times. Except this time it wasn't the dress rehearsal. We breakfasted with llamas, walked that close to cattle (including bulls) and I think the day was a huge success - partly due to the weather I confess, over which even I have little control.
Boy was I scared when the coach stopped in Galashiels and no less than twenty people hopped out. Twenty. The busload divide themselves up into three groups, each walking at a different level. And this time I was leading not the third, nor the second, but the top-ability group. Top. So not only the largest group I've led, but the fittest. In fact all the club's elite walkers were there awaiting my lead.
For the next six and a half hours.
And I done it. Done it good, so they seemed to tell me.
Then the Traquair Arms and a triple birthday party.
For readers new to this world-famous website, let me explain. Some people are naturally slim. (Doncha just hate em?) Others let themselves get gross. (Deserve what's coming to them.) Yet others (me) try, try, and try again to lose a little weight in order to enjoy a nicer life. And now I've done it. This is the lowest for over three years.
Now, normally I would bring you photographic evidence of this personal best, but sadly even the weight of the camera pushed the damn scale back on to 12 stones 8lb. So my word will just have to be taken. Honesty is my middle name. Beckham my soon-to-be surname.
So how did I achieve this momentous breakthrough?
Well it was easy.
Lunch: Birds Eye Penne Ariabatta. (Two for three quid at the Co-op.)
Tea: Generous bowl of frozen mixed veg, microwaved of course, flavoured with a teaspoon of Deli sandwich filler. (Got to watch that last mother though... 880 calories a small pot. It's the mayonnaise. Rapeseed oil.)
Supper: By bedtime I was literally passing out so had one cup of apple juice and one banana. Slept like a baby.
And this morning.... voila!! It's so exciting! And asta would approve, as the above amounts to three meals, I truly swear it.
Footnote: I guess we shouldn't overlook the 1500 metres I ascended this week. And stopping drinking. And weighing myself every single day for 167 weeks and writing it down.
Today I have conquered my personal Mount Everest, without actually becoming one. Now how to celebrate... when you can't eat, drink, smoke, take drugs or have sex? There must be a way. Mebbe an extra sudoku.
IN OTHER NEWS...
The bottom has fallen out of the barometer (down 18 millibars in just 12 hours), my Lidl Weather Station is set to Storm, the global financial system is in meltdown of course, but here Darling Zoe calmly sets things in perspective.
(Please ignore the untidiness of the surroundings. We're both very happy living in squalor. Squalor because I had to let my Polish cleaning lady go back to Warsaw to look after her ageing grandmother Magde.)
Oh, and Zoe isn't really bleached out like that. It's just the shaded part comes out browner.
He's back! That's right! Sacked once for not declaring a mortgage loan or something, reinstated, then sacked again for not helping the Hinduja brothers with a passport. Today reinstated by Brown (despite his being a staunch Blairite), Mr Mandelson's next departure can only be a matter of speculation.
(It almost certainly won't be for trucker sex on Hampstead Heath, though. That's for married MPs only.)
In fact you need a gay or two around the cabinet - to make sure the drapes are in sync with the cushions and suchlike. And they're making him a Lord! Gaylord! (The alternative is too simplistic for this sophisticated weblog to embrace.)
But me, I'm old enough to remember when you had to renounce a Lordship to serve in the government (Viscount Stansgate, aka Tony Benn). Nowadays the government takes all sorts. And so, I hear, does Peter Mandelson.
Next: Boy George for Culture Minister. I can just see it.
Morning. Sitting on a number 4 bus, surrounded by common people and on my way to Hillend for some more hill-fitness. Tuesday's recce was OK but a bit on the slow side. Slow mebbe, but very brave in the way I mixed it up with the cattle. Well actually I was dying inside, but you musn't show fear. They can smell it. Trick is to think of them as Darling Zoe only bigger.
God this bus takes ages. Should have been at Flotterstone on the country bus, but I missed it due to diversions due to TRAMS.
Here's a pic of them last night. They have to work at night as nothing happens by day due to them having a mobile permanently in one hand and cigarette in the other. Workshy gits.
(All this is because our newly-elected Councillors, only recently teaching Primary School kids, nowadays get their jollies giving billions of public funds to corrupt contractors.) My billions. Yours too if you pay UK taxes. It's called democracy. Well, actually it isn't. It's called fuck the public.