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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

AND THE BEAT GOES ON

It was so lovely, Sunday, writing to you twice and reading your replies. Such loyalty is rare these days. So lovely, Sunday, that I made today something of a reprise. That's right. Back to da Pentlands, and then back to you on my nice new laptop. The laptop which has cost me my hair once again, but there ya go. Hair today. Never, ever get a Wireless N card and sit two feet away from it for hours on end. You'd think they'd issue some warning. Plenty of warnings about diabetes this morning on the news... all those fat arses falling like flies. Well, not exactly falling, but being kept alive by no less than ten percent of the NHS budget. Ten percent. Of a million trillion. Oh yes... sickness is one mofo of an earner. But I digress.

TRANSPORTS OF DELIGHT, OR MEBBE NOT

On the Edinburgh Tram Works, or lack of them

Regular readers can hardly have escaped the earlier posts about the tram (non) workers. So often we wrote about the lack of application of these yellow-jacketed men as they smoked with one hand and phoned with the other, leaving no third hand free for useful effort. In fact it was a running joke with bus passengers going up Leith Walk on the 22.

"Look! There's six of them doing nothing!" sexy Samantha would shout.

"I raise you nine at that hole over there!" chipped in Tristram on his way to the office.

We laughed. Made fun on our blogs.

But not any longer. Princes Street (Scotland's most iconic street - "The Scotsman") is closed. It is very closed. It is so closed you can chase the tumbleweed rolling from Boots the Chemist along to Carphone Warehouse. So iconic. There's a kind of hush.

And why?

Because the German contractors (British jobs for British workers?) are demanding 80 million more bucks and a 70 week delay. Or both. Or neither. Or mebbe the other way round. But who gives a fuck? Who is even slightly surprised at the sheer mind-numbing incompetence of the City of Edinburgh Council playing Monopoly with the public purse? They should be taken from their Morningside homes and shot at dawn, along with the maleficent Scottish Government. Bodies tossed into a tram hole - there to get covered possibly in 2012. Possibly.

HILLS ARE ALIVE

It was good to walk the hills again today. Good to feel the body I inhabit beginning to respond to these entirely reasonable demands. It's what your cells are for. The alternative is Type 2 you know what. Obesity related. So get off your derriere and join me. You know it makes sense.

SWEETS FOR MY SWEET

Love, of a sort, to Jade Goody, killed by the Press which initially made her. And no, she still never racially abused Shilpa Shetty. I saw every minute of every daily highlight, which is as much as did any newspaper. And she never done it. Just didnae. And now her body has collapsed and she has weeks to live. And they even took her lovely hair with their pointless "therapies". Doctors make you worse. And make no mistake, dying will never be the same again if this runs the course I think it might.

TRANSPORTS OF DELIGHT, OR MEBBE NOT

I missed the bus today, back from the Flotterstone Inn and the Pentlands. It was five minutes early to be honest. So what could I do but pile back to the Flot and order another hour's worth of lager. "Would you like a lift to the edge of town?" asked this middle-aged guy I'd watched writing in a notebook. "Is that a novel you were writing?" I asked him then. "No, just a diary," he replied. We swapped names as I declined the lift. When I was a kid, my mother threatened fury and damnation if I were to get into a car with a strange man, and to this day I still cannot do that. Roger his name was. He seemed a bit strange, but I felt I could have coped. Did I tell you I got four Valentines at work? And only one of them from a man?


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Sunday, February 22, 2009

BACK FROM THE BRINK

On top of Turnhouse Hill, in the Pentlands. Not playing World of Warcraft. Even though it was a great struggle just to go out of the house.

Had to stop five times just to get this far. The future is bleak, but richer, as the alcohol bill is now zero. As are company and conversation. But I don't care. Warcraft owns everything. Level 40 now.

LATER, BACK HOME, STILL NOT PLAYING WARCRAFT

[Ed: you know that crap above won't get you anywhere, dude. If you wanna get even one percent of your readers back you got to give them something they can relate to. I'm talking knock em dead with one of your famous, true-life anecdotes. The sort others aspire to, but usually end up dipping into the fiction bag. No names, no pack-drill. So. You up for it or not, big guy? Level 40 big guy? Can you still write or what?]

[Me: OK... ]


This morning at the bus stop there weren't that many waiting. Sunday... 10 am... not the world's most eye-opened time. A young man was moving around the few who were there, talking to each in turn. He came closer. He stood right up to me, eyeball to eyeball. (We were the exact same height.) Paused, didn't speak at first. I felt a frisson of remembered excitement.

"I am Polish," he began, smiling. "My English is not that good. I need fifty pence for the bus."

Instant maelstrom of conflicting thoughts - a turmoil I didn't dare show. He might well have had a blade, for all I knew... lose my life for a fiver. The first person I didn't actually have to speak to for weeks, and it was a Polish beggar. A gorgeous Polish beggar. "OK, I said, fifty pence." And gave him it.

I have a thing about beggars. Basically I don't respond. We are supposed to have a welfare state, a Labour government, a million social services to look after even the most needy. Especially the most needy. I've paid taxes for that for over forty years.

And yet. Fifty pence. "Is that enough for the bus?" my handsome hunk asked then. His sweatshirt was black with white writing. FCUK IN SIN CITY, it read. YOUR PLACE OR MINE, it didn't say, but had I only been forty years younger. Or even thirty. Or let's not do any more sums.

"I think it's about a pound," I said.

"So you give me a pound?" he asked then.

"No," I replied. "I've given you a start."

"Thank you," he said, and then continued to work the queue.



[Ed: Now that's a bit more like it. No mention of warcraft, and not even any of Jade Goody.]

[Me: STFup. I haven't finished...]


A number 22 bus came, and on I hopped. Who should be sitting right at the front but Bernice, one of my bingo ladies. "Hello Peter," she said.

"You looked like you didn't know whether to get on or not," she continued, and I told her about the young man I'd given fifty pence to. Most of the bus would have heard this tale, the way I was facing, and I knew they'd given him nothing. (His hair was gorgeous in that animal way of skunk stripe from brow to nape of the neck.)

"I'm just back from the day centre," Bernie said. "They're lovely young men, most of them. One or two not, but most are. They get home made soup, and a bacon roll and a cup of tea. Two cups if they want to."

"Is this for poor people?" I asked. "Homeless," she said. "It's a church hall."

And then, with clarity, it struck me. This old lady here had given two hours of her life to the poor, while I was feeling righteous at fifty pence. I thought of the Polish man on and off all day, how he must have come here hearing of a better life. How someone so beautiful should not be so poor, just shouldn't. And it wasn't a good feeling. I need to give and give big, real soon. Let this be just the start. Love you and thank you.


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