Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Glad Game - Spam

An aside about spam.

This relates to the glad game in the sense that when I'm deleting spam comments from the Ten Tracks blog, it takes ages because it has to be done manually, which is soul destroying... but you probably know that I don't mind it as a general rule, because it quite often makes me laugh.


The bits that aren't me are Monty Python - I hope it's obvious which parts those are.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Glad Game - Waking Up When You Don't Have To

On Saturday, I set my alarm for 10:30am.

For no very good reason, I proceeded to wake up at 8.34am, as alert as a child on Christmas morn. And in spite of really needing to catch up on missed zee’s (as Sesame Street might call them), I couldn’t get back to sleep.

I lay there, eyes shut, trying to remember what I had been dreaming about, to no avail. Not that that would have helped, necessarily – the last dream I remember involved my dad having an in-depth conversation with his pet rabbit about why if wouldn’t get out of its hutch. I don’t think my dad has ever had a pet rabbit, much less an agoraphobic one.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” Captain Tact enquired, aware that the amber nectar is often as good a remedy as any to my ills.

“No,” I wailed, prostrating myself a melodramatically amongst the covers as was the style at the time, “I’m going to try and go back to sleep.”

About ten minutes later, I sheepishly went through and made my own.

Waking up before the alarm goes leaves me feeling morally and spiritually bereft. How can you possibly enjoy anything at all if you haven’t had at least 8 hours in bed?!

Lately I’ve only been getting 6 or 7 hours a night during the week due to all the writing. This is OK up to a point, but means that a lie-in at the weekend is imperative for my mental wellbeing. Unfortunately that isn’t always possible due to prior engagements, and adding self-sabotage to the mix is not the plan I had.

It annoyed me particularly on this occasion because I knew I wasn’t going to be back in bed for any length of time for another 36 hours. I had Stuff To Do during the day, and was spending the evening at the Cameo Night of Horror; scheduled to run from 11pm on Saturday till about 8am Sunday morning. Then I was going over to Fife for a picnic with my family.

I was preemptively tired by the prospect, and very annoyed with my body for its nonsense.

The positive side, of course, was that I got a couple of thousand words done for book 4 of 12 Books in 12 Months that I otherwise might not have managed. I must grudgingly concede that it can be quite a good feeling to randomly gain two hours to get on with stuff. There again, those two hours might’ve come in handy during Terror at the Opera, a film by turns confusing, pretentious, and dull; but impossible to sleep through because the soundtrack is so loud it makes your ear canals hurt.

Still, concentrating on the glad aspect – no sleep = more words. Hooray!

Friday, 22 April 2011

The Glad Game - Local News

Local news is crap, isn't it.

Back in February, I wrote a post about The Blairgowrie Advertiser and their coverage of Eric the Ericht Beaver, who was kidnapped and forced into slavery at Edinburgh Zoo. You may remember that at that time, they were about to launch protesting T-Shirts emblazoned with the slogan HANDS OFF OUR BEAVERS. These T-Shirts were produced, and you can purchase them from the Blairgowrie Farm Shop.

Apparently it didn't do a lot of good though, because The Blairie has since reported that on arriving at the zoo, the beaver promptly died of shock.

And that it was a girl, not a boy. They've done the decent thing and posthumously changed its name to Erica, but that feels like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, so to speak.

To add insult to injury, they're still banging on about beavers. It's like nothing else ever bloody happens.

Which brings me to the problem I have with local news - it's a one track record.

Not a vast amount happens in Blairgowrie, but there have been some pretty gruesome assaults and the odd murder over the years. But if you relied on the Blairie for information, chances are you'd never find out about anything other than jumble sales and now apparently beavers.

Despite all this, I still have a certain amount of affection for them. They were the first publication to ever print anything by me, which was an amazing feeling... or at least it was til I read the headline they'd attached to the article.

'Live Show Is A Hit For Korn' didn't really capture the spirit of rock and roll, somehow.

And they're a bit better than the Edinburgh Evening News, which tries very hard to do proper journalism but lets itself down by being peppered with disproportionate levels of scaremongering and repetitive council bashing.

You only need to take a cursory glance over Guardian Edinburgh, The Broughton Spurtle or The Edinburgh Reporter to get a broad view of the range of stuff going on in the city that doesn't correlate to OAPs being savaged or the local authority getting it wrong - some of these sites even allude to the sense of humour and community that make Edinburgh a great place to live. But in the EEN you have to really search for anything positive.

No wonder old people think the young are out to get them.

Still, I'm glad we have local news, for the following reasons:

1) Its total lack of self awareness can make me laugh out loud.
2) Its inaccuracy - generally spotted when I know the other side of the story - is a constant reminder to try to err on the side of balanced reporting rather than rhetoric.
3) The many, many local news stories it leaves out or fails to follow up on, give me things to write about for hyperlocal websites.

Probably won't do anything on beavers, though.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Glad Game - Old People

Before you get on your high horse, I’m not about to say that All Elderly People are A Bad Thing, or that it’s a struggle to think of anything to be glad about when any OAP is in the vicinity. Some old types are a perfect delight, what with their crochet patterns, gin habits, and colourful tales about the war (with which they were almost certainly not involved).

Other old people are just a bit sad – here I refer to the ones that brush by you in the supermarket smelling strongly of cat urine, making you wonder who is looking out for them. I don’t have any quarrel with them, though. Someone has to buy the reduced kippers, lest Mr Tesco has not enough pennies to buy his supper.

The old people I have difficulty with are the ones who are afraid of their own shadows, and take it out on me.

We all know that getting old is crap. We saw that TV film where Dame Thora Hird plays a woman who has had a stroke, and she keeps saying things wrong and is a shell of her former self (it was called Lost For Words and starred Pete Postlethwaite as Deric Longden).

We also know that as you get old, bits of you start falling off, your best mates start dying, and people like me start... walking behind you on the street in an intimidating way.

Yesterday I was walking along the road behind an older lady. That’s just how I like to roll sometimes – deal with it, society. Anyway, because I was a couple of hundred yards away from the flat, I slowed down and started rooting around in my bag for my keys rather than overtaking.

How very dare I.

Said lady did one of those not-very-surreptitious half turns people do to see who is behind them, panicked on seeing my monstrous visage, and moved to the left to let me past. Her plan would have worked perfectly, had my door not also been on the left.

As you might expect, I did not go past the lady. That would have entailed moving round her and promptly completing a 90-degree turn right in front of her wrinkly face if I didn’t want to completely miss my place of abode. Such antagonistic behaviour would have probably made her jump, key me, or at least do a little wee.

The result of our little pantomime was that she came to a complete stop right in front of my door. Defiantly, she turned to look not-quite-at-me, presumably planning to stay that way till I was safely past and she could continue her commute unhampered by my presence.

“Excuse I,” quoth my larynx, as my hand brandished keys in a jingle jangle fashion, “I’m going in there.”

Well. Such a glaring-at I have never experienced since the halcyon days of High School. You’d think I’d sat on her dog.

So what is there to be glad about in this tale of mistrust?

A lesson learned, that’s what. When I am an old lady, I will not be crippled by a fear of people walking behind me. In fact, I will campaign so that other old ladies may know that when it is 5.30pm in broad daylight, and you are in a part of town containing two piano shops and a botanical garden, the commuter behind you is probably not looking to steal your Alice band.

“If you expect people to be horrible,” I shall counsel wisely over scones and cream, “they are more likely to be horrible. But by and large, people use the street not to lie in wait to crush our fragile skulls, for the same reason as we do – getting from A to B.”

“Sucre bleu,” my fellow elderly will cry (for in the future, sugar will be blue and from France), “we thought anyone under the age of 65 lived only to set our bins on fire and con us into giving away our life savings!”

“Not so,” I will counter, waggling my finger knowledgeably. “The vast majority are just like you and I, if a little smoother of skin.”

Thus the worldwide problems of ageism and intolerance will be solved, older people will realise that the constant scaremongering of the news is just that; and the world will be glad indeed.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Glad Game - Bird Poo

Yesterday I was sitting in the Botanic Gardens, enjoying the sunshine, when a pigeon crapped right on my head. Right on it. All over my lovely naturally sun-dried curls. And I didn't have any hankies or anything, so I had to try and claw it out of there using a Tesco bag. I don't know what that bird had been eating, but it was nasty.

So what is there to be glad about in this situation?

According to the rules of the game, I'm not allowed to say anything like 'one day that pigeon will be DEAD, and get its comeuppance in the circle of hell specially reserved for poultry with watery bowels.'

It needs to be more along the lines of 'according to a superstition made up by someone who clearly got pooed on a lot, birds doing their business on your head is meant to be good luck.' It's often associated with wealth, in fact. Therefore this incident must be indicative of the fact that I'm going to win the lottery next weekend.

I'll let you know.

In other news, I've decided to post audio snippets of Book 4 on 12 Books in 12 Months, if you are interested in having a listen.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Glad Game - Forging a Career in a Dying Industry (during a recession)

Every so often, I read an article by someone who ought to know better, and I die a little bit inside at the thought that they were paid to write it purely because they have all the right contacts and not because they have the intelligence, work ethic or talent that means they deserve a platform for their work.

Jobs in journalism seem to be based entirely on who you know, and apparently I have yet to meet the ‘right’ people. Sorry, people I know. You guys do not cut the career mustard. Whatever that is.

I am hindered in this networking malarkey by two key points. 1) Neither of my parents are eminent satirists, social/political commentators or media darlings. 2) I haven’t the funds (or the certainty it would do any good) to complete the journalism MA that might secure me at least a few contacts through mandatory work placements.

This means I really do have to do it all myself, which is difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Not impossible, I grant you, but not straightforward in any real way. The need to be networking my arse off to find someone to read and pay for my writing conflicts with the need to pay rent, which in turn conflicts with the time actually spent writing.

The upshot is that I spend the vast majority of my time commuting to and completing jobs that are largely unrelated to what I want to do, but I can’t jack it in and go full time freelance because journalism pays me only sporadically. I get paid work sporadically not because I can’t write, but because I don’t have enough contacts who know me well enough to understand that I will deliver on their commissions.

It’s a circular arrangement that I am gradually spiralling out of, one pitch at a time. The fact that I only know about three people doesn’t stop me pitching to strangers, but I gather that editors have been known to ignore pitches from people they’ve known and loved all their lives, so it’s no wonder 90% of mine go ignored.

‘But what is there to be glad about in all this,’ I hear you wonder. ‘Or is your memory so short you have forgotten that you’re supposed to be playing Pollyanna’s glad game?’

Never fear, gentle readers, I had not forgotten. There are a multitude of gladnesses to be gleaned in my situation.

One thing to take from all of this is that when I do finally claw my way towards a full time freelance career, I will have done it all by myself, like a career orientated little red hen. This will surely prove a worthwhile achievement, a bit like making a really good cake.

Another is that it inures me to rejection, of which there is a lot in the industry and indeed the world. It also helps me to continually hone what I am doing and to learn from my mistakes. Feedback helps in such situations, but in terms of pitching to strangers I would surmise the chances are that if they don’t reply, it wasn’t a very good one. That or I sent it to the wrong person.

And finally, all the trauma stops me taking things for granted. The fact you can do something doesn't mean it's all going to fall into place, but when it does I really appreciate it.

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Glad Game - Leith Street

Edinburgh’s Leith Street is not bad, exactly, but it’s ugly, busy, hard to cross and generally not a great addition to my morning walk to work. Meanwhile on the walk home, it’s generally populated by chuggers and people who will hand you the same leaflet every day for a month, never registering the fact that they see you more often than your flatmates do.

On the other hand, it’s a good place to find out about new fashion trends, which is useful for me as a person who arguably doesn’t put a lot of effort into keeping up. For example, a few weeks ago I saw a girl wearing a shimmery white princess dress, complemented by a red puffa jacket and trainers with lights in the heels. She was only about six, but she totally pulled it off and definitely gave me food for thought re my own tired wardrobe.

Then there are the culinary suggestions you can pick up. I once walked home behind a group of dynamic, go-getting young men who had evidently gone straight out after school (assuming they went to school in the first place) and had not left themselves much time to grab something to eat. Two opted to go hungry, but the third wolfed down an entire box of After Eights in the space between Calton Road and the Omni before scattering the wrappers artistically across the pavement. As they fluttered romantically into the faces of oncoming pedestrians, I was put in mind of the mise en scene of the most beautiful French Arthouse movies.

Furthermore, it turns out that the area is paved with income opportunities.

There’s so much work available here that people advertise on pedestrian crossings, which can only be because there is no space in the local job centres or on notice boards. Leith Street may be aesthetically unattractive and full of idiots, but it is also a through road to fashion, work, culture and all manner of other wondrous things.

For that I am glad.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


On Mother’s Day, my siblings and I returned to Perthshire and gathered around our dear Mama’s feet, to watch Herbie Rides Again and the 2003 remake of Pollyanna.

This wasn’t the plan, per se. It just sort of happened. Mum wasn’t feeling well and there was nothing much on TV, so we all flaked out and watched the aforementioned programming gems.

I mentioned this in passing to Captain Tact who, rather than spending the weekend with his own mater dear, was engaged in selling books to idiots. That’s sort of his wont, these days. Anyway, his reaction to my news was something along the lines of “Polly what now?”

Naturally I was scandalised – surely Pollyanna is a fixed point in our culture? Apparently not. It’s not a very manly book, I suppose.

For anyone else similarly in the dark, Pollyanna is an oppressively cheerful child from literature. She was written by Eleanor H. Porter in 1913, and spends most of her time waging war on unhappiness. Evidence for the case against child labour laws, you might say.

The only thing that stops her terrifying campaign to ensure that everyone in the village is happy ALL the time is someone ‘accidentally’ mowing her down in a car, leaving her paralysed from the waist down. And even then she bounces back, it just takes her a little bit longer than other sad things that have happened to her (including the death of both her parents).

Pollyanna’s MO is centred around ‘the glad game,’ invented by her tirelessly optimistic father (who ironically died tragically young). The basic premise is that in a negative situation, you look for the good side.

Witness an example:

Yeah. She’s like that all the freaking time. If I was Pam Ferris I’d smack her in the mouth.

Her brand of inane happiness would probably get her beaten up if she bandied it about in this day and age. The closest modern equivalent, I suppose, is that person who tells you to, “Smile! It might never happen!” as though it’s socially acceptable to go about your everyday business with a big stupid grin etched onto your face. I must have missed that facebook update. The fact I’m not smiling all the time doesn’t indicate I’m having dark thoughts, I’m probably just thinking about something else.

Having said that, I was trying to think of themes to blog around, and it struck me that the glad game might be a fun one to do. Lots of things make me glad – broccoli soup, amusing graffiti, implausibly bad television...

But as aficionados of the game are no doubt clawing at the screen to point out, listing things that cheer me up is missing the point. You’re supposed to think of something sad, bad or other negative emotion, and then find the upside.

Much more of a challenge. I will see you tomorrow for day one.

Monday, 11 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Thirty

And so we reach the end of the journey, with 'what was your favourite song this time last year?'

Had trouble with this, but flatmates suggested Gaga which reminded me that I was promoting this version of Telephone over her one to anyone who would stand still long enough. Enjoy.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Nine

A song from your childhood.

I remember my mum playing Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings by John Prine in the kitchen quite a lot... And I particularly remember the song Ain't Hurtin' Nobody. So here it is.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Eight

A song that makes you feel guilty.

Ah, you must be referring to the soundtrack to my last terrible crime.

Seriously, what does that even mean? I actually just looked up the word 'guilty' to check there isn't another meaning I didn't know about. But it definitely means "having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law."

This surely means I can't even have I Fought The Law, because the law wins in that.

Get this down you. Wrong spelling of 'guilt', but never mind.

Friday, 8 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Seven

A song you wish you could play.

Well, it'd be pretty sweet to be able to do this, in my opinion.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Six

A song that you can play on an instrument.

Hm. I did singing as my main instrument for Standard Grade music. Yes, you can do that. I sang I Could Have Danced All Night, and some other things.

I have tried to learn a few instruments in my time - piano, violin and recorder, to name three - with varying degrees of success. These days I can usually pick out melodies by ear on a piano or a keyboard, but not with much proficiency. One I used to do quite a lot, for no real reason that I can remember, was Over the Rainbow.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Five

A song that makes you laugh.

Carefree Youth, Whither Art Thou Gone? A classic from Captain Tact's band, DanDanDan. Who else would write such an insightful chorus? We all miss Rick Moranis...

My girlfriend won't let me get, the money together for a Hornby train set, and so it seems, she's crushed my dreams...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Four

A song you want to play at your funeral.

Well, that's a cheery one. There's nothing quite like being made to ponder one's own mortality, is there?

This is a tongue in cheek sort of a choice:

Monday, 4 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Three

A song you want to play at your wedding.

Some friends and I did once have a running joke about having a quadruple wedding and coming down the aisle to The Final Countdown with a laser show going on all around us...

But I guess we're old enough to know better than that now. Almost.

This might be a good one for a slow dance? But I'm open to suggestions for my fictional big day :P

Sunday, 3 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty Two

A song you listen to when you are sad.

Now I wish I'd saved yesterday's for today. Look At Me, I'm A Winner! is pretty good for cheering yourself up...

How about this, then.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty One

A song you listen to when you're happy.

This depends on context, to a large extent. Happy in the flat after a night out goes in a different direction, songwise, than walking to work on a sunny morning.

But this is pretty all encompassing.

Friday, 1 April 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day Twenty

A song that you listen to when you're angry.

I don't particularly listen to music when I'm angry. I'm more likely to shout at Captain Tact, or possibly tell Twitter.

Last weekend I was a bit angry about a thing - a couple of things, actually - and as if it could read my mood, shuffle produced the following.

It didn't help, as such. But it didn't make me any more angry either.