Month: <span>May 2005</span>

Kings of Europe

Well done Liverpool, what a game, what a victory!!

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I watch and follow a lot of sport, in fact there are few sports I don’t watch – horse racing being the main one (I just typed “house racing” which could be an interesting DIY show…). I prefer basketball to football, football to rugby, and everything else falls in line after that. I play 5-a-side irregularly, used to play badminton, and the odd game of basketball.

Not sure where this post is heading, maybe it’s just an excuse to point out that the Scottish international rugby team won a game last night, beating the Barbarians 38 – 7. Or maybe I just want to wish Liverpool luck tonight, even if they are playing my preferred Italian team.

Ohh there’s a thing – who do YOU support?

I’ve never really followed one team in any support, with the exception of the Lakers whom I’ve been a fan of since I saw my first skyhook and heard that they had a player named “Magic” (damn that Jordan bloke and the Chicago Bulls…).

Football wise I tend not to follow the specifics of any team in Scotland as I’m from the West Coast and growing up that meant choosing one of the two Glasgow teams, something I wasn’t keen on as it wasn’t anything to do with football. Of the English teams I have to admit that this season I’ve been pulling for Chelsea, mainly since catching Jose Mourinho’s interviews last season with Porto – anyone see a comparison with Martin O’Neill (who’ll be departing Celtic soon)? Both very honest and dry with their humour.

My latest sporting passion may very well be Extreme Dodgeball which I stumbled across on Saturday, very VERY American and over hyped but actually quite tactical and fast paced. Too much equipment required for it to catch on properly though.

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We have some empty picture frames lying around, and we’d like to put some photos of our friends and family in them. This poses a slight problem though as we don’t have any photos that we like.

I did a little research last night, and as we are getting together with our friends at the weekend it’s a great opportunity to practise taking “informal or candid portraits” or, as I prefer to call them, “taking 300 pictures of people when they aren’t looking”. The trouble is the minute you take your camera out everyone spots it and they all become very self-aware, rendering candidity a nonsense.

About 15 years ago (oh my god, is it really…), when we (my family) were on holiday in France we met up with some friends of my parents. Ohh and before I go any further I’ll state that this post is up for correction if my Mum or Dad drop by, slightly hazy on some of the facts.

Anyway, my parents had known Pascal and Maryline (sp?) for many years, and I’d met them some years before (including a hairy car journey with Pascal in a VW camper van doing 90mph down a B road… or at least that’s what it seemed like. What IS IT with continental drivers?). Pascal is a teacher and photographer who has had some work published – postcards and the like. One hot summer evening in Brittany, sitting in the campsite as the sun began to set, we scoffed down barbequed food and sat talking and laughing – I was at the age where talking with the “adults” was turning out to be fun, who knew!.

Pascal had his camera bag with him, and as we were all talking, he took out his very large and foreboding looking SLR and started changing settings, clicking quick test photos of nothing in particular (I presumed). Next thing I know I hear a click and he looks up from behind his camera, grinning at me. He’d completely fooled me into thinking that he was just checking his equipment* and I hadn’t even noticed him point the camera in my direction.

If I can find the photo he took I’ll scan it in, suffice to say it’s very natural looking (and proves that I did once have hair… when I was 15…). Looking back to that day, it’s that kind of anonymity that I’ll need if I want to take the kind of photos we’d like. The trouble is, and this is particularly so with my friends, I’m not really the type to sit in the background and try to be invisible. I’ve still to figure out a way around that particular, and very personal, issue but I have a few thoughts – I could pretend I’m in the huff maybe??

I’ll probably resort to the old “place the camera on the table, tilt it slightly and start clicking” method. Much more luck than judgement that one but might be worth a shot (pun intended). That’ll be fine in the pub, but I’ll need another tactic for when we go to the cinema… ohh slight flaw there, dammit. Mind you there will be dinner after that, and possibly more drinks in a rather grand old building for which it’d be good to take my camera anyway.

So, any tips or suggestions? Should I wait until after dinner when everyone is happy and relaxed (tipsy)? Or should I pretend to take some photos all day but only take a few now and then, thereby diminishing the “ohh crap, he’s got the camera out again” factor.

My mate Keith is a pretty good photographer too, well when I say good I mean he knows what all those technical terms mean and understands the basics better than I do, so I’ll be asking him on Friday night for some pointers. I also know several very good photographers read this nonsense so now is your time to shine, let us mere point-and-click minions feel the warmth of your knowledge. G’wan, gie’s a tip or two.

Candid photos – how best to achieve them. Suggestions in the comment box please.

* One problem when discussing cameras is the innuendo-laden prose I find myself reverting to, it’s purely coincidental. Honest.


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What’s this I see before me? Hmm interesting… (OK, probably not, I know, I know…).

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Why don’t we teach basic financial lessons at school? Surely in these days of mass consumerism, rising debt levels, ridiculous house prices, multi-credit cards and consolidation loans, it make some sense to offer simple and practical advice?

It’s one of those things you are just supposed to “know”, isn’t it. Yet when I come across something as simple, and obvious as this:

If you carry a balance on your credit card, and you’re only able to afford paying the minimum monthly amount, pay weekly installments instead of one monthly payment. For example, if you owe £100 per month, pay £25 per week. Because credit card companies accrue interest daily on your balance, paying only once a month is a huge detriment to your fiscal health.

I find myself amazed that I’ve never considered it before. We spent some time last year trying to get a better grip on our finances, and whilst they still aren’t as tight as they could be they are a whole lot better. However as you plummet into the paperwork, you slowly find yourself fighting for air, suffocated by the jargon and screeds of small print.

Thank heavens for the Motley Fool.

Anyway, enough of this, I’ve got car insurance to sort out.

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Just a quick note. The guy(s) over at BritBlog are calling for some ideas and suggestions as they prepare to revamp their site and their service. I’m going to be involved on some level, but more on that later.

So, if you are a member of the BritBlog directory, check out the current list of new features and services and let them know what you think.

If you’re not a member of BritBlog then join up, and don’t forget that if you are Scottish or currently reside in Scotland, you can join Scottish Blogs as well.


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Visited my Gran yesterday, hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks and she’s doing fine. She asked me to, again, thank you all for your previous kind wishes. The printout my Mum took to show her is still on her table, and she made sure I looked through it again, you are a nice lot, aren’t you!

After that we headed to Parkhead to the cinema (to see Kingdom of Heaven, reviewed below). As we got in the car when we left Gran’s I flipped on the radio and we caught the last 5 minutes of the SPL this season. For those who don’t know a quick recap. Celtic were playing Motherwell, Rangers were playing Hibs. If Celtic won then they would win title. If Celtic drew, and Rangers won, Rangers would win the title on goal difference. If Celtic lost, Ranger would win the title. Simple? Ohhh and for those of you not familiar with Glasgow – Celtic Park is in Parkhead and the Rangers/Celtic rivalry is centred around religion and hatred. It’s not a pleasant side to the city.

When we got into the car Rangers and Celtic were both winning 1-0. So at that point the title was going to Celtic. No sooner had we pulled away when Motherwell scored, the title was now heading for Rangers. Before we got out of Rutherglen, Motherwell had scored a second and a few moments later both games finished and Rangers had won the title – all in the space of five minutes. It was exciting stuff, especially hearing it live, and we kept the radio on as we drove into Parkhead listening to celebrations and incredulous reports from both grounds.

As we headed to a set of lights some Rangers fans were outside a pub celebrating, as we pulled up at the red light, some 50 yards down the road, some Celtic fans spilled out of the pub looking angry. Instantly I saw them spot the Rangers fans further down the road. Without speaking, Louise put her window up and I turned the radio down as it was still blaring out the news that Rangers were the champions.

And that annoyed me. I’m not a fan of either club, yet the fear and potential for violence put me on edge. Grown men acting like idiots over a game of football. It’s a wonder we’re not extinct.

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Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

What a fascinating book. The tale of a man (David) losing his way, submitting to his desires and how redemption can sometimes be lost as well.

The story is of an ageing divorcee college lecturer, who seduces a student. Their brief affair finds him cast out of the college, and of his community and he seeks refuge on his daughter’s farm. He is a man used to power and finds himself struggling to adapt, never comfortable in his daughter’s home. Later three black men come to the house, attack him and rape his daughter. The latter act drives the tension and dynamic for the rest of the novel as David struggles to understand why his daughter wishes to stay on at the farm, and why she decides to keep the baby. Times are changing and he finds himself lost.

Ultimately a bleak story, there are glimpses of humanity along the way, some hopeful others repulsive and I very quickly found that I couldn’t put this down. There are few characters but each one gives you fresh perspective and opens a few more avenues of thought, or offers another part solution to the problems David is struggling to come to terms with.

Highly recommended.

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