Osama bin Laden is dead (2 May 2011)

Well, we woke this morning to the fantastic news that US special forces had killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on the compound in which he’d been hiding in Pakistan.

It appears that Barack Obama and the special forces had known about his whereabouts for a while and were formulating a plan to strike him.  Last week Obama gave the order for the operation to begin and yesterday, May 1 the USA finally got their man.


It’s ten years this September since the horrific attacks on New York and the Pentagon which left nearly 3000 people dead on a day that is forever known as 9/11.


Osama bin Laden went to the top of the Most Wanted list in the USA and remained there until today when his picture was adorned with one word – deceased.  Something most American’s have wanted for almost ten years now.


Of course though there are those who say he should have brought in alive, interrogated and then put through the court process.  I don’t back that at all.  Osama bin Laden would never have wanted to be caught by the American’s and taken there, he simply would rather have died and he has.  Besides, taking him through the court process would likely have led to the same outcome – a death sentence.  Justice, in my opinion, has been done.


Of course, al-Qaeda is responsible for more deaths than the almost 3000 people they killed in the USA in 2001.  Who knows what their actual death toll is, and we’re not so naive to think that because he has gone the killing will stop and that we shouldn’t live in fear of al-Qaeda driven terrorism.  We know that is not the case and indeed we’re told to be more vigilant in the upcoming weeks but there is something about this evil man’s death that makes us all feel a little better about the world.  The hunt for the USA’s most wanted man is over.  Osama bin Laden is dead.

The Royal Wedding (29 April 2011)

After weeks and weeks of anticipation it has finally happened, Prince William and Kate Middleton have married in what can only be considered a beautiful ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
It barely seems like yesterday that William and Kate announced their engagement, Kate in her blue dress and wearing Diana’s 18 carat sapphire and diamond ring.  For months we saw replicas of both and speculation grew and grew as to what Kate’s wedding dress would look like and who would design it.


Brilliantly no details were ever leaked about the dress and today we were treated to Kate looking absolutely gorgeous in a simple design by Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton.  A simple lace bodice and a skirt made to echo an opening flower.  


Harry, the cheeky imp, sneaked a peak down the aisle and turned to say something to his brother.  What did he say? “She’s wearing jeans William.”  No, he didn’t say that but he did smile showing that he was keeping things light-hearted and his brother at ease.


According to lip readers William told Kate she looked beautiful as she arrived at the alter with her father, Michael Middleton.  He then cracked a joke with this father-in-law about the wedding supposed to have just been for family and for me the light-hearted tone stayed throughout the ceremony.


If there were nerves they didn’t show.  Everyone seemed relaxed and happy, especially the bride and groom.  They exchanged their vows without a hitch although placing the ring on Kate’s finger seemed to challenge William slightly but a good yank sorted that out.


The rain held off to allow the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to travel back to Buckingham Palace in the open top carriage, waving and beaming all the way.  


Half a million people gathered to watch the newly-weds step out onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace and they were treated to not one but two kisses between them. 


I had a fantastic time watching the Royal Wedding this morning and wish all the best to William and Kate in their life together.  


The parties go on, for the happy couple i
t’s a family dinner and then a knees up at the reception.  For many others the street parties are well under way, the food eaten and the drink flowing and no doubt they’ll go on into the night.


If Britain does one thing well it’s throwing a bloody good bash and today has been just that.

I went on a date once (23 April 2011)

I went on a date once.  Well, more than once but this particular time was about five years ago and it was…a blind date, set up between my friend and her other friend.  It was the other friend’s brother.

I had never been on a blind date before and I was extremely nervous.  Ordinary dates brought out the nerves but to not even know what the person you were going on a date sounded like meant anything was possibly.  Scary.


So the night dawned and off I went, dressed up to the nines.  Well maybe the eight and a halves, and took the bus into town and to the place we were meeting.  


First impressions were good.  He was pretty good looking, he sounded OK and he bought the first round.  All going well.  We had a good conversation, we had similar likes and dislikes.  So it was going fine and we both started to relax.


However, after he’d sunk a few pints I noticed the tone of his conversation was changing.  The true person was coming out and he was extremely racist.  Plus he was swearing more.  I have the odd swear myself, as those who know me can testify, particularly when I lose my temper, although that doesn’t happen too often.  This date of mine was cursing his way through sentences and starting to be a general irritation.  And, you’ll love this, he was eyeing up other women.  Well, trying to eye them up, by this stage he couldn’t actually get his eyes to both go in the same direction.
I decided the night should end and finished my drink thinking ‘time to escape’.  The bus stop was just across the street so I thought he might just let me go.


Oh no.  He insisted on escorting me to the bus stop but I should just let him finish his pint.  Well, the glass had three-quarters left.  I’m not a rude person so I waited it out, trying to keep the conversation neutral so as to avoid any further racist rants or bouts of swearing.


Finally he finished his pint and staggered across the street beside me.  Then, oh yes, then he tried to snog me.  Thankfully the bus came just then and I managed to get away from him before I was completely slobbered on.  He thanked me for a nice evening, I mumbled something about having a good night and literally leapt onto the bus.


Thankfully he never called me again.


This blog is dedicated to anyone who has ever been on a bad date.

Scotand votes on May 5 – don’t let others decide who you vote for (17 April 2011)

I have had a relatively politics free day today, bypassing political programmes to see a bit of football.  Hibs getting beat 2-1 at home by Hamilton and Liverpool securing a 1-1 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates.

Tonight though there is a political debate being held in Glasgow, and shown live on TV, on the future of the Scottish economy.  On May 5, the entire country goes to the polls and in Scotland we’ll be voting on who will be in our devolved parliament.  


Now I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone is like me and eats up Scottish and British politics but I do believe that everyone should have an interest in it.  I am firm believer that one of the reasons that people don’t have any kind of interest is because they aren’t really taught anything about it in school but that, for the moment, is another point.


What worries me is that only a couple of weeks away from voting I’m hearing things like “Well, I’ll vote for whoever is first on the list” or they won’t vote for a certain party because of something they read in a news paper.  Some people are not voting for a party because they believe in what that party believes, they’re voting for them because someone else told them to.


I believe in knowing a little is better than knowing nothing.  Politics affects everyone and just about everything so it can only help people if they keep a passing interest in it beyond what is it written in the press.

A case of mild nepotism – "who you know" is not always a bad thing (6 April 2011)

Nick Clegg didn’t make many friends yesterday when he announced that the “who you know” culture had to end when it came to career opportunities.  Those he did make slipped away quietly when it emerged that he himself had benefited greatly from an internship in a Finnish bank gained through “family connections.”

I tend to stand in the middle in the Who You Know v What You Know debate because if it wasn’t for someone I knew (and still do know) I wouldn’t be in the good job I am in now.


Way back when I was a teenage lass, about 14-years old, my aunt used her influence and got me a part-time job with the company she had worked for then.  She’d been there a number of years herself.    My job was general dogsbody and I did it at the weekends and sometimes after school.  Although not a major job role I did skip some other teenagers who wanted the same part-time job and I was thankful to my aunt for getting me the job which put more money in my pocket than my beloved paper round had but I really did just treat it as a stepping stone on my way to somewhere else.


Nearly 18-years on I’m still with the same company, albeit in a completely different job role.  I’ve done all of my training through the company and am about to embark on more (although not through the company this time).  I’ve risen through the ranks and went on a career path that I probably would not have chosen.  So, thanks to my aunt I got a job and a career and in the beginning I knew nothing about the kind of work the company does.

Margaret Jaconelli evicted to make way for athletes village in Glasgow (25 March 2011)

I’m only now just catching up on some of the news from yesterday and I’m saddened to read that 52-year old grandmother Margaret Jaconelli was, yesterday morning, evicted from her flat in Glasgow’s east end.
Margaret Jaconelli wasn’t evicted because she did anything wrong, she isn’t a rent dodger or a terrible neighbour she is, in fact, a woman who had lived in a flat for 34 years and had paid off her mortgage.

Yesterday morning Margaret and her husband Jack were evicted after losing their battle to keep their home in Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock, Glasgow.  The street has been earmarked for demolition so that Glasgow City Council can build an athletes village for the Commonwealth Games due to be held there in 2014.

Last year Margaret Jaconelli and her husband received a compulsory purchase order for their property and were offered £30,000 for their 2 bedroomed flat.  Margaret chose to fight the order and Glasgow City Council took up civil action at Glasgow Sheriff Court and the order came through to evict her within two days.

In court that day Margaret said, “I’m just a wee person from the east end of Glasgow and all I’m doing is fighting for a home that my husband has worked hard for for 34 years.

“They’re stealing my property after us working so hard for it.”

She’s absolutely right.

However, Margaret stood her ground, refusing to budge as all around her neighbours were moving out, they too having been subjected to compulsory purchase orders.  Margaret went through every avenue possible, Sheriff Courts and Courts of Session but they all ruled in favour of the council.  Although she has now been offered £90,000 for the property and the offer of other accommodation.

Margaret’s fight meant that for a long period of time she and Jack were the only people living in the deserted street but they were surrounded by family and friends and last Friday they stuck by them as they barricaded themselves into the property to avoid an eviction set for noon.  They were not evicted on that date.

Yesterday morning though, at 5am police and Sheriff’s officers arrived to evict Margaret and her husband.  Two hours later the couple left their home of 34 years and spoke of their disgust at having nothing left after years of hard work.

Previously Margaret had spoken of how the council had destroyed the community by evicting people who had known each other for years and who were friends.  A community who, no doubt, looked out for each other and helped each other through tough times.  You can’t live in a place for 34 years and not make solid friendships.

Perhaps David Cameron might want to look into the destruction of established communities like Ardenlea Street in Glasgow, his Big Society idea is all about communities like the one this previously was, isn’t it?

In the meantime Margaret Jaconelli and her family must find a new place to live and try to settle into a new community.  Margaret, I wish you and your family well and hope you settle peacefully.  You fought well and you fought hard, I’m only sorry you didn’t win.

The Marks and Spencers coat/basket incident (22 March 2011)

Marks and Spencer in Morningside, Edinburgh is just a small one but has a good variety so today I went there to pick up some food.

Outside the shop there are stacks of wire shopping baskets so today I grabbed one and headed inside the shop.

I had just finished work so I had my work bag on cross body and my handbag on my shoulder.
Two seconds inside the shop I tried to move the basket away from me only to discover that somehow the basket had become attached to the left hand pocket of my jacket.

Just where the handle of the basket meets the main part of the basket the metal loop had pierced my pocket and secured itself using a surprisingly large amount of material.

I thought it would be easy to unhook but no.  I rested the basket on a stack of boxes containing strawberries and attempted to free myself.

Not a chance.

I tried for a couple of minutes then I looked up and saw the M&S assistant stocking up further down the aisle.  I gave in and decided to ask for help but as I swung the basket from the strawberry boxes it smashed into a person walking up the aisle.

I apologised profusely to the rather sturdy gent who was wearing a suit.  He took it well considering by now he’ll have a large bruise on his right arm.  He smiled and said it was OK and headed off down the aisle.

I thought at that moment he was just another shopper (who was luckily not attached to a basket!) but when I saw him talking in a familiar manner to the assistant down the aisle (who I was now heading for to get help) I realised he was the manager.

So I lingered by the cold meat until he walked away and then I shot towards the assistant.  She had her back to me so I said, “excuse me, can you help me out?”

She turned around saying, “of course I can.”

“Now,” I said, “don’t laugh but I’ve somehow become attached to this shopping basket and I can’t free myself.”

She laughed, who wouldn’t?

I was laughing too though and the assistant tried to free my jacket from the basket but she couldn’t manage it either.

Predicament.  “I really don’t want to take it home.”  I said.

The assistant said, “yes, it would look a bit strange getting on the bus with that.”

So by now we were giggling even though we couldn’t free me from the basket.  “This is the strangest request for help I’ve ever had.”  She said, laughing away.  Strangely, it’s not a request I’ve had to make that often either.

Thankfully the shop wasn’t that busy.

“I’ll have to take my jacket off.”  I said.

“Good idea.  I’ll hold the basket.”  Said the assistant.

So in the middle of Mark and Spencer I proceeded with what certainly must have looked like a strip.  I dropped my handbag, took my work bag off unzipped my jacket, got tangled in my iPod headphone, untangled them and got the jacket off.

Seconds later the jacket and the basket were free of each other.  Yes! So I thanked the assistant who went off giggling her head off.  I redressed myself  and carried on with my shopping…managing to stay basket free for the rest of it.

Now I know why I prefer trolleys.

Facebook cut their comments down (17 March 2011)

QuickBlog

I noticed today that Facebook has changed the functionality of its comments.  Previously when you commented on someone’s status you could press ENTER to get a new line, twice to get a new paragraph and continue on a while until you got your point across and then you used your mouse to click on Enter (the word) to share your comment.


Now when you hit ENTER via the key you automatically get your commented added.  Why is this?
Does Facebook only want quick answers? Are they discouraging people away from ranting posts? Discouraging them away from long answers on statuses?

Is that’s the case then I am upset.  I look for long answers on my statues.  I want them.  I enjoy them and a lot of my followers look for them.  They don’t want short, snappy responses.  If they want that they’ll go to Twitter.

But they may go to Twitter now to advertise their blogs as people seem to be encouraged towards having their own blogs if they want their own piece with a comments section allowing lengthy comments in discussion.

The hunt is on for the politics section (16 March 2011)

Virus

Despite the intention to write this blog often events conspired to prevent me from doing that.  A couple were to do with work and the other was being struck down by a virus within a scarily short period of time. 


Literally within the space of an hour on Monday morning at work I went from well to unwell.  So at 9am I was fighting fit, at 10am I was shuffling to the bosses door wittering about not feeling great and describing the symptoms.   I was sent off home.

A virus it was but a fairly weird one.  The symptoms changed by night-time on Monday to what I was certain was the flu.  By Tuesday afternoon it felt more like a cold coming on and by Tuesday evening roaring earache.  

On Wednesday morning the doctor confirmed the virus theory by telling me I didn’t have an ear infection but my ears were in fact dull, although there was not much chance of them bursting.  Thanks Dr A.

Therefore it’s taken me the best part of a week to get going and the best part of today to try and forget the work I’ll be going back to.  



Politics Section

Feeling better today I decided to head out after PMQ’s (before or during would have sufficed) and went shopping so I headed to The Gyle Shopping Centre in the West of Edinburgh.  I don’t head out there often but today it seemed to combine what I needed which was WH Smith, Boots and a book shop and a supermarket.

The bookshop at The Gyle is part of WH Smith, although a different unit, and is called WH Smith Books.  I’ve never been fond of it.  A few months ago I’d been looking for a book on politics and managed not to find it within their section on Politics.

Today there was just no politics section.  Or so it seemed.

I wandered around the small shop.  I went from General Fiction to Romance to Science Fiction to History to Education to Children’s to Reference to Languages to Health to Cookery to Sports to Business to Gardening to Maps but never to Politics.  Feeling frustrated I made the circuit again.  I was acutely aware that the staff may have been watching me and thinking that I was casing the joint.

Still no Politics sections.  I’ll admit to being on the mild side of angry.  I left the store.

I can never get across to people how big a part and how important politics is in their lives.  How it should play a bigger part in education.  This WH Smith Books store is a five minute bus journey from two primary schools, two secondary schools, a college and a university and it’s the only book shop I know in the area, aside from anything found on campus.

Never one to be beaten I returned to the shop before I went home.  It was busy and I had to wait on the attention of an assistant but when one was free she duly asked how she could help and I asked her if the shop had a politics section.

They do and she took me to it.  The reason I had bypassed it was because the shop had been shifted round slightly.  

Fair enough.  I followed her to the History section where the assistant point to the lower shelves.  I thanked her for her help and she left me to it.

Two and a half shelves.  That’s all that’s dedicated to politics in this store that dedicated at least three times that to health, three times that to cookery and much, much more to romance.  Not even is it split into British politics, American politics and others, but all lumped together in a simple A to Z.

I left disheartened.  



Dream School

I have just turned over from the Chelsea game to watch part 3 of Dream School.  I have seen this series both slated and praised in the last two weeks but from me it gets all praise.  There’s only one area I might give it minus marks and that’s in the editing.

Catching up on some of the YouTube footage today the passion of the students in the politics class, among others, is catching.  Passionate on subjects like knife crime, like youth clubs.  Regardless of how they put it, these kids have something to say that we should really be listening to.

Well done Jamie, the teachers but most of all…the kids.

Jamie’s Dream School – lighting the fire in your belly (9 March 2011)

Well, I’ve just finished watching the second episode of Jamie’s Dream School and I have to admit to finding this series absolutely brilliant.

There is, unfortunately, a very high amount of kids leaving school every year without proper qualifications and that in itself is something that has to be addressed.  I’m not writing this blog to lay the blame at any particular door but it has to be realised that the blame doesn’t lie solely with the education system but neither does it lie solely with the kids.  It’s a combination of contributing factors.

Personally, I’m very into politics and tonight it was interesting to watch the reaction of the kids to Alastair Campbell’s politics class.  They really very much got into it, highlighting issues which bothered them and in general getting fired up.  Yes, a fight broke out outside between Jenny and Georgia which was unfortunate but did highlight the passion the each had for their own side of the argument – it just went too far but they did make their peace.  I have actually seen grown, educated men fight like that when disagreeing on certain subjects.

Watching the kids get fired up about politics got me a bit fired up.  I wish I had had more politics in school, it was a subject very much glossed over, covered in Modern Studies and probably a bit in History.  There are so many subjects which deserve to be on the curriculum that it’s hard to fit them all in which is where an overhaul of the education system is needed.  Do I have the answers? No.  Would I like to  help find a solution? Yes, of course.

Back to Dream School.  Tonight seemed like a bit of a breakthrough programme.  Starkey made his peace with Conor and taught a class which the kids really enjoyed.  Rankin brought out real creativity in many of the kids and gave them a positivity which so many of them need badly.

Simon Callow didn’t have the greatest of lessons but taking them to a performance of his play was something they seemed to enjoy.  The reaction of the audience wasn’t great and it might have been deserved but Simon was willing to take the risk and the kids did get something out of it.

As an aside to that, while the kids might have been disruptive in the theatre, I have been, and know others who have been, in theatres and cinemas where other attendees have answered their phones, had conversations and allowed their phones to ring during performances.  Were these the kids from Dream School? No.  Actually a variety of people, many of whom you’d expect better.

Another thing I liked was Jamie taking out his mixing bowl and asking for the mobiles then shoving them in a cupboard.  There is no doubt that mobiles are a distraction.  Not just to these kids either.

Well done Jamie and his celeb teachers for doing this.  I hope that all of the kids, in some way, get something out of it.

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