Modest demands

I asked my son Will this morning what he wanted for Christmas. He had suggested a keyboard a few weeks ago but he's gone off the idea. He told me that he had already ordered his present from Amazon, and paid for it using the family debit card (we trust him). What did he order? A boxed set of Jeeves and Wooster DVDs - the Fry and Laurie versions, of course. Total cost £30. And he insists that he doesn't want or need anything else!

I'm slightly concerned that there is a method in his madness. Next year he'll be 17 and he's keen to drive my MR2. Trouble is, insurance for him would run to about £2,500 a year. Is he hoping that a modest outlay at Christmas will soften us up for his birthday?  He's going to disappointed, I fear.

Age shall not wither...

It was my sister's 70th birthday last Sunday. She is twice as old as our eldest brother was when he died suddenly and tragically at just 35 and yet to me - almost 24 years older - and I'm sure to her as well, he is still, in my mind's eye, our older brother. I've spoken to many people over the years who have had an older sibling die young and they all have the same experience as they get on in years. It's really very strange. I remember the late Anthony Quinn saying something similar regarding his father, who died in his twenties.

The tree arrives

The Christmas tree arrived this afternoon and is now up and awaiting its decorations.  There must be a million suitable trees up here in Scotland but we had ours delivered from Kent! Don't even mention tree miles.

For years I carried on my father's tradition of putting up the tree and decorations late on Christmas Eve so that it was a surprise on Christmas morning. In fact, as a child we weren't allowed into the sitting-room until we got back from mass. Then we filed into the darkened room where the only light came from the candles on the tree. Yes, candles! I kid you not. How the house didn't burn down I don't know.

The cut-down strawberry tub holding the tree was decorated by my father with a different theme every year. The one I remember had broken mirror as a lake, with toy swans on it. How my dad had the time (or the energy) to do all this I don't know, what with seven children and a working day that lasted at least 12 hours.

I've given in to requests from the family to start things earlier and I'm glad I have. Christmas eve is now stress-free. This year we've got a house full for the first time in years and I'm really looking forward to it. We don't go mad and buy tons of extra food. We never buy prepared food anyway, cooking almost everything from scratch so if we need extra bread, mince pies, trifle or whatever we'll just make it!   I've ordered the booze from Majestics but I notice the email says

'delivery guaranteed in 14 days'  


 I think a phone call is in order tomorrow morning :)

Good Samaritan

I was on my way back from the surgery this morning and popped into my local shop to pick up some milk and a bottle of orange Lucozade. A young woman came in and asked the owner if he had a pair of pliers or something similar because she had broken her key off in the lock to her door just up the road. It was the lock on a communal door to six flats, so she was panicking somewhat. This being Aberdeen, there was not a rush from anyone in the store to help the poor lady so I said, 'give me a couple of minutes and I'll fetch some tools and take a look'.

I thought I would be able to grap the broken piece of key and pull it out and the job would be done in seconds but I really should have known better. The broken key end was not sticking out at all and so it was impossible to get a purchase on it. One possibility would have been to try blu-tack (or chewing gum) and as I was contemplating returning to the house to get some another tenant opened the door from the inside.

Now that I had access to the other side of the door I decided to take the lock off and remove the barrel to see if I could dislodge the bit of key and, indeed, after removing 3 wood screws and two machine screws and giving the barrel a sharp tap on the pavement that is what I managed to do. Then I put the lock back together and all was well.  At this point, in spite of my protestations,  the young woman insisted on rewarding me and we returned to the shop where she bought me a nice bottle of wine.

By then it was 10-45 and I realised that I had missed my hairdressing appointment, which was booked for 10-30. On the rare occasions that I miss my appointment I always pay the girl the fee anyway and re-book - she has, after all, lost a slot where she might have earned some money. So I popped in to the salon, apologised and left ten quid on the counter.

So the upshot of my good deed is that I spent 30 minutes fixing a lock, gained a £5 -95 bottle of Cabernet Shiraz and lost a tenner!  £4-05 out of pocket. :) 

It was worth it though just to hear an attractive young woman call me her 'hero'!

Hope springs eternal

It's suspension time today. I'm having a new set of springs and shocks fitted (plus new droplinks) which I hope will drastically improve the ride and stability of the MR2.

It's a lowered suspension set but I think the car will actually ride a little higher after they are fitted because  the existing shocks are completely busted.  I'll find out in about 5 hours.

By the time I've spent about £4,000 on this car it will be worth in the region of, oooh, £2,000!  Still, it's only (my wife's) money.

Lets call it the Appintosh Macle!

Following on from my

recent little post

about one of Will's college lecturers I have this gem. 

In a discussion about Apple and the Macintosh computer another of his lecturers (this is a guy Will likes and seems to be quite good in general) claimed that they came about when a Mr Apple and a Mr Macintosh pooled their ideas and formed a computer company!!

And NO, he most definitely


having a laugh.

I give up.

PS: Will is on a full-time computer course.

PPS: Meanwhile in the real world Will gets kudos for a Leopard patch he's updated and posted on various sites and forums and which is being furiously downloaded by thousands of appreciative users around the world. And sorry but no, I won't be giving any more details or a link because, let's just say, it's all a little bit 'dodgy'. He, he.

...others must fail

I thought Aberdeen had broken out in a frenzy of book-buying this evening when I popped into my local Waterstones for a browse and saw queues stretching around the shop. Then I noticed a little old man sitting at a table, it was Sir Jackie Stewart, OBE, three-times F1 World Racing Champion (and expert shot) signing copies of his autobiography, 'Winning Is Not Enough'.

I suppose you have to be fairly small to fit into those racing cars but he seems to have shrunk over the years.  Anyway, there were well over a hundred people queuing to get their books signed and he seemed to have time to chat to each of them. Seemed like a nice guy. A long evening ahead. I got out. I couldn't actually get near the shelves.

Shock of the old

The roads in Aberdeen must me some of the worst in Britain (certainly in a British city). My poor old suspension (which wasn't in the best of health to start with) has taken a hammering. But I've just managed to buy a complete second-hand set of lowered sports suspension units from Ebay for just over £190 incl delivery, saving about £200 for the units plus gaining the advantage of simply being able to do a direct bolt-on swop with the existing units, thus reducing fitting charges. 

No inserts to bother with. No fiddling with oil. Just whip 'em off and whip the new ones on. They shouldn't even need adjustment. I need to get new droplinks, front and back (another £80 or so) and then I'll be ready to face the potholes of Aberdeen once again. Overall cost about £400.

Education, education...

Will came home from college feeling pissed off. He's bored by the slow pace and uninspired teaching. So far he's added very little to his pool of knowledge and skills. To make matter worse he's losing confidence in some of the lecturers.

Today the class were asked to give some examples of things that could be scanned. Nobody spoke  up so Will said 'images'. Then he said 'documents'. No said the lecturer, not documents. 'A documents is a file made up of several sheets of paper.'  And he's the one doing the teaching. Jeez.  I give up. 

Friends and colleagues

Had a long telephone chat with an old friend from Kent. Haven't spoken to him for ages but we jumped straight in where we had left off and I haven't laughed so much since I got to this rather humourless city last year.

My friend passed on some sad news though. A guy

(see left)

I helped out last year died a short time ago. I knew he was terminally ill with cancer of the pancreas and the last time I spoke to him he was very weak. We sort of said our farewells then without actually acknowledging it. He was a nice guy and he said he was sorry we hadn't met up a lot earlier because we worked together so well. He thanked me for the help and support I gave him while he was feeling poorly (although he didn't know what was wrong with him at the time).  His last words to me were "get yourself checked out regularly, Mike. Spend the money and have a scan done every year. Look after yourself".

RIP my old mucker.  Paul Oliver 1946 - 2007

Marathon Man

I return to the dentist exactly a week after the extractions. One of them is giving me gip. Real gip -  swelling, tenderness, pain and earache. I suspect an infection. I'm right. 'Dry socket' says the dentist as he proceeds to poke about. Not funny! Now it really bloody hurts. He packs the socket with an antiseptic wad and writes out a prescription for antibiotics.  I start to get the taste of cloves. A gentle numbing spreads around my gum. Marathon Man!

Unlike wounds to the skin, where a clot forms and healing occurs from the outside of the clot inwards, the mouth works the opposite way. A clot forms and healing starts at the centre and works outwards. If the clot is dislodged for any reason another one doesn't form (no bleeding) and so the bone is exposed (a dry socket) and prone to infection.

It's been nine hours now but already the antiseptic and antibiotics are having an effect. It could take ten days to get everything healed up nicely but at least I won't feel quite as shite as I did last week.

Phil McCavity - Update

In the end the dentist removed three teeth (one was a stump left over from a broken down crown and filled). That pushed the price to, wait for it, £35. That's £10 less than I'd have paid on the NHS. Go figure.

The guy was bloody quick too. No nurse, everything ready to go, in and out in about 20 minutes. And, as brutal as these kinds of extractions are, he did a very good job, leaving clean wounds (with no jagged bits of tooth or bone remaining as has happened in the past) which are healing very nicely. 

Next stop some implants but at £1,200 a throw it might be a while before I've got the spare cash.

A tacky solution

I popped the car around to my friendly, competent mechanic this morning to ask about the possibility of a quick spot welding job on the steering column. I won't bore you with the details but the MR2 is prone to steering play after many years and the quickest solution is 4 or 5 tack welds strategically placed.

No problem. Left the car, went for a coffee at Waterstones bought a book (This Is Your Brain On Music- Understanding a Human Obsession by musician and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin) and a couple of magazines and returned to find the job done and a bill for just £15. Cheaper than a new rack! 

Now the steering is nice and tight and that makes driving more enjoyable. Excellent result.

Phil McCavity

I need a couple of troublesome back teeth extracted.

They've been giving me gip for ages but I keep putting off getting them sorted. It's not that I fear going to the dentist, I've been that many times it really doesn't bother me. I even had a tooth out some years ago without anaesthetic, not very nice.

Yesterday I decided to do something about my nagging tooth pain. I opened Yellow Pages and rang the very first dentist on the list (who also happens to be conveniently close to my house) and spoke to a very pleasant young lady who told me to pop around on Saturday morning to have the offending nashers removed, total cost £30.  That's a private charge. The cost under the NHS is actually £43.60, although that covers X-rays, 'advice' and a scale and polish, if required. So, overall, a bargain really. On reflection, I do hope that £30 includes novacaine! Ouch!

Hard winter coming

They've had two inches of snow in the Cairngorms - first time they've had snow this early for ten years - so it looks set for a hard winter.

Last winter (our first up here) was extremely mild with no fost or snow to speak of but I think we'll be needing our warm clothes fairly soon.

We've already had the central heating on for a few hours during the last week although today is sunny and mild.

It might encourage Will to start skiing again.

More expense! :)


The gut-ache I had last weekend turned out to be a nasty little cold. I hate feeling ill and as I get older it becomes harder to bounce back quite so quickly. The trick is to give in to it and let it run its course. It's a chance to watch a few old movies from the comfort of the  sofa. Now that I've swallowed my pride and reinstalled Sky there is plenty of day-time TV to choose from.

Pat, pat here, pat, pat there, and a couple of brand new straws...

I'm going to devote myself today to sorting out my office (again), filing and bill-paying, returning my storeroom to some sense of order, cleaning the bathrooms, tidying the house and doing a bit of touch-up painting. I still feel rough with a bug/virus of some sort but I'm following by old mum's method of dealing with illness - work it off!
Mind you, she did tend to take it a little too far at times. I found her cleaning windows in an effort to 'work-off indigestion'. Turned out it was a heart attack (her second). She survived to have another couple before expiring. Tough old gal she was.