Sunday, 31 August 2008

The Right Honourable Alistair Darling MP: today's explanation

"There has been a lot of ill-informed speculation in the press over the last few days over remarks I was alleged to have made to The Guardian newspaper regarding my relationship with Wendy Alexander.

I wish, before dealing with the substance of this speculation, to reiterate strongly my respect for Ms Alexander both as a person and a politician.
As to the central allegation, that I described Ms Alexander as "not likeable at all" my remarks were taken grossly out of context. I can only assume that the editing process garbled my comments, since the interviewer had actually asked where I was going for my holidays this year, to which I replied "Knuttlik äbill Atoll", which is a well known island in the South Pacific originally owned by Sweden.

I trust this clarification settles the matter once and for all or until I'm forced to make yet another statement in about 20 minutes."

The Right Honourable Alistair Darling MP is the Chancellor of The Exchequer, at the moment.

Inside: Can you imagine the next time Wendy and Alistair meet? Fuck me, talk about awkward...

Friday, 29 August 2008

This week's special offers at Millionpoundstretcher!

Credit crunch? Recession? Belt-tightening time? Tell me about it.

Hi, there, I'm the Duke of Sutherland and bad news for me means good news for you!

You see, last year, the tax people hit me with a big, big, bill for death duties which means if you're in the market for really fine examples of work of The Venetian School you've come to the right place!

So to meet that bill, I'm slashing prices until they scream! You'd better sit down because you're not going to believe these savings. How much would you pay for Titian's "Diana and Actaeon"? £50 million? £60 million? £100 million? That's right! You'd pay a 100 million because that's what I say the painting's worth!

But here's what I'm going to do just this week! Buy "Diana and Actaeon" at the giveaway price of £100m and you'll receive "Diana and Callisto" absolutely free!

Buy this one...

...get this one free!!

Impressed? You should be!

But that's not all! Act now to secure the special two for one on Titian masterpieces this week and we'll rush you a mystery Poussin absolutely free! That 's right! A painting representing the apotheosis of the classical French style and it's yours just for acquiring the Titians!

Just imagine it, go on. Close your eyes and imagine those blank spaces on the walls of The Mound Gallery, because that's what's going to happen unless you cough up pronto.

The clock's ticking... And speaking of clocks let's have a look at the next item here on Millionstretcher TV.

A grandfather clock, made of MDF and covered in tanzanite crap...

Inside : I see that elsewhere in the monde de high culture, that the director of The Fringe has "resigned". I think you'll find the correct term is "flounced out".

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

( New) Scots on the box

Trouble Sleeping, BBC 2 Scotland, Monday 25th August 2008

ere's a funny thing.

You know that
Armando Iannucci bloke? Scottish writer, producer? Wrote "The Thick of it" and a zillion other funny, funny shows? Well he was speaking at The Guardian's TV Festival thing in Edinburgh and he said (I read this in the paper by the way, I couldn't afford £400 to attend the festival! Fuck off..) that he'd like to see an HBO style channel created in the UK.

His argument was that the drama renaissance in the US has been predicated on the emergence of a subscription-paying audience for shows like The Sopranos, The Wire etc etc ad infinitum and he reckoned that the realities of rating-chasing network programming in the UK worked against the development of risky, thought-provoking drama. I think he spoke last Saturday and we had to wait till Monday for BBC Scotland to quietly deliver risky, thought-provoking drama in the shape of "Trouble Sleeping". Apparently based on the stories of asylum seekers living in Central Scotland, this drama was quite simply one of the best things I've ever seen on telly.

At best, Glasgow and Edinburgh provide a mute backdrop to the lives of the asylum seekers, the economic migrants and the odd pure chancer who make up a community where identities are never fully fixed, where crushingly long hours of insecure, often illegal work are the norm and, crucially for the story, one terrible atrocious act of torture and cruelty resonates across borders and down through time. The "host society" (for want of a better term) only camoes here in shape of the well-meaning church workers, the gimlet-eyed bureaucrats, the sheer affronted, livid tone of the wee weegie wumman who witnesses asylum seekers being bundled into the back of a police van.

We meet an Algerian who works in an Edinburgh Italian restauraunt, pretending to be Italian - he remarks wryly that his Italian identity makes him sexy and exotic to the locals, his Algerian identity perceived as threatening, a "fuckin' suicide bomber".

There's the Iranian claiming asylum by pretending to be gay so he doesn't get sent back to torture and death in Teheran. Except he is gay and he suffers at the homophobic hands of his fellow muslims, getting a kicking on Portobello beach, not from your stock Scottish skins, but from men he thought were his friends.

And then there's the story of the girl from Palestine, Halla, working to help other asylum seekers, happily married to a fellow Palestinian, with a beautiful baby.

Everything seems OKish until Ahmed turns up. Like her, a political refugee (and, it's hinted at) the real father of her child? Eh, no. The truth is much more awful, and to her, shaming, and is to be found in a prison back in Gaza where Ahmed witnesses her rape by the men who'd tortured him.

Ahmed needs her to attest to the terrible events so he can be granted leave to remain. "Torture" Ahmed says "kills us as human beings, we are already dead." Halla's decision on whether or not to relive the horror to save the life of another and reclaim her own humanity forms the beautiful, awful fulcrum on which the drama turns.

I can't recommend this drama highly enough and I can't praise douce old BBC Scotland highly enough for taking a chance on it. If you've got access to that BBC iplayer thing, do yourself a favour and watch "Trouble Sleeping" and then give thanks for your own warm, safe bed.

Monday, 25 August 2008

"Talking bollocks" contest on a knife edge

The talking bollocks contest between Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown was literally on a knife edge last night as both politicians racked up lifetime bests in this blue-ribbon event.

First out of the starting blocks was Gordon Brown mooting the idea of a UK fitba' team in the London Olympics.
As this prospect is considered somewhat less likely than something that's not at all likely, critics were quick to criticise the under-fire Labour Leader forgetting perhaps that Broonie doesn't know anything about fitba' - he supports Raith Rovers.

Running out in support of his communities minister, Alex Salmond supported the idea of at Scotland-only team at the London Olympics, asserting that athletes would appreciate the move.
An assertion somewhat undermined when golden boy du jour and photo op Chris Hoy dismissed the idea as bollocks.

Quick to respond, Mr Salmond told The JT: "I just wish that sometimes sports personalities would just think for a moment before they start issuing pronouncements on things they know about, like sport."

Inside: Before we all get overly excited about The Olympics, listen to the voice of wisdom and experience:

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Links we like

When a show promises that "controversial" issues will be explored through the medium of contemporary dance, strong men weep.

But linking to this in-way-of-an-explanation feature:
gives me the excuse to link to this:

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bottle found, bottle fine

In a heartwarming story, a bottle, cast into the waves 23 years ago off Orkney has turned up in St.Andrews. In an even more heartwarming way, the bottle contained a message penned by one Donald Wylie of Deerness, then 11 years old.

The wayward receptacle was picked up by volunteers on St.Andrews beach who touchingly contacted Mr Wylie so he might be reunited with his message and bottle. This much dear reader is true, check BBC Scotland’s news website if you don’t believe me.

I read the feature right to the end and the following sentence tragically didn’t materialise : “Mr Wylie was presented with the bottle and a summons for littering.”

ThankyouverymuchI'llbehereallweekdon'tforgettotipthewaitress etc.

Inside: Which provides me with the excuse to recycle this Tommy Cooper gag: "You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.' So that was nice."

Monday, 18 August 2008

Should Chris Hoy sit at God’s right hand?

After his stunning gold medal tally in the Olympic indoor cycling thing, there are calls this week for Edinburgh-born Chris Hoy to be deified. The latest call, to have him sit in heaven at God’s right hand followed a weekend of rapidly escalating bidding on the accolade front.

Peter Wishart, SNP MP led the way in pressing for Chris to be knighted and he told The JT : "I’m well aware of the internal contradictions involved in an independence-seeking republican calling for a fellow Scot to be inducted by arcane ritual into the whole Ruritanian exercise in ancestor worship that is the British honours system. However, I’m not going to think about that, because if I do, it makes my head hurt.”
Later in the weekend, calls were for Chris to be made king. A constitutional expert told The JT: “All that is required is for the entire Windsor clan to be wiped out, perhaps in a bizarre gardening accident, and by marrying Charles’s widow, Camilla, Chris would become king. We would need to give him another medal for having to shag Camilla obviously. And a big clock.”

By early in the week, The Lord of All The World had let it be known through his press officer that it would please him to have Chris sit at his right hand for all eternity. For God, er, spaketh to The JT, saying : “Quite honestly, Chris’s achievement puts Jesus’s three days nailed onto a cross in the shade. It's high time that Jesus stopped sitting at my right hand, got off his arse and got a job. I mean it's been over 2000 years for fuck’s sake! Talk about milking it.”

The JT's spokesportsource paid tribute to Hoy's achievement : "This is a great achievement although I'm a bit hazy about how this indoor cycling thing works. As far as I can see, the rider just go round and round the track until the crowd starts cheering wildly and then he gets to stop."

Elsewhere on planet sport, plucky Paula Radcliffe succeeded in her attempt to repeat her Athens triumph, by blubbing all over the TV yet again. It is thought that Paula will now focus on the London Olympics in 2012, aiming for unprecedented third opportunity for us all to feel sorry for her…

Inside: And another thing. Have a look at this photo of Chris. See those heavily bandaged feet? That’s what comes of using a chip pan as a foot spa.

For sure, I am completely Dutch...

I've been trying to resist the urge to post a link to this since first hearing it on "Off The Ball" on Saturday just passed, but fuck it.

It's ex-England manager Steve McClaran, now managing in Holland, doing an interview in a Dutch accent. As OFB's Tam Cowan acidly remarked : "The accent's that pit-oan even Lulu's complained".

For those Scots cruelly cut off from the cultural river of Scottishness by accident of birth, (you know, being born and brought up in Foreign), a word of explanation is in order.

Despite being born in The Gallowgate, celebrity squawker Lulu has, for time out of mind, affected a Home Counties accent while firth of Weegie Wurld, only reverting to the original patois on her mercifully infrequent visits back over the border. Apparently Lulu thinks that we don't mind this irritating affectation. Lulu is wrong.

Anyway have a look at Stevie boy's performance here, exhibiting enough profound insecurities to keep a mind mechanic in work for years.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Links we like

Over on the big site, I've probably referred to the comic "Viz" more than once. God knows I've nicked ideas from the UK's best satire mag many more times than once... Don't believe those who say the mag's not as good as it used to be - it's still easily the most accomplished and complex cultural exercise going, and it also contains loads of great knob gags as well. Here's a link to a strip that you could let your Grannie read, which is nice because the strip is about Grannies In The Future! Beautifully rendered, brilliantly well observed,"Our The Mekon" indeed...

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Festival train plan, "exciting", "innovative", "suicidal"

Organisers of The Edinburgh Festival are pressing First Rail Scotland to run trains all night from the capital to other Scottish cities. "It would be just such an exciting concept" one Festival luvvie told The JT, "just think how much opportunity there would be to use the trains themselves as performance venues. Just think how much late night passengers would appreciate radical new interpretations of Brecht, Ibsen and those other blokes what write plays."

Not wishing to put a dampener on this idea or anything, a spokesticketpunch for the train guard community told The JT: "Given the refreshed state of the average travelling member of the public on the last train out of Waverley at the moment, I wouldn't be putting on any plays if it was me, to be honest. If you were lucky you'd get the piss ripped right out of you, if you were unlucky then you might be starring in your very own "Murder on the Queen Street Express" if you catch my drift..."

Inside: This is true. Apparently organisers of the Festival are unhappy about the sparse number of Scots living outside Edinburgh who attend the events. Er, right. What about the sparse numbers of Scots living in Edinburgh who attend the events?

Nod, wink unlikely to cover £100k oversight

The Masonic Lodge in Edinburgh has received an unexpected bill from the utility company for £100K's worth of sparkie juice.

The bill for the electricity is hotly disputed by the Lodge with a spokesonthesquare telling The JT: "We've never gone through that much electricity; the members get their wives to wash the dirty aprons and most of our rituals are conducted by candlelight. Actually, I've just thought, that mention of dirty aprons and candlelight rituals might have sounded a bit weird. Just forget I said anything."

The Lodge secretary cited the bill as evidence of the continuing moral decline in British society : "In the old days, a nod, a wink and a peculiar handshake would've seen that bill disappear. It's come to a sad pass when secretive, male-only organisations have to pay bills like other, normal people."

Inside: Sorry, only Lodge members can read this bit.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

"Press one to hold, press two to give up"

With NHS 24 recording, er, record staff absences, health-minister-fish-thing Nicola Sturgeon this week called for a report "I'm calling for a report" she told The JT: "It's vital that NHS24 runs smoothly thus releasing doctors to get on with the vital work of working on getting their golf handicap down."

Staff absences have been causing problems at the NHS call centres for sometime as this spokesphone confirms: "Sometimes it's difficult for patients seeking advice to get through - the lines are clogged mainly with staff phoning in sick. We had to put a woman on hold who was worried because she'd missed her period, by the time we put her through to the triage nurse she'd had an ten pound baby boy."

Patients who finally hang on long enough to describe their symptoms report staff responses like:
"Oooh, that sounds just like what I had." and " You don't feel well? What about me? I shouldn't have come into today, I really shouldn't have." etc.

NHS 24 has requested that GP surgeries open on holidays to assist with telephone triage but at the time of writing no response has been forthcoming - apart from the sound of hysterical laughter.

You see "NHS 9 to 5, Monday to Friday" might be more honest but it wouldn't inspire the same feeling of confidence would it?

NHS 24: hive of erm...

Ooh, this is scary.....

You'd think, wouldn't you, that I'd be past getting nervous by now. I mean I've been writing The Jaggy Thistle since 2000, but this? This is scary... I'm bound to make a lot of mistakes as I try to get my head round this blogging malarky so please, bear with me. As I mentioned on the website, I think the blog bit will consist mainly of stuff that I want to write quickly, reacting to something that's current in the news, while the website will host the less time-sensitive stuff. That's the plan at the moment anyway but we could change our minds depending on how things go.

We will over time tweak this and that, introducing all those little widgets I've seen on other blogs- just as soon as I work out what the fuck they actually do that is...

OK, I don't want to go on about this anymore because I'm starting to bore myself.
Next time when you visit, we'll be getting down to proper satire business.

Be gooder.

The Editor, The Jaggy Thistle, August 2008