Tag Archive | Edinburgh

100 days – Day 95: Edinburgh

100 days – Day 95:  Edinburgh

fed up with all things Glasgow, during the heavy emphasis during the Commonwealth Games?   Then, come to Edinburgh instead!  Better to eat first, as you may well be greeted with that infamous welcome, “you’ll have had your tea” (see below)


some interesting and strange facts about our Capital City:


  • There’s a small part of Nova Scotia deemed to be within Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. To encourage settlement in New Scotland, James VI created 100 new baronets of Nova Scotia in 1624. To enable the new baronets to be installed without travelling across the Atlantic, it was decided to allow part of the Castle Esplanade to double up as Nova Scotia.


  • Princes Street should really be St Giles’ Street. However George III thought that sounded too similar to a London slum area of the time. Instead it was named after the Royal Princes, the Duke of Rothesay and the Duke of York.


  • In 1530, the city boasted almost 300 alewives or brewers


  • And in 1775 the city saw the publication of Ranger’s Impartial List of Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh – a prostitutes directory.


  • In 1777 there were eight legal distilleries in Edinburgh. And 400 illegal ones.


  • The Royal Mile is, in fact, just over a mile long and consists of five streets.


  • Rose Street’s name is associated with prostitution – to “pluck a rose” was a common expression for visiting a lady of the night.


  • Saughton Park was once home to a tribe of 70 French Senegal natives who lived in bee-hive mud huts. The Senegalese village was created as part of the 1908 Scottish National Exhibition, which included a display on sewage disposal and another on new fangled electricity


  • St Andrews claims to be the home of golf, but the rules of golf were first compiled on the Links of Leith and golf is documented as being played on Musselburgh Links in 1672, making it officially the oldest golf course in the world


  • Miles away from the battlefields of the Somme, First World War tanks were churning up the grass at Redbraes Park near Broughton Road in 1917. Brown Brothers engineering works at Broughton Road carried out the first trials of prototype Mark VII tanks there.


  • Blame nobleman Mackintosh of Borlum for the expression “You’ll have had your tea”. He complained in 1729 that people slurped their tea and would instead insist he’d had his already and have beer to drink instead.


  • Naughty Edinburgh minister Rev John McQueen caused outrage in the 1600s. He became so besotted by local beauty Mrs Euphame Scott that he pinched her underwear from a washing line and made a waistcoat and drawers from them.


  • Long before rocker Ozzy Osbourne shocked the world by biting the head off a bat, 19th-century showman Ned Holt was thrilling crowds at the Grassmarket by killing rats with his teeth.


  • Sex therapists sound like a modern phenomenon. But in mid-18th century Cowgate-born Dr James Graham’s Temple of Health was charging couples £50 a night to cure their sexual woes by way of an aromatic mattress, some powerful magnets and a jolt of electricity. His 12-foot-wide tilting bed was said to help cure impotency and aid concep


  • The first man to fly in Britain, James Tytler, did it in a hot air balloon he built himself in August 1784. Tytler suffered the humiliation of crashing several times before finally rising a few feet off the ground. His next attempt took him 350 feet into the air for half a mile. But his final attempt the next year flopped when the balloon refused to launch until after Tytler had left the basket, at which point it sailed high into the sky, thus inspiring the popular put-down: You’re a balloon.


  • Indian Peter is among Edinburgh’s most bizarre characters. Kidnapped as a child, he was sold into American slavery then kidnapped again by Native Americans. He returned to Edinburgh to publish the city’s first “A–Z”-style roads directory and launch the city’s penny post.


Everyone knows we gave the world anaesthesia courtesy of James Young Simpson, telephones thanks to Alexander Graham Bell and logarithms thanks to John Napier. But what else can we brag about?

1. Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have its own fire brigade. Firemaster Wilkin also designed the UK’s first fire engine that combined engine, hose and escape ladder.

2. Gentlemen with receding locks can today invest in many kinds of remedies, but in 17th-century Edinburgh one of the top cures for baldness was application of the burnt ashes of dove’s dung.


3 Edinburgh can also be credited – dubiously perhaps – with bringing the “f” word into publication when in 1503 poet William Dunbar’s classic Ane Brash of Wowing was published in the city, which included the first printed use of the word.


4  And finally, if all that has left you in need of a toilet break, give thanks not to the man credited with bringing us toilets, Thomas Crapper. He simply manufactured them. It was Alexander Cummings, a watchmaker from East Lothian who invented the modern flushing toilet in 1775.

100 days – Day 66: All the lonely people.

100 days – Day 66: All the Lonely People


Two news stories particularly caught my attention today


A Scottish pensioner who lived in Bournemouth lay dead in her flat for SIX YEARS while neighbours held garden parties outside.

Anne Leitrim, in her 70s, hadn’t been seen since 2008. She was only found after the money in her bank account ran out and bailiffs went to her home to collect months of mortgage arrears.

They got in through one of two windows which were ajar at the flat throughout the six years, and discovered “soft-spoken and friendly” Anne’s remains.




Britain has been declared the loneliness capital of Europe.

The Office for National Statistics found that we are less likely to have strong friendships or know our neighbours than inhabitants of any other country in the EU.


Also a survey conducted last year by The Silver Line discovered that 2.5 million older people in Britain described themselves as lonely.

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Chicago discovered that feeling lonely increased the risk of heart attacks, dementia, depression, and could disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure and lower the immune system. Those who felt isolated from others were 14 per cent more likely to have an early death.

With the percentage of households occupied by one person doubling between 1972 and 2008, and  with the decline of community and an increased focus on work,  that makes for a lot of disconnected people.


This is a shocking state of affairs




I remember, as an assistant Minister, in 1973-4, visiting a particular lady who would be in her late sixties and single; she lived on the top floor of a block of flats in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh – a soulless housing estate on the western edge of the City.  There was little, if anything, to do there – and elderly folk didn’t particularly like going out after dark.  Her apartment was on the same floor as three other flats.  But she NEVER saw her neighbours; they would either be out at work during the day (or out in the town), and, at night,indoors watching TV.

No wonder this elderly woman suffered from depression and stress, and, on one occasion that I know of, tried to take her own life. 



From “Mind”:
As social beings, most of us feel the need for rewarding social contact and relationships. One common definition of loneliness is that it is the feeling we get when our need for this type of contact is not met.

However, loneliness is not the same as being alone. You might choose to be alone and live happily without much contact with other people. Or you may have lots of social contact, or be in a relationship or part of a family and still feel lonely.

Loneliness is not feeling part of the world. You might be surrounded by loads of people but… you are [still] lonely.

Loneliness can have a significant impact on your mental health. It can contribute to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.

Having a mental health problem can also make you feel lonely. For example, your condition may mean that you find social contact difficult or that you find it hard to maintain friendships, or you may feel isolated because of stigma and discrimination.
Loneliness has many different causes and affects people differently. Often people feel lonely because of their personal circumstances. But sometimes loneliness is a deeper, more constant feeling that comes from within.
Certain lifestyles and the stresses of daily life can make some people socially isolated and vulnerable to loneliness. There are many situations that might make you feel isolated or lonely.

For example, if you:

lose a partner or someone close to you
go through a relationship break-up
are a single parent or caring for someone else – you may find it hard to maintain a social life
retire and lose the social contact you had at work
are older and find it difficult to go out alone
move to a new area without family, friends or community networks
belong to a minority ethnic group and live in an area without others from a similar background
are excluded from social activities – for example, because of mobility problems or a shortage of money
experience discrimination and stigma – for example, because of a disability or long-term health condition, or your gender, race or sexuality
have experienced sexual or physical abuse – you may find it hard to form close relationships with other people.

Some people experience deep and constant feelings of loneliness that come from within and do not disappear, regardless of their social situation or how many friends they have.

There are many reasons people experience this kind of loneliness. You might feel unable to like yourself or to be liked by others, or you may lack self-confidence. This may come from having been unloved as a child so that, as an adult, you continue to feel unlovable in all relationships. Or sometimes, consciously or unconsciously, people isolate themselves within their relationships because they are afraid of being hurt.

Loneliness, for me, is a side effect of the barriers I’ve put up over the years to protect myself from the world, and the world from me.

If you experience this deeper type of loneliness, you may try to avoid being on your own and spend a lot of time socialising. Or you may react in the opposite way, hiding away on your own so you don’t have to face a world of people you feel unconnected to. You may also develop unhelpful habits, such as using alcohol or drugs, to escape your feelings of loneliness or to face social situations that you can’t avoid.









100 days – Day 58: Hearts v Raith Rovers, 8 November fixture

100 days – Day 58: McCrae’s Own


The new fixture list for the Scottish Champions League was unveiled yesterday.  For a while, in order to commemorate the selfless and sacrificial contribution of players from  Hearts and Raith Rovers to the First World War, there has been a campaign to have the two current sides meet this year in November.

For once, the powers- that- be have listened and, at Tynecastle, on 8 November this year, the two sides will play each other


Saturday 8th November 2014
Hearts v Raith Rovers 


 Do not ask where Hearts are playing and then look at me askance. If it’s football that you’re wanting, you must come with us to France!

Sir George McCrae


 16th Bn. Royal Scots (McCrae’s Battallion) Memorial at Contalmaison, Somme, France

When war was declared in August 1914, the football season was already under way. As men rushed to arms, many questioned why football was continuing.

In Scotland, the bulk of this wrath was reserved for the top team in the country, and as fate would have it, in 1914 that team was Heart of Midlothian.

Letters were written to the press – the Edinburgh Evening News published one, signed ‘A soldier’s daughter’, which suggested that ‘while Hearts continue to play football, enabled thus to pursue their peaceful play by the sacrifice of the lives of thousands of their countrymen, they might accept, temporarily, a nom de plume, say “The White Feathers of Midlothian”.’

Hearts had made the most emphatic start to a season  by winning their first eight league fixtures, attracting criticism for continuing the ‘awful farce of football’ 





In November 1914 the well-respected local businessman and former MP Sir George McCrae launched an appeal to the young men of Edinburgh to join his own battalion for active duty in the field. McCrae’s ambitious aim to source a full unit within just 7 days sounded fanciful, but his confidence was justified as thirteen professional players contracted to Heart of Midlothian answered his call. They were the first football club in Britain to do so.

Within days, hundreds of the club’s supporters began to follow the example of their team.

McCrae’s Battalion quickly managed to attract a full complement of 1,350 recruits – including a great number of football players and supporters of rival clubs such as Hibernian, Raith Rovers, Falkirk and Dunfermline. The example set by the Hearts players had proved pivotal. McCrae’s Own – the original sportsmen’s battalion was born.





Disappointingly for the men in maroon, the 1914/15 league title would head westwards to a Celtic side free from the rigours of military training. Missing out on silverware, however, would pale in comparison to Hearts’ true sacrifice .



The Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916 saw McCrae’s Own suffering massive losses as they battled bravely to try and capture the ruined village of Contalmaison.

 Hearts players Harry Wattie, Duncan Currie, Ernie Ellis, Jimmy Speedie, Jimmy Body, Tom Gracie and John Allan all perished during the Great War. Paddy Crossan and Robert Mercer eventually suffered from the effects of wartime gassing, while Alfie Briggs was crippled in action and never played again.


Seven Raith Rovers players (James H Logan, George McLay, Willie Porter, Willie Lavery, Jimmy Todd, Jimmy Scott and Jock Rattray) also  joined up, and three  players (Todd, Scott and McLay) paid the ultimate sacrifice. . Ten other Raith  players also enlisted for service in other regiments during the Great War.

 Over 100 lads from Dunfermline also answered the call of King and Country, and joined the battalion at the outset of the First World War.








100 days – Day 39: Tramspotting

100 days – Day 39:   Tramspotting


This is rather sad…….


(from yesterday’s Scotsman)

TRAM fans will flock to Edinburgh tomorrow from at least as far as Berlin to sample the capital’s first fare-paying services for nearly 60 years.




German publisher Robert Schwandl will be among aficionados boarding the inaugural trams as the long-delayed project finally starts to recoup its £776 million cost.

Dawn will have barely broken over the Gyle shopping centre when an unknown number of the most eager passengers gather expectantly for the 5am departure to York Place.

Their enthusiasm is likely to gladden the hearts of city council officials who have endured the – some say self-inflicted –construction nightmare that has beset the capital.

But if there are glowing smiles aboard the first tram, the acid test for the scheme will come later in the day when more sceptical passengers take to the rails to pass their own verdict.

Mr Schwandl said he had been anticipating his visit for some time, as it would enable him to complete a new book on British trams.


Trams on Shandwick Place

He told The Scotsman: “It is a good excuse for a trip to Edinburgh, and we’ve been waiting for a long time to see this open.

“For 2015, I’m planning a Tram Atlas British Isles, and apart from important extensions still under way in Birmingham and Nottingham, Edinburgh’s tram has always been the one I had to wait for anyway before publishing such a book.


Vic Simons, a former British Rail manager, who is coming from St Albans in Hertfordshire for the occasion.

Mr Simons will be staying in a nearby hotel before getting a taxi to the Gyle for the first run.

He said: “It’s a big deal – the last new tram system was in Nottingham ten years ago.

“Edinburgh people will take to it and want extra lines, especially to Leith.”

Mr Simons, 68, who is also a director of tram campaigners the Light Rail Transit Association, said he had been bitten by the tram bug as a six-year-old in London.

He said: “I remember the feel of being on rails, but on a street, and gliding along while the rest of the traffic was much slower.”



Closer to home, Edinburgh solicitor Andrew Boyd, 66, plans to join the 5am queue to make amends for missing the city’s last tram in 1956.

He said: “It will be a historic occasion after all the troubles the project has experienced in the course of its construction.

“I travelled quite a lot on the old trams as a small boy, but they were not sleek and the track was not very well maintained.

“I will be making good an omission not to have travelled on the last one.






I’m reminded of the ” Heid Trainspotter”  (or just plain “Heid-banger” about whom I blogged on http://sandystrachan.wordpress.com

The West Highland Line is a Mighty Fine Line….. (unless you’re stuck with an “anorak” )


First he took off his camouflaged army surplus jacket and folded (!) the crumpled garment on the seat next to him.

He was wearing a jacket underneath with badges up and down the lapels, all of which seemed to be railway related. In the breast pocket was an armoury of ball-point pens & inside a veritable arsenal of different coloured Bics.

Underneath was a home-knitted sweater with a picture of “Thomas” on it (actually it didn’t have a picture – I made that up – but it was a tank top)


He then delved into his backpack and produced several sheets of schematic diagrams, a couple of notebooks and a tin of baked beans – all of which he placed on the table between us.

After a few minutes, he got out a Swiss Army knife and opened the can, before starting to eat them cold with a spoon which magically appeared from somewhere.

Half way through this “breakfast” – it was something like 7.30 in the morning – he burped loudly, showering the table and his charts with tomato sauce. He wiped this off the diagrams with his sleeve.

Eventually, he said “Hi, I’m Trevor”


“like Sandy (sic) Shaw the Eurovision mega-star? I love Eurovision. Been to some of the preliminary rounds. One day, I’m taking a train to wherever it’s been held. Do you like Lulu? Brotherhood of Man for me.” Then, as an afterthought, “Isn’t Sandy a girl’s name”

“Not so much in Scotland”

Me: “I take it you’re a train spotter?”

“Good God no – they’re sad w*nkers; I’m a student of railway infrastructure. What about yourself, what do you do?”

“A Minister”

“Do you believe in God?”


“I love the Bible, but with no disrespect, I’m a bit of an antagonist (sic)” I gathered later that he meant ‘agnostic’

he continued, “My favourite story is the one about God smiting the Good Samaritan. That’s a word you don’t hear nowadays, more the pity”

“Yeh” said I in reply.

“Hell”, I thought to myself, “I’m going to be stuck with Trevor the Tank Engine for miles”

“since you’re a man of the cloth, maybe you could answer something for me?”

“OK – I’ll try”

“Given that we’re going to be travelling through hill and dale on our journey, why did God put mountains in the way, causing umpteen navies to bore through them to make tunnels. A bit inconsiderate, surely?”

“Maybe God was setting a challenge or a test for the engineers”

“Why didn’t he do it himself?”

“That’s a good question – Oh, listen, that’s the whistle…. we’re on our way”

Trevor spent the entire journey ignoring the magnificent scenery.  Instead, he checked what seemed to be every point, signal and railway infrastructure as we passed on our way.

At one point he ejaculated (probably in both senses of the word) “Oh, oh, Jesus (sorry, Rev) – they’ve got that wrong”, pointing to his chart and thumbing through his notebook with tomato-stained fingers – wait till I’m home (in Essex) and, by Christ (sorry, Rev) I’ll be in touch with these cartographers – big big mistake there- major error!”

And so it went.  As I tried to catch a glimpse of the natural wonders outside the carriage window, his almost constant  logorrhoea about what to look out for next (re: pointless points etc)  virtually reached orgasmic proportions.



train west highland way

Eventually we reached Malaig

“I think I’ll have a wander around and worship at the ‘Altar of Bacchus” said I

“Oh is it his Saint’s Day in the Church of Scotland?”

“Do you want to join me?”

“That’s OK, thanks, I’ve got a tin of sardines in oil with me. I’ll just sit here on the platform bench and catch up with my Bradshaw and, anyhow, I want to do some calculations on the timetable – I’m getting off at Rannoch Moor on the way back and then on to Perth to connect with the night train south, getting off at Peterborough and on to March in east Anglia…..” (I’m not sure if that was an accurate reportage of his plans, but it was along those lines

And he did get off at Rannoch Moor station. And vanished into the night, but before he did he gave me a tin of baked beans – a kindly gesture, even though I didn’t have a tin opener nor a fork or spoon.

I then settled down – on my own – to read my copy of Herron’s “Law and Practice of the Kirk – a Practical Guide” – after all, you’ve got to keep abreast of the workings of the Institution.  And anyhow, I’d seen the scenery on the trip up

100 days – Day 25: Anent The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland


100 days – Day 25: anent The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland




Today sees the start of the Church of Scotland’s annual gathering in Edinburgh, The General Assembly.

One small – but, in the view of many of us dinosaurs, important – word in all the proceedings will be missing, lost, abandoned, discarded:   the Kirk  has dropped that wonderful archaic word “ANENT” (meaning “about” or “concerning”) from its legislation.  e.g.  there could be an “Act anent the Prevention of Admission of Bampots into the Ministry”  (I made that up, but it would have saved a lot of congregations a lot of grief over the years)

The reason for dropping it:  While the old Scottish word “anent” has served the Church well for many years it is a term which has dropped out of common usage. Many people find it difficult to understand our continued use of this term in the title of contemporary legislation.” (the Church’s Legal Questions Committee).



And Michael Hance, director of the Scots Language Centre, added: “It’s a bit odd that the Kirk, a centuries-old institution, impervious to change, should have selected this Scots word and decided to remove it.”


In this regard, I’m reminded of this old story:

There once was a modernising minister who moved to a congregation that worshipped in a rather dark and gloomy sanctuary.

He felt that it should be brightened up and came up with the idea of installing a chandelier. Not only would it literally brighten up the church but would be bright in an aesthetic way.

He took the idea to his Kirk Session. “I think that we should consider getting a chandelier”, he said.

Before he went on to describe his plans, he was interrupted by an old Elder (why are they always “old” in these stories?) who said “Moderator, I object!…..

….. firstly, none of us can spell “chandelier”…..

….. secondly, where can we can we get someone who knows how to play it….

…..and, lastly and most importantly, what the church really needs is more light!”


What the Church needs is more light.  How true…… may the General Assembly 2014 make a start in finding it:  generating light not heat in this coming week!


But, fear not!  The word still lives! Even although it’s now crafted in Taiwan…….


100 days – Day 18

100 days – Day18 ….. In Embra today to see my son, Richard, and granddaughter, Cora.


 Painting by Mike Jeffries – Edinburgh Tram 1953







Playing less than a mile away:  Hibs…….For the vermin support at Fester Road, it could be the “End of the Line”.  Hobos 0 – Killie 1.  Hibs in the play off zone .  End of the line?


Yes, I know that the tram line goes as far as York Place, and will open at the end of May  BUT originally it was to carry on down Leith Walk and end at Granton.  The spur up the Bridges and on to the Royal Infirmary is never even mentioned these days.

if it does go to Leith, at least it won’t go down Fester Road – imagine the green and white mess that the tram company would have to wipe off the front of their shiny new vehicles – caused by disconsolate Hibees throwing themselves in front of the trams in despair?



100 days – Day 14


100 days – Day 14: How to Complain

Today I’ve been tasked by a friend to write a letter of complaint on her behalf regarding poor service delivery to her recently.

I’m not very good at this; my letters or emails usually turn out too “nice” – they often become almost apologetic, of the sort of “I’m sorry to bother you with this….” type of approach.

Perhaps, I’ll put it off until tomorrow. Meanwhile, I came across the following yesterday evening.



James Lockley
24 April at 09:15 ·
Posted to Ryan Air today;
Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing for the attention of your customer experience team. I am definitely a customer, and believe me, you didn’t fail providing us with an experience.

My wife and I had booked to fly from Stansted on the Thursday 17th April, evening flight to Bratislava. After 2 hours of fun, fun, fun, stuck on the M25 doing 20 mph, we arrived at Stansted check in with just one hour until the flight. Knowing the strict Ryan Air policy on ‘check in closes 40 mins before the flight’ as you are the Low Fare Taxi of The Skies, we went straight to the Ryan Air assistant and explained our plight. She said we were still within the time and all would be fine but we had to make the attendant at check in aware and he would assist from there.

We approached the attendant as instructed and explained. Unfortunately, in the main part, due to him being a child, and forgetting to bring his mother to work, he heard only half of the words before his brain fell apart like a wet cake. He led us to the line for closing gates, advised we should wait and all would be ok. We stood patiently in the line for 20 minutes. We got to the front of the line and the lady, who we shall from this point refer to a Vacant, explained that she had literally just that second closed the flight and we had missed it. We complained that we had done as instructed and she said it was the child’s fault because he should have advised her that we were trying to board a closing flight and that because he hadn’t told her it was therefore our fault we had missed the plane.
Confused by this process of blame apportioning, another check in clerk, who we shall refer to as Not That Bright, tried to blame us for not responding to the last call for the flight as we should have made ourselves known. I argued that the last call had not been made. Not That Bright then questioned Vacant on whether she had done a final call. Vacant did what she does best and looked, well,…… After establishing that the child had not informed Vacant we were here, and Vacant had forgotten to do a last call and that all of this was irreversible, and my fault, Not That Bright and Vacant conferred to agree this was not a problem they wished to deal with and told us to get in a very, very long line of very, very unhappy people at the quite wrongly titled ‘Customer Services Counter’ as it was in fact a Customer Shouting Desk. We complained and requested the attention of a manager.
Out came Colin, a man so angry all his hair had literally fallen out. He was so aggressive I can only assume he had accidentally inserted something sharp into somewhere private and been unable to remove it before he came to work. He was definitely a middle Gimp. I know this as Vacant and Not That Bright were clearly quite scared of him, and he can’t have been a Big Cheese as he was talking directly to customers and we all know from the papers that no-one in Big Cheese management at Ryan Air has ever seen, let alone spoken to an actual customer.
Middle Gimp had clearly listen hard at Ryan Air Middle Gimp school as he managed to take two perfectly calm and sane adults and in a matter of seconds reduce them to angry people considering violence.
‘Check in opens 3 hours before the flight’ he barked repeatedly as if it was the answer to every question in life. We tried to ask Middle Gimp direct questions about why it was necessary for us to miss the flight because the Child had forgotten to do his job, and Vacant had forgotten to do hers.
‘Why is this our fault, and why should we miss the flight because Ryan Air staff have admitted they made errors?.
‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’
‘Do you acknowledge we have just cause for complaint as we tried to do the right thing and the only reason we are not on the plane is because of communication failures with Ryan Air Staff?’
‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’
‘What colour are my trousers?’
‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’
‘Do you think economic sanctions on Russia will diffuse the escalating situation in Ukraine?’
‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’
‘Were Man Utd right to fire David Moyes?’
‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’
‘My tinkle is hurting, could you take a look if I promise not to tell anyone?’
‘Check in opens three hours before the flight’
Middle Gimp then conferred with Vacant and Not That Bright, and agreed that this was all our fault as we should have noticed that Child had made an error and we should have called the flight ourselves to assist Vacant in doing her job because she was clearly busy being, well,…… Middle Gimp then insisted we go to customer the Customer Shouting Desk, as he was definitely not going to do anything else. This was handy as the queue was very long so that by the time we would reach the front the plane would be half way to Bratislava and the problem would be solved.
We waited patiently in line as customer after customer stood at the desk to hear the same song;
‘No, no, I can’t do that, no, there are no Middle Gimps available, no, no, sorry, no, give me all your money’
We got to the Customer Shouting Desk and explained our plight to the lady there (who was actually very nice and clearly should not be working for Ryan Air as a result). She apologised but explained that Middle Gimp had finished being angry for the day and had returned to his padded cage and there were no other Middle Gimps around. We would have to book in to the flight for the next day and we would have to pay £110 each to change the ticket. When she tried to re-book the flight she said that the flight we had tried to get was actually delayed by 1 hour and still at the air port and that what we should do is run to the gate with all our luggage, she would call through and they would check our bags into the hold at the gate. We ran as fast as we could, which is not very fast because I am fat, to security to do as instructed. Security advised us that because our flight should have left, even though it hadn’t, the ticket machine would not open the barrier for us and we would need to return to the Customer Shouting Desk.
We waited patiently in the very long queue yet again for about 40 minutes to discover the nice lady had also gone home now so we had to explain the whole thing again to a new lady that looked like all the joy had been removed from her life at birth. She recited the Ryan Air customer services song with a sterling level of apathy and dreariness, I am surprised she could muster the will just to breather and stay alive.
‘No, no, I can’t do that, no, there are no Middle Gimps available, no, no, sorry, no, give me all your money’
She recited it with perfection, Middle Gimps across the world would have been in awe and the effectiveness of the techniques taught in Middle Gimp School. Seeing no other option but to hand over all our cash and come back the next morning we happily paid and got new flights.


As the new flight was at 6.25am in the morning we decided to get a hotel, we paid £79 for a room and got a taxi.
So, our customer experience was insightful and liberating. From the incompetent Child with a brain so full of girls and Vauxhall Corsa modifications he couldn’t actually listen or speak, through Vacant and Not That Bright who decided on reflection that anything they did wrong was our fault for not pointing it out to them, right through Middle Gimp who made a Tasmanian Devil look calm and Zen like, and the sad one, oh so sad, having every last drop of life sucked out of her by her chosen career at the Ryan Air Customer Shouting Desk. I very nearly jumped over the desk just to give her a cuddle and tell her everything would be alright if she could just muster the will to leave the Ryan Air Customer Shouting Desk and find a more fulfilling job, like starting the very first Israeli pork pie factory, or being a parking attendant in Tower Hamlets, or in fact just resigning herself to a slow and uncomfortable death would have been indistinguishable from the current position and would require much less effort.
The net result of this ‘experience’ was;
New Flights – £220
Hotel £79
Taxi x 2 £50
Worlds most expensive sandwich in the only hotel we could get £35
1 x significant breach of Tort Law (2008 as quoted by Lord Atkin) by Ryan Air, Google it, it’s a cracking read. I will leave you to decide the monetary value of this.
1 x very angry and upset wife, in particular with Middle Gimp for being so unbelievably rude.
1 x Missed wedding reception for our Slovakian family (sorry, forgot to mention this nugget earlier) who all turned up from all over the country to see us for an event we were forced to miss, because Child and Vacant are clueless at best and Middle Gimp has anger management issues.
So, thank you Ryan Air for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. I have watched a program called the news so I fully expect this to land on the desk of the customer services team underneath the empty bottles and sandwich wrappers that you also file there. You treated us badly, you cost us money and made us miss our wedding reception through a display of incompetence I have not seen since Greece was allowed to have money and a cheque book.
I sincerely doubt you will do anything about this, compensate us, apologise, or even respond according to the news, so I have sent this recorded and sign for delivery to absolutely confirm my opinion of Ryan Air and that it is not just ‘lost in the post’
You bunch of…………….
DJ Lockley
P.S. Maybe Middle Gimp in particular, but Child, Not That Bright, and Vacant should purchase one of your reasonable priced tickets and go to Slovakia (assuming they were actually allowed on the plane. The Ryan Air employees there are smart, clever, bilingual, helpful, and polite and they should in my opinion experience an example of how they should do their job. The Slovak staff could explain it to them, but they wouldn’t be able to understand it for them, so it may be a waste of time after all.




This wonderful interchange appeared in 2007:

Dear Sir/Madam/Automated Telephone Answering Service,

Having spent the past twenty minutes waiting for someone at Leith police station to pick up a telephone I have decided to abandon the idea and try e-mailing you instead. Perhaps you would be so kind as to pass this message on to your colleagues in Leith by means of smoke signal, carrier pigeon or Ouija board.

As I’m writing this e-mail there are eleven failed medical experiments (I think you call them youths) in West Cromwell Street which is just off Commercial Street in Leith. Six of them seem happy enough to play a game which involves kicking a football against an iron gate with the force of a meteorite. This causes an earth shattering CLANG! which rings throughout the entire building. This game is now in it’s third week and as I am unsure how the scoring system works, I have no idea if it will end any time soon.

The remaining five walking abortions are happily rummaging through several bags of rubbish and items of furniture that someone has so thoughtfully dumped beside the wheelie bins. One of them has found a saw and is setting about a discarded chair like a beaver on speed. I fear that it’s only a matter of time before they turn their limited attention to the bottle of calor gas that is lying on it’s side between the two bins. If they could be relied on to only blow their own arms and legs off then I would happily leave them to it. I would even go so far as to lend them the matches. Unfortunately they are far more likely to blow up half the street with them and I’ve just finished decorating the kitchen.

What I suggest is this. After replying to this e-mail with worthless assurances that the matter is being looked into and will be dealt with, why not leave it until the one night of the year (probably bath night) when there are no mutants around then drive up the street in a panda car before doing a three point turn and disappearing again. This will of course serve no other purpose than to remind us what policemen actually look like.

I trust that when I take a claw-hammer to the skull of one of these throwbacks you’ll do me the same courtesy of giving me a four month head start before coming to arrest me.

I remain sir, your obedient servant

Graeme McNonymous


Mr. McNonymous was surprised to receive a rapid response:


Mr McNonymous,

I have read your e-mail and understand you frustration at the problems caused by youths playing in the area and the problems you have encountered in trying to contact the police. As the Community Beat Officer for your street, I would like to extend an offer of discussing the matter fully with you. Should you wish to discuss the matter, please provide contact details (address / telephone number) and when may be suitable.

PC 387
Community Beat Officer


And replied as follows:

Dear PC 387,

First of all I would like to thank you for the speedy response to my original e-mail. 16 hours and 38 minutes  must be a personal record for Leith Police Station and rest assured that I will forward these details to Norris McWhirter for inclusion in his next book.

Secondly I was delighted to hear that our street has it’s own community beat officer. May I be the first to congratulate you on your covert skills. In the five or so years I have lived in West Cromwell Street, I have never seen you. Do you hide up a tree or have you gone deep undercover and infiltrated the gang itself? Are you the one with the acne and the moustache on his forehead or the one with a chin like a wash hand basin? It is surely only a matter of time before you are head-hunted by MI5.

Whilst I realise that there may be far more serious crimes taking place in Leith such as smoking in a public place or being Muslim without due care and attention, is it too much to ask for a policeman to explain (using words of no more than two syllables at a time) to these t***s that they might want to play their strange football game elsewhere? The pitch behind the Citadel or the one at DK’s are both within spitting distance, as is the bottom of the Leith Dock.

Should you wish to discuss these matters further you should feel free to contact me on 557 0890. If after 25 minutes I have still failed to answer, I’ll buy you a large one in the Compass Bar.

Graeme McNonymous [Surname Withheld to protect him from the local t***s]



THIS, however, is considered to be the very best complaint letter ever!

Dear Mr Branson

 REF: Mumbai to Heathrow 7th December 2008

 I love the Virgin brand, I really do which is why I continue to use it despite a series of unfortunate incidents over the last few years. This latest incident takes the biscuit.

Ironically, by the end of the flight I would have gladly paid over a thousand rupees for a single biscuit following the culinary journey of hell I was subjected to at the hands of your corporation.

 Look at this Richard. Just look at it:



I imagine the same questions are racing through your brilliant mind as were racing through mine on that fateful day. What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?


You don’t get to a position like yours Richard with anything less than a generous sprinkling of observational power so I KNOW you will have spotted the tomato next to the two yellow shafts of sponge on the left. Yes, it’s next to the sponge shaft without the green paste. That’s got to be the clue hasn’t it. No sane person would serve a desert with a tomato would they. Well answer me this Richard, what sort of animal would serve a desert with peas in:



I know it looks like a baaji but it’s in custard Richard, custard. It must be the pudding. Well you’ll be fascinated to hear that it wasn’t custard. It was a sour gel with a clear oil on top. It’s only redeeming feature was that it managed to be so alien to my palette that it took away the taste of the curry emanating from our miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter. Perhaps the meal on the left might be the desert after all.


Anyway, this is all irrelevant at the moment. I was raised strictly but neatly by my parents and if they knew I had started desert before the main course, a sponge shaft would be the least of my worries. So lets peel back the tin-foil on the main dish and see what’s on offer.


I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.


Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this:



Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking it’s more of that Baaji custard. I admit I thought the same too, but no. It’s mustard Richard. MUSTARD. More mustard than any man could consume in a month. On the left we have a piece of broccoli and some peppers in a brown glue-like oil and on the right the chef had prepared some mashed potato. The potato masher had obviously broken and so it was decided the next best thing would be to pass the potatoes through the digestive tract of a bird.


Once it was regurgitated it was clearly then blended and mixed with a bit of mustard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard Richard.


By now I was actually starting to feel a little hypoglycaemic. I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to it’s baffling presentation:



It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn’t want to be caught carrying one of these through customs. Imagine biting into a piece of brass Richard. That would be softer on the teeth than the specimen above.


I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was relax but obviously I had to sit with that mess in front of me for half an hour. I swear the sponge shafts moved at one point.


Once cleared, I decided to relax with a bit of your world-famous onboard entertainment. I switched it on:



I apologise for the quality of the photo, it’s just it was incredibly hard to capture Boris Johnson’s face through the flickering white lines running up and down the screen. Perhaps it would be better on another channel:



Is that Ray Liotta? A question I found myself asking over and over again throughout the gruelling half-hour I attempted to watch the film like this. After that I switched off. I’d had enough. I was the hungriest I’d been in my adult life and I had a splitting headache from squinting at a crackling screen.


My only option was to simply stare at the seat in front and wait for either food, or sleep. Neither came for an incredibly long time. But when it did it surpassed my wildest expectations:



Yes! It’s another crime-scene cookie. Only this time you dunk it in the white stuff.


Richard…. What is that white stuff? It looked like it was going to be yoghurt. It finally dawned on me what it was after staring at it. It was a mixture between the Baaji custard and the Mustard sauce. It reminded me of my first week at university. I had overheard that you could make a drink by mixing vodka and refreshers. I lied to my new friends and told them I’d done it loads of times. When I attempted to make the drink in a big bowl it formed a cheese Richard, a cheese. That cheese looked a lot like your baaji-mustard.


So that was that Richard. I didn’t eat a bloody thing. My only question is: How can you live like this? I can’t imagine what dinner round your house is like, it must be like something out of a nature documentary.


As I said at the start I love your brand, I really do. It’s just a shame such a simple thing could bring it crashing to it’s knees and begging for sustenance.


Yours Sincerely,


Oliver Beale



The Blog of David Robertson

More Enigma Than Dogma

Relationships, Culture & Current Events

Curriculum of the Spiritual Life

Poems, Prayers, & Proverbs that speak to what it means to be a "living curriculum" of the Christian Life.

Iain Macwhirter

Read Iain in The Herald and Sunday Herald, every Wednesday and Sunday.

Sky Pilot

ramblings of a reformed ecclesiastic


personal reflections on life, the universe & everything

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

100 DAYS

various positions


This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees


Faith Seeking Understanding

Richard W. Strachan's Blog

Writing and reading


A dangerous Mixture politics and religion

In an Irish Home

What Life is Really Like Behind the Hall Door

Guido Fawkes

Parliamentary plots and conspiracy

waverley710, The Ramblings of a Wannabe theologian.

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Jim Palmer

Inner Anarchist

Love's Work

Reflections on living into ministry

It Is What It Is

Dr. Rex .... Blogging for change.


Just another WordPress.com site

You Got to be Kidding's Blog

Humor and musings from all around the Internet

David's Commonplace Book

Random stuff that interests me


"Haud Gaan!" - Scots for 'Keep Pressing Forward!'

Soul Destruction

London call girl book & diary series - exposing the dark world and harsh reality of life as a drug addicted call girl


entertainment without boundaries

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

Thoughts Of A Near 40 Something

Nothing Exciting But True - May Contain Trains

Toad's Great Adventure

"I will, then, be a toad." -- Stephen Crane

Leaving Fundamentalism

various positions

All Things Rabyd

A blog dedicated to the thoughts, opinions, ideas and random madness of Edward W. Raby, Sr. - Pastor, Theologian, Philosopher, Writer, Bodybuilder and Football Fan. "Yes, the dog is foaming at the mouth. Don't worry, He just had pint of beer and is trying to scare you." This is a Theology Pub so drink your theology responsibly or have a designated driver to get you home as theology can be as intoxicating as alcohol.

Soul Gatherings

Spiritual Moments in the Human Experience

Anglican Memes

a humour site about the Church of England

A Sacred Conspiracy

To conspire... act in harmony toward a common or agreed upon end. God wants to conspire with us [and] this means that God calls us to give our lives to God, to surrender completely, so we may live more fully. Dallas Willard

Lavender and Broken Bones


Christus Pro Nobis

Christ for us


Developing Theological ideas


Qui vicerit, dabo ei sedere mecum in throno meo


More than a feeling ...

Bucket List Publications

Indulge- Travel, Adventure, & New Experiences


Opinions & ideas in NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Chicks In The Mitt

...we have a blog, therefore, we must be interesting...

The China Penguin

waddling from rice fields to ice-fields


A blog of Peter's Study Leave 2012

Journey to a healthy life...

and the maddness on the way there


A great WordPress.com site

%d bloggers like this: