Not in Lockdown yet…

The pre-Coronavirus Diaries, continued

Tuesday/ cont’d

Download and watch Salt, for perhaps the third time. I consider it to be one of Angelina’s finest works. My flatmate elects to stay in his room.

Given that the government advice precludes meeting together, church is now off for the foreseeable. Preliminary plans are made to begin filming and editing a video-based online church service.


I have very little recollection of these days. Video editing was involved.


I do remember having an Empire Biscuit on Friday, so some of life’s rhythms are still intact. 

I make various visits to various supermarkets. The food items-shopper ratio is gradually decreasing.

Where are all the stockpilers putting all their stuff? Surely they’ve run out of space by now?

Sister is in touch on WhatsApp. She raises the thorny question of what would happen if the Queen passes on in the middle of all this. What will we do? Will all the meticulous planning be for naught?

“I’m sending turmeric to the Palace,” she affirms.

“Make sure you keep enough back for yourself,” I remind her. It’s easy to overlook one’s personal needs in times of crisis like this.

“I have 25kg” she replies.


More video editing. I watch “We were soldiers” with my flatmate. He cooks a roast chicken for the occasion.


First online church service passes off well. It’s a gorgeous sunny day. I spend the afternoon walking in Holyrood Park, along with hundreds of other people. It proves quite difficult to maintain a 2m bubble without appearing to be offensive.


I stay at home and join a series of four online meetings, which is a surprisingly exhausting pursuit, given the lack of physical movement involved. 

Having suddenly remembered that all UK McDonalds restaurants were closing tonight “by 8pm” (nothing like a vaguely-communicated deadline to ensure some McDonalds panic buying), I nip out between two meetings to pick up some Chicken Selects for the last time for goodness-knows-how-long. (Four hours, as it transpired).

I join an epic drive-thru queue. By the time I reach the order point, with the help of Nicola’s advice on the matter via WhatsApp, I realise I need to make the most of it, and so order a milkshake AND a McFlurry.

However, the “ice cream” machine is being cleaned. So no milkshakes or McFlurrys available. I settle for the a 3-Selects meal.

Make it back narrowly in time for the next meeting. Switch my camera off for the first part so as not to make everyone jealous while I scoff McDonalds.

Realise afterwards I had missed a solitary fry, which is lurking in the corner of the cardboard container. 

Is this in fact the correct singular spelling of fries? I have never before had occasion to refer to one on its own. Today’s fries were perhaps the limpest and most disappointing I’ve had from McD’s in recent years. And so the solitary lonely fry, now stone cold, having not been the warmest to begin with, is not an appetising prospect.

I optimistically throw it in the food recycling.

Two meetings later, I head back for my belated McFlurry. Join the drive thru queue again. Still no “ice cream” products available. I order another 3 Chicken Selects.

Still hungry. Maybe I’ll crack open some tuna tonight.

January on the Wane

January is on the way out, dear reader, which can only be a good thing. The days are steadily getting longer, although not especially warmer, just yet.

Lying in wait is February, and in the blink of an eye it’ll be March, with a ski trip to the Dolomites. I am imagining much in the way of leisurely slope-side pizza-consumption in the early spring Italian sunshine. Followed by Tiramsu, and almost certainly an espresso. Then, with a sigh and probably a burp or two, strapping on the skis and hurtling down the hill towards Brexit Day.

The country feels in a state of some turmoil as Brexit approaches. Personally, I can’t help but think the whole thing was an extraordinarily bad idea.

While I accept that Mrs May possibly hasn’t done as sterling a job as she might in navigating these choppy waters, I do have some sympathy given that she wasn’t for leaving in the first place. And I find myself grieved by the overall air of grasping self-interest that seems to be prevalent in the country, not particularly unusual in Westminster at any time, it must be said, but seemingly magnified just now. It feels like the country’s in a bit of a pickle, and rather than everyone rallying round to try to find a solution, everyone is instead fighting their own corner all the more fiercely, with Ms Sturgeon eyeing an opening to sell independence to the Scots again.

Along with worries about the Irish border, the long-term loss of GDP for the UK economy, loss of jobs, port blockages and the like, of immediate and pressing concern is the state of the nation’s Empire Biscuits, and in particular, the depth of icing. Last Friday the icing was unacceptably thin. This week the Admin Supremo attempted an early EB acquisition on Thursday night at Tesco.

“Never seen such pale Empire biscuits” was the report Friday morning. 

Bring on a second referendum I say.

Meanwhile, January has seen a marked decline in the use of the washing machine at Only Here For The Cricket Towers. Over the festive period in particular, I was delighted by how long my clothes were lasting between washes. It belatedly occurred to me that, in employing the tried-and-trusted Sniff Test each morning to determine my clothes’ eligibility for another day’s use, I had neglected to take into account the cold that I’d been suffering from for weeks, and thereby unable to effectively smell anything.

I do apologise to all my friends, particularly the huggers.

January has also seen a marked upturn in my sleep quality. On becoming more and more aware of the shape and hardness of the springs in my mattress, I petitioned the landlord for a new one, and received the go-ahead a week or so ago. I was reminded of a previous flat tenancy, twenty years ago now, when I inherited a room in a flat on Magdala Crescent. Lovely flat, quiet street, perfect location.

After a month or two living there, I began to question the cuts that were appearing on my torso without any apparent cause, until one day I noticed that some of the springs in my mattress were actually poking through. Not an awful lot, but enough to draw blood periodically. Somewhat timid in nature at this point in my life, I never mentioned it to anyone, and instead found a narrow strip along the westward side of the mattress which was unmined, so to speak, and lay very still every night.

I note with some alarm that Facebook is about to integrate Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Quite what that means I’m not sure, but I’m alarmed mainly by the implication that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, a fact of which I was unaware. I was becoming quite fond of WhatsApp too. Ickle Bef uses it to send pictures of swans on the canal, which is charming. And Nicola, sporadically occupied in the Caring Profession between documentaries about the state of the Polynesian rainforests [subtitled], sends occasional informative updates to us all from drug dens in Leith.

If WhatsApp takes a Facebook approach to life and applies its cursed algorithmic approach based on one’s “liking” and “posting” activity… well, no-one will ever see anything I say, ever. 

I might have to start speaking to people in person from here on in. Eek.

Nerf guns and press-ups

Well, dear reader, time has moved inexorably onwards, like an ever-rolling stream, as a wise and poetic songwriter once said. The summer is on the wane, and the twilight gradually creeps earlier and earlier. Saturday saw the last day of the cricket season in Scotland, and marked the end of my twentieth season with Holy Cross Academicals Cricket Club.

Apart from a couple of short trips down to Yorkshire and over to Northern Ireland, I have worked steadily through the summer. The office, usually a hive of industrious activity, has been mostly quiet over this time, with many staff taking well-earned holidays.

One has to be one’s guard in the office. Chief among the reasons for this is the stash of Nerf guns in the Rector’s Office. There is a veritable arsenal of deadly plastic weaponry in there, and just as certain Western countries feel the need to have nuclear firepower on tap, as a deterrent to the Bad Guys, so it is with the staff, many of whom have a Nerf gun of some description within easy reach at any given time.

It should be said at this point that I am not comparing the Rector with Bad Guys of any kind, and any inferences drawn by the reader in this direction should be promptly repented of.

But on any given day there is no telling just when intra-office hostilities might commence.

Just the other day, I was fixing one of Disco Dave’s projectors on a nearby desk, when I was, without any warning, shot three times at close range. The Rector, discussing matters of great theological importance (perhaps grace and forgiveness) nearby, witnessed this unprovoked attack, and straightaway authorised me to plunder his arsenal to take revenge.

Within seconds a reasonably significant skirmish had commenced, sending the Rector’s Administrator scuttling into the Executive Director’s office for cover.

Meanwhile the Finance Director clutched her tin hat tightly to her head, and heroically carried on crunching numbers on her Fat Club spreadsheet. The FD has recently coerced the rest of the office (or most thereof) into joining her on a health kick, and a weekly weigh-in.

In the interests of getting a benchmark of current levels of overweightedness, and targets to work towards, the Executive Director and I punched some numbers into the online BMI calculator kindly supplied by the NHS and almost sent it into meltdown, with the result literally off the chart at the ‘overweight’ end.

It was then that I realised I had put in the ED’s vital statistics along with a mistyped age of “5”, and much hilarity ensued at the mental image of a five-year-old with the body of a retired hooker. (It’s probably wise to explain for the rugby-uninitiated that ‘hooker’ is a position in a rugby team. This is the kind of hooker-ing that our ED has retired from, not anything else you may have been thinking. Tsk.)

The implications of this (almost) office-wide enthusiasm for healthy living have been profound, with the office’s regular supply of cakes (of which the FD was a regular and frequent provider) having dwindled into near-nothingness. Instead, a fruit bowl has appeared on a shelf previously considered sacred. Conversations have been had about the relative health merits of various types of nuts. (Cashews, it seems, somewhat inevitably given their tastiness, aren’t all that good for you.) Empire Biscuits have become a Friday-only treat. And Disco has been advocating all manner of wild physical exercise.

A few days ago, he bravely wandered, unarmed, over to my desk. After reaching reflexively for my Elite Strike Jolt EX-1 Blaster, I chose instead to extend an olive branch and hear what he had to say.

Naturally he had a raft of new extreme press-up techniques to impress me with, including the “Diamond”, the “Crucifix”, and the “Superman”. He even dropped his waistcoat-splittingly muscular torso to the floor and demonstrated the Superman, which involved him flinging his arms forwards at the apex of the press-up, and back again in time to prevent him losing his teeth. I was impressed. I wasn’t sure how to confess that my own press-ups have been restricted to the “Common-or-Garden” variety, and not that many of them either.

But who needs press-ups when one is playing an athletic activity such as cricket in Scotland’s East League Division 6? After a comfortable win and early finish on Saturday, a number of the team sat outside in the sunshine and celebrated a mediocre season by working our way through the considerable left-overs from tea. Having assiduously monitored my diet through the week, cutting out all manner of tasty treats, I undermined my own efforts by piling into doughnuts and french fancies, and two Cokes. Plus a Coke Zero, but that doesn’t count. A lot of laughter was had, especially at the expense of everyone’s favourite Indian “bowler who bats a bit”, who still hasn’t told his mother-in-law that he married her daughter several years ago.

Sunday followed Saturday, as it is wont to do, and a late night pizza followed the doughnuts and french fancies. Given the nutritionally-suspect weekend choices, I held little hope of good news on the scales on Monday, but as it turned out still managed to register a slight weight loss.

Hurrah! Time for a celebratory carrot stick.

Faith, hope, love – and philosophy

I spoke about this last Sunday night at church, and also posted a slightly earlier draft of this on the ESST blog a while back. But I wanted to post it here too, partly because my talk wasn’t recorded due to a technical glitch, and partly because I want my writings in this blog to reflect my whole life, of which my faith is a huge part, and not just talk about Empire Biscuits.

Although, Empire Biscuits.. mmm…

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

A man walks into a pet shop and asks to see the parrots. The shop owner shows him two beautiful ones out on the floor. “This one is £5,000 and the other one is £10,000,” he says.

“Wow!” says the man. “What does the £5,000 one do?”

“This parrot can sing every aria Mozart wrote,” says the shop owner.

“And the other?”

“He sings Wagner’s entire Ring cycle. There’s another parrot out back for £30,000.”

“Holy moley! What does he do?”

“Nothing that I’ve heard, but the other two call him ‘Maestro’.”

I recently finished a book called Plato and a platypus walk into a bar by Daniel Klein and Thomas Cathcart. These two studied philosophy at Harvard, and the book uses jokes like the one above to illustrate some lofty philosophical concepts.

This joke tickled me, and also apparently illustrates the Argumentum ad Verecundiam Fallacy – using respect for authority as the sole confirmation of your position, despite convincing evidence to the contrary. Reminds me of one of my P7 classmates back in 1984, who doggedly refused to abandon his belief in Santa, presumably because of his respect for his parents’ authority on the matter, in spite of the overwhelming practical obstacles to Santa’s existence, and, as I recall, the ridicule of his primary school peers. (I apologise if we were unkind, Richard.)

It’s an extremely readable book, very funny, and I learned some things about philosophy in the process, being left with the overall impression that the goal of a philosopher seems to be to question everything. Philosophers appear to be on an eternal quest for truth, but it strikes me that their goal is the quest, rather than the truth. One suspects that if they discovered something to be absolutely true, they would be slightly disappointed, having lost the thrill of the pursuit, as it were.

The contemplation of a Creator God is wonderful for a philosopher, because it can’t really be proven or disproven. Some may consider the existence of God to have been disproven, via the notion of infinite regress, the claim being that something or someone must have created the Creator, but that’s just trying to confine the infinite dimensions of God into the parameters of our finite understanding and logic, and is therefore fundamentally flawed.

Questioning things isn’t wrong. United Pursuit’s recent song Awake my Soul identifies God as the originator of those questions:

“Father of the mountains // Shepherd of the sea // Author of the questions that are hidden in me”

UP are suggesting that God hid those questions in the hearts of philosophers (and you and me) in the first place. Philosophers have just been unusually good at finding and articulating the questions, and unusually bad at accepting the answers to those questions. Descartes, with his famous assertion “Cognito ergo sum” questioned everything including his own existence, and finally concluded that he could be confident that he existed based on the fact that he was doubting his existence, and so there had to be a doubter.

As they point out in the book, “Dubito ergo sum” would have, er, summed up his thoughts much better.

As a Christian believer I am called to a life of faith, hope and love. The greatest of these, and my personal favourite, is love. But consider faith and hope for a moment.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Faith is the gateway to God. Logic and reason can take you so far, but not through the gateway.

Hope comes through faith. If we have not faith, then we have no hope. If we are not prepared to have faith, then we must prove everything, or have everything proven to us. Faith is the opposite of doubt, which is the province of philosophers.

And what philosophy proves, to my mind, is that we can prove almost nothing. Any answer to the BIG questions: “how did the world come into being?” or “why are we here?” requires faith, because none of us were around to see it, and no scientific data is available to overwhelmingly support the case of either creation by God, or a random explosion followed by evolution.

For me personally, the intricacy of the world, animals and humans, the vastness and complexity of the universe and planet earth continuing to exist and function as a habitable place for humans, not to mention the more down-to-earth daily reality of my ability to love and experience emotion, are all sure-fire indicators of a Creator God.

But of course it requires faith to believe in a Creator who has been around since eternity past and didn’t require creating himself.

However, without that faith, there is no hope. All these philosophers’ musings that I’ve been reading have one thing in common: they are without hope. They are without hope because rather than allowing their questioning to point them in the direction of the One who holds the answers, they get stuck on the questions, and find themselves in an interminable loop of questioning and doubt. The only way to break the cycle is to make a leap of faith.

As for love, well, if there’s no love, then what kind of hope do we have? If God is a God who (as I believed for a long time) requires us to measure up to a certain (unattainable) standard, and is disappointed or angry with us when we fail, then our hope, as Christians, of spending eternity in His presence doesn’t strike me as all that attractive! If God is not love, then the hope that we have is a pitiable one, and eternity will be miserable.

And so love defines our hope. And hope is inaccessible except through faith.

I know God to be a God of love because I have – through faith – encountered Him: heard His voice, experienced His presence. I knew God to be a God of love even before I encountered Him in this way, because the Bible teaches that quite clearly, but for various reasons my faith was in a more judgmental God who was disappointed in me and how I was performing as a Christian. And so my initial experience of God was not of His love, because I didn’t have faith for that.

God, and His nature, is not restricted by our faith, but our experience of Him is. In the same way that a person can say a particular thing in a room, and two other people in the room can hear what’s been said differently (either the tone in which it is said, or sometimes even the content!), so Christians can perceive God differently based on their upbringing and many other factors.

My faith is in a God of love, indeed, that God IS love, and therein lies my hope.

This kind of hope is not a disappointment, as opposed to the hope experienced by John Cleese’s character in Clockwise and most Scotland rugby fans at some point or other 🙂

“It’s not the despair – I can stand the despair. It’s the HOPE!”

Or the kind of hope that Foy Vance sings about on his 2007 album of the same name

“But not that despair is the all-time low // Baby, hope deals the hardest blows”

This hope is not like that.

“And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5 NKJV

In other words, our hope is not just one that has its fulfilment in eternity. Yes – our hope – our confident expectation – is that one day we will see Jesus face to face and experience His undiluted presence without any filter or impediment, but it also finds a measure of realisation here and now in God’s love – as it’s tangibly poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We can experience His love – it’s a real thing, and we don’t have to wait until eternity!

In 1 Peter 3:15 Peter advises us “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

The reason why I have hope is because my faith is in a God of love, and, more than that, I experience His love in my heart daily.

That is the reason for the hope that I have.

Driving like a Grandad

I bought a pair of slippers the other day.

Normally one can rely on Santa to provide a steady supply of slippers, but Santa has been overly focussed on sock provision these last few years, neglecting to notice that perhaps the reason for all the socks wearing out is because they are regularly doing the job the slippers should be doing. A classic case of focussing on the symptoms rather than the cause, I would suggest.

If Santa were the Scottish Government, he’d be providing free socks for all right now.

Anyway, this is not a political blog. Nor is it a fashion blog, which the discerning reader (ie one that has read the last two posts) might be tempted to think. Be reassured that, what with my recent coat and bag purchases, and now a pair of slippers, I have completely drained my Personal Clothing and Accessories Fund for the period 2016-2020. If I need a new pair of underpants in, say, 2019, I’m probably going to have to misappropriate monies from another Fund.

NOT the Empire Biscuit Fund, for obvious reasons. I expect the Internet will agree with me on that one.

Earlier this week I found myself in discussion with my friends Peter and Pete. We were discussing commute times. As neighbours of the Finance Director, they are similarly dislocated from most of modern civilisation. However, when I mentioned my inability to make it from the Finance Director’s house to the office in Balerno in less than 30 minutes, there were raised eyebrows and questioning glances aplenty.

Then I remembered that I not only wear slippers, I drive like a grandad these days.

Most of my life, I have enjoyed driving cars with decent-sized engines, and mostly, I’ve enjoyed driving them in the outside lane on the motorway, breezing past those people driving at 57mph in the inside lane. Who ARE these people? Why do they do that?

Well, my current car is not over-endowed in the torque and acceleration department, it must be said. It contains an engine advertised as a 1.4L, which really is closer to a 1.3L.

(Dear America, engine sizes smaller than 3.5L are available! Who knew? And America, while we’re at it, why do you use metric measurements for your car engines, but nothing else? Curious.)

Accordingly, early on in the ownership of my slightly-underpowered car, I decided that, rather than trying to drive it fast, patently against its will, I would play to its strengths. Or, strength, really. Fuel economy.

Rather than getting frustrated when I get stuck behind a slow-moving truck on a narrow road, I now give thanks when this happens, as it forces me to drive more economically.

In general I find myself tiddling along, mostly in the inside lane, trying find that fine line between easing my foot off the gas enough to light up all six of the green ECO lights on my dashboard, without also grinding to a halt. Grinding to a halt on the motorway is, I’ve found, fairly economical, but relatively unsafe.

I’m now that guy on the inside lane, doing 57mph for no apparent reason. And I wear slippers. Somewhere I have a pipe too, must look that out…

Coats and Bags

Last Tuesday I went to Ocean Terminal, looking for a coat. My Mother and my Sister had clubbed together at Christmas and given me some money to buy a new coat with.

“Take a photo of you wearing the coat” had been my Sister’s parting shot, perhaps fearing that no money would be spent on said coat, and that her generous gift might instead be frittered away on Empire Biscuits and perhaps some nice new audio gear.

As an aside, I’m not sure investing money in Empire Biscuits could ever be considered “frittering”. However.

Last Tuesday was the day. I must confess, gents, that I somewhat let the side down in the shopping department. Instead of employing the classic “enter shop – buy thing – leave shop pronto” male shopping technique, I wandered round aimlessly, not only around one store, but in and out of several, no less. I even tried multiple things on.

I found the coat. It was perfect. Just a fraction on the “neat” side. I looked at the label. XL. Not a good feeling – finding an XL garment a little on the neat side. I enquired of the youthful sales assistant, who, in a flurry of touchscreening, confirmed that larger sizes were available. I said I’d think about it.

I retreated to a coffee shop to lick my wounds and consider the options. Texted Mother and Sister with pictures of me in various coats. They agreed with me that the slightly neat XL coat was the One. I returned to the store, where there was no sign of the youthful sales assistant. Probably away on an attention-span break, checking Twitter. I attempted the touchscreening, but couldn’t find the XXL version to order.

Dismayed, I switched tack and moved on to the Superdry store to find a replacement bag. My much-loved bag’s zip had recently given up the ghost, taking the ironic non-waterproofness of a Superdry bag to a whole new level. My much-loved bag was a courier bag, I discovered. Courier bags, it seems, have gone heavily out of fashion since I was last bag-shopping. All the kids, it seems, are using backpacks these days. Couple of messenger bags also available, but almost all backpacks. I briefly entertained the messenger bag notion, but decided they were overpriced. Eventually found a like-for-like courier bag replacement, but decided it was overpriced too, and went away to think about it.

(It would be fair and reasonable to question the rationality of my behaviour in entering a Superdry store and leaving it empty-handed because things were expensive…)

Considered looking for a new pair of shoes, but having already tried on coats and nearly purchased a bag, decided I had probably already exceeded my Ladies’ Items Allowance for the day.

Having later found an XXL version of the coat online, and arranged for it to be delivered to the Livingston outlet, I duly appeared there Friday morning, walking steadfastly past the nearby Krispy Kreme outlet. Picked up coat. Buoyed by this unusual shopping success, nipped in to the Superdry store there, having decided to get over myself and my poverty mindset. Nary a courier bag in sight. Wall-to-wall backpacks. Plus a few messenger bags. Consoled myself by not walking past the Krispy Kreme outlet on the way back.

Cue a return to the Ocean Terminal Superdry store. The courier bags had disappeared, behind a sea of backpacks and one or two messenger bags, but a friendly youthful sales assistant found them for me, hiding behind a raft of trendy jackets.

Five minutes later I walked out of the store clutching my brand new messenger bag. Obviously.

The last few days have been mercifully free of shopping expeditions and the associated confusion and distress. After a week’s hiatus I made it back to the gym yesterday morning, in an attempt to regain XL sizing. In the middle of 3 sets of sweaty ab-crunching I looked up to see an older lady, pedalling away on a cross-trainer. Wearing a fur-lined coat.

I must be doing something wrong…

Watch this space

Ah. Now before you accuse me of crumbling like an Empire Biscuit in the face of so much opposition to my intended cessation of blogging activites, I really have stopped. This post is merely an interim measure to warn you that the blog might restart, unexpectedly, like Windows is prone to do when you’re in the middle of something important, during the next couple of weeks. In the not-too-distant future, quite a significant proportion of the chatroom membership are going to be spending a week holed up in a chalet in France, not far from n’importe quoi territory, in fact.

With so many loonies under one roof, including but not limited to the Haxtonmeister and his wife Mental Mo, there is simply too much potential for humorous reportage to hang up the typewriter just yet. It’s in the public interest. However, in order to preserve my integrity, and in fact increase your literary delectation, I have approached a particularly erudite member of the party with a view to them becoming OHFTC’s first guest blogger. So, provided we can find a wireless hotspot somewhere near Méribel, it may not be the end just yet.

But briefly… biscuits. Diana, that was a most unwise statement to make. I can accept being called a whingeing Pom, but “Tim Tams.. nothing comes close” needs closer scrutiny. I, like DC, have downed a Tim Tam or two (I find one has to sample at least a packet of biscuits before one can make a qualitative judgement) and would concur with DC’s assessment. And if Tunnocks wafers and teacakes leave them floundering in their wake, Empire Biscuits kick sand in their face and take their dinner money. Not that one wishes to appear to be condoning bullying in any shape or form.

Must go. Check back in during the first week in February. A bientôt…

Back in Edinburgh’s chilly embrace

And I’ve missed it. Not so much the chilly embrace (although any embrace these days is a bonus, ha ha) as Edinburgh itself. I walked to work yesterday (my car was back with Edinburgh Audi recovering from 4 weeks in the custody of my colleague Matt), and it was a crisp Edinburgh winter morning. The sky was a dusky pre-sunrise blue, and I loved it. I would miss days like this if I lived somewhere hot like Australia, although by all accounts I haven’t missed very many of them over the last month. And it has been toe-pinchingly cold and damp today, which makes me gaze in wonder at my bottle of Factor 40 suncream. Only a week ago my right leg, having not been sufficiently introduced to the same bottle of Factor 40, was getting sunburned through the non-existent door of a Mini Moke on Magnetic Island.

My apologies in taking so long with this post. I have been meaning to write the final chapter since I arrived in London on Saturday, but it hasn’t happened. People, you have to realise that delectable prose like this takes a bit of crafting and can’t be rushed. And what’s more, I have been jetlagged to the point of falling asleep straight after dinner the last few evenings. Although I confess I’m not sure whether to blame that on jetlag or age.

It is, genuinely, good to be back. I really enjoyed Australia, with its blazing sun and irreverent attitude. I enjoyed a whole new take on Christmas Day, having lunch outside in balmy temperatures, and going to the park afterwards to play cricket. Especially the cricket bit, which also featured on New Year’s Day and other days in between. I loved coming back from a hot day in the city and jumping in my cousin’s pool to cool off. My family over there were more than kind to me, and I very much appreciated their kinship and hospitality. I went to a carol service wearing shorts, and had ice-pops afterwards. I even ate some fruit when I was over there – mango, strawberries, nectarine, watermelon. And others, believe it or not. The food in general was really high quality.

On my last afternoon in Sydney I climbed the harbour bridge, which was a fantastic experience, and the luxury of a beautiful clear day brought home to me just how much of Sydney (never mind Australia) I haven’t yet seen. Maybe one day I’ll go back and see more of the sights, and revisit my old friends the mosquitos, cockroaches, lizards and spiders. And the ants. Everywhere there were ants.

On my last day in Sydney my Powerbook, faithful friend for over 3 years now, died. I feared heat exhaustion, but in fact it was only a minor problem, so minor I was able to fix it myself and not have to phone Jones in a panic.

Just one or two thank yous and personal comments.

The Australia trip was made possible by Mrs Robbo’s suitcase, and the generosity of my employer and my Australian cousins. I am grateful to them all.

DC, I fear that my blog assumed chatroom status some time ago. My posts have long since become a sideline to the main event… I suspect that all this unseemly clamouring for another update is to present you all with a fresh canvas on which to air your comments 😉

Kenny D, I am flattered by your comments on behalf of the ‘Public’, but I regret to say this is my last blog post, unless I weaken and decide to dip my toe back in during my ski trip in three weeks’ time. I have enjoyed blogging immensely, and am very grateful for everyone’s comments.

Must be time for an Empire Biscuit.

The exciting life of a single man

Allow me to introduce my good friend Paul. Paul has expressed an interest in hearing about the exciting life of a single man. This is because he is married, and life is, as you can see above, somewhat devoid of excitement. So much so, that for kicks he sometimes wears a Superman thong. On top of his trousers.

Admittedly, tonight I am not setting new records in Friday night excitement. However, sometimes a cup of coffee and an Empire biscuit are all that’s required. Add Van Morrison to the mix, chuntering away in the background about a throne of Ulster day, and Wiseman on the (other) sofa setting the world to rights, and … jings I could be married. I have served Mark his coffee in the mug with ‘BIRD’ emblazoned on the side. It’s good for the mug to get an outing every now and then, even if it’s not a real bird using it. I must get out more myself.

Last night I got out, although only as far as John Sneddon’s for tea. Johnboy is the King of blue. He owns more blue clothing than an acolyte of the Temple of Darkness. He is also an excellent cook, and treated me to a great meal, after which I availed myself of his blue bathroom. He informed me that he had recently had a clearing out of his flat, and ditched a couple of pot-plants that weren’t quite up to scratch. One suspects that their demise was hastened by an inability to produce blue flowers.

It’s been a relatively quiet week. Managed to get my car washed, visit Stephen and Louise for the first time since they got married (in April!), give blood, and put some poison down for the mice, since the little darlings have made a reappearance. It has remained untouched for the last 24 hours, which is unlike them, but am not too worried as on this occasion the mice have chosen not to run around under my floorboards in the middle of the night. Which makes for a more restful night.

Tomorrow, Dunfermline await the might of Holy Cross 2nd XI. We lost last week, I eventually discovered, by 10 runs or so. Must win tomorrow. Am also working tomorrow, in the morning. Feels like I’ve worked every Saturday in the summer, probably because I’ve been away a few weekends recently, and so whenever I’ve been in Edinburgh at the weekend I’ve had to work. Normally it’s one in three or so. Had a look at the diary this week and realised that I haven’t had a full week off work for over a year now. Still, my week off in September is looming larger on the horizon. I think I’ll be ready for it when it comes…