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Saturday, 28 May 2011

All Hail Terry, the Dear Leader!

Four or five years back, I found myself drawn tom the Dark Side. For all of us this means different things. For some, it's just sneaking chocolate when nobody's watching, but for me it's Terry baiting. I'm not proud of that, but when you're at a loose end, it can be a lot of fun. "Who's Terry," I hear you ask. Well, he is none other than that stalwart councillor representing Ferguslie Park up at Renfrewshire Politburo. He runs a blog and what a blog it is too! It's nothing short of hilarious, although I'm not sure Terry's aware of that. He holds forth on many subjects. No, that's not really true. He holds forth on Alex Salmond (The Spiv (his words, not mine)), The Royal Family, Cuban democracy and the Great George Galloway Protestant Conspiracy Theory.

Cuba is the most fun. Terry's claim is that Cuba is far more democratic than the USA of the UK, for example. This is on the basis that they get very high turnouts (his latest claim is 99%) at 'elections'. Now, it's irrelevant to his argument that all of Cuba's representatives are returned unopposed, or that it's a one party state, nor is it appropriate to mention the fear of not voting (you know, We Know Where You Live). No, Terry says it's a democracy and every other observer is wrong, so that's that. He steadfastly refuses to acknowledge any of these facts or to engage in any kind of debate. Instead, any dissent is branded with one of his frequent catchphrases, the current favourite being 'ad hominem'.

Trust me, El Tel is the best free entertainment you'll get when at a loose end. His megalomaniacal pronouncements are legendary among the faithful. Sadly, though, he too has a Dark Side. It is that he is a mean, and I mean mean advesary. He orchestrated a vicious campaign a few short years ago against a friend of mine, culminating in a scurrilous story in the Herald. Don't get on the wrong side of Terry. D'oh!

Anyhoo, if you want to participate or even just observe the freak show that is Terry's blog, you can find it at


Saturday, 21 May 2011

I'll have the salmon

Well, that was the annual Paisley Rugby Football Club dinner, and another belter it was too. With Peter Wright, introduced by Malcolm Dodd, our esteemed President, as Ex-Scotland and Bristol Lions prop forward (he meant to say British Lion, dear), the night was set to be entertaining, and so it proved. Mr Wright, denizen of Slater's outsize department, proved to be a hoot. After a few jokes at the expense of various PRFC members, starting for some strange reason with me, he got into what we all wanted to hear, the real stories. He was hilarious after that, confirming, by and large, what we already suspected, that some  ex-Scotland players were, shall we say, total dicks. Some of the front row antics he described were frankly bladder wrenching.

On to John Cowan, lawyer, raconteur, snappy dresser and all round good egg. He kept us entertained with his descriptions of times past at PRFC. It would appear that John was something of a lad in his younger days, the life and soul of the Tour.

Then came the legend that is, and forever shall be, GTW Newlands. Gav's speech was up to its usual standard. Bloody awful. This was essentially Gav's swan song, since he has announced his retirement and appears to mean it this time. I have already placed an order for a Paisley Legends T shirt, Gav Newlands being the first of the series. I want to remember this evening, if only to serve as a warning never to attend a dinner where Gav is on the list of speakers. Missing you already, Gavin.

With Grant Murney having delivered the Vote of Thanks (we'll gloss over that), it was on to the Player Awards. Young Player of the Year went to Ryan McCready, who had already picked up the Murray Brown Trophy and the title of Club Captain. It's been a great year for Paisley's very own primadonna, he of the sweet temper. He deserves all these awards for his tireless efforts during the season. Next up, Players' Player of the Year was Kevin Browne, explosive back row player who is, unfortunately for us, trotting off to Australia in the autumn. Kevin said of his award, "I came looking for a club and found a family. Playing for PRFC hasn't been a privilege, it's been an honour." He was, of course, very very drunk Most Improved Player went to Scott 'Ted' Glover along with the Captain's Trophy for all his behind the scenes work organising matches and referees, getting strips washed etc. It's to Ted's credit that he immediately acknowledged the role that the old war-horse (he'll love that phrase), Grant Murney has played in his rise to prominence, although Ted himself has proved a willing pupil, with amazing results. Good for you, son. Gav Newlands was presented with the Golden Boot award for being top points scorer, and we were on to the award which gave me the most personal pleasure.

Anyone who attends games regularly will recognise the high-pitched screams which emanate from Al Brodie, in my opinion the heart and soul of the Paisley team. He always leads from the front, both vocally and physically. At training, when lineout drills start to get a bit slack, that voice snaps them back into line. Al has just had the best season I can remember him having, and fully deserves this award. Thanks for the memories Al.

So that was that, all bar the shouting. Drunken players, clutching awards and crying, or crying because they didn't get awards, or crying because they were drunk and it just didn't take much to get them started. Fat ginger guys trying to tuck their raffle prizes under their arms and get clear without breaking any bottles. Pretty much nobody with their dignity intact. And that, my friends, is tradition, just as it should be.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Dan's the Man

On the back of some good news for our rugby club, to wit we have agreed sponsorship from the Piazza shopping centre in Paisley, enabling us to purchase new strips for the two senior teams, our ingenious prop (bet you never thought you'd hear those two words in the same sentence) Dan Witchell has had a banging idea. He suggested that, as part of our commitment to the community, we should consider wearing the badge of a local charity on our sleeves, perhaps forming a relationship with said charity and helping to raise funds for them. It's a great idea, but I forecast we'll have long discussions as to which charity we select. Now then, that's where you might be able to help. I'd like to hear from you with your suggestions,and to encourage you, if you should nominate the chosen charity, I will award you with a big mention on this very popular blog. What? Cheap? Me? You know this is Paisley, right? People here put double glazing in so the kids can't hear the ice-cream van.
By the way, our Mr. Witchell, as well as being a genius, is also something of an artist. You might want to get yourself down to the Paisley Centre and visit the Sunshine Gallery, where you'll find some of Dan's work. On the other hand, try clicking on to see some of his work.

Monday, 16 May 2011

A salute to Gorgeous George

In all the excitement, and I use the word loosely, surrounding the recent Scottish Parliamentary elections, I forgot to check the results to see if Gorgeous George Galloway had managed to once again wangle his way past a gullible electorate who completely missed the point. That is, he is a pompous, verbose, although sometimes given to misuse of two dollar words, a liar and an honorary life president of the Saddam Hussein Fan Club. Don't get me wrong. George, at least in small doses, can be quite amusing. Come to think of it, some footage of Idi Amin and Adolf Hitler have been known to raise a titter in the Lewis household. I did, however, quickly change channels when I was unfortunate enough to observe him on all fours, rubbing imaginary whiskers with imaginary paws and mewing, all in an apparent effort to get his leg over Rula Lenska, unsuccessfully I might add. 

If you'll forgive my profanity, I almost peed my pants when I heard him say to his good drinking buddy Saddam, "Sir, we salute your indefatigabiliy.". The only previous experience I have of the word 'indefatigable' is that was the name of a ship in C.S. Forester's 'Hornblower' series. I suppose we should thank George for keeping archaic language alive. 

There is, you may be surprised to learn, a dark side to Gorgeous. His friendship with that well known, sadly late, Iraqi property magnate (anybody's property he fancied, if you catch my drift) for a start. I'm not suggesting that George had any ulterior motives, other than his intense admiration for one of the world's great statesmen, I'm just throwing it out there, so to speak. Closer to home, can I be the only one who chuckled when George announced his candidacy for Parliamentary elections, standing for the, wait for it, Respect Party? Is my sense of irony just too sensitive? I have never once known George to show the slightest respect for anyone, with the exception of the aforementioned Iraqi playboy. If you have been unlucky enough to get through to his radio show and forgotten to pay homage to Gorgeous, well, you'll know what that red button on his console is for. He certainly does, and practises its use with monotonous regularity.

Since this piece risks giving George more publicity than his fake accent deserves, I'll close by saying this: don't  make the mistake that George's absence from the political scene will make it less exciting. It'll just be quieter. My deepest apologies go to Countess Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubienska (Rula Lenska, honestly, it's her real name and title) for dragging up a part of her past she probably wishes she could forget.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Half full

With the news full of fine example's of Man's inhumanity to Man, one could be forgiven for being fairly cynical about the basic decency of people in general. I'm here to tell you that, if you indulged that cynicism, you might just be barking up the wrong tree. Yes, the world does appear to be full of idiots asking us to believe that their particular version of faith demands that they commit despicable acts. People claiming to be Protestants, with no idea whatsoever of what that word actually means, send letter bombs to and attack personally an Irishman whose only real crime appears to be that he's a bit mouthy and doesn't like being asked stupid questions by journalists who ought to know better. 'Islamic' fundamentalists, ignoring the basic tenets of their scriptures, carry out appalling acts against other Muslims and those they deem to be the enemies of Islam. Despicable tyrants from Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Zimbabwe, Russia, China, the UK and all points East,West, North and South oppress and murder their own citizens on the pretext of maintaining 'law and order' (ignoring the basic illegality of their own actions). Neocons and their slavish disciples in the USA sneer at and ignore the poor and needy in their own nation, and demonise and urge attacks on other nations, apparently on the basis that that's What Christ Would Do. I could go on painting this bleak picture, but you get the point, I'm sure.

However, while this doesn't serve to make the Earth and its most intellectually advanced residents (although that's debatable) seem so terribly attractive, there are days when little incidents occur which serve to redress the decency balance somewhat. Today was such a day. To set the scene, Houston & Kilellan Church were holding their annual fair. As usual, Jack McKechnie, an elder at said church and a good friend of ours, asked my wife Brenda if she would do her stint at the fair's bouncy castle between two pm and close of play. Jack does this because he's a nice guy and he knows how much Brenda loves this little once-a-year afternoon of fun. She's been doing it now for about eight years and never misses it. That's an act of kindness on Jack's part, but it's not the one I'm talking about. While we were looking after the castle, two kids from the same family were happily playing on the castle while their mother chatted to Brenda and me. Brenda happened to mention that she hadn't seen the stall selling strawberries and cream this year and that she loved this little treat. The lady in question pointed to a stall at the back of the area where we were and told us that was where the strawberries were being sold. Brenda was delighted, and we were making plans to send the errand boy (me) to get some when the kids reappeared carrying two tubs of strawberries and cream. Their mother, without a word to us, had kindly bought us them and sent the boys to deliver them. If you're reading this, by the way, nice lady, they were delicious and we deeply appreciated that random act of kindness.

Now, that might not seem to you to make up for all the awful qualities of humankind, but I beg to differ. For me, it's just another example of something I've seen over and over. On the basis that my personal experience has been to be the recipient of far more kindness than cruelty, then I must be driven to the scientific conclusion that there are many more nice people than nasty ones on this beautiful blue sphere. It's fact.

By the way, I had another little thrill when leaving the fair. I had my photograph taken holding a European Eagle Owl, the world's largest owl. It's a heavy bugger, I can tell you, but it is gorgeous, with amber ringed eyes and talons which can deliver a crushing strength of 600 pounds per square inch through those toenails. It can kill a deer. Up close, the power of its talons and beak are all too obvious. However, there is something of the divine about this creature. It has very soft feathers and lovely markings. It was a privilege to be allowed to spend a few minutes in the presence of its awesome beauty.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Selective thinking.

Following on from a conversation that got a little heated, I was set to thinking about our 'enemies' and our 'allies'. Going back some way, the Arab world and beyond was a playground for the West. Iraq and Iran in particular rose to power and fell from grace with monotonous regularity. At one point, the CIA backed the coup which saw the Shah, a wholly owned subsidiary of USA Inc., come to power. With movement of oil jeopardised, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi reached agreement with Iraq, giving his nation, and consequently his American paymasters, control of the Shatt-al-Arab, thus avoiding the good ol' USA from having to pay reasonable prices for their oil. Then of course, when Iranians had had enough of the Shah's cruelty, they had the temerity to overthrow him and install an Islamist government. Well, we can't have that, can we? Who do they think they are, exercising democracy before we can give it to them? 

Enter our hero, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, dashing, good looking and, get this, obedient. At the West's request, he starts a war against those pesky Iranians, who now believe they can nationalise their own oil industry. So for a while that kept Iran busy and things started to go our way. Meanwhile, those bloody commies invaded Afghanistan, making us so angry. I mean, most of us don't know where Afghanistan is, and they're only towel heads after all, but it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing, isn't it? OK, no problem, we’ll just arm and fund those dashing Mujahideen chappies. They’ll take care of those nasty, baby-eating communists and then they’ll be our friends, let us build a gas pipeline through the middle of their country and we’ll all live happily ever after. How did that work out? The ungrateful little rogues bit the hand that fed them. Imagine that.

I hear you say that we have to learn from history, but I mean, it’s the principle of the thing. We can’t have them telling us what we can do in our country. I mean their country. No, that can’t be right. Oh, now I’m all confused. Whose country is it? Anyway, even if it is theirs, we know what’s best for them, don’t we? We’ve been travelling the world selflessly sorting other countries’ problems out for centuries.

Now, I know this might seem to you to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, and you might think it’s too serious an issue to treat so glibly, but come on, can we seriously believe that we’ve done a favour for the Middle East by constantly interfering, to the extent that we actually believed we could ‘install’ democracy in a country which doesn’t want it, and whose majority is the last grouping we would want in power? Why would we want the Shia majority, closely associated with Iran, to control Iraq’s oil? My facetiousness is well founded. If you actually believe we can get out of Iraq with any degree of dignity at all, I have to say you started it.

Bye the bye, when I refer to 'us', I'm thinking loosely of the UK and the USA, although some of our friends, probably bored with throwing shrimps on the barbie or hunting bears, occasionally like to join in the fun.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Drinking on duty

Well, with seven minutes to go in the Strathclyde's Finest v McLaren game, things were looking good for Paisley. Then, with a seeming inevitability, McLaren pulled it off. They got the fourth try and thus the bonus point, securing the league title in the process. After that, the McLaren support, who had had to listen to the Paisley Polis (we were all adorned in plastic police helmets and carrying squeaky truncheons to show solidarity with the Boys in Blue) chanting, "We're top of the league.", were able to turn the tables and sing said anthem right back at us. Fair dinkum. They earned the right and we can't complain. Of course, it's disappointing to be pipped at the post, but two things have to be said. Firstly, it was in Paisley's hands to win the league and we let it slide from our grasp. Secondly, it has still been a great season both for Paisley and for the neutral supporter, if such a thing exists. Every team in this league has conspired to produce some real festivals of rugby, from the bottom team to the top. I'd personally like to thank every one of them.

As a footnote, it was announced yesterday that Kevin Browne, our fiery wee flanker, has been shortlisted for the West League Player of the Year Award. Apparently nominations come from referees throughout the season, and it's quite unusual for Division Two players to be nominated. However, nobody who's seen Krazy Kev performing  this year will be very surprised. Fingers are crossed at Paisley that Kev can pick up a well deserved award before he heads for Australia in the autumn.

So that's it then. With only the AGM, club dinner and President's game to come, that's the season.  Time to start all over again...

For photographic evidence, or for the purposes of blackmail, click on:

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Hiding behind the law

Well, not any more. The Ian Tomlinson inquest has returned a verdict of unlawful killing. Good. The actions of the police officer concerned were entirely unacceptable. He is a bully and a coward, hiding behind a uniform. How does a police service claim to protect the public when at times it is that public which needs protection from them?

Let me make something clear. This is not an attack on a service which for the most part does its job and does it well, too often without thanks from those who should know better. My own brother was a Metropolitan Police officer for 32 years and I am intensely proud of the service he gave. The force he served in was not the parody the Met has become today. It was probably during the time of Sir Ian Blair (who in cahoots with his criminal namesake made a mockery of the concept of justice) that I began to realise that this force had got out of public control. When a member of the public, legally going about his business, can be executed by policemen acting under the orders of the Commissioner, there is no control left. Within hours both the Commissioner and the Prime Minister had openly declared that nothing illegal had happened, without recourse to even the pretence of a properly constituted and open enquiry. I refuse to live in a country where there is no ultimate accountability for public servants, in my employ. I will not accept that.

It's just a pity that the coroner in the Jean Charles de Menenez inquest didn't have the balls to stand up to political interference from the Blair twins. You might recall that, when the jury retired, they did so having been told by Sir Michael Wright that a verdict of unlawful killing was not an option. I thought that was the jury's job. perhaps it did not occur to Sir Michael that the inference of that interference is that we are asked to accept that shooting the wrong man is an entirely lawful activity as long as it's the police doing the shooting. That is probably that. It's pretty unlikely that de Menenez's relatives will ever see justice for his death. That must change. It must. It's worth reading . For a piece written a year after the event, its conclusions truned out to be prophetic.I quote:

"If such protocols [referring to the shoot-to-kill policy] truly exist in this form, they are a crime. They are a crime for which those who established the shoot-to-kill orders, rather than their subordinates, bear responsibility. And for which, in a just world, they would be charged.

They won't be, of course. The shoot-to-kill policy is protected - as was Guantanamo over here - by the woolly bromides of the "war on terror." And those, of course, cannot be questioned."

Who can argue with that?

Meanwhile, today's verdict might pave the way for a prosecution of the man who seriously assaulted Ian Tomlinson, in all likelihood causing the internal bleeding which led to his death. Maybe today is the day when we start to take our country back.

Monday, 2 May 2011

On the bandwagon

Oh well, everyone's talking about it, so I might as well jump in. Osama's dead and buried, after a fashion. The manner of his passing isn't really a cause for jubilation, in my opinion, but it was almost inevitable that he would die violently. It also has to be said that he chose and accepted that path. I personally wish it hadn't happened. I wish none of the nightmare that is the West's relationship with the Middle East and the wider world of Islam had happened, but it did. When the planes hit those towers, the die was cast, especially given the moronic stance taken by the Neocons who ran the President at the time. These dangerous fools still believe that might is the only thing  and no matter how often large powerful nations get their arses handed to them by simple tribesmen or South East Asian villagers, they will never believe otherwise. All that being said, the Al Qaeda faction weren't exactly peacemakers, and they certainly didn't shy away from interference in any nation they considered a target.

Al Qaeda's main function was originally to train fighters to foment rebellion in their own nations, to enable the formation of more and more Islamic republics. Of course, the idea of the peoples of those countries having any say in whether that happened was anathema to bin Laden and his minions. So, don't get fired with the idea that bin Laden was a 'good Muslim'. He was an appalling Muslim who simply ignored the basic tenets of the Qu'uran, brushing aside any of Allah's commandments which contradicted his world view. In this respect, he wasn't so different to Bush and his puppet masters.

On the whole, from where I'm standing, the alternative to killing bin Laden was terrifying. Capture would have led to many years of court appearances, constant TV footage giving the man a platform to continue to preach his hateful message and the prospect of Americans being taken hostage in an attempt to have him freed. There will probably be repercussions, but how much more frightening can they be than the idea that they were probably planning their next big coup anyway? Happy isn't the right word, but I didn't lose any sleep over the death of a mass murderer who hijacked his own faith to justify his political aspirations. Sounds kind of like Cheney and Bush eh?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A hammering, another hammering and getting hammered.

Wow, what a day yesterday was. The weather was stunning, the rugby more so. First of all, the Under 18s gave my Development XV what is colloquially known in these parts as a pumpin'. They ran us ragged, with even their loosehead prop outgunning our backs from about 35 yards out.It was an awesome display by a side which obviously had no trouble motivating itself. The future's bright, the future's Paisley.

On to the main event. On the back of a very hard season, it's impressive to watch a team lift itself to new heights the way Paisley did yesterday. I don't think it's any exaggeration to say Moffat were blown away.It's been a ,long time since Paisley scored eight tries in one game. It was a joy to watch Big Stef Lach scoring two tries (unfortunately he picked up a yellow card for 'vigorous rucking' with 9 minutes 50 seconds to go, so the hat trick was not to be), Ryan McCready scoring three, and heartwarming to see the old fart GTW Newlands top his swan song with a try too.

Of course, the post-match shenanigans were of the usual standard. I think. I'm reliably informed that Gav Newlands' retirement celebration were moved to a local hostelry, where matters came to an interesting conclusion. Read next week's News of the World.

So, where does that leave us in terms of the league? Well, as Grant Murney, veteran scrum half and Zen Master said so eloquently after the game, "We've finished our games at the top of the league, and that's all we can do." The permutations are a little (I stress the word 'little') clearer. If McLaren beat the polis with a bonus point, they lift the title. If they win while scoring less than four tries, but win by a margin of sixteen or more points, they still win the league. If they win by fifteen points exactly, both teams are even on points and on points difference. In that case, the aggregate of both scores between the teams comes into play, and I'm delighted to announce Paisley have that one by 35-21. If they win by less than fifteen, again Paisley get it. McLaren have to work to win it. This week, please, make a point of hugging your local bobby. Tell him you're backing him. Make him feel good about himself. Just make sure the bugger shows up on Saturday with some adrenalin.

Whatever way it works out, I still think the world of a bunch of guys who've stuck together through thick and downright skinny. Pre-season starts soon. Be part of it. Play, lend your organisational skills or just prop up the bar, but be there. You really will be missing something if you don't. Message me and I'll give you any details you want, or visit here. See you there next season.