Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Uncertain Certainties

As some of you are aware, Alien Wally and Mags currently spend their Sunday afternoons poking inquisitively around other people’s houses. Legally. It’s called House-Hunting, you see.

Those of you who have been through this before will be familiar with Estate Agent Speak, where every suburb is “popular” or “sought after”, even those that many Edinburghians will tell one in hushed tones never ever to enter, especially after dark. Unless you’re wearing a hoodie and carrying a bottle of Buckfast, that is. What is also fascinating about Estate Agent Speak, however, are what Alien Wally and Mags have started referring to as The Uncertain Certainties. A prime example is “May require modernisation”. Because, the estate agent just never knows… perhaps you do want to live in a house that looks like a throwback to the 50s. And not in a nice, stylish retro way either. More like in a "this-house-hasn’t-been-cleaned-since-the-50s" way.

But The Uncertain Certainties are not only confined to Estate Agent Speak. Oh no. They seem to turn up anywhere that (m)advertising takes place. For example, what on earth were Carlsberg thinking when they decided that they were only “probably the best lager in the world”? Because they just don’t know… they might be the best, they might not be, they just don’t know….

And lastly, a special mention has to go to the Royal Bank of Scotland, who proudly announce to their customers on their website that “[they] deserve a better bank”. Perhaps we do, RBS, perhaps we do….

Now, RBS, who would you suggest we transfer our money to? Who will give us the best deal on our mortgage towards our purchase of a house that may or may not require modernisation? We’ll celebrate your answer by drinking Carlsberg… only probably the best for us, that’s for sure! Or is it?

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A Full Relation Of The Scots Befiedging Newcaftle

One gets the impression, travelling by road from Scotland to England, that the English feel much more antipathy towards the Scots than the Scots do towards the English. Crossing the border into England, with its strategic lack of “Welcome to England” signs, one feels distinctly, well, unwelcome. Not so on the Scottish side of the road, where surely the great big welcome sign is visible from space. All welcome here. Even the Martians. Maybe they can teach the builders of the border wall how to lay stones in a straight line.

When in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne one must visit what’s left of the New Castle (unsurprisingly located on the River Tyne) from which the town got its name. Creative folks they were, back in the day (that is, in 1086)… “Well, everyone, we’ve just built a new castle on the Tyne, and we need a name for our illustrious city. Any ideas? Hmmm, anyone? What shall we call it? What, oh what…?”

The problem of how to find the castle is solved either by looking up and keeping the castle in sight while wending your way through the streets, or by looking down and keeping your eyes fixed firmly on the little castle icons embedded in the pavement at regular intervals, leading one to the front door.

The castle itself is a delightful building. It appears small from the outside, but, like Dr Who’s Tardis, contains entire universes of rooms and corridors all leading off from each other to more rooms and corridors, all eventually leading to the roof terrace with its beautiful views across the city.

One of these views is, of course, of the lovely Tyne River and the seven bridges which connect Newcastle to Gateshead. Each bridge has a character all of its own, from the old-fashioned Tyne Bridge and Swing Bridge to the ultra-modern Millenium Bridge (or “blinking” bridge to describe its movement when it lifts to allow ships through). The waterfront area along the Tyne is a very cosmopolitan area, with some great bars and restaurants. And no, Alien Wally and Mags didn’t sample them all, unfortunately.

Lastly, no visit to Newcastle is complete without a pilgrimage to the Angel of the North, which towers over the city and the A1. The statue is now ten years old and is the most visited in the world, averaging one point something visitors per second. This makes taking photographs of the statue by itself a tad difficult. But! Alien Wally and Mags are patient souls. Okay, no they’re not. They just got lucky when everyone moved away at seemingly the same time to take in the statue in its full glory. Here, it is then, sans people and with people. They are handy for scaling purposes, after all.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Home Of Golf

Having Ruby in the family means that Alien Wally and Mags can now go further afoot (um, by car) on the weekends. A little while ago, they gave Ruby a run through the Kingdom of Fife, all the way up to St Andrews.

So what did Alien Wally and Mags do in this illustrious Home Of Golf? Play golf? Nope... they don't know how to wield clubs. Or rather, they can wield clubs, just not safely. Did they at least look at the golf course? Nope... Well, sorta... they had driven past the unassuming golf course before they realised that That was It. Surely there should be neon flashing signs or something equally glitzy to indicate these hallowed greens? Because you just know that Donald Trump's new golf course will be blinged to the nines, and St Andrews may just pale in comparison.

What Alien Wally and Mags did do, was go and visit the old abbey and graveyard. Again. Yes, they've done this before here. And here. And let's not forget here. Or... here.

But... only in St Andrews' graveyard does one find gravestones like this one. Let's see Donald Trump try to top this... hah!