A TWEET FROM A TWIT

January 30, 2011

 

As an ordinary West Lothian bloke, I never thought I’d be somebody to make a contribution to history; no matter how small. But last week I got the chance, and I grabbed it.

A national newspaper took me along to the sentencing of Tommy Sheridan at Glasgow High Court. The purpose for my presence was to observe his body language and comment on what was going on in his mind.

Not too difficult a task… I mean, if you were sitting between two prison officers before The Beak, waiting to hear how long you were going to be a guest of Her Majesty, what would be going through your mind? Pretty much the same, I wager.

The use of a mobile phone in court is frowned upon. Actually, it’s more than that. Try texting your chums from the High Court to tell them what’s happening, and you would find yourself – minus your phone, belt, shoelaces and tie – in the back of a prison van before you could hit the “send” button.

However, at this case the officials decided to try an experiment. For the first time ever, those in the Press Box were told that on this occasion – and on this occasion only – they could “tweet” as the case developed. This meant that the reporters could send a rolling report to the newsdesks of their respective papers.

The reporters started discussing the ramifications of such a momentous change in the rules. I, on the other hand, discussed nothing. Instead, I flipped my phone open and posted something on my Facebook page before anybody had the chance to do likewise.

In other words, readers of my page were the first in the world to get a message via mobile phone from inside a court during the proceedings. How cool is that?

Okay, it may not be much in the Grand Scheme of things, but I’m delighted to be a little bit of a part of the history. And I was delighted to make my Facebook friends part of that, too.

Well, you’ve got to grab opportunities when they arise, don’t you?

Drew McAdam

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NIFTY AT FIFTY

January 24, 2011

I’m a sucker for reading the latest research; everything from health fads to education systems. Usually, it’s depressing stuff, but a recent study brought a great big grin to my face.

It’s generally accepted that the best years of our lives were when we were in our teens and twenties. It was all fun and frolics – at least that’s how we remember it. But recent research demonstrates that the average 50-year old is having a great deal more fun, is much happier, and has a better social life than most individuals half their age.

Statistics clearly show that the nifty-fifties spend more time with their friends, enjoy evenings out and travel further than those in their twenties.

The results of a questionnaire show that over half of those in their fifties focus on getting the most out of life, compared with a third of the twenty-somethings. I have to say, recent events have convinced me of this.

I recently caught up with some old school chums who are planning a school reunion. Boy, they know what they’re doing. This isn’t just going to be a buffet-and-blether evening at the old school hall. That would be far too tame.

Instead, it’s going to be a three-day event that includes picnics, meals, pitch-and-putt, hotels and a pub crawl in the old town. It’s going to be a wild, wacky weekend, planned by the middle-aged for the middle aged. These people have never grown up.

Sure, there will be less hair and more pairs of glasses than before. But it’s not just the midriffs that are bulging – so are the wallets, unlike when they were twenty. The young ‘uns won’t be able to keep up. I guarantee it.

Some of my old classmates are flying in from as far away as the US and Australia. So, while the twenty-somethings are struggling under the stress and demands of their jobs, we will be setting an exuberant, break-neck pace.

Fifty is fabby, and no mistake.

Drew McAdam


SMELLS LIKE TEAM SPIRIT

January 17, 2011

 

I have the best job in the world, I really do. Over recent months I’ve worked with some amazing people including Bobby Davro (hilarious), Rory Bremner (a gentlerman) and Barry Cryer (hilarious AND a gentleman.)

My work has brought me into contact with everybody from Buzz Aldrin to Andrea Bocelli. And, tell me, what other job do you get to hang with Atomic Kitten? Purrrrr.

When I left school I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. I would have thought a job that took me all over the world, performing on TV and radio and meeting my heroes was well outside my grasp. I was incredibly lucky, however.

But I have to admit that there’s one thing I miss terribly: contact with workmates. I did actually work in an office environment for a few short weeks, but I hated it. Too regimented and constricting for me, thank you very much.

But, ah, the people! The workmates. My, how I miss them now.

I love being part of a team, and not just the short period where I worked in an office, but when I was in the forces, and working as a retained firefighter in West Calder. There’s nothing more wonderful than the camaraderie of your workmates: the personalities, the jokes, the stories, the laughter and the mutual support. I really miss that team spirit.

There are short bursts when I appear on “The Hour”, I suppose. It’s quick and it’s intense. I have no idea what the studio manager is doing, or makeup, or the production team. Sound engineer and the army of techies? Haven’t a clue. But I love every minute of it, because it’s a team thing. I’m with workmates. We’re all pulling together to achieve something remarkable.

It’s like we’re a little colony of insects, working away to a single end. It’s fun and it’s hi-energy and it brings a real feeling of closeness and satisfaction. Then, suddenly, I’m in the studio carpark… and solitude.

So, if you’re working in an office and wondering what it would be like living your life on the road, travelling to different places, meeting new people every day… just take a moment to consider how much you would miss your workmates. The people you work alongside day in and day out. They are the closest thing you have to family.

Go on – cuddle a colleague. You KNOW you’d miss them!

Drew McAdam


GOM

January 9, 2011

 

It’s always a real pleasure when readers comment on my column. And a lot of people have said some highly complimentary things over the months.

Of course, the comments are not always positive. One recent email to the editor asked if I was the original “grumpy old man”. I have to admit, several of my acquaintances and friends would knowingly nod their head to that. And one of my Christmas gifts was a coffee mug with an embossed image of “Grumpy” from the animated film “Snow White”.

Oh, Dear Lord, I’ve turned into my father! When did that happen?

I admit it. The great thing about writing a column is that it allows me to get things off my chest. But I can also help the readers and my friends to have a jolly good moan about things, too. It’s amazing how often the idea for my column comes from a friend being mistreated by some jumped-up jobsworth.

Mind you, I don’t always take a negative view. Over the past few months I’ve backed teachers, and banged on about Russia – in a positive way. I’ve praised the Post Office, and paid tribute to the guys who were gritting the road. I‘ve thanked organ donors through my column, and once I even offered an upbeat suggestion as to the Secret of Life. (You can find some of the past columns at http://www.westlothianhp.co.uk if you want to check for yourself!)

But, okay, I DO enjoy having a pop at bungling bureaucrats who cling to the attitude that: “We don’t need common sense; we have rules and regulations.” There is an old saying that the relationship between newspapers and the councils should be the same as a between a dog and a lampost. Not just councils, really, but any muddle-headed thinking by any authority, really. I like to think I’m doing my little bit.

But my New Year resolution is to be more lavish with my praise in future columns. I will try really hard to wean myself off the grumpy pills.

But if I really am turning into my father, I’m not sure how long it will last! Watch this space.

Drew McAdam


SKOOLS OOT

January 3, 2011

 

Here’s a surprise. Straight into school at 5-years of age has a negative effect on a youngster’s education. Leave it a couple of years, and they will do much better.

Sound crazy? Stick with me a while longer.

Our kids are rounded up and bundled off to school at 5-years of age when, really, they should still be with their family, learning from playing rather than instruction. Growing in confidence and self-reliance, rather than having their imaginations stripped away to fit the acceptable norm.

Now, you would think that the earlier they start the better their education, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, statistics demonstrate the opposite. Top of the European leaderboard in terms of education are countries like Finland and Denmark, where formal education does not begin until the age of – wait for it – seven.

While our kids are being bogged down by a class curriculum, their kids are chasing butterflies, exploring their world and constructing stories with their dollies. Yet the kids left to their own devices consistently obtain higher educational results later in life.

In fact, with the exception of The Netherlands and Malta, we are the only European country jamming our little ones into a contrived learning environment at the age of five. (And sometimes even four!)

According to the Primary Review report, compulsory learning at such a tender age was introduced in 1870 and had nothing to do with learning. Rather, it was a way of combating the negative effect of inadequate and abusive Victorian parents. In other words it was about child protection, not education.

There is no question that kids gain little benefit from formal learning at such a young age. They are not designed that way.

All that would be bad enough, but when they get out of school they have homework. Lots of it… I mean REALLY lots of it. If you don’t believe me, find the parent of an 8-year old and get them to show you. It’s enough to put any kid off education for life.

I swear, some of these tots will spend more time on homework than I found necessary when my O’levels were drawing near. And let’s be honest, all this homework is only so that teachers and educationalists can tick boxes and meet arbitrary criteria set down by the grey men in grey suits. It’s certainly not about teaching the youngsters. No, it’s about paperwork and meeting standards that are based on… well, figures plucked from the air.

Kids are kids. Early and imposed learning will turn them away from the wonder of knowledge. Let them learn from amusing themselves, spending moretime with their family, and having fun – the way it’s meant to be. Let the children play, I say.

Drew McAdam