SIGN OF THE TIMES

May 30, 2011

 

A WHILE BACK, I wrote on this subject, and have been waiting ever since to see if anything would change. But it hasn’t.

There is nothing wrong with civic pride, which is why almost every county, town and city in the United Kingdom display “Welcome to…” roadside signs, and take the opportunity to express their area’s unique selling proposition. 

For example, Dumfries and Galloway have “The Natural Place”. Staffordshire has “The Creative County”.

Closer to home, Perth has something like: “The Heart of Scotland” while Edinburgh has two: “Inspiring Capital” and “Festival City”. Of course, Glasgow and Mr Happy grabbed the brilliant line “Glasgow’s Miles Better.”

So, what about West Lothian? Oh dear, oh dear. Driving into the county – from any direction – you are greeted by “Welcome to West Lothian” and the strapline “UK Council of the Year 2006”.

What? Is that REALLY the best Oor Cooncil could come up with? And another thing: what happened to the years in-between? I mean it IS 2011 now, you know. How long are they going to bang on about their wee award from back then, slapping it on every letter, brochure and border signpost?

Is this really the measure of Council imagination and creativity? (And PLEASE don’t go out and hire some firm of consultants who’ll charge a fortune to come up with something even less inspiring than the roadside slogan we have at the moment – if that’s possible.)

I mean, when you consider that Neolithic pilgrims from all over the UK would trek to the important ceremonial burial site of Cairnpapple in the Bathgate hills, we could surely have something like: “Attracting Visitors for Over 4000 years”. Or how about the fact that the shale on which the county is built launched the oil industry? That would give us “First Oil Capital of the World”.

There, I offer these suggestions to the Council for free.

Of course, we could incorporate “Silicon Glen” into a slogan, and even the simple “West Lothian Works” would be acceptable.

But, no, we are stuck with the ludicrous and redundant “UK Council of Long Long Time Ago” slogan.

Let’s face it: that turgid little phrase says less about the area and its people than it does about our self-aggrandizing bureaucrats – in so many ways.

Drew McAdam

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PHONE FEE

May 23, 2011

 

It doesn’t seem fair to me. How about you?

Imagine if you needed to find out the time of the trains leaving Bathgate around lunchtime. You call up British Rail to ask, and they refuse to give you the train times until you pay them; credit or debit card details.

Of course, you would complain. Why should you pay for the information you require to use their service… for which you will be paying?

Or imagine you are in the local bakery. You ask: “What kind of pie is that?”

Sorry, but I can’t tell you until you pay me.”

“But if it’s what I’m looking for, I’m going to buy it… with money.”

“Sorry, credit card details first before I tell you what kind of pie it is.”

Cause for complaint, don’t you think?

Well, I remember a time when British Telecom ran a system called Directory Enquiries. You dialed the number and gave the name and address of the person you wanted to call. The lovely lady at the other end gave you their phone number… which you called and paid for.

But today if you want to find a phone number, you have to call the two mustachioed geeks – or a similar service.

And just so you know, I looked into the price of this service. Were you aware that calling a 118 number for a mere 45 seconds on a mobile will cost £2 or more? No, neither was I. And it will cost an incredible £12 for a five-minute call… simply to ascertain the number you’re going to call and pay for anyway!

Well, does that seem fair or reasonable to you?

So, if you need a number, who you gonna’ call? Well, I suggest you first try is online at www.thephonebook.bt.com. It’s free – as it should be.

Drew McAdam


DOMESTIC APPLIANCE EMERGENCY SERVICE

May 15, 2011

The AA long advertised itself as “The Fourth Emergency Service” – that’s the Automobile Association, by the way, not Alcoholics Anonymous. I always found that a bit presumptuous.

I mean, we know that the three emergency services comprise of the Police, the Paramedics and the Fire Brigade, right? Well, I might be wrong here, but I rather think the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) qualifies for the title of being fourth in that list.

Taking in water and going down for the third time in a screaming gale with 30-foot waves is something you need rescued from. And not by a wee man in a yellow van.

But – good as the AA are – I think they may be even further down the list than that. I think I know who the “Fifth Emergency Service” is.

This week my washing machine stopped working, joining rank with the oven which had given up the ghost the week before. Also joining in the company of White Goods that had decided to give up the ghost was the tumble dryer. It had developed a screeching noise that conjured up mental pictures of steel bearings being ground into dust.

I mean, where do you start? To me, all that stuff works by witchcraft. Even if I attempted to take the back off one of the appliances I wouldn’t know which end of the screwdriver to hit the thing with.

And then, riding to the rescue, came “John”. No callout fee, all work guaranteed. A wee West Lothian tradesman with a big bag of tools and an equally big grin. First the washing machine: just a “dry solder”, whatever that is. Then to the oven: a trapped wire had been stripped and had shorted out. The tumble drier: a dry pulley belt. A quick squirt of oil and it was sorted.

He chatted while he worked, spilled out jokes as he deftly and expertly fixed everything, and put my life back on track again. And all for about the price of a family-sized fast food meal.

John is the Fifth Emergency Service, along with the army of honest, knowledgeable, expert tradespeople who inhabit our county – you’ll find a lot of them advertising in this newspaper. Hard working individuals who had the courage to start up their own little business, and who do a great job quickly and for a fair price. Our lives would fall apart without them.

God bless ‘em one and all.

Drew McAdam


TOW PATH TOW RAGS

May 2, 2011

 

It was the perfect day for a walk. The recent lovely weather tempted me out for a peaceful wander in the countryside.

And where would be more peaceful than along a canal tow path – you would think. But, actually, no. it’s more like being in the middle of a shooting range. You’re not a rambler; you’re a target. I’m sure of it.

Certainly, there were a few other walkers who would bob their head and wish you “good day” as they passed. But they were in the minority. The gentle amblers are lost among the throngs of cyclists who are trying to break the land speed record. Hundreds of them, at 20-second intervals in packs of three and four. A few even had dogs running alongside them!

Now, a canal tow path isn’t particularly wide. And when some halfwit cyclists dressed in Dayglo yellow with a daft “bunch of bananas” helmet perched on his head is bearing down on you at the speed of sound, there’s not a lot of room for manoeuvre… Even less if there’s a pack of them.

Now that I think about it, even just one racing cyclists with packed panniers on either side of his bike is wider than the path.

All of which leaves you with limited options. You can thump them with a heavy stick as they barge past, or you can jump out of the way. Just be aware that your landing place when you leap from a canal tow path is either a bramble-filled ditch, or the water. Which is why the heavy stick seems like a good option.

And of course, that’s only if you see them coming. However, at least half of them will be whizzing up behind you. What that means is that while you are eying the racing cyclists heading towards you, there is a faint “ting” of their bell (if they happen to have one) from behind you, and you have approximately one second before they enter the space you are presently blocking on their trajectory.

Fortunately, I have a plan to redress the balance. I’m thinking of getting a hulking great motorcycle and tearing along the tow path at 70mph. That way, when I spot the cycle-pack in the distance, I can switch off the engine and I’ll still be coasting about 50 when I blast through the middle of them from behind. I might even give them a blast of “Colonel Bogey” on the air horns when I’m about 10-feet behind them. See how they like it.

It would be rather like a monster game of 10-pin bowling. And getting a “strike” would be oh-so-satisfying.

Drew McAdam