March 31, 2013

As I’m writing this, I am wearing a special T-shirt. It’s black, with red writing. And the writing says “Lothian & Borders Fire & Rescue Service”.

Well, from today, that organisation no longer exists. And as a former member of the Brigade, that is a sad thing indeed.

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service will today be amalgamated, along with seven other fire and rescue services, into a new, single service.

It’s a major change, yet one of which few are aware. To the public, it means little. To the members of the brigade, it means a great deal.

Lothian and Borders is the oldest municipal fire brigade in the country. It was founded back in 1824 by James Braidwood. An amazing man, he later went on to found the London Fire Brigade, and was killed in 1861 when, while helping fight a fire, a wall collapsed on him.

Unfortunately, bureaucrats do not understand pride – neither in the Brigade nor in a regiment. Neither do they understand teamwork. Nor morale. Nor the buddy-buddy system. They have no grasp of what makes the uniformed services so effective and efficient.

How can these faceless just-give-me-my-salary robots possibly understand that these brave men and women fight – whether that be a fire, the seas, or an armed enemy – spurred on by the weight of tradition and history; of others who did so before them.

And all that fighting, and loss, and honour, and tradition is encapsulated in a badge. A badge that the faceless ones have decided should be scrapped.

To the public, the badge being unceremoniously removed from the side of the fire engines will mean little. Yet this is the very badge that was worn by hundreds of courageous individuals who faced fire, went toe-to-toe with danger, saved lives and lost their life to smoke and fire. It is a poignant reminder of all that has gone before.

That’s why these men and women wear their cap badges with pride. They are people of honour. It is more than a badge; it’s a symbol.

Bean-counters, and the let’s-reorganise-for-the-sake-of-it bunch understand none of that. Yet they are the ones that make the decisions. How insulting.

They have failed our brave men and women who face the danger and perils with no thought of their own safety. Those who do their duty for the brigade, the regiment, the history, the tradition and those who went before.

As one of my friends, and a long-serving firefighter, said about the pen-pushers: “They know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

How true.

Drew McAdam



March 25, 2013

This week I drove all the way to Huddersfield where I was performing for several hundred accountants at an institute dinner.

Now, it’s easy to categorise people according to their occupation. For example, all accountants are boring. Entertainers are show-offs. Lorry drivers are all kings of the road.

It’s not always accurate, though. These accountants were a wonderful, lively bunch. Full of good humour.

And lorry drivers; kings of the road?

Heavy snow and high winds were forecast to sweep in from the South. So, after the show I ran straight off stage, changed, and then gunned it up the road in an attempt to keep ahead of the incoming weather front. Which meant driving through the night

It seemed that lorry drivers had the same idea, and were all heading North in long convoys.

Some of the trucks were double-section vehicles. Massive rigs controlled – and I use the word loosely – by drivers of very little sleep and even less brain.

In the act of overtaking you had to be switched on because they would suddenly lurch into your lane for no reason. Indicate and pull out, unaware – or uncaring – that you were already occupying that lane. Perhaps they were falling asleep or reaching over for a chocolate Yorkie Bar and losing control, I don’t know. I didn’t stop to find out.

A disproportionate number had faulty headlights which meant one of them was on full beam. Others had banks of silly coloured lights so that they resembled Wurlitzer jukeboxes thundering up from behind.

Several had bright blue lights on display. Now, I’m sure that only emergency vehicles are allowed blue lights. How come they never get pulled over for that?

But worse was to come. Heading away from the motorway and onto the winding country roads, I had one lorry who insisted on sitting right on my tail. I mean RIGHT on my tail.

If something had jumped out in front of me and I’d had to slow down – not even brake hard – it would have been Drew McAdam pizza all over the asphalt.

Amazingly, having got rid of him, he was replaced by another thundering behemoth that did exactly the same thing! It must be in their training manual.

And God only knows what the lorry driver who came round the corner at speed on the wrong side of the road thought he was doing. Pucker Factor nine.

So, accountants can be jolly fun. And lorry drivers; Kings of the Road? Sorry, but I’ve revised my view on that, too.

Drew McAdam


March 17, 2013

Have you noticed more traffic than usual in Linlithgow recently? Yes, I thought so.

There is a reason for that. And the reason is… stupidity and poor planning.

I know this because I was recently forced to take a long route over the Union Canal and into the Bathgate Hills in a frustrating attempt to make my way home.

So, I know.

I was heading back in the small hours after performing in Aberdeen, and had armed myself with the latest information regarding road closures. Fortunately, the complete closure of the Forth Road Bridge was delayed – for all the difference that made.

Aberdeen to Livingston. Keep heading south, then up the M8 to junction 3. Simple.

Except, of course, that Junction 3 was closed to all traffic. That’s right, just shut.

The obvious route to take in this case is along the A89 to Uphall, and then into Livingston. Except, no, because that road is also closed to all traffic at the Newbridge Viaduct. That’s right, just shut.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but what kind of halfwit closes two major roads, running parallel with each other, at the same time? I would suggest it must be a very special kind of halfwit. One who gets up very early in the morning and practices.

So, having worked all this out, my route was obvious. In truth, when there are a clutch of road closures, I play a game in which I pretend that these areas have been closed due to zombie activity. The challenge is to make my way home without being eaten – it adds a bit of fun to the trip.

So, my perfect plan was to head along the Queensferry to Linlithgow road, then cut up, under the M9, and up the B8046 past Old Philpstoun to Uphall… except the whole road was filled with cars trying to complete U-turns because – you guessed it – the road was closed. That’s right, just shut.

As a result, there was a convoy of Livingston-bound traffic heading into Linlithgow, and then driving south across the Bathgate hills.

Still, we managed to avoid the zombies.

Unbelievably, the result of all this was that at the Northern side of Livingston we were met with a forest of yellow diversion signs; one at every corner and slip road. But they were all for different diversions!

At one location there were three – count ‘em – diversion signs, all pointing in different directions.

A stranger to the area would have no idea which route to take. Some drivers are probably still following them in circles, many of which would take them along Linlithgow Main Street.

And that, my friends, is why there has been more traffic than usual in Linlithgow recently.

Seriously, these hi-viz jacket wearing planners need to get their heads together. Actually, they need their heads knocked together.

Drew McAdam


March 10, 2013

I love telephone answering machines. Always have.

Nobody ever phones you because they want to GIVE you something, so an answering machine means you don’t actually have to talk to them. You just listen to their message, then experience the delight of pressing the ‘delete’ button and jettisoning it off to wherever these voice recordings go.

But there’s more. They are a wonderful tool for leaving annoying outgoing messages such as “Thank you for calling. If you wish to speak to Robert, press 1. If you wish to speak to Sandra, press 2. Should you wish to sell us something, press 3. To leave a message, press 5. Under no circumstances press 4; this is only for use in emergencies and gives access to the secure line.”

Or how about.: “I can’t come to the phone now… well, actually I can come to the phone. Like, well, NOW, because I’m here NOW, recording this message. But I’m not here, like, NOW, while you’re calling. I’ve gone now. So you’re here, listening to this message LATER, which for you is actually NOW… I think… are you following this? Gosh, this is confusing. So, leave a message and I’ll listen to it later… which, for me, means I’ll be listening to it NOW, if you see what I mean.”

But for more fun, you can use the concept of an answering machine for playing pranks… When somebody calls, you pick up the phone and say: “Hi, I can’t come to the phone right now. Please leave a message after the tone. Beeeeeeeeep.”

Let the caller leave their message. When they finish, and just as they hang up, say: “Thanks for calling… ‘Bye!”

But what about when YOU have to leave a message on somebody’s machine? These days, I don’t say who I am or what I want. I just leave a short joke, such as “What do you call an exploding monkey? A BABOOM!” Clunk.

Perhaps the best ever, though, was when I misdialled, and instead of getting the local branch of my bank, a voice said “Hello, this is the Reverend Robertson. Sorry I’m not here, but please leave a message…”

I don’t know where it came from, but I said “Hello! This is God. Where are you when I need you?” Clunk.

Oh, yes, I love telephone answering machines. Always will.

Drew McAdam