Thursday 11 December 2014

Secrets of the seventies

Well, Happy Hogmanay to everyone who survived Christmas in one piece. Of course, nobody will be reading this as you will all be queuing up outside Argos waiting for post-Christmas bargains, or scouring the internet for anything denoted with twenty percent off. In fact, you no longer need to wait for January to go to the sales, as we are bombarded throughout December with special discount shopping days. I blame the Americans – for most things, actually! Seemingly Black Friday was started in USA a decade ago as a marketing ploy to spur Christmas shoppers into action a few weeks into November. But then, as with all things hyped, the whole thing snowballed into a rainbow spectrum of Green Mondays, Red Tuesdays and slightly blueish-mauve Sundays throughout December, all offering super-saver-deals on websites who already claim to be the cheapest in cyber-space - now even cheaper. I am informed that these are all deals that I cannot afford to miss, irrespective of whether I need them or not, or already have three left over from last year still in the cupboard. However, I am quite taken with Groupon, an organisation that offers companies a chance to sell small numbers of their goods or services at cost price, if only so we can get an insight into what extortionate profits they usually take. So far I have managed a round of golf on a Royal course for ten quid including breakfast, 3 nights in a honeymoon suite in a top resort, and a new bed, all at 60% off. OK, so I didn’t need all of these, with the possible exception of the golf, but I am comforted that myself and my occasionally profligate wife have saved enough money with which to irresponsibly spend on drink!
I mentioned last month that I was embarking on a mission to renovate a house in Fife and I am quite pleased with myself when I announce that phase one of the project is now completed. Inevitably I now have the sore knees and backache to prove it. It would appear that the old Victorian property last had a face-lift around 1973, with kaleidoscope carpets, wallpaper that makes your legs wobble and light-fittings made of psychedelically painted glass, all in abundance. After spending 3 days hoying all the above into a skip, I visit a well-known DIY store to find that I am now able to buy exactly the same stuff which has mysteriously hoved back into fashion at highly inflated prices. Who said nostalgia is a thing of the past? Why is it that we can’t just let the chemically induced indulgence into the hallucinogenic haze of the seventies fade away without embarrassment? Like most fifty-somethings, I not only burnt my flares and tank-tops a long time ago, but along with them all photographic evidence of their very existence. There should be laws against this revival before the country spirals back into a life of platform shoes, scampi in the basket and Simca cars and we all die of humiliation! Please mister government, outlaw everything that hails from that decade, except the music (and possibly the Ferrari 308 GTB). Thank you.
On the same subject, I am this weekend stunned to learn that with the latest reincarnation of Doctor Who, the Daleks are also back, but they can now climb stairs! Noooo! That was the whole point of the things. While your kid sister was hiding behind the sofa as the cardboard creatures wheeled down the street with their ray guns and sink-cleaners, chasing some scantily-clad maiden, us boys were standing shouting at the TV, ‘go upstairs, go upstairs! You’ll be safe there until the Brigadier arrives!’ Seemingly the 2015 versions now have some built-in hovering ability. How preposterous! It is nothing less than an outrage, I’m telling you!
While we are on the issue of reminiscence of the seventies, on my way to Fife last week I had a wry smile to myself when I spotted a large sign directing people to Scotland’s Secret Bunker – purely on the understanding that it is hardly a secret if you tell everyone where it is? That’s a bit like screwing a five quid combination-locked box to the wall outside your back-door with a big sign saying ‘KEYS – in case of burglary, insert chisel here!’ Although I have not yet visited the site, which is now a museum, it transpires that an underground fortress, complete with 3 feet thick tungsten reinforced concrete walls and a labyrinth of tunnels, had been built and concealed under a farmhouse near St Andrews in 1972 which would house some 300 personnel, protecting them from nuclear explosion, more than likely caused by the pesky Russians. Although the Cold War never really got much above freezing, the amount of money required to maintain the bunker, let alone build it, would have kept all the towns on Fife’s East Neuk coast in coal for two decades and, believe me, they needed it. And all this to preserve a few Scottish ministers, none of whom at the time had enough government authority in Britain to issue so much as a parking ticket. Rumours that the whole place had been extended last year to accommodate the comely frame of Alex Salmond have been categorically denied.
Of course, after Salmond’s laughable defeat in September’s referendum, for the first time since Mary Queen of Scots, we now have a lady in charge north of the border who, after some churlish begging, actually does have an iota of power over their self governance. So what does she do with it? Immediately p*sses off every rural community by lowering the drink driving limit to 50mg so that your working man can no longer have a pint on the way home from said work. However, this is not strictly true. The new legislation brings it into line with Europe and particularly France who, let’s face it, make all the rules anyway. The difference is, we in France drink beer in small glasses, thus affording us the liberty to have one drink and still take the car home within the bounds of the law, rather than walking or taking the bus. Just as well on the latter point, as the frequency of buses in our local village is about once every three months. Furthermore, walking home down the lane is far more dangerous, what with the crevice-like ditches that line the roads and the chance of encountering a drunken Frenchman behind the wheel with no headlights, but I digress. The point is that, despite their protestations, your average Scot could just drop in to the ‘Thistle and Sporan’ for a half-pint while he warms the underside of his kilt in front of the peat fire, and then everyone’s happy – except, perhaps, Newcastle Breweries. But don’t you Sassenachs go a-gloating too much. You are surely next on the list!
BTW, good luck to the new proprietors of the Rock Cross Inn. Please keep the home fires burning!

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