Mind the gap

It’s been almost four weeks since my last blog post. I’d like to explain away my absence as a result of huge pressure of work, inundated with new clients etc.

The reality is far less exciting. The first two weeks of the absence could most definitely be attributed to suddenly finding myself busy again after almost six months of having heehaw to do and all day to do it.

The last fortnight, however, has seen me tip back into full-on news junkie mode.

The last-ever edition of the Screws

The Establishment car-crash that is the News of the World phone hacking scandal has had me glued to the rolling news channels, Twitter, the blogosphere and the compelling Hackgate minute-by-minute on the Guardian website.

One word: wow.

In my lifetime, the Screws – as it was affectionately and not so affectionately referred to within the newspaper industry – was the ultimate Sunday paper. We, of course, never ‘took’ it at home when I was growing up. We may have been Catholic but my parents were decidedly puritan in outlook when it came to reading material. Dad always said Screws was ‘just full of shagging vicars’ while mum would rather have ripped out her own eyes than ever read its salacious contents.

Naturally, as soon as I moved out of the house, the Screws became my Sunday paper of choice.

And yeah, shagging vicars, cheating footballers, lying lawyers, celebrity screw-ups, suburban wife-swappers and schemie gangsters were pretty much its stock in trade week by week.

Now, of course, we all know where most of their wonderfully-tagged ‘World’ exclusives were coming from – corrupt cops, bent PIs and bureaucrats willing to put their ill-gotten gains well before an individual’s right to a private life.

As an ex-red top journo, I’m not whiter than white about how and where I occasionally came by stories or leads.

But I don’t think I have ever experienced a more jaw-dropping moment than the one almost exactly two weeks ago when I heard that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked.

Barely had 48 hours passed amid a veritable sea of new and ever more shocking revelations before my jaw thudded to the floor again when Rupert Murdoch announced the Screws was to close.

Tonight I’m writing this with BBC News on in the background as commentators pick over Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation as Met commissioner.

Here comes that word again: wow.

At the risk of being accused of red-top style hyperbole, I think we’re experiencing one of the most momentous cultural and political events of any of our lifetimes.

And we get to experience every resignation, every revelation, every new twist, every new theory in real time thanks to the, at times, shocking immediacy of online news and social media. It’s actually bloody breathtaking.

Last month I wrote a lament for my old papers, the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, as their owners, Trinity Mirror, slashed more jobs, cut investment and homogenised content with the Mirror. What price a revival now for those titles as one of their greatest rivals disappears virtually overnight leaving a vacuum of potential readers to be Hoovered up?

Or is Murdoch’s brutal and seemingly-instantaneous decision to bin the Screws – a hugely profitable title that kept its loss-making stablemates The Times and Sunday Times afloat – an even bigger indication that print media’s future is even more bleak and short-term than ever?

Maybe not – Hackgate was exposed because of tenacious digging and reporting by The Guardian, using its website to report developments instantly, then offering in-depth analysis in the following day’s print edition. The Independent and the Telegraph have also done sterling work on this.

Maybe what we’re really seeing is an end to the Screws’ style of journalism that has set the red-top agenda for the last four decades – that celebrity-driven, lowest common denominator content that has also fuelled the rise of the gossip mag too.

I hope so. I love a bit of gossip and scandal as much as the next person but I want my newspaper to carry genuine news too, not just splashes on Katie Price’s* new boyfriend is or a picture of the Hollyoaks cast falling down drunk in a Manchester street or another interminable story about Victoria Beckham’s hair/dress/diet/baby/pals.

Tabloid fodder - and potential client

In other news, this week I am in loco parentis for my niece Kate. At 17, she’s way too cool to be holidaying with her maw and paw so – somehow – she thinks Debbie and I are much cooler. Or at least where we stay is. Brighton rocks apparently. And at some point this week Kate and I are off on a pilgrimage to Covent Garden and Lucy in Disguise, the retail emporium of her idol, Lily Allen.

My role in all of this will be to hold Kate’s coat while she tries stuff on and open my purse to buy her stuff. This I can get on board with. Mainly because she’s only here for a week.

*Apparently Katie Price lifted one of Lead On’s postcards from the counter at Sweaty Betty in East Street Arcade! Scream!! I could be responsible for her pups. And walking the dogs too …

PS It’s getting late so tomorrow I will update the blog with all the Scottish words and phrases I’ve been posting on Facebook over the last month. There’s a wheen o’ them …

PPS Check out this new blog on The fight to save Scotland’s newspapers


Breeks n: trousers. Eg: The wean tore a hole in the erse o’ his breeks when he went skiting down the hill on his bogey

Skite v: to slip or slide. n: to go on a drinking session. Eg: Watch you don’t skite on that wet floor. The boys are away oot on the skite cos it’s the Glesga Fair

Toty adj: tiny; very, very small. Eg: She wants one of those totally toty wee dugs, like Paris Hilton has

Girn v: to moan, complain, whine. Frequently applied to tiny babies. Eg: Gie that wean a dummy, she hasnae stopped girning aw day

Mollicate/molligate v: to rip someone apart, either verbally or physically. Eg: He got absolutely mollicated off his mammy when he came home steaming and had spent aw his digs money

In the name of the wee man An expression of surprise or shock. Eg: In the name of the wee man, whit are you daeing skulking about the scullery in the dark?

Pochle (or pauchle) v: to steal, to manipulate something dishonestly, to fiddle something. Eg: One of the first things I learned as a junior reporter was to how to pochle my expenses properly

Cludgie n: lavatory, toilet, WC. Eg: Hurry up and get oot the cludgie, I’m bursting!

Lorne sausage n: a square slice of sausage, either pork or beef, an integral part of a Scottish cooked breakfast but also most commonly eaten in a bread roll. Eg: Gies a roll and square slice in a crispy roll with a mug of tea, please. Nae sauce

Wally close n: a particular type of tiled wall inside a tenement building, usually on the ground and up to the first floor, and a feature in posher Glasgow tenements. Eg: They’ve got a lovely big flat aff Byres Road – it’s got a wally close an’ everythin’

Affrontit adj: embarrassment, shame (usually embellished by the prefix ‘black’ to express the depth of the shame). Eg: Rebekah Brooks should be black affrontit that she’s put the jobs of 500 people before her own

Tawse n: leather belt (particularly evocative for Scots of a certain age who remember the belt in schools!) Eg: Teachers at my school used to carry the tawse on their shoulders, tucked under their black gowns, and they’d terrorise us by suddenly slapping it on to our desks when the class got rowdy


From little acorns …

It’s been quite a week for historic occasions.

  • The Queen waltzing into Ireland for the first time and charming the bejesus out of just about everyone.
  • Barack O’bama confirming his Irish ancestry by sinking a pint of Guinness and employing a touch of the Blarney to reduce all who met him into giggling schoolgirls.
  • Super injunctions for the super-rich and super-shagging turning out to be not such a great idea after all – and Scotland’s Sunday Herald (under my old gaffer, editor Richard Walker) creating the UK’s most-talked-about front page in years.
  • Lead On making its dog-walking debut on a run out in Withdean Park, Brighton, with the delightful Dudley the Tibetan terrier our first paying customer – returning home happy and exhausted (and that was just me).
Dudley safe and sound in the Mutt Mobile

Yes, it surely has been a historic seven days …

Fair enough, Lead On Dog Walkers may not resonate down through the pages of history but I’m chuffed to bits to be up and running!

It’s only two weeks since I got a van and embarked on fitting it out with cages, bedding, leads, water bowls and what seems a neverending list of things I need to have to be a dog walker. The dogs themselves have been almost an optional extra.

So it was nice finally to put the whole kit and caboodle into action, load up a dog into the back and – gasp! – go for a walk.

From little acorns etc etc …

The week’s other distraction has been yet another volcanic eruption in Iceland and the inevitable return of the ash cloud and ensuing airport chaos.

I’m a tad concerned about how long it will take to get things back to normal because friends from England are due to fly to Glasgow next weekend for the Scottish leg of our civil partnership celebration.

A typical purvey

Not that it will affect me and Debbie – aint it just typical that her fear of flying would pay off like this?!

So we’ll be Caledonia-bound in the car for the big bash which is promising to be another cracking occasion. I may have gone slightly overboard in the invitation department – the final tot-up for the venue suggests more than 140 on the night!

Now that will be quite a purvey*.

Caledonian craic

Tumble yer wilkies v: to do a forward or backwards roll or somersault. Eg: That wean’s a right wee gymnast, you should see her tumble her wilkies on the living-room floor

NB: this might be Glasgow/West only. www.firstfoot.com/dictionary suggests it’s derived from Archibald Wilkie, head of the Glasgow Police in the 19th century, who was a renowned gymnast

Midden n: outside bins, rubbish pile, dump, a mess. Used to describe untidy houses and those whose personal habits (either with hygiene or morals) leave a lot to be desired. Eg: That bedroom is a right midden Or:  That dirty wee midden hasn’t changed his shirt all week

NB: Most Scots will be familiar with the phrase ‘Anniker’s midden’. Click here for an explanation

Keek v: to peek or look slyly, to glance quickly. Eg: I saw her next door keeking through the curtains when the big removal van pulled up

NB: not to be confused with keech (definition to follow later)

Haver v: to talk or babble in an incomprehensible manner. Eg: And if I haver, then I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you (© The Proclaimers)

*Purvey n: food, usually at a function. Eg: That was some purvey – they had sausage rolls and everything

Two nations – divided by a common language

A stookie

Wiki can’t agree on who actually said the UK and the USA were two nations divided by a common language (take yer pick from George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill), but the phrase is entirely apt when applied to Scotland and England.

I didn’t realise until I pitched up on the shores of the south coast just how Scottish I actually am.

And by that, of course, I mean just how Scottish I sound (the hankerings for square slice have abated but thank the lord they sell Bru down here).

Like Rab C Nesbitt after 14 pints is how one newly-found Sassenach* friend described it. But she said it so charmingly that all I could say in return was “braw!” (Note to self: stop wearing a bandage round napper and suit jacket with simmit when dining out in Brighton)

That, of course, is just the accent. And no-one has ever better described the effect of that accent on southern ears than the Proclaimers in the genius that is Throw The ‘R’ Away.

Tho Stanley Baxter’s sublime Parliamo Glasgow is timelessly funny.

And Chewin’ The Fat’s Taysiders In Space makes me cry with laughter.

Of course, according to surveys, the Scots accent is one of the most pleasing on the ears but which Scots accent? Cos there are hunnerza them from the gallus Glesga wan to the fit-like Aberdonian to the soft tones of the Islands to the mid-Atlantic twangs of exiles such as Sir Sean and Lulu. Och, dinnae get me startit.

But even more bamboozling to southern ears are the endless supply of Scots words I fling into everyday conversations in an unconscious manner.

And it is unconscious – most of the time.

I do try to tease Debbie by dropping in random Caledonian expressions but her years sharing a flat with another Scot have armed her against such machinations. Not only that, she gets her own back by speaking in broad Peterborough at me. And we think our accent is bad …

Irn-Bru – the greatest cure for a drouth … and a hangover

If Debbie can learn, I thought, why not teach the rest of them so they can understand when I converse with some of the Scots most beautifully onomatopoeiac words and phrases. And so began my Scots word of the day on Facebook (it was only 3 weeks ago – I’m making it sound this is a life’s mission).

And now I’m going to share them with everyone else on the blogosphere and beyond … aye right.

What I hoped for when I posted them on Facebook was that non-Scots would comment, perhaps even adopt the language themselves or share their own dialects and local quirks.

The reality is that only my Scottish friends post and argue with each other (and me) over spelling, definitions and usage. It’s great fun.

I’m no font of all (or any) knowledge on the spelling, definitions and usage of the words and phrases I’m posting – they are just those I know best, the ones I use and where I use them. So sicken you!

Here are the words I’ve chosen so far. I’ll add them to each new blog as I post it. It will be a Jockumentary, if you will …

Scots way-hay

Gallus adj: self-confident, daring, cheeky., stylish, impressive. Eg: I feel dead gallus driving about in my new van

NB: to non-Scots, the use of dead here is also as an adjective, to mean ‘very’ or ‘extremely’. We use it a lot. A lot. In fact, we’re dead keen on using it all the time.

Glaikit adj: stupid, foolish, daft. Eg: She’s awfy proud of her son but there’s no denying he’s a right glaikit-looking bugger

Sleekit adj: sly, sneaky, crafty, cunning. Eg: David Cameron comes across as right sleekit, so he does

Clype n: a telltale, informant, grass. v: to tell on, to inform. Eg: The class clype dobbed us all in when we hid the teacher’s belt

Today word is not a word at all but instead a phrase, frequently uttered by my Nana Traynor: 12 o’clock and no’ a bed made

Translation: Where on earth has the time gone?

Variations include: 12 o’clock and no’ a wean washed

Dwam n: a daydream. Eg: I was in such a dwam I missed my bus stop

Guddle n: a mess, untidiness, a state of confusion. Eg: This house is a total guddle this morning

Pruch n: a perk (usually associated with a job), booty, plunder. Eg: The pay in this job is pants but the pruch is great

NB: I think this is an Ayrshire-only expression but one my mother picked up and evangelised among Glasgow folk

Scunnered n: a strong dislike, an aversion, disgust, boredom. Eg: I am completely scunnered by the shocking treatment of Neil Lennon by not just morons with scarfs but by the allegedly educated ones with laptops and microphones

Bumfult n: a ruck or fold in clothing, making it appear bunched up. Eg: I couldn’t get out of bed this morning cos the quilt was aw bumfult

NB: this word has caused the most debate on Facebook, mainly cos it’s all in the pronunciation. The jury is still out on the spelling and I’m still trawling t’interweb to find someone saying it on Youtube.

Baffies n: slippers, house shoes. Eg: Not for the first time, I left the house this morning still in ma baffies

Braw Adj: good, splendid, delightful. Eg: It’s braw to be back in Glasgow, even if it is for just one day

Blether n: someone who chats or gossips a lot; a long chat or gossip. v: to chat or gossip. Eg: It was great to catch up with Linda and Chander on Friday and have a right good blether

Drouth n: a thirst, usually a raging one. Eg: Whit a drouth I’ve got on me this morning. Where’s my can of Bru?

Skelpt v: (past tense) to strike a blow, to smack. Eg: Scottish Labour fair got their arses skelpt last night

Dreich adj: miserable, cold and wet (pertaining to weather). Eg: I can’t believe how dreich the south coast is this morning after weeks of sunshine and dry days

Sclaffed v: to strike the ground when making a shot, usually in golf, but regularly in SPL football. Eg: Och he’s sclaffed that when he should have scored

Oose n: fluff or dust. Eg: I need to Hoover under the bed, it’s covered in oose

Pech v: to puff or pant, be out of breath. Eg: Nils was fair peching after that run along the beach

Shoogly adj: wobbly, shaky, unstable. Eg: This table is awfy shoogly, fold up a beer mat and stick it under one leg

Stravaigin v: to wander, stroll. Eg: We’ve got lots of time, let’s have a stravaigin along Sauchiehall Street

Stookie n: plaster cast for a broken limb. Eg: The wean’s been up the infirmary and got a stookie on his broken arm

*Sassenach n: an Englishman or woman

The great unknown

A history lesson: 20-odd years ago, I worked in a newspaper where everyone used a typewriter. We had these great big machines that dominated our desks, desks already piled high with newspapers, bits of paper, notebooks that were the lifeblood of our day, cups (usually filthy) and pens and pens and pens.

Seriously, how cool is this look?

Oh and a phone too, with a rest on the receiver that let us keep our hands free to scribble down shorthand notes. It was just the coolest thing to use. Which is a wee bit sad to recall but those were simpler times.

When the company that owned us first talked about bringing in “new technology”, I was beyond excited about having a COMPUTER! Even one that carried the unlamented Miles 33 system. This would be so much better than playing Chuckie Egg on my brother Martin’s BBCMicro. I had no fears about mastering the technology, just wanted to have a go on it.

Every leap forward in technology I have embraced and, while never claiming to be any kind of expert, I usually only need to be shown once (or twice probably) how to do something and I can muddle my way through from there.

Thanks to my probably ridiculous decision to chuck in my journalism career just as we hacks were being introduced to uploading our own priceless prose on to websites, I missed that great leap forward into the world of CSS, SEO and hyperlinking.

So I was more than a little apprehensive when it came to creating my own website for Lead On. Don’t worry, I was told – there are sites out there that do everything for you, all you do is add your own words and pictures.

Two words: aye right.

The square root of hee-haw

This was a challenge I met head-on only to end up like roadkill on a busy motorway.

Faced with a bewildering array of instructions, acronyms and plain gobbledegook when all I wanted to do was add some text and choose – the cheek of it – my own font and size, I spent four long and painful hours creating the square root of heehaw before throwing in the towel.

Thankfully I was able to fall back on the rule that always serves me well when faced with what I consider insurmountable obstacles.

Get a man in.

I’m not even ashamed to say that the man (it could have been a woman, fellow feminists, all I ever need is someone better at that task than I am) who rode to my rescue – the inestimable Kevin Rush – isn’t even a website designer. Hell, he aint even a computer person at all. He’s just good at stuff. Stuff that I am not good at.

In the style of Carrie Bradshaw, that got me thinking: is there a cut-off point after which we can’t learn new stuff, hard stuff, stuff that needs more than just point and click?

I hope not. I need to master at least a little of the basics around the website Kevin so kindly created for me cos the limits of his patience are surely being tested by the 45 emails an hour I’m currently pinging his way!

On a less Luddite note, yesterday me and the van were on the road, helping our  friends Steph and Hayley of Snaffles Gourmet Dog Bisquits set up their stall at the Sutton Dog Show at the South of England Showground at Ardingly.

The wind would have cut you in two but the ladies did well selling their range while I got to wander round with Nils the gorgeous French bulldog and stick Lead On postcards on hunnerza parked motors in a bid to drum up business.

Phoebe - beyond cute

I also had time to meet and fall madly in love with Phoebe, the Parson Russell terrier*. Possibly the cutest wee dog I have ever met.

Having insisted to Debbie that our first four-legged addition to the family will be a rescue dog and having agreed to her request of following that with a Labradoodle puppy, she was not best pleased when I came home and instantly started Googling Parson Russell terriers.

Would it be too much to go from zero to three dogs in as many months?

*Parson Russell Terriers

Va-van voom

It’s official. I have a van. It’s white. So henceforth I am white van woman – discourteous driver, opinionated twat and objectionably racist, sexist and bigoted. Probably. Or not, really (the opinionated twat bit might stick in a court of law).

Lead On Dog Walkers are on the road at last after I bust my car auction cherry this morning and confidently outbid lots of other white van men to buy a Citroen Berlingo, one formerly owned by the RSPCA and so ideal for my new gig.

A van like what I bought

Truth be told, I was actually kacking my pants as the bidding began but all those mornings watching Homes Under The Hammer (I’ll try not to let this become a recurring theme) paid off – well, that and having a crash course in car auctions in the company of my old friend Lorraine during a brief visit to Glasgow yesterday.

We were both a little aghast at how fast the whole process is and how we were the only folks there who clearly didn’t have a clue what was going on.

But thankfully at least one of us had her wits about her as Lo continually had to remind me to stop lifting my arm to point at stuff while the bidding was going on – or I’d be ferrying Lead On’s mutts around in a 1996 Skoda …

So it’s all systems go. I’ve got my first regular customer. I’ve agreed to dog-sit a wee dug for 8 – that’s EIGHT – weeks from June. I’m going to hoof it round the neighbourhood this weekend with flyers and bombard folks at a dog show on Sunday with cards etc. I’d say I’m definitely on my way to my first million … So, yay for me.

Oh and in the midst of all this, I’m busy planning and organising the Glasgow leg of Debbie & Fran – the nuptials. Hence yesterday’s flying visit to Glasgow to sort out booze, boogie and butties.

And now that’s all done too, so the only thing we have to do now is turn up on June 4 and have a fabulous party with all our friends and family. So, yay for us.

It’s all been a little bit frantic but a great deal of fun, too. And the good news is that, having been away in London, then Glasgow over the last five days, I now have the mother and father of all ironings to do.

Well, a girl has to have some me time …

A tentative toe in the water

So, this is the blogosphere – welcome to me!

I can’t believe it’s now 4 months since I made the move from Glasgow to the Brighton area but it’s taken me until now to get my butt in gear and 1. set myself up in the dog-walking business I’ve been planning for months; and 2. write the blog my mates have been urging on me since the move.

In my defence, I have been a wedding planner extraordinaire in that time

(me and Debbie had the best day ever on April 23 for our civil partnership) and I have unleashed my inner domestic goddess – I can now bake bread and the missus’ clothes have never been so regularly laundered and ironed.

A loaf, yesterday

But sheesh, aint housework tedious, hard grind? And there are only so many episodes of Homes Under The Hammer one woman can watch before she’s planning to take a hammer to Lucy and Martin.

So all good things must come to an end and now, once my van is kitted oot, I’ll be Fran Fran the doggy fan. Oh yeah and I need some customers. All in good time, all in good time.

So, over the course of the next few weeks and months, I’ll be using this space to – hopefully – entertain you with my tales (and tails) of doggy and non-doggy life here on the south coast.

Along the way, I’ll pass comment on any damn thing I like but probably limited to telly (Homes Under The Hammer notwithstanding), home-baked bread and how Tefal genuinely is the Ferrari of irons. Exciting eh?

Next time: resisting the daily urge to walk into Shoreham Dogs’ Trust and take ALL of the mutts home