How to say everything – and nothing in one text

Walking a dog for a living is a simple task really.

Collect said pooch from its place of residence. Transport safely and without incident to a place secure for canine carousing. Pick up poop. Transport safely and without incident back to place of residence.

But who knew that one might also require the skills of a diplomat to do so?

Like most dog walkers, I keep in regular text contact with my clients, often updating them throughout the day when necessary of pooch’s every … ahem … movement.

One such text exchange this week reminded me of those euphemisms that teachers employ in children’s report cards.

You know the kind of thing:

“Jocasta tries very hard” really means Jocasta is thick as mince but game.

“Archie is very popular with his classmates” equals Archie is a smart alec who likes being the centre of attention.

“Beth is always eager to please” is a big hint that Beth is a damn pest to the teacher.

“Max enjoys the more active tasks” translates to Max won’t sit still for one second.

Teachers are adept at being economical with the actuality when summing up their pupils and parents equally adept at deciphering the real message within.

So it is with our four-legged chums who often exhibit behaviour that might not meet with their owners’ expectations and most definitely not their preference – as a previous blog catalogued.

Hence I find myself channelling my inner teacher to deliver a daily report card on Fido’s outing.

“A really lively run” might mean the little sod went rabbit hunting for 30 minutes while you shouted yourself hoarse.

“Lots of exuberance on display” implies that he humped everything in sight.

“Showed great appetite and energy” does not reveal the sorry tale of how she hijacked a picnicking family and ate everything in sight while you vainly chased her like an eejit.

“Nonstop action all the way today” insinuates that he rolled in something so smelly folks in the next postcode are getting a whiff of it.

The line we tread is a fine one, filled with subtlety and tact. Occasionally, however, you just have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

It’s easy to disguise when Toots has done a disappearing act but reappeared just before you’re desperate enough to be ready to call in a search party.

What the eye doesn’t see, the heart won’t grieve over, as the old proverb has it.

unnamedBut it’s not quite so easy to cover up when Lassie has lathered herself in the foulest of foul gak. When Alfie rolled in duck poo, it took one week and four baths to remove the odour.

Try euphemistically expressing that in a text!

Blood, sweat and tears

Know how you get a bit bored cos there’s nowt happening in your life? Your social diary is alarmingly empty and the weeks just stretch out in front of you with nary a night out or a hangover to look ahead to?

That? Well, I wish that was going on with me.

That is not on my agenda at the moment. Oh no, thanks to my remarkable ability to open my big gob and let my belly rumble, I (and by I, of course, I mean we) will be run off our collective feet over the next month or so.

Janey Godley - she hasn't a clue what she's letting herself in for
Starting tomorrow when our weekend guest arrives. Remember I said me and big gob? Works twice as loudly on social media.

A month or so back Glasgow comedian Janey Godley asked Twitter to help her find a hotel room in Brighton this weekend as she’s on at the Brighton Dome and I tweeted back a suggestion or two. Janey tweeted again that she’d had no luck finding a room.

You know where this is going, right? Bigmouth strikes again. So, Janey will be our guest this weekend – finding a seat in the Lead On van alongside Alfie, assorted dog towels and chews, and a gross of poo bags. I know she’s really looking forward to it

And I can’t wait to be the butt of some earthy Glesga humour at the Dome on Saturday.

No sooner will Janey vacate the spare room than my brother-in-law will be putting his PJs under the pillow for a couple of days as he paves the way for him and my sis to relocate from Lisbon to the UK. Unfortunately, the Portuguese economy is in such a hole that it makes ours look like post-war Japan and it looks like things will only get worse there. While I’m sad things haven’t worked out there for them, I’ll be thrilled to have them close(r).

So if anyone in the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire areas needs an electrician who can also instal solar panelling, drop me a line – have screwdriver, will travel.

Profile of the dog as a young pup

Next up in the Browett-Traynor B&B will be my niece Kate, so desperate to resume her love-in with Alfie that she’s coming here for the October school holiday. Kate will be arriving just in time to act as head waiter for our first official dinner party as a married couple. (I’m hoping for better food results for our guests than last night’s effort in the pressure cooker which actually burned, despite me following the instructions TO THE LETTER. Can anyone explain how that happens?)

On a side note: this morning I sliced my pinky while drying sharp bits off the food processor. It hurts like hell and it won’t stop bleeding. Right now, despite a thick layer of dressing and plaster, I am bleeding on the keyboard. I won’t let it stop me, tho it might slow me down. I know you admire my professionalism and what can only be called bravery. Today this blog really is the sum total of my blood, sweat and tears.

Only women bleed
However, the event of October is heralded by the arrival of Debbie’s mum Margaret and her partner Linda – together all four of us are off to Buckingham Palace so Her Maj* can bestow the royal seal of approval on Debbie for being a professional lesbian (this bit may not actually be true). The invite says it’s basically in, gong pinned on, then out, not so much as a cuppa char. Which is a bit galling. The least Betty could do is spark up the kettle and offer us a wee cucumber sarnie sans crusts.

I reckon the gong will be the first thing in the van when we head north for a long-awaited return to Glasgow. This will be Alfie’s first trip to Scotland but Debbie reckons he’s already acclimatised cos he’s used to me shouting ‘get doon ya daft dug!’ while Debbie is more prone to a Kat Moon-style yell of ‘oi Alfie!’

Mostly I’m looking forward to pakora, a can of this new fiery Irn-Bru Twitter has been tweeting about, a Morton’s roll n square, an afternoon at Celtic Park (or maybe not if recent results continue) and a pie and a Bovril. Oh and seeing family and friends too, of course.

All I have to do is survive the three weeks between now and then.

*No guarantee it will be HM but we will refuse to accept a lesser royal

Hotter than July

An Indian summer they’re calling it. What the insanely cheerful telly weather people really mean is this is the weather we should have had in June, July and August. It’s just inconveniently turned up in late September.

Which is fine if this is the weather you’re expecting and you hadn’t – like me – already packed away the garden furniture and barbie after last month’s gales and torrential rain. The grass is still bloody growing and needing cut every week too. On the plus side, the remains of the (potted) vegetable garden have undergone something of a revival in the last week and Debbie’s tomatoes (oh stop sniggering at the back) look and taste delish.

What now passes for my workplace

Weather – there’s an awful lot of it about. And I seem to be in the middle of it, all the time.

I realise at this point, dear reader, you are ready to nominate me for a Statement of the Bleeding Obvious Award – after all, you’re saying, what the hell did you expect, woman?! You swapped an office for trudging up and down beaches and hills. With dogs. The weather COMES WITH THE TERRITORY!

Well, okay, there’s no need to shout. My point – and I do have one – is that my first ‘summer’ in the job has confused me in what an appropriate wardrobe sense. No change there then …

I am rarely - ahem - less 'comfortable' than this, hat notwithstanding

I have never been a gal who’s been interested in fashion – if you must, think Calamity Jane before the ‘darn crick’ makeover.

Jeans and T-shirts/shirts out of work, trousers and shirts (never blouses) in work – not for nothing did my late mother, stylish to the end, sigh in long suffering fashion and raise her eyebrows heavenwards whenever I appeared. Never mind Trinny & Susannah, my mum made it her life’s life work to tell me exactly What Not To Wear with one pointed look and a hand gesture that told her all was lost.

Obviously jeans and T-shirts are de rigeur among the dog walking fraternity (or should that be maternity? Most of them seem to be women). And it’s attire that’s perfectly adequate. Most of the time. Or at least some of the time. But no good in certain conditions – like when it’s particularly hot (jeans are horribly heavy and lead to thigh chafing) or a bit chilly (T-shorts are no protection against wind on the South Downs or beaches) or really wet (wet jeans cling to your ice-cold legs until you lose all feeling from the waist down and have to peel them off in the back garden like a particularly plump and inept stripper).

The very weather conditions, in fact, in which Lead On has been operating these last few months.

I’ve experimented with other outfits, notably shorts on those days when it was actually ridiculously hot (there have been 2 of ’em … until this week). But in shorts and stout walking shoes, I look like Dawn French as George in the Comic Strip’s rather brilliant spoof of the Famous Five. So I’d really rather not. And I don’t think the good people of West Sussex deserve that sight anyway.

Fran goes mad in Sussex

My new go-to store is Sports Direct for its cheap selection of sporty trousers – yes, there are no depths to which I will not sink. Worse than that, I even invested in some Wundaweb so I could hem my new ‘golfing’ trousers myself (as an official short arse, there isn’t a pair of trousers I buy that don’t need taken up).

And don’t think I’ve been fooled by the so-called Indian summer. By next week, it will be bloody Baltic again as the rain lashes off the windows and I’ll be back rooting around the waterproofs racks, searching for the perfect trews that offer comfort, protection and – importantly – style.

Only kidding about that last bit. As if I would let a little something like style get in the way of a comfort fit.

So the search for the perfect dog walking outfit goes on. I’d like to say I’ll keep you posted but something tells me you won’t actually care.

In the meantime, the mercury is nudging 25C and I’m thinking these acrylic mix joggies I found at the bottom of a suitcase might chafe a smidge when I take Alfie down the beach in a mo …

Och don’t you lot start with the What Not To Wear!

Paws for thought

Dogs are uncomplicated creatures (usually). They like to be fed regularly. They need regular exercise. They thrive (usually) on company, either human or canine.

They love to play – usually with a ball but frequently with a pair of your best shoes or, God forbid, a dirty pair of knickers snaffled from the washing basket. And they love to sleep.

Now that I’m a dog walker and spend my day with dogs, I find myself sighing and smiling frequently at the simple joy they take from life.

That joy can come from racing round a field at top speed just because they can. Or sitting patiently for what must seem like hours until a treat is tossed their way.

Like butter wouldn't melt ... don't be fooled

Take Alfie. He’s the now seven-month-old cocker spaniel we inherited from a Lead On client who found him all a bit too much.

Alfie is – in the words of my missus, Debbie – a total geezer.

In the Glasgow parlance, he’s as gallus as all get out.

He’s been living with us now for just over a month and is a constant source of amusement and irritation in equal measure.

Alfie has boundless energy. To paraphrase the description of The Terminator from the classic sci-fi movie, he cannot be reasoned with. And he absolutely Will. Not. Stop.

Which, in my line of work, is pretty handy. He’s out with me for hours every day walking with dogs of every age, breed, size and temperament. It’s fantastic socialisation and wonderful exercise and ideal for a breed that thrives on company and exercise.

He doesn’t stop following me either – I really do have a little black shadow at my heels all day, every day. I can’t even get to the lavvy without Alfie nosing open the door or whining outside until I’m done!

Currently Debbie and I find ourselves in fits of laughter at his Pavlovian response to my laptop. My habit is to sit on the couch with a cuppa to have a wee surf of t’internet after we’ve returned from the daily grind on the local hills or beaches. Alfie curls up at my feet and falls into a deep sleep.

But the sound of the laptop closing has become the signal that I’m about to head for the kitchen to start dinner and he bounds to his feet and trots off in that direction, whether I move or not. Of course, he does it every single time I am on the laptop so now I do it for badness and cheap laughs. Don’t judge me, I don’t get out much.

The reason that Alfie is so keen on me heading for the kitchen is because eating is another area of life in which Alfie absolutely. Will. Not. Stop.

Dudley - banged up for crimes against picnickers

He is one greedy greedy bandit of a dog. We’ve already had an embarrassing incident in the park where he and Dudley, another greedy but charming bandit, raided an unsuspecting family’s picnic as I shouted in vain for them to ‘come here!’.

I then had to endure a humiliating dressing-down from the irate mother who’d seen her kid’s sarnies scoffed by two marauding mutts while the mutts in question sauntered off in search of their next piece.

Alfie’s so greedy that he has taken to sitting virtually on my feet whenever I potter around the kitchen. His theory – and it’s not a bad one as I am a tad slapdash at food prep – is that eventually something will fall his way. And he’s such a wee glutton that he doesn’t care whether it’s a scabby piece of potato peel or a choice morsel of meat – all is grist to his digestive mill.

Just as well for Alfie’s waistline that we’re out walking for miles every day – and for mine too.

Thankfully I’m finally starting to see some benefits from all the exercise I’m now getting. Of course, I’d see more of a weight loss if I actually ate less, but hey-ho, one step at a time!

In short, Alfie is growing into a very happy, well-exercised, friendly wee dog. And I’m having more fun than I ever thought possible watching him have the time of his life with new chums.

His latest pal is Ruby, an eight-month old German shepherd who towers over him and seems to think he’s her own personal chew toy.

But that’s ok cos Alfie is convinced Ruby is actually his own personal chew toy …

No dogs were harmed in the making of this blog

Business is, thankfully, starting to pick up after a lean summer. We’re now at that time of year where the nights are fair drawin’ in and dog owners who have enjoyed evening sojourns with their pets on the long, light summer nights are now realising that walk won’t be half as much fun in the dark.

And that’s where I come in. Well, where me and my little black shadow come in.

Bletherin’ on

Tober v: to put someone in their place; to cut someone down to size; to chastise. Eg: Alfie is such a little geezer that I have to tober him every now and then by sticking him in his crate to calm down

Kick the can: In this game of chases, the can was the den into which the chaser put everyone who’d been caught. Anyone still free could run into the den and kick the can to set everyone free

Ma bit: This expression, probably in more use in Glasgow and the West, refers to where one lives. Eg: Ye comin’ roon to ma bit? I’ve got a kerry-oot*

Goony n: nightdress (f). Eg: I put the bins out last night in my goony and was black affrontit when a gust of wind blew it up over my heid

Footer v: to fiddle with something, to act in an aimless fashion. n: a task that’s fiddly or seemingly pointless. adj: footery. Eg: Putting together flatpack furniture is a right footer of a job

Wheech v: to move at speed, to do something quickly (may also be a noun). Eg: I’m in a hurry so I’ll have to wheech round the shops this afternoon

Geegaw n: a garish ornament or bauble. Eg: What is it wi’ auld wifies? Their hoose is aye stowed wi’ geegaws

Kerby: Two participants stood on opposite pavements with a football. The object was to throw the ball at the opposite kerb (or curb as the Yanks say) and have it bounce straight back at you. If it bounced, your opponent took a shot. The game was frequently interrupted by shouts of “car!”

Hands: A clapping game played by girls, this was a playground favourite: Under a bramble bush, under a tree, boom boom boom boom! True love for you my darling, true love for me!

Randan n: a wild night out. Eg: Debbie went on the randan with the Anderson-Manley-Thomsons, despite it being a school night

Hough n: shank of meat. Eg: There’s nothing better than a ham hough for making lentil soup

Hunker v: crouch, squat. Eg: Think we’ll just hunker doon behind this tree until the rain passes

Coal-carry n: piggyback. Eg: My big brother gied me a coal-carry up the hill cos I was puggled

Snipes: A twist on the card game pontoons (or 21), in this the loser was whoever went bust. They had to make a fist and present their hand to their competitors who would whack the deck of cards against their knuckles as many times as the loser went bust by, usually ending with bleeding knuckles. This was a vicious game that parents severely frowned upon.

Scabby Touch: In this game of chases, a minging piece of orange peel or something similarly foul was picked up from the playground. A process of elimination (perhaps eeny-meeny-myni-mo) selected whoever was ‘het’ – this was the Scabby Touch. The object of the game was to pass the Scabby Touch on by throwing said peel at others and scoring a direct hit. This game suited fast runners and those dextrous in twisting their torsos to avoid flying objects

Chinese ropes: Elastic bands were tied together and two participants (they were usually girls) took a hold of each end and held the rope at differing heights – ankles, kneesy, hips, waisty, shoulders and head high. The object was to jump over by whatever means necessary – at head high, it was only the most athletic who could handstands! The 2 ends were sometimes tied together for a jump game: ‘England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales!’

Boke/boak v: to vomit, be sick, retch (know as the ‘dry boke’). Eg: I had the dry boke when Alfie caught a bloody big moth and played with it before wolfing it down

Pawkies n: sheepskin mittens. Eg: She couldnae get her bus fare oot cos she had her pawkies on so the bus driver just drove away

High heid yins n: bosses, management, the usually unaccountable people at the head of an organisation. Eg: Look busy, the high heid yins are coming down any minute now

Brae n: hill. Eg: Debbie was peching big time after we had to climb a steep brae with the dug

British bulldog: Probably the most violent of all playground games, at my primary the entire school used to be involved in the game. One person (the bulldog) stood in the middle of the playground with everyone lined up facing him/her. The bulldog chose someone to run from one side to the other. If they caught them, they stayed to become a bulldog. If they got past, everyone else then raced from one side to the other shouting ‘British bulldog!”

Balls: Usually played by girls, this game involved two tennis balls and a wall. The participants bounced the balls against the wall while singing a rhyme and having to turn around or bounce the ball through her legs.

Hares and hunts: This was a simple game of chases with two teams. The hares did the running, the hunts did the chasing. When caught, each hare had to return to ‘the den’ and await the rest but any uncaught hare could free every caught one by running into the den. They usually had to shout something too but my memory aint what it used to be so over to you!

Feartie n: scaredy-cat [feart is also a verb, meaning to be scared of]. Eg: Don’t be such a big feartie and away oot and see what’s making aw that noise in the garage

*Kerry-oot: n: carryout; drink purchased from an off-licence for consumption at “ma bit”


Absence makes the heart grow fonder

I know, I never write, I never call. Some blogger I am.

This recent absence can be explained by two major events: honeymoon cruise followed immediately by the arrival of the Browett-Traynor household’s first pet, the very cute but very wilful Alfie.

Alfie, a quite gorgeous cocker spaniel, is six months old and was one of Lead On’s very first clients. But his owner found the combination of a full-time job and an extremely boisterous puppy a little too much to handle. As Debbie and I had always intended that we would re-home a rescue dog, we figured that it was only right to open our doors and our hearts to little orphan Alfie.

Alfie deigns to have a cuddle with me on the couch

Timing is, of course, everything.

A couple of days before we left on the cruise (of which, more later), I’d agreed to board a dog for two weeks. Abbie is a very lively 18-month lab-cross whose owner is relocating from Dublin to the south coast and needs a short-term home for Abbie until their permanent accommodation is in place. So, having stepped off the cruise ship at 7am two weeks ago, we headed for home to prepare for the arrival later that day of not one, but two mutts.

It’s fair to say things have been a little bit of a whirlwind since. Alfie and Abbie get on brilliantly – if getting on brilliantly means chasing each frantically and endlessly from room to room, tearing around the garden like a pair of whirling dervishes, biting each other’s ears like Dracula on crack and bickering like teenagers over chew toys.

The most spoken words round ours right now are  “No!” and “Down!” and “Stop that!”

But it’s all been great fun (the loss of most of the lawn and several pairs of flip-flops aside) and daily long walks on the South Downs with the other Lead On dogs are brilliant both for socialising Alfie and Abbie and for exhausting the pair of them so much that they happily lie zonked on the couch for hours every night. Yes, you read that right – on the couch. Or on the bed.

Oh we know, we’re making every mistake in the book but hey – anything for a little bit of bloody peace!

Alfie and Abbie pause for one second from their perpetual motion to wonder why I'm not shouting at them

Today I also got a terrific boost when I read this positively glowing review from Abbie’s owner, Nicola, on a couple of the listings sites Lead On uses – good word-of-mouth is an excellent way to build any business and this was certainly good. Nicola was also kind enough to offer me some invaluable advice on marketing and improving communication with current and potential customers so it’s fair to say ours has been a very productive relationship!

Right now my thoughts are on an autumn push for more business – after all, I gained a puppy but lost a client when I took in Alfie. And I could stand to be a lot more busy than I am. I’m also going to sign up for a course in dog behaviour because, having blundered in raising the blessed Lubo and letting that sweet but wilful wee dug rule the roost, I’m not about to compound those errors with Alfie.

Fortunately, the general mayhem of the last 10 days or so followed what was a quite wonderful 12 days cruising the Baltic Sea. We had been very lucky that our fabulous friends and family contributed so generously to our honeymoon fund and that paid for our Royal Caribbean cruise. Thank feck they did – the price of booze on the boat ($30 for a bottle of very ordinary Californian red) was enough to have this canny Scot considering walking the plank on day one!

Joking aside (I’m not really joking, the cost of booze was sore! Luckily for us, we made friends with a lovely barman …), the trip was a wonderful way to see a lot of places you wouldn’t normally travel to in a very short space of time – and minus the hassle of airports, juggling luggage and constantly checking into new hotels. Plus our nightly dining companions were a lovely bunch – Chris and Elaine from Bedfordshire, celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with best friends Marion and Allan from Devon; and Dubliners Michael and Marian, with whom we shared a night of ‘dad dancing’ shame in the boat’s ‘disco’.

While the boat was the size of a small skyscraper and had everything you could ever want on board, from a casino to two pools, a library and a spa, a gym (seriously, folk were in there working out at midnight – you’re on holiday, FFS!) and a climbing wall, it was our destinations that excited us most. I won’t bore you with a long travelogue but here’s where we went and here’s what we thought of it.

Copenhagen – not called wonderful for nothing. Quite beautiful, remarkably friendly and great food

Stockholm – gorgeous city in a magical setting of islands with fantastic food

Helsinki – another gorgeous city, more great food (Debbie ate Rudolph) and friendly but not over-friendly people

St Petersburg – quite simply gorgeous (the Stalinist housing scheme beside the docks notwithstanding). Two days here was not long enough to soak up or appreciate the sheer scale and beauty of the old city. Vodka and caviar with everything – what’s not to love?

Tallinn – like you’d just stepped on to a Disney set which was interesting for about 10 minutes and then not. Worth seeing but too full of Finnish weekenders getting bladdered on cheap booze to impress me much

Gothenburg – confirmed our new status as total Scandophiles. Like Copenhagen and Stockholm, its waterways are the city’s lifeblood and they’re a terrific way to see the city quickly. We loved it, especially the very low bridge known as the ‘haircutter’ – as our barge approached, the captain ordered us to sit on the floor to avoid decapitation!

Yes, the 'haircutter' bridge really was THAT low

And finally, as they say, for those ganting* for their fill of Scots word of the day, I’ll do a bumper blog of all the missing ones tomorrow.

*Ganting v: in desperate need of satisfaction, usually of the sexual kind

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


Sole survivor

Priorities, priorities, priorities.

Mine have been in a state of flux for months – first of all, it was selling not one but two flats in Glasgow. Once they were offloaded, the priority was moving south. Then I briefly became a wedding planner for the big day v.1 followed by the big day v.2.

And while all of that was going on, there was the not insignificant matter of figuring out how to earn a crust.

Sadly not all tootsies are this cute ...

In the last week, I’ve settled on a new priority – my feet.

Or, more pertinently, keeping my tootsies in tip-top condition.

My feet – and by extension (literally) my legs – have become the tools of my trade. Without these babies in full working order, Lead On wouldn’t be leading anything anywhere.

Hence today’s visit to a chiropodist and the wielding of a very large scalpel in the direction of a nasty in-growing toenail. As I consider feet and toes among the grossest parts of the body, and my own little Judith Chalmers’ chipolatas (© my brother Tony circa 1985) particularly unworthy of attention, I’ll leave the detail at that.

The visit did alert me to the need to take care of the wee buggers, tho, a warning reinforced by just how sore my plates of meat felt after an hour’s trudge along Shoreham Beach at lunchtime. Like most of the beaches on this stretch of the south coast, it’s a pebbly one and oh lord, the workout one’s calves get put a Zumba class to shame.

Warning: may shred on pebbled beach

Today’s walk was with Pepper, a sweet-natured German shepherd/collie cross who happily chases a ball for her entire walk. Which is great except that, despite my sensible and expensive footwear, I seem to walk like I am wearing Billy Connolly’s Big Banana Feet on those pebbles, leading to a two steps forward, three steps back scenario.

More worryingly for poor Pepper, I can’t throw a ball for toffee. Even with one of those ball thrower things. I’m so embarrassingly bad at it that today I managed to hit myself on the head with the thrower thing while the ball dribbled about 6 inches away!

I tried to laugh it off but Pepper slunk away in complete embarrassment while I thanked my lucky stars the beach was deserted.

Just as well for me that dogs can’t talk …

Manny has a ball

It’s been a busy week of walking and stuff for Lead On. Manny, the cocker/collie cross, enjoyed Friday afternoon at Casa Lead On to give him – and me – some company. Despite the torrential rain, the wee fella made a beeline for the garden and instantly sank his teeth into the ball we inherited from neighbourhood kids.

As he is only 14 weeks old, Manny is about the same size as the ball but he’s a game wee fella and he livened up what was a very dreich afternoon. He may be pint-size but he has a great big personality and I’m loving my time with him.

What's it all about, Alfie?

Also livening up my afternoons has been Alfie, the cocker pup. Like Manny, he’s just 14 weeks old and already a loveable rascal. I’m hoping that, once they are both a little older, I can walk them together which I think might be my biggest challenge yet.

The idea, of course, is that they learn from each other and also from me. As I am merely an amateur when it comes to dogs’ behaviour, I’m planning to learn more by enrollling on an autumn course at a local college. Who knows where that might lead?

Fran the van (you have to say this in the style of Bob Hoskins) was pressed into action again on Sunday on behalf of Snaffles Gourmet Dog Bisquits who had a stall at Bark in the Park, a fun dog show held at Queen’s Park in Brighton.

While there were dogs there of every shape and size, my heart was stolen by a cockapoo and I think Debbie and I might just have found our next dog …

Word to the wise

Skelf n: a splinter; also colloquially used to describe a skinny person. Eg: My finger is loupin*, I’ve got a bloody skelf stuck in it

Caw v: to turn or rotate. Eg: You’re cawing too fast, the rope keeps hitting ma legs

Plook/plooky n: spot, blemish. v: spotty. Eg: I can’t believe how plooky my face is, I look lke I’ve got teenage acne

Mockit adj: dirty, filthy, unclean. Eg: The carpet was mockit yesterday after thon wee dug kept running in and out of the garden

Dreep v: to lower oneself from a height, usually a wall, by hanging by one’s arms, then dropping down. Eg: We had to dreepy doon the bike shed wall when we saw the jannie heading our way

A sair haun literally translates as ‘a sore hand’ but actually means a great big sandwich (or piece!). Eg: Whit an appetite that boy’s got, you should see the size of the sair haun on him

Perjink adj: neat, smart, tidy, obsessed with appearance (relating to a person). Eg: Senga is always beautifully turned out, she’s very perjink