Monday, April 30, 2007

Casual labour

“Four,” he said.

I held his gaze. “K?” although it was more of a statement than a question. In this industry it couldn’t be anything else.

He nodded slightly. To be honest it was far more than I could have dreamed of, but I had on my best poker face. “Per week,” he added.

£8K for 2 weeks of driving a few actors to the set and back from their hotel and sitting around drinking coffee and solving Sudoku puzzles in between times? All my Christmases had come at once.

It didn’t really make sense though; I thought he was going to negotiate hard. “How much do you expect to get?” he’d asked at the outset. I’ve never been a driver for a production crew in my life so have no idea what the going rate is. What I do know, however, is when it comes to financial negotiations the person who mentions a price first usually loses.

I’d had about £1,500 in my head as a likely figure for the fortnight, so was so surprised at his first offer I forgot to haggle and just said, “Ok then.” Presumably my air of supreme confidence had overcome any deficiencies in my smile department, and he’d decided to make me a good offer at the outset. I felt pleased with myself for not punching the air or presenting anything other than a calm, confident, adult demeanour.

I phoned Maggie from the car. She sounded disbelieving when I told her how much they were offering, even though it could be 12+ hour days and unsociable hours. “Maybe I got the number of zeros wrong,” I said with a certain amount of mock self-effacement. But as I turned the mobile off I was suddenly awash with doubt.

What if he had meant four hundred per week? What if when I’d said “K?” he’d thought I’d said “OK!”?

Ohnohnohnohnohnohnohno… Bollocks!

It was like a punch in the stomach. In that instant it felt like someone had actually just stolen £7,200 out of my bank account and I was never going to see it again. If he had meant four hundred, then what he’d actually offered me was barely minimum wage for the hours I’d be working, in which case I’d just been shafted.

When he'd said “four”, it was the start of negotiations. I should have said “ten” then we’d have settled around “seven” or “eight”, which would have been pretty much the figure I had in my head in the first place. Instead my shock at him offering £4K per week at the outset had blown all the fuses in the rational section of my brain.

Given that I’m still suffering from bouts of low energy, I would have had to spend the fortnight on dangerous quantities of coffee and dodgy sleeping patterns, which would take their toll physically. Well worth it for £8K, but certainly not for one tenth that amount. Knowing it to be a long shot, I thought that if it was all a misunderstanting then I’d try and negotiate the rate back up to a decent figure when he rang this afternoon to go over the contract details.

He’d laughed heartily when I’d mentioned the £4K per week figure, reminding me of the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is” and assumed I was making a joke. But when I said £400 was too low he abruptly brought the call, and any further negotiations, to an end.

Personally I think he was just embarrassed at his poor communication skills.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


One of the things I discovered about myself many years ago, was that if I was placed in a situation where there were many different kinds of people to meet – school, university, certain work situations etc – over a period of time I would accumulate more female than male friends, possibly by as much as a ratio of 3 to 1.

For all of that, however, I was never a womaniser and would only ever be in one relationship at a time. Mind you, when I was younger and single, one of the most frustrating things in the universe was that so many women saw me purely in terms of friendship and wouldn’t countenance the idea of going out with me – it would have been “like dating a brother” I was once told. Fortunately that isn’t an issue any more as I’ve been in a deep and powerful relationship with Maggie for 16½ years now and cannot imagine being with anyone else.

For the past decade or so, since I became self-employed, I’d not been in a situation where I was meeting or socialising with an even mix of the sexes. It has to be said that the world of business is still male dominated and several of the businesswomen I had regular dealings with had adopted many perceived masculine traits in order to compete in this environment.

But here in the World of Blog, where there are virtually an infinite amount of people to choose from, it’s recently occurred to me that with no other restrictions in place, I seem to attract far more female bloggers than male – or at the very least, far more female commenters than male, as I have no idea how many “lurkers” there are on this blog.

So with nothing better to do, while I was printing out some high-resolution images of Maggie’s artwork to sell as prints this afternoon, I decided to go back over the comments in my posts for the last 2 months and see what the gender bias was. Below is what I discovered:

Male: 20
Female: 46
Unknown: 3

However, if I decide to eliminate those who have only commented once – random visitors who never return – then it looks like this:

Male: 12
Female: 37
Unknown: 1 (are robots gender assigned, Gyrobo?)

And if I only include those who have commented 10 times or more in the past 21 posts then we find:

Male: 1
Female: 8

If anyone has any ideas why I seem to attract more female than male readers, I’d be interested to know your thoughts, as I haven’t a clue.

Anyway, one of the other things I discovered in this exercise is that if I was offering out awards, then first place would have to go to Pat (Past Imperfect) who has commented more than any other, while commendations would have to go to Quinn, Eryl, Mary, Sam, Pendullum, Carole, Restaurant Gal and Dr Maroon, who have all reached double figures.

I love you all

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Exhibition is Open

“Beautiful, colourful work with superb textures”

“Exciting and beautiful! The two don’t always go together”

“Unique, inspiring & thought provoking”

“Very emotional, beautiful”

“Wonderful – such feeling. ‘Remembrance’ made me cry!”

“I like my mum’s artwork”

These are just some of the comments left in the visitor’s book yesterday after the first day of Maggie’s exhibition. Admittedly the last one was written by our daughter, Meg, and I had to help her spell ‘artwork’, but it was from the heart.

It’s wonderful to see Maggie’s work hanging up in a decent space with room to move and view it properly, rather than crammed into our house, sitting on top of boxes and taking up room in the hallway.

Maggie pours a great deal of emotion into every piece and uses the variety of texture and colour to express these feelings, but there’s no way of knowing whether it will affect anyone else’s aesthetic sense. But yesterday several people took the time to say they felt genuinely moved by Maggie’s art.

Maggie was also moved to tears when she came home to discover our 11 year old son, Rogan, had made her a chocolate cake to celebrate her first solo exhibition – partly by the fact that this was the first time he had ever attempted a full cake on his own, and partly because the kitchen looked like a bomb consisting of flour, icing sugar and cocoa powder had exploded in it.

Damn fine cake though. He has his mother’s touch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Maggie Ayres - An Exhibition of Textile and Mixed Media Art

From this Saturday until next Maggie has her first solo exhibition, entitled "Beginnings", in the Castle Douglas Art Gallery. She's been working like mad finishing her pieces of art while I've been keeping the kids out of her way as much as possible and helping her to create and print posters, postcards and update her website (

In fact, if anyone wants to print out a poster and advertise the event in their workplace or window, then you can download a PDF version by right clicking an selecting "Save As" on this link Beginnings Poster. OK, most of you will be too far away for your advertising to make much difference, but you never know. And if you are local(ish), do come along and tell your friends.

Woohoo! I've just had root canal treatment!

Now there's a title I never thought I'd ever write.

The injection's just beginning to wear off...


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tooth progress

I am on the cancellation list, which means I might only get an hour’s notice of an available dental appointment. The future of my front tooth is now wholly dependent on the deaths of relatives, accidents and unforeseen circumstances of a whole bunch of complete strangers. I could make a regular appointment, but the current waiting list means I wouldn’t get seen at all before next January.




According to the dentist it’s a miracle that this crown hasn’t come out before, as it is completely unusable. Quite what this implies for the other 3 crowns on the top front row of my mouth doesn’t bear thinking about.

After a quick x-ray, it was established that at least the root looks OK, so I will need to have root canal treatment, then she will need to make a post, have a new crown built and fit it. Four or five sessions of treatment which could be spread over several months, and all the time I carry on looking like I’d win the duelling banjos competition by smiling at the judges.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

New Look...

Have you ever been chewing the top of a pen while writing and it’s suddenly cracked and given way and you end up with a few shards of plastic in your mouth? That’s what I thought had happened when I was sitting in bed writing my diary this morning. But when I pulled the pen out of my mouth I was surprised to find it completely intact. A fraction of a second later it dawned on me what had just happened as my tongue shot up to a gap and I spat out my front tooth.

Actually it’s a crown and fortunately it doesn’t hurt, but after calling the dentist every 4 minutes for an hour and a half, and only getting the answer machine, I was beginning to fear that out our tenuous link to any hope of dental services in this corner of Scotland (see Dentists, NHS and Poland) had disappeared right at the time I needed it most. However, at 9.45am I was called back to say my dentist is away on holiday but I can be squeezed in for an emergency session on Tuesday.

In the meantime I have become intensely aware of how many words begin with “F and “V”, and that I can’t seem to kiss my children. Partly this is to do with the fact that when you pucker up you create a certain amount of suction between your lips and front teeth. I had no idea this was the case until the gap where the tooth used to be prevented this subtle and delicate oral manoeuvre. The other part is to do with the fact that my kids now cringe whenever I come near them. This new look of mine is apparently quite disturbing.

I might have a degree in philosophy but I now look like a country hick whose mother is also his sister and his regular lover supplies all the family’s wool needs.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Play?

In most parts of Britain, the Nativity Play at Christmas is the central part of any school year, where primary school children are concerned. Whoever gets to play Mary will undoubtedly go on in life to either create her own million-dollar cosmetics empire, or become a teenage mother. There is no in-between. The rest of the children are hierarchically organised into kings, angels, shepherds and barn animals, with twinkling stars represented by the kids who frequently trip over their own shoelaces.

However, given that the real power of the Christ Story is actually to do with his demise on the cross and subsequent resurrection, it always surprised me there was no nativity-style equivalent play taking place in schools just before the Easter holidays.

I asked a primary school teacher I knew about this once. “To avoid child abuse,” she replied. When I questioned her further she explained that in every class there is at least one little bastard who it would be far too tempting to nail to a piece of wood.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Blong Cuts

“Cu*t” said Dr Maroon as I walked into Cap’n Bobs to meet him for lunch.

“F*ck!” I replied.

“No you idiot, cu*t. Look, just get rid of the asterisk.”

“This is a family friendly blog,” I said, “there are parents and grandmothers reading this. I’m not going to allow foul language here. Keep it for Blunt Cogs.”

“Blunt Cogs is what I’m talking about.”

“And you still expect me to remove the asterisk?”

“For goodness sake, Ayres, trust me on this one.” Maroon looked at me firmly with those startlingly pale blue eyes of his and I felt my suspicions wavering.

“OK, Ack, but you’d better not let me down on this one. I’m going to remove the asterisks… now!”

“Cult,” he said.

I breathed a sigh of relief before asking, “What on earth are you on about?”

He then proceeded to tell me everything I need to know about how to turn Blunt Cogs around from a minor blog, with only handful of daily visits, into a major cult phenomenon. So over the next week or so I’m going to instigate some key changes, but in the spirit of “never apologise and never explain” this will be the last time I mention it.

He also told me where the Illuminati were going wrong and how I should be raising my children, but at that point he was beginning to froth slightly at the mouth so I just nodded politely.

He did, however, appreciate that once the asterisks had been removed he could see I had in fact been referring to Fock, the creator of Fock space, which is an algebraic system used in quantum mechanics to describe quantum states with a variable or unknown number of particles.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Café Continental, Dumfries

With a name like Café Continental, you might assume that you’d be able to buy croissants fresh from the oven for breakfast. You might even assume you’d be able to enjoy an espresso, cappuccino or latte to go with it. But you’d assume wrong. This café is about as continental as a cheap scotch pie with added gristle.

Having dropped my car off to get its 37,500mile service (quite why Mazda chose every 12,500 miles as its service cycle is anyone’s guess) first thing in the morning, I needed somewhere out of the cold to sit until the library opened.

For 20 minutes I sat near the bottled gas heater, cradling the cup and sipping the dishwater-like substance, which, rumour had it, had shared a pot with a teabag at some point in the distant past. The conversation between the owner and one of his regulars covered such diverse topics as the exorbitant amount of money the local council charges for business rates, the decline of tourism in Dumfries, the fact that the council paid for, or at least subsidised, a bus to take people out to Tesco Superstore on the edge of town, but not to his café, and the fact that even recovering alcoholics should be presented with a clean cup and table when coming in for a pot of tea.

Then the customer says, “Ye ken whit annoys me? The smoking ban disnae happen in England ‘til later this year, but we had it last year. Why didnae they have the ban at the same time as us, ye ken?”

“Aye well,” begins the owner, “it just means they’re smoking for an extra 12 months so it’ll kill a few more of them aff.” Hearty chuckle.

“Aye, I shouldnae complain,” laughs the customer.

Just the kind of culturally tolerant, cosmopolitan attitude you’d expect in a Continental Café I guess.