Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Opinion:Celtic need to think again and so do we

One thing a few of you will know is that I am trying to turn my life around. The stress I have underwent in the last five years has taken its toll on my health and it is a big wake up call. I've no been drinking, have given up the smokes for good and am trying to watch what I eat whilst exercising more. Hopefully it can make me physically better.

Mentally, who knows? I am prone to the odd rant and have been trying for a calmer outlook on life. Thing is, one thing that winds me up more and more is people who don't have an opinion on anything. The amount of safe "please don't be offended by me" pish you need to wade through on Twitter these days is turning it into a sewing bee(that's no dig at women btw, most of the best tweeters these days are women) but we are at the point where it's "Good luck to St Johnstone" or "Strange one with Bangura, eh?" or the relentless frenzy of folk who read one tweet and within in an hour transfers have collapsed/bids are accepted/rejected/denied and so on. Point being, hard to keep calm.

Abuse button? Go ahead but make sure you give all a big paddle to wade through this shit too.

My big peev is this, whilst all this is going on, the real issues are getting buried and here are the two biggest ones I think that have not been highlighted:

The first is the cost of a ticket for tonight. £20 for a season ticket holder, £22 for a non season ticket holder. To some that's a drop in the ocean, to others, a serious commitment. You will have seen the horrific zero hours contracts that were ratified this week, you will note that the east end of Glasgow has 43% of its children living in extreme poverty and you will see that Celtic have had to close part of the Lisbon Lions Upper. Now as far as I can see, that should mean a re-think of match ticket pricing. I know the season ticket cost came down by £100, it had to, and articles moaning about a £4m loss because of it are not required because it's not relevant given that you'd be losing a lot more than £4m had the prices not come down.

So I complained to Celtic. I said that this is a qualifier before a play off and we should not be getting charged for it. If we continually will be, then don't call it a season ticket. The reason came back: You were only charged £20 last season for the Swedish champions so belt up. Fine, again, an attitude from Celtic that says "We are right and everyone else is wrong". You may even be reading this thinking I am wrong, good, at least it's an opinion. If I am wrong though, why are sections being closed? I can tell you now out of my circle of friends who go to watch Celtic, only about three of them I know are definitely going tonight. The rest simply can't afford it.

Celtic can't ignore this forever and in a game that should have a full house, you know and I know there will not be. Worst of all, Celtic already know.

The other thing that has got my goat, if you'll pardon the pun, is the frenzy folk are getting in with the media. Now, I will attack the media as much as anyone when I think it merits, but no matter how hard Jack Irvine tries, the media is not our real enemy. Certain aspects of the media are just a circus act, clowns sent to distract you and to distort information whilst the real enemies keep getting away with it again. A hardy band of Tims are on the case of these people, I see guys every day holding the SFA to account, keeping their eye pieces on Sevco and reminding us all about UEFA licences and that's the way we need to keep going.

Believe me, if we have learnt anything from the last 25 years, it's that the media are a drop in the ocean.

In an ideal world Celtic will win comfortably tonight and folk will stop being upset by Hugh Keevins.

We just need to get our own ideals unified first and remember that we are a collective, it should never be a group of individuals and one voice would help with everything, not least wading through Twitter.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 7-Evidently Chickentown

Well, it's over, just finished a ready meal from Asda and I can say "Thank God I don't need to go through another week like that"

Or can I?

The life you have read me experience in the last week isn't that far from my own but this is not about me.

See, my little "experiment" was laced with falsehoods. I didn't lie at all but there were lots of things that were not taken into consideration.

And were only mentioned by one person to me among the myriad of comments I got this week.

There were no council tax or bedroom tax bills mentioned.

Nor was the fact that being able to afford, TV, phone, broadband would be impossible with that income.

That's before you think about trying to get a job.

It was a week of walking, scrimping, boredom, isolation, desperation and alienation.

Out of everyone who knew about it, two people actually offered help, Jane Hamilton and Colette McCann.

I declined both because this wasn't about that. I do thank both though for their kindness offered though.

This was about being able to give an opinion on extreme poverty and being able to wade through the bile and lies that you hear about it.

This is not a lifestyle choice and nor has it ever been.

I hope it made you think, if not, here is the soundtrack to my week.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 6-Adaptation

Terry Waite was once chained to a radiator in Lebanon for four years. After release he admitted that about a year into his kidnap he started to get used to his situation.

Today was a good day as Ice Cube would say.

I walked into Leith Walk today, which is about four miles from my house, and I felt good doing it. My head was clear and I felt stronger. A friend saw a photo of me from Saturday and complimented me on my weight loss. That put a spring in my walk I can tell you. After my business in Leith Walk (dropping something off), I walked to Asda at Newhaven to stretch out the £7.90 I had left.

I did not bad at all. I was able to get a sandwich for lunch, my tea for tonight and two ready meals for tomorrow. Sitting in their cafe felt good, was a nice rest and the sandwich (Tuna) was great.

Eventually, I stood up with the intention of walking back to my home when I realised that my legs had stiffened to the point of real pain. I tried to walk it off but could not do it and was thankful that I still had £1.50 left so I could get a bus.

There's no doubt in my mind that, after walking 29 miles this week, my legs simply said "enough"

That wasn't the worrying thing though.

Sitting on the bus gave me time to think and I realised that things like cheaply priced ready meals and having enough change to get a bus were making me happy and THAT is a worry.

Should we really accept this standard of living?

My legs say no.

Day 5-The Longest Day

Alienation is a horrible thing. Thatcher always denied it even existed in the UK. After my spend on Saturday my budget on Sunday morning was at £16. A fiver of that had to go into the electricity right away as it was dangerously close to power cut.

There will be no cooking, showers or bath today.

Absolutely nothing happens round my way on a Sunday. The streets are deserted, the shops don't open long and waking up on a Sunday morning here is akin to Cillian Murphy waking up on 28 Days Later.

It hits you early, that feeling of emptiness and helplessness that you have nothing to do and no money to do it with.

I had my Weetabix breakfast and then pondered my day. Twitter is slagged off a lot but it will be a Godsend today, as will Facebook Messenger. So I decide to walk up to Tesco at Corstorphine. It's a huge place and they always have deals. On the way there I cave in a bit and buy a sausage roll from Greggs. Not good for my budget but I was starving.

I complete the walk in the pissing rain and buy a 42p bottle of juice, 23p pack of Rich Tea and 79p curry.

I make the long trudge home feeling like I've just jumped in a swimming pool fully clothed. I get home about 3pm and don't know what to do. There is nothing going on and no amount of denial can hide the utter despair right now.  I dream of someone reading these and saying "Hey, come round for a Sunday Roast with all the trimmings!" but no one does.

I decide watch the film Serpico and it takes me back to when I lived in The Bronx and as bad it gets for me here, living in poverty in America is ten times worse as people throw round $20 bills before they even start spending money.

After the film I sit for a while in total contemplation which begins to lift me out of despair. I realise that no matter how soaked I got on my walk, I still have the ability to do it and I know a few people who would kill for that ability right now. The film also made me drift back to New York and remember a time in my life when things were not a struggle and for millions of people, they have no recall for anything like that.

I eat my curry which is surprisingly good and scan around Twitter.

Then I spot that Crocodile Dundee is on council telly and get a bit excited at the prospect.

Which shows how long a day it's been.

I'm trying spend a week with a budget of £71.70. The money I saved from my normal weekly budget was used to get three people, who normally can't afford it, to Celtic Park on Saturday.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 4-The Hunger Games

Weekends in poverty are the worst. Your situation is amplified as the days seem longer and everyone else seems to be spend their weekends cavorting around spending cash like Imelda Marcos.

At least that's how it seems.

My day started bad as, for various reasons, my lift to the game fell through and so I had to get a train which was a dagger in the heart of my budget so I had to walk to the train station and back (eight mile round trip) and in the morning the heat was murderous.

I had Weetabix for my breakfast and calculated that the cheapest lunch I could get would be a £1 egg sandwich from Morrisons.  Thing is the walk completely wiped out the energy gained from the Weetabix so I gave in with the sandwich and ate it by 1145am. 

This meant a hell of a long day at the game.

Speaking of the game I was able to get three people into it for nothing, which was one of the two points of doing this and it felt really enriching. Whilst living in poverty it is practically impossible to do anything monetarily for anyone but to not feel written off allows the possibility of being nice to exist. 

To be written off though can lead to an attitude.

Whilst eating my sandwich I was sat next to two guys from London who were clearly in Edinburgh as part of The Fringe and their conversation at one point got got to one of them looking at my sandwich and saying to his mate "Fancy some lunch?" and his mate seeing him look at my sandwich with disdain and retorting "Yeah, a proper launch though"

Which after a 4 mile walk in searing heat and an Ice Cream stand in full view, made me feel small and inappropriate.

And hate the fuckers.

The hunger kicked in all day an being at the game not being able to afford anything to eat at the game was tough.

The prices at Celtic Park for food are obscene.

A "deal" at Celtic Park is a hot dog, small drink and packet of crisps for £7. Or 10% of my weekly budget for one "meal". That's not realistic and makes me feel inadequate as the hunger kicks in and a Pepsi is imagined like a waterfall after my four mile walk.

After the game, it was back home to do the last #10inarowshow which was a welcome distraction from the reality of there being no chance of going to the cinema, theatre or even just having a couple of pints.

Besides, it's not sensible to drink on an empty stomach.

I'm trying spend a week with a budget of £71.70. The money I saved from my normal weekly budget was used to get three people, who normally can't afford it, to Celtic Park on Saturday.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Day 3-This land is your land

The house behind that huge gate, pillars and massive tress belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch. As well as being rhyming slang for the job centre, the Duke is one wealthy dude. So much so it is said that you can walk from this house in north Edinburgh to south Ayrshire and never once have to leave his land.

More and more you get told what you cannot do these days. We also live in a "Why?" generation. I'm going to write a book "Why?" We are going to protest against the ridiculous prices of food at Celtic Park "Why?" I think we should walk a mile in others shoes before judging them "Why?"

Speaking of walking miles, I walked eight of them today. I had to go into Leith and back so decided to save the £3 bus fare and walk. With the £3 saved I treated myself to a large pasta from Morrisons (you know the ones that you make up yourself?) for £2.70. I felt really hungry after a meagre meal last night.

I sat around most of the rest of the day, aching from the walk and treated myself to a bit TV before finishing my Peter Hook book.

I then had one more crack at liking Iain Banks books but no, I just find them boring (Sorry Iain, still love ya)

At least he wrote continuously though and that I applaud, he probably said "I'm going to write a book" and the person he told said "Why not?"

Maybe I'll walk to south Ayrshire.

I'll need to, read this:

I'm trying spend a week with a budget of £71.70. The money I save from my normal weekly budget will be used to get three people, who normally can't afford it, to Celtic Park on Saturday.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 2-Eternal Sunshine

Having very little budget for food and electricity is one thing. Having no budget whatsoever for any kind of leisure activity is another. If you've got money, you take it for granted, if you don't have it, it's pretty much all you think about until you do.

Now I am lucky, I have my favourite leisure activity coming up on Saturday but given my budget for this week I am only able to do it because it's a freebie and I am getting a lift there and back.

Most folk who have to live on £71.70 a week wouldn't be that lucky.

Today I got up and felt a bit tired. I had done the penultimate #10inarow into the wee sma hoors and felt good after it. Made me feel good this morning as well so I didn't dwell on the tiredness.

I went to the shop and bought Weetabix (12 for £1) and milk for 59p (one pint) and had two Weetabix for my breakfast.

I'm not a huge TV watcher (handy because I don't have a huge TV) so wondered what I would do today. A friend suggested lunch but I couldn't afford lunch out so decided on a walk instead. 

I got caught in a massive downpour which curtailed any enjoyment that a walk may have brought. I ended up stopping at a Sainsburys, feeling sorry for myself, and bought a water (80p) and Tomato and Basil soup for £1.89 for my lunch.

They had free newspapers to read and also The Sun so I shook my head in the utter drivel contained.

Walking back home, I spent most of the day reading. I'm currently reading Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures which I picked up from the library. I had a banana and some Ryvita for my tea and had an incredible craving for a fish supper which is probably still there right now.

I'm going to bed early tonight as I am pretty tired from last night and thinking a lot about how I can fill my time is pretty weary.

I'm trying spend a week with a budget of £71.70. The money I save from my normal weekly budget will be used to get three people, who normally can't afford it, to Celtic Park on Saturday.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A week is a long time in poverty

You may have noticed that I am prone to the odd rant. It may surprise you to know that the stuff I get the most abuse for, by miles, is any time I talk about poverty.

So I want to explore it more and give as informed an opinion as I can.

I like to be someone who acts rather than just says but that has lapsed in recent times so I've decided to do something about it.

£71.70 is what the state gives a single, unemployed man a week to live on. From today (Wednesday) at 9am that is what I am living on for a week.

I'll be honest, I don't live on much more anyway, (Bursaries and Book sales in the main) so I know some of the angles required to survive.

I want to highlight what it is like to live in poverty, the extreme poverty 2 million people in Scotland currently live in.

I want to highlight the privilege that still goes on for the few even in 2013.

I have one real luxury in my life, Celtic, so they will, as usual, play a bit part in this.

Also, with the money I save, I am going to get three people to Celtic Park, who can't normally afford it, on Saturday for the game. It will be up to them whether they want their names here or not.

All I ask of you is to read the blogs I do, daily, for the next week, which will come at the end of each day, starting tomorrow night. That's it, nothing more, no grand speeches or constant updates on Twitter, just a blog a day and yes, I know it's not quite Frankie Boyle on hunger strike but I'd be delighted if anyone else did something better than I am doing to highlight poverty.

So, £71.70.

Well, I just went to Morrisons and bought the following

Morrisons Diluted Juice-30p
Morissons Rich Tea Biscuits-23p
Seafood Sticks-99p
Two tins of Morrisons Tomato Soup-26p each
Morrisons Pizza-50p

Total cost-£4.53

So I currently have £67.17 left and that electricity meter is at £1.32 right now.

I'll push the emergency button now I think.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Songs, Smoke and Sevco

As Celtic start to click in to gear on the park, and off it the club enjoys its healthiest position ever, you always find that the last conformation needed is when the spin from Sevco becomes so nonsensical that even Andy Coulson would frown on it.

You have to wonder about the mindset of people who, upon hearing that a bus has been fire-bombed, go hell for leather to find any connection to Celtic fans so yet another campaign of whataboutery can go into full swing. In a timeline that includes showcasing said bus, said bus being torched and Ally McCoist commenting on it from a pre season tour, whilst none of those things may have any connection at all, then surely these Super Sevco Sleuths are at that "Just one more thing" stage that Columbo used to revel in.

But no.

Instead they are tuned into radios pretending to hear songs about Lee Rigby and demanding UEFA shut down Celtic immediately. Clearly there were a few idiots at Brentford (I've yet to go anywhere in my entire life where I didn't encounter idiots), by the look of things a combination of the heat and the drink getting one or two excited and if they get chucked out, they have no one to blame but themselves but the mass huddle, the atmosphere created and the huge wedge made by Brentford will ensure an invite back next year, you can count on that.

These are desperate times at Sevco.

The transfer kitty for McCoist has evaporated, the continued programme of redundancy goes on and Charlotte Fakeover revelations act as a constant reminder of how things are run down Edminston Drive.

Throw in the serious plummet in share price and the millions being shaved off the value of the company and you know it's only a matter of time before things go slightly turbo at the Sports Socks Arena.

And when they do you can bet, in their eyes, Celtic fans will be to blame.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Celtic TV and all that

"Graham Wilson likes to moan doesn't he?"

If I had a pound for every time someone said that to me this week...

The target of his angst this week was Celtic TV. He had gone home to watch the Cliftonville game on Wednesday but spent most of the afternoon, in Washington D.C., trying to sort out buffering issues. I've experienced this many times in New York and know how frustrating it can be (ok, I didn't rant like a kid at an Ice Cream Parlour that has just sold its last cone but we all have our faults)

Now, some folk think we just criticise Celtic for the sake of it, me in particular. As well as that being as far from the truth as Charles Green, the feedback we got after the Celtic TV discussion was incredible. Lots and lots of people tweeted, DM'd, emailed and so on discussing the many issues they have continued to encounter and an "end of tether" vibe appeared.

(There was also an email which praised the board and said we were wrong to criticise them and other people at Celtic and that's fair enough, no problem with that at all)

The great thing is, in this new area of club/fan interaction, Celtic were in touch on Thursday regarding the issues and with some general points designed to inform the fans more. We will discuss it in far more detail on the show tonight.

Now, we can blast all day at Celtic TV but that in itself is a step in the right direction and one I have been screaming for to happen for years.

Whether it is enough to satisfy Graham, remains to be seen...

The 10 in a row show will be live at 5pm CPT tonight (Saturday)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

SFA as corrupt as ever

No one will be surprised by the news that the SFA are taking no action over the blatantly obvious links between Charles Green and Craig Whyte. Expecting serious action to be taken was like expecting Germaine Greer to be on the first tee at Muirfield tomorrow.

The key line in from the SFA was they looked at the information from the Pinsent Masons investigation(this stuff just writes itself doesn't it). Pinsent Masons were, of course, appointed to figure out how to get Green and Whyte out of this mess, I mean investigate the links.

So, as expected, we have another whitewash and a "Nothing to see here Timmy" attitude prevailing.

This will only last so long though.

The SFA will eventually realise that fans in this country are sick to the back teeth of everything associated with them and once their Wembley junket is over, we will go back to the reality of the national team being unable to sell out games, total apathy towards anything coming out of Hampden and folk trying to figure out what exactly Mark Wotte does.

The sinister aspect though is that we have yet another scenario where anything and everything has been done to preserve Newco, much in the same way they tried, and failed, to do with Oldco. This is why eyes must be focused on the SFA still.

The funniest thing about all of this is you still have basket cases out there who will tell you that Peter Lawwell runs the SFA.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lording it up

The first reaction I had to Celtic director Ian Livingston becoming a Lord was "Who?". Researching all his achievements as a director, which took the same amount of time as it did researching my achievements as a ballet dancer, I thought he might have been given a Lordship for helping the impoverished people of the east end of Glasgow, given the name he took,  but then I remembered that no one goes into the House of Lords because they helped poor people.

I bet, like me, your heart swelled with pride as you read that he would be accompanied by John Reid, now Baron Reid of Cardowan (DangerMouse immediately springs to mind) who must be being rewarded for his services to incompetence in public office.

All joking aside, do we really need this stuff on the official Celtic website? Is there any Celtic fan out there who actually relates to this stuff?

The aspiration of our great club should include representing the people who support it, embodying their hopes and dreams. That should be a pre-requisite, right?

Maybe I'm sitting in the wrong seat at Celtic Park or drinking in the wrong boozers in the Gallowgate, but I've not encountered anyone talking about what Baroness D'Souza said to Lord Hill of Oareford the night before.

I must be mixing in the wrong circles.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Last Pearl Diver goes for one more swim

I have a wee ritual after I finish a book and it's out there. I try to let as many folk as I can.

I think everything has a shelf life when it comes to promoting and on Tuesday The Last Pearl Diver will reach the end of his.

It was my first novel and I am immensely proud of what it achieved and the impact it had (who can ever forget the Cheesey Pasta revival on Twitter it caused?)and I love the fact that people are still pondering it.

So I will be punting it pretty incessantly for the next two days and then after that not at all because I believe you have to give a book time to grow and hopefully blossom into something people like to look at.

So if you fancy helping give it a little punt or even buying it, come on, dive in...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Season's Resolutions

The Celtic Trust have announced their resolutions for the 2013 AGM at Celtic.

In a positive reaction to the appointment of a new Supporters Liaison Officer, The Trust have tailored, if you'll pardon the pun, the first resolution to embrace the appointment and seek good relations with the SLO.

Something I don't think will be an issue.

The second resolution is something close to my heart. Asking Celtic to adopt the Living Wage policy is something that must be embraced by the club. Scotland is drowning in poverty right now and any move to help alleviate that is a good thing.

It is often said that winter is the hardest time to poor and, believe me, having to choose between heat and food is about as bad as it gets. In the summer though, there are lots of things that give painful reminders to people in poverty just how hard they have it and I don't just mean folk posting holiday snaps every hour, on the hour.

I hope all shareholders back these resolutions and The Trust get the support they deserve on these issues.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Front of The Bus 2.0

Yes it's one of those backslapping posts that come every so often, no one really reads and like most of the rest, it's someone else who needs their back, er, slapped.

I've tried to use the summer recess to get my shit together in terms of the books I have out being reformatted (PGH) and covers remastered (ADW, PGH and BAMN). My website is currently getting some wee tweaks and this blog has just had it's first makeover in the three years since I started it.

Of course, I say that like I just clicked my fingers and it happened but in reality I paid someone who knows what he is doing and he did it all, that someone is @90gaffney who makes up for his lack of social graces with some supreme design and computer skills.

I'm kidding of course, the man is a lady killer and I don't mean like Peter Sutcliffe for all you doubters out there.

I've never been one for thinking that blogs need to look good, the content is all matters, but it was time to give a shout out to The Gaffer for his sterling work.

And maybe acknowledge that I finally got my arse in gear.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Football on a Saturday

Yes, it's true. As we come to the end of that period we get every summer, where people pretend to care about Tennis, Cricket and Golf, Celtic are playing football today. On a Saturday. Yippee! It's not that I dislike Andy Murray or wish him any ill will it's just I don't really relate to anyone from Scotland who argues like this:

"Oh come on, it's still light, that's not fair, what are the rules here?"

Like shopping at Asda, the Edinburgh Festival and Barbecues, we all get sucked into such nonsense when Celtic aren't around. Stuff we would not even look at if an important trip to Dingwall was on the cards.

Krys Kujawa got so bored he decided to conceive a child for God's sake. (Congrats!)

But now it's over.

We enter the second stage of recovery today. The door was pushed open slightly on Wednesday but football should never start midweek, not really. So, we now move into a period where all that matters are the friendlies. Where fans can pore over new formations, strips and haircuts and Celtic can be the only club in the world to have a crisis in July.

I love it.

The rule of thumb with friendlies is pretty simple, if you are playing well and scoring goals, it's a good indicator of the season which is about to unfold where you are going to sweep the boards. If you are losing and your strikers look like they had never stepped onto a football field in any guise other than replacing turf, it's all about fitness.

So I'm looking forward to tonight and the inevitable "We are going to win the Champions League/Disband the whole club" reaction we will get, laced with the proper swearing and threats that you only get at Wimbledon when they run out of Strawberries.

Hey, there is even a #10inarow podcast post match.

It's good to be back.