Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Andrew Collins and life on the School Run

Saturday 22 August 2009

Drop K and F off at ballet and head off to do battle with the Edinburgh traffic. I’m pretty sure I’ll park at New Street car park, which backs on to Waverley Station. I survive Queen Street and Picardy Place before heading down Calton Road and then into New Street. Never having been in this particular car park before I’m not sure of the layout so I pick the first space I can find. Unfortunately it’s between two cars that are both parked diagonally in their respective rectangles. I ponder leaving a note on the window of the worst offender but I see what appears to be a Turkish flag in the car and I decide against it, figuring they might not understand the sarcastic tone of my missive. Being distracted by the parking prats, and just to make matters worse, I bump the front of the car. Yet more scratches.

I figure, having consulting the car park company’s website, that I have 4 hours so I synchronise my watch and head off in the direction of East Market Street. I’ve got loads of time so I wander along Jeffrey Street, snapping the Tempting Tattie (the scene of today’s flashmob), and then up the Royal Mile, taking in the Festival air. I’ve never been to the Underbelly before and I only know that it’s in the Cowgate somewhere. The Cowgate never fails to bring back memories. It always pains me to see Siglo, a horrible identikit pub, which replaced my beloved spit-and-sawdust Green Tree of my early 20s. I had so many great nights in there and in the club across the road, where I met my wife.

It turns out that the Underbelly is a multi-levelled nook-and-cranny venue between the Cowgate and Victoria Street. It’s reminiscent of The Mission, which is a few doors down on Victoria Street. I don’t know if “The Mish” still operates but I saw some great bands there “back in the day” and for only a few quid. There wasn’t a week went by when you couldn’t see The Fizzbombs, One Thousand Violins or the psychedelic pre-dance Shamen.

I wander around the Underbelly exploring every little cove. At first I’m rather self-conscious then I realise I’m surrounded by many others in the same drifting boat, so I don’t feel so bad. I did what I usually do in these circumstances; I pretended I was looking for someone. This wasn’t so far from the truth in that I was looking for the person who was front of the queue. I find where I’m supposed to wait and wander about for a bit before planting myself on a windowsill. The area is hot and the cool breeze from the open window is a godsend. My window seat happens to be where the queue starts but as there’s only one other person around I don’t feel bad for jumping the queue.

More and more people arrive and I marvel at how well organised the queuing system is. The queuing areas are marked out on the floor. It never ceases to amaze me the reaction of some people. They turn up five minutes before the doors are due to open and seem astonished that so many others are there before them – “Oh, there’s a queue!” I HATE queue-jumpers. It’s bad manners, pure and simple. And cheating! Someone who has been waiting for 20 minutes should get in before somewhere who’s been waiting for 5 minutes. Thankfully the most stressful part of my work day – the queue for the bus home and the “jostling” for position – is, thanks to a change in work hours and use of the family car, long gone.

Being so tall I don’t usually sit at the front – I’m considerate like that – but on this occasion I want to see and hear everything. I apologise to the people behind me for being so tall, although I don’t have to. It’s a pre-emptive strike against any moans of “I can’t see” or “why doesn’t he wear a top hat too and be done with it?”

The podcast, apparently not one of their best, is very enjoyable and has me in tears of laughter. Richard Herring has organised a daily event whereby all the podcast audience are invited along to the Tempting Tattie to try and eat all the baked potatoes in the shop. Richard even has his own topping, cheese and mango chutney, which wouldn’t be my first choice. Or 41st come to think of it.

The Tattie “army” assembles in the entrance of the Underbelly (Cowgate end) and begins the short yomp to Jeffrey Street for Operation Baked Potato Sell-Out. I’d already bumped into Andrew before the show. He’s smaller than I imagined but everyone, except John Leslie, appears shorter than me so that’s hardly a surprise. We discussed the format for the day. He needs to get back to Edinburgh for a show at 1830 but he isn’t staying for a baked potato at the Tempting Tattie. Fine by me, I say. You have a chat at the Tattie with friends and fans and I’ll get the car. Deal!

We walk to Jeffrey Street via the Cowgate and St. Mary’s Street and I regale Andrew with tales of my past in the area. The queue at The Tattie is long and I’m quite glad we’ve decided against lunch there. I go off to get the car and Andrew chats with fans while selling audio books out of his carrier bag.

After a false start, I finally exit the car park. It turns out that it’s £4 to park all day on Saturday or Sunday so I needn’t have worried – why don’t they say this on the website? A toot of the horn, some goodbyes from Andrew and we’re off. Due to the tramworks, I have to take a somewhat elongated route out of Edinburgh. I give Andrew a guided tour of Abbeyhill, London Road, the Cathedral at Picardy Place (where I got married) and Queen Street. I relax when we get to Queenferry Road, a road I’ve driven along a lot and know very well, mainly because it’s my route home from work. Our sharp exit from Edinburgh means we don’t have to rush so much. Andrew takes the opportunity while in the car to upload the podcast. It’s fully uploaded just as we get to the hospital radio station in Kirkcaldy. Perfect timing.

I have to admit to being rather nervous. ‘Hero’ probably isn’t the right word but Andrew is someone I admire very much and I don’t want to make an arse of myself. I’ve prepared for the interview and written (and re-written) some questions. I try to keep them short because it isn’t about me; it’s about Andrew and the audio book. After a quick test of the microphones we get started. My voice is sounding a bit weak and wimpy, if I’m being honest, and Andrew sounds like, well, a professional. He’s loud and clear and never anything less than interesting. To be honest I don’t hear everything he says because I’m thinking of the next question or the record I’m getting ready. It’s only when I listen back to the interview later that night that I hear just how good an orator he is. Maybe he’s well rehearsed in talking about the book/audio book and why wouldn’t he be, he’s a pro.

After some one-line trailers and the usual photos – he takes one of me using his Macbook, Elaine from VRN takes two of us in front of the VRN sign (for the station Memories album) – we’re heading back to Edinburgh. Never one for wasting a minute, he writes his blog on the M92 as I drive south; I try to drive a steady 60mph. I admire his dedication and focus and this is something I aspire to. A 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, job and a 5-year old daughter are not entirely inducive to getting some quality writing time. I’m writing a book but it’s a slow process, trying to grab an hour here, 45 minutes there. But Andrew has encouraged me to keep plugging away at it and that I shall.

We’ve made such good time that I’m able to drop off Andrew near the flat he’s staying at in the capital. After a farewell ‘toot’, I’m off on my fourth journey of the day over the Forth Road Bridge – thank god they scrapped the tolls. When I get home I wind down with a coffee and relate the days adventures to the Good Lady Wife. After Flick’s bedtime stories, I listen to the interview in its entirety. Although I’m not happy with my own voice Andrew comes across brilliantly and I’m just relieved that the microphones were working. I take out about 20 seconds worth of me going “er” and “um” and there’s 31 minutes left, which’ll be slotted into tomorrow’s show. I’m happy and relax for the rest of the evening.

Sunday 23 August 2009

The interview with Andrew slots nicely into my show and you would never know that he wasn’t live on the show. Well, you do now!

Monday 24 August 2009

I’m off this week. My daughter started school last Wednesday and this is her second week and her last week of half-days. Daddy’s on the school run and I’ve planned it with military precision. I needn’t have bothered as we had so much time in the morning that I’m able to reward Flick with a quick “Peppa Pig” before we leave. The breakfast-wash-dressing routine fulfilled we head off. The school has a car park a short walk from the main buildings but it’s small and, as government ministers are want to say, “unfit for purpose”. It caters for not one but two primary schools and even with the staggered start for the new Primary 1s it’s a nightmare to get in and out of.

Luckily the mother of one of Flick’s pre-school pals has told of us of a better place to park. Our “sneaky parking”, as we have come to know it, is on the other side of the school but doesn’t involve any further of a walk. I can’t believe more people don’t know of it. We leave the house at 0830, get parked at 0845 (just beating the rush, such as it is) and we saunter down to the school hand-in-hand.

I mingle with the yummy mummies and other dads as the children run about daft until the school bell goes. A couple of the parents have even worn their best tracksuits! I’m immensely proud of Flick. She looks smart and is enjoying her school experience. No doubt that’ll change in a few years.

I have two hours back at home before I have to return to the school. I do some work on my book but I don’t seem to get much done as I have to head off.

As any parent will know getting information out of your child, especially when you’ve asked for it, is, as they say, like getting bloody out of a stone. “How was your day?” “Fine”. “What did you do today?” “Nuffin’” “No-TH-ing!” “NoTHing”. You do find out some of what’s occurred between the classroom walls but it’s usually drip-fed over a number of days.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

School Run – Day 2. Today some of the parents were invited to have lunch with their offspring and their new classmates and being off this week I was the nominated parent. I plumped for a baked potato, with cheese and pickle and Flick, taking an instant dislike to the thought of Spaghetti Bolognese, plumped for the packed lunch.

Flick was determined to get out on her bike when we go home and as the weather had been good I decided we could kill two birds with one stone. The constant wet weather had meant the front lawn had gone uncut for sometime and if it had been left any longer I’m sure I’d find Japanese soldiers in there thinking the war was still on.

With strict instructions to only cycle between the nearest two lampposts, Flick began peddling away as I started on the overgrown lawn. No sooner had I started than I had to stop again – bloody cat shit! It’s the bane of my gardening life. I’ve tried various things to get rid of it. We had an ultrasonic alarm, which worked well until it was stolen. I’ve tried pepper and an assortment of sprays but nothing seems to deter the little blighters.

Eventually the lawn was done and so was I. I felt awful. I wasn’t sure if I was coming down with something but now I was convinced I was because I was totally wiped out. Flick, of course, had loads of energy and got some good exercise and some fresh air. When I was ready to go back in, so was she.

I had tickets to see Richard Herring do his “Hitler Moustache” show at the Underbelly and my mate Gary had agreed to come with me. My colleague Tricia dropped out with a cold. I wasn’t feeling too good myself but I didn’t want to waste the tickets and I was really keen to see the show, especially after all the nonsense in The Guardian. In the end I was glad I went because I thought it was great and I can’t believe it wasn’t nominated for a Fringe award.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

School Run – Day 2.5: I say 2.5 because while I was dropping Flick off in the morning she was going to be picked up by one of her childminders at lunchtime. She’d only been to the home of one of the girls and this was a chance to get used to the other house. I picked her up later on.

Having had a taste for freedom she wanted to get her bike out again. I took the opportunity to hose down the front of the house, the flowers and the car as she cycled back and forward and back and forward and back and forward. She never got bored.

Thursday 27 August 2009

My last day on the school run and I’ll actually miss it. Flick was up sharp again and I promised her we’d go swimming after school. We had a ball and popped into McDonalds for something to eat on the way home. We don’t go there a lot but she likes it as an occasional treat. By the time we got home we were both exhausted. I put CBeebies on for her and I relax on the settee. I say, “relax”, I mean fall asleep. Apparently I was snoring so loud during “Peppa Pig” that Flick had to put her hands over her ears!

Friday 28 August 2009

The Good Lady Wife is off today and boy am I glad. My fluey cold-like symptoms have taken their toll and my much-needed lie-in means I don’t get out of bed until 11am! It’s a lazy day today.

Saturday 29 August 2009

I drop the girls at ballet and head off to Halfords for some lint-free clothes. I’ve got to do something about the scratches on the car, which has been on my To-Do List for a while now. I take a quick wander around Waterstones (music and sport books) and Debenhams (Ben Sherman stuff) before heading back to pick up the girls.

Sunday 30 August 2009

I do a “Friday-Big-Shop” at Asda, Kirkcaldy before I head off to the radio station. I got a bit frustrated when I couldn’t locate the Flaked Almonds and Bacon Lardons but I collared a manager and he lead me straight to them.

It wasn’t the best show I’d ever done, probably a 7 out of 10. A track by 60s Edinburgh band The Buzz wouldn’t play until I’d given the CD a good clean. Still suffering with a sore throat didn’t help. Next week’s show is going to be an Ellie Greenwich special.

I return home in time to do Flick’s second story, which turned out to be a long chapter from a book and I struggled through it manfully. After a lovely Steak Pie and vegetables I settle down to watch an old Top Gear and last week’s “House”. The lunches were made, bags packed and e-mails checked one last time. Time for bed.

Monday 31 August 2009

I haven’t slept a wink all night. The Good Lady Wife was snoring and this is the first day of my new working hours. A 7am start means a 6am departure, hence the 5.30am wake-up alarm. I do the right thing in trying to get to bed early (I’m in bed for 10.20pm) but I can’t settle. I try reading for a while (Paul Kimmage’s “Rough Ride”) but it’s no use. Hopefully, getting back to the gym, which I’ve missed, will help. I hope so.

Today is my gym assessment, which should be interesting because last week was the first week I haven’t been to the gym in many weeks.

I’m in the office by myself and after a week off it takes me about 30 minutes to catch up with what’s been happening. My gym assessment, which will be my last, is just a brief 10-minute ride on the bike and a run through of my techniques on the machines I’m already using plus an introduction to the leg press machine. The first few minutes on the bike are a struggle but I’m soon back into my stride. Maybe taking it easy isn’t such a bad idea and I don’t feel so bad about the week off. In many ways it’ll help to re-motivate me, almost like starting again.

The drive home wasn’t as quiet as I thought it would be. I imagined I’d miss the school run and rush hour; where have all these people come from? I’m now so immune to the idiots on the road that I’m actually disappointed when I don’t encounter at least one. I cope by (a) assuming that everyone driving is an idiot and can do something stupid at any minute and (b) listening to Radio 3 to keep calm. The latter helps a little although I feel I’m in an episode of “Morse”.

I pick up Flick from a very busy after-school Kids’ Club. I also see one of my bête noires collecting his kid. I know it’s him because he drives a distinctive van, a van that often speeds up and down our road. He rarely wears his seatbelt and is a stranger to an indicator. A man with a young family driving so recklessly in an area awash with many other young families really raises my hackles. We live in a 20mph area and there’s no excuse. It’s safe to say, I don’t like him.

The new hours and travel arrangements for all of us means a new home routine too. Staggered meals are out as we now sit down together, as a family, for tea. Previously this would only happen at weekends. After food, play, shower and stories, Flick’s asleep and we can settle down for an evening of intellectual stimulation. Monday night is University Challenge (BBC2) followed by Only Connect on (BBC4) and thanks to Sky+, The Gadget Show on Five. We do well to get half a dozen questions right on each quiz show but that’s part of the challenge, so to speak. Unfortunately, the team we didn’t want to win Only Connect won. We didn’t want either UC team to succeed because they were both equally annoying. Neither will win the overall title, of that there is no doubt.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

This morning I assisted in marking entrance exams. It never ceases to amaze me the poor standard of English and Maths on display from some would-be candidates. Today’s crop weren’t too bad.

My first proper gym workout in ten days isn’t too deadly: 10 minutes on the bike, 1500m/7 minutes on the rowing machine and 10 minutes walking on the treadmill. Normally I do the treadmill before the rowing machine but I thought I’d ‘mix it up’ again. Today’s gym music of choice was The Chemical Brothers “hits” album.

To be continued...


Bright Ambassador said...

I saw Andrew Collins wandering around Pleasance Courtyard the weekend just gone and was amazed at how big his head seemed in relation to the rest of his body.
I'm going to see him and Herring record a podcast in October. I just hope it's entertaining as paying to watch a podcast being recorded isn't something I'd normally do.

And I know where you're coming from in the "Oh, is this the queue?" stakes.

The Cat said...

With Richard not having the distraction of his own Fringe show I'm sure they'll be back on form by then. They said the one I saw wasn't one of their best but it was still very enjoyable.

"Oh sorry, I thought this was the back of the queue!"

office pest said...

Well you seem to be in good form I must say, pleased everything's going well for you 'n yours.

Bright Ambassador said...

"Oh sorry, I thought this was the back of the queue!"

I did actually say that this weekend. It was a simple mistake to make, how was I to know the queue carried on going into the street outside?