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Hi everyone.  Not long to go now before we set off on our European and perhaps world adventure!

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The front cover of my first children's book .

The front cover of my first children’s book .

Day 3/185: Busy

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All was going really well with looking after grandson Ben in Dundee until a fortnight into our month-long stint when George announced that the wee man had caught Chicken Pox! To be fair it didn’t upset Ben very much but it meant we couldn’t take him to the playgroups and swimming in the mornings and worst of all had to keep him away from his nursery in the afternoons. This change in fortunes caused us to have to rethink our weekly schedule to ensure that not only was Ben comfortable and happy but also that there was enough to keep him occupied and busy.

Ben at the observatory

Ben at the observatory

Thank God for Pingu! Without that loveable little penguin and his family on catch-up TV, the mornings might have been a bit of a challenge, but Ben was delighted to spend the first half-hour of the day in our flat watching a whole series of Pingu cartoons, giving us time to waken up and get the rest of the day organized. As long as we kept him away from other children, all was well, but every time we took him to the park he naturally gravitated towards the other children and I had to keep warning various parents that he was still contagious. To keep him humoured, I taught Ben a pastiche of a song from “Joseph” which went “Benjamin, you spotty boy, you have got the chicken pox!” We both loved spontaneously bursting into song with this rather silly ditty and it kept a grin on his face and mine.
By the end of the month we were tired but happy. We had been to Camperdown zoo again, visited various acquaintances and even watched the eclipse together using Grandad’s patent cardboard box with hole in it. Mary for her part now knew 3 series of Pingu off by heart! Gavin brought over Artemis ,our granddaughter, two days before we flew back here and we had a grand time with her. With all four boys so busy getting on with their lives, it is a godsend to have the grandchildren to bond with and they both appear to have many adventures ahead of them. Speaking of the four boys, here’s a quick update on each of them in order of entry into the world.
The eldest, George, was dealt a blow when his job disappeared all of a sudden. Fortunately he seems to have survived the cull and should still be employed by a sister organization. Scary though! Gavin is approaching the end of his 4-year Law degree whilst still working full-time at the High Court in Edinburgh and trying to find time to be Dad to Artemis. It is a juggling act which has stretched him to the full and we just hope that it will all be worth it in the end. Fingers crossed! Greg is cool and working full-time constructing polytunnels. But the good news is that his partner Karen now has a job pulling pints in a hotel in Montrose where they live. Ker-ching!
Scott gets a paragraph to himself as he has had a difficult time of late trying to cope with the 1-year Primary Teacher Diploma which is mega-intense. Eventually he decided that this type of claustrophobic teaching was not for him and he, sensibly we think, resigned from the course. He was instantaneously much, much happier with his lot and quickly returned to being the obnoxious, over-fussy little bugger we love so much. He will shortly return to his old job working at Dundee University in the pool and gym, with a view to gaining further qualifications in the area of Sport and Medicine, the subject of his degree.
On Palm Sunday after mass, Mary’s mum gave us a lunch and a chance to spend some time with Bruce my brother-in-law. He’s a good lad is Bruce but, like our 4 sons, seems to be eternally put-upon by the demands of work, wife and children. I suppose they will all survive just like we did when every minute seemed to be filled with appeasing someone else’s desires. At 40 I was running a Department in a secondary school, keeping a home and 3 boys under 13 years of age and had neither wife nor parents to help, but I managed somehow and even came through it with my sanity intact (well, I admit some would disagree with that!). I put it down to playing football every Saturday, the perfect escape from real life. Gavin, are you reading this?
That Sunday evening , Mary, Scott and I had the pleasure of hearing Alex Salmond talk about his recently-published book at Dundee University. It was an interesting couple of hours topped by him signing the copy we bought and then accepting a copy of “Wee Georgie” in return. A bit of a “coup” that was! The book’s sales continue unabated by the way and I am close to selling out the 500 I originally had printed. Then it will be decision time again: how many will I have printed second time around? Waterstones seem to think it will continue to sell for a long time to come and were a bit panicked when I gave them a batch of 30 just before we left and told them that would be the last for the foreseeable.

Big day for Alex meeting the Burtons!

Big day for Alex meeting the Burtons!

On April Fool’s Day we left Dundee through a scattering of snow, drove to Edinburgh airport, said our goodbyes to Scott and left him to drive back home while we made the hop from Edinburgh to Barcelona, emerging into brilliant sunshine and 20 degrees of heat. Coincidently, Dundee Sandra’s pal Amanda was on the same flight as us and we gave her a lift to the campsite when Fred came to pick us up in the Audi. We slept the afternoon away and our friends Ernest and Jennifer cooked us tea as they had promised a month or so earlier. On Good Friday we did Stations of the Cross in a wee church at 10 in the morning outdoors then on Easter Sunday we attended mass in the modern church little Guillem goes to. We surprised him soon after by turning up at his door just as the family were leaving for their own Easter celebrations and he was delighted with the Easter Egg we had brought him all the way from Dundee!
That very evening, Mary’s sister Claire, her husband Scott and the 2 boys, Andrew and Sam, arrived here to spend 5 days with us. We had a brilliant time with them, showing off Vilanova, letting them have a day away in Barcelona, plus swimming and playing tennis and table-tennis on the campsite. Highlights included a trip for all the guys to the Camp Nou where we watched Barça beat Almeria 4-0, and a visit to Montserrat for the girls and Sam where I did the driving as usual. I think they left on Friday with some regret and a good impression of life here at Vilanova Park.

The Cross Sam and I walked to.

The Cross Sam and I walked to.

Claire and Sam at Montserrat

Claire and Sam at Montserrat

In front of the funicular.

In front of the funicular.

We’ve spent the weekend resting now and catching up with our own stuff. I’ve had some problems with the charger and battery in the caravan but they appear to be resolved for the moment. Mary and I are determined to do Aquagym 3 times a week at 10 in the morning to help us get fit and we will continue to walk as much as we can. Maybe I’ll persuade her to come and have breakfast with me at the watchtower on Tuesday mornings? Was that a flying pig that just went by?

The ex-First Minister with Wee Georgie!

The ex-First Minister with Wee Georgie!

Day 3/150: We much prefer the cold!

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I’m writing this post in the living-room of our flat in Dundee. We’ve been back home here for over a week due to a cry for help from eldest son George and his partner Fiona who have lost their childcare (Fiona’s Mum) to the wild beauty of Australia and New Zealand. While we would probably prefer to be in Vilanova for the month of March, we are consoled by this extra opportunity to share quality time with grandson Ben and the chance to see the boys for an early spring catch-up.

Such a catch-up took place last night when all four sons came round for beer and curry, a match on the TV and conversations unrestricted by the presence of significant females. I include myself among the quintet of tongues unleashed! We had a cracking good evening while Mary was having fun with her Mum and sisters in Edinburgh (a Mothers’ Day treat). For a change I actually prepared the curries – two chicken Rogan Josh, two chicken Korma and one vegetable Madras – but forgot all about the existence of boil-in-the-bag rice, leading to a minor disaster with the boiled rice, despite extensive rinsing.

The evening consisted of food, drink and each family member in turn asked to report on their previous six months and their hopes for the following six. The five of us told it like it was and we all enjoyed the experience, learning a wee bit more about sons/brothers/Dad. The actual details are of course not for public consumption but I can tell you that I’m very proud of all four of them, just as any father would be.

Last week was pretty much a total blur of picking Ben up and dropping him off at the various groups he attends. He has nursery Monday-Friday from 12.15 until 16.15 but also does kids’ gym on Monday, swimming lesson on Tuesday and two different playgroups Thursday and Friday. It’s an action-packed week which I’m not totally convinced of but Ben seems to be coping well and making progress in all aspects of his development. The only problem is my own energy levels which call for regular down-time and even the odd afternoon nap! I think I’d be struggling without Mary’s help to be honest as we’ve both been weaned off getting up early and having daily schedules to follow.

Evenings have been spent in front of the TV watching football or one of the series we can access on Netflix which Scott subscribes to. Mary and I are presently halfway through series 3 of Spirale, the English title of “Engrenages”, a splendid French police crime drama. It has English sub-titles, but we enjoy trying to follow it without looking at the translation. Scott watches the American political thriller “House of Cards” starring the peerless Kevin Spacey and I must admit I find myself listening in even when I’m not supposed to be. Mary just gave me a belated birthday present of Series 3 of “Game of Thrones” but we’ve promised to be good and keep it for our return to Vilanova.

On the book front I’ve expanded the network of places where “Wee Georgie” is on sale from one to four, adding two supermarkets and one local shop. To-date I’ve shifted 350 of the initial 500 units and have earned about £1000 of my investment back, give or take a few bob. The website is seeing more sales now and that’s where I hope to see progress. I’m doing a book-signing at the Nisa supermarket in the west end next Saturday, the day before Mothers’ Day, but I’ll probably also sign at Waterstones and the Nisa in the east end as well.  When we took Ben to a playgroup in the district of Menzieshill last Thursday, I ended up invited to talk to their Women’s Group and sold another 6 copies of the book. We also had to pop into the Dundee Central Library to give them an invoice for the 20 copies they bought from me. How surprised was I when Shona, the lady in charge, told me that my book was the most borrowed non-fiction title in Dundee last month!

But the really exciting news was when the receptionist at the Menzieshill Community Centre flicked through the copy she’d just bought and announced that she knew Frances McKay, my first girlfriend as mentioned in the chapter entitled “Girls”. I was over the moon when I heard this revelation, especially when I was told she still lives in Dundee. I asked the ladies to put the word out that I’d love to meet up with Frances for a sentimental tea and biscuits and hopefully I’ll get my wish. OMG, I’m excited just thinking about that. I haven’t seen Frances in over 50 years!

I really ought to tell you about the weather. Yes, it’s cold and coats, hats and scarves are pretty much “de rigueur”. And we’ve had snow, not lots and lots of it, but enough to leave us with a Christmas view from the windows of the flat. Meanwhile, we’re told temperatures in Vilanova have soared well into the twenties! Are we jealous? You bet we are! But we are probably feeling like the worst of the winter is over since we’ve begun to notice the odd snowdrop and crocus peeking out from the cold earth.

An old man felt unwell during mass today and I sort of half-know his daughter who was seated next to him. A nurse came to give assistance but I went over to support both him and his daughter as we waited for the medics to arrive. She said he had angina and low blood pressure and he was yawning constantly and trying to fall asleep, so I got him slowly into a conversation on the prospects of Dundee United getting past Celtic later on today. That kept him going until help arrived, but I was amazed at how the people around him kept on standing up and sitting down and singing the hymns and saying the responses out loud while this old man sat among them wondering if his time was coming. It was very surreal, believe me!

Last Wednesday morning, the only morning we didn’t have to take Ben somewhere specific, we drove up to Arbroath with Mary’s Mum to visit my daughter-in-law Eve and my granddaughter Artemis. We had a very pleasant couple of hours watching the two cousins playing and I was especially delighted that my 18-month wee girl called me “Granddad” almost as soon as she set eyes on me. I was welling up, big Softie that I am!

That’s us up-to-date now. Sorry I haven’t included any photos but it just goes to show how we don’t take many shots of “normal life” back here in Dundee. Well, here’s one I took of Artemis up at her house last Wednesday. She’s lovely!

50 shades of Arry!

50 shades of Arry!

Day 3/135: Though the Carnaval is over ……

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You know the way I’m always teasing you about the weather? How we’re all going around in t-shirts and sandals in February? Well, one morning earlier this month, we woke up to find our skylight covered in something which we took to be sand as has happened on a couple of occasions when the winds have deposited Sahara dust on the coast of Spain. But when I peeked out the caravan window …. Well, how gobsmacked could I be! There was the Audi with an inch of snow on it! No joking, real, genuine cold, white stuff. Illusions shattered!

Where's the anti-freeze?

Where’s the anti-freeze?

It’s been Carnaval time here in Vilanova and, while it’s quite impossible to take in everything that happens for the week up to Mardi Gras, we’ve managed to fit in three visits to the town to join in the festivities. The first was two Thursdays ago when the town celebrated their “Merengada”, an annual meringue batter fight throughout the centre but especially on the market place. Being a Thursday, we had to pick up Guillem at five o’clock but, instead of going to his house, we parked in town and took him to watch the carry-on. He was suitably unimpressed! I suppose he’s just too well-bred to find fun in teenagers (and some adults!) covering themselves in white sticky paste.

What a mess!

What a mess!

The following evening we went to the second “Fish n’ Chips” event up at the restaurant with most of our friends. Unfortunately Mike and Het weren’t there as they had flown back to Blighty for some quality time with the grandchildren. After the meal I entertained the troops with half a dozen songs on the guitar while Dundee Sandra got stuck in to the people in the crowd we didn’t know and sold a dozen or so copies of “Socrates” which I still had in the caravan. I’d call that a success, wouldn’t you?

Rock on!

Rock on!

The next day was Valentine’s Day which we celebrated with a dinner at Fred and Jeanette’s, along with Tom and Greeta our Dutch pals and a newly-arrived Terry and Elsie, the couple from Leigh near Wigan with whom we had lunch on our way up to the Lake District last June. Jeanette as ever provided us with a dazzling array of delicious courses while Fred did the donkey work and kept our glasses full. We had an excellent evening together and for once packed it in at a reasonable hour to save the neighbours!

Sunday saw many of us up and away into town before midday to take part in the “Comparses” which is basically a huge series of sweetie fights through the streets and then in the Plaça de la Vila. It was a wonderful and colourful spectacle up and down the narrow streets on either side of the Rambla Principal, at times finding ourselves like sardines, stuck helpless in a dense throng of revellers in every possible type of fancy dress. The sweets were flying about like bullets and I took a couple to the bonce on one particular corner as I couldn’t duck, so close together were we all. Those boiled sweets don’t half hurt when they bounce off a bald pate!

Just some Carnaval guys!

Just some Carnaval guys!

The scene in the town square was unbelievable with thousands of children and then adults all in fancy-dress singing and dancing and throwing sweets at each other. By the end of the children’s episode, the square was completely covered in sweetie wrappers of all colours and we watched in amazement as a gang of road cleaners then swept them all to the sides in preparation for the adults to do exactly the same, only more noisily and ferociously. These Catalans sure know how to party! That evening Mary and I watched it all again on local TV but the cameras managed to miss two conservatively-dressed Dundonians.

C'mon the sweepers!

C’mon the sweepers!

On Monday we had a game of Bingo up at the bar and Mary shared a Full House with a Dane, scooping half of the 25 Euro pot! By God how the money rolls in! And then the big day arrived. Except, given a once in a lifetime coincidence, we could not decide if it was the big day because it was Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras or if it was indeed the big day because it was my Birthday! I expect it may have been the former, but we merged the two by inviting our friends round at midday for pancakes and Cava. A couple of light showers tried to put a damper on things but we simply moved in to the awning and ate our way through a whole load of food with about 15 guests.

Our French friends, Gérard and Katy, hung around in the afternoon once the party was over and then, at about half past four I drove us down in to the town to witness another appearance by the Vilanova giants. You’ll remember these are 15 foot high polystyrene giants representative of the town, a bit like the hilarious ones who used to do battle on “It’s A Knock-out”. Anyway, we had a great time in town with crowds of spectators and avoided getting smacked by either of the crazy spinning giants.

One of the giants of nearby L'Arboc.

One of the giants of nearby L’Arboc.

Now that I’m 62, I’ve decided to take some days off my rather adrenalin-filled adventure out here, so the last few days have been genuinely quiet in comparison with the head-spinning rush of Spanish Carnaval. I picked up Ernest and Jennifer’s daughter and two grandchildren from El Prat airport last Friday and took them back there yesterday. I had a great laugh teasing the daughter by calling her “Our Beverley” which is how her Mum always refers to her, seeing as she comes from Bradford. I’ve also helped our friend Jem to get two great big wheels off his converted furniture lorry fixed down at the local “Kwik-Fit” type garage. And yesterday I helped Dundee Sandra to disassemble her flooring in the awning in preparation for her departure back home at the end of the month.

To balance that up, neighbour Peter has lent us a good bright light to run off the mains now that the charger has gone in the caravan and the battery gradually runs itself down every few days. We can’t afford to buy a new one just now so we’ll have to make do. Fred has also come to the rescue just recently by diagnosing why our spinner had stopped working and we’ll be able to fix it for little or no cost thankfully. Well done, Fred! The campsite continues to operate like a wee village, with neighbours helping each other out on a daily basis, giving advice, some physical assistance or a loan of some tool or other.

OK I’ll try not to bore you too much but the book stuff has become very, very exciting. Scott told us a couple of days ago that sales continued to be solid for “Wee Georgie” and that they’d asked for another box of 30 books. Good! Then Waterstones revamped their website and I was able to check how the book was doing on the best-sellers lists, using different filters. Once I’d got it down to best-selling Scottish memoirs, I was delighted to see that I was ranked fourth out of 82 books on sale at Waterstones. Then on my birthday I slipped in to third place, on Wednesday second, but on Thursday fourth again. Pity! So you can imagine my utter surprise when I checked this morning to discover I’d made it to Number 1! Yes, “Wee Georgie” is today the best-selling Scottish memoir at Waterstones. Yippee!

This was not in the plan

This was not in the plan

“Socrates 2” has now been edited by brother Joe in his usual brilliant but brutal style, leaving me with a leaner but meaner second children’s story. It is now in the hands of Fred’s partner Jeanette who has kindly agreed to have a go at redesigning my snail and drawing the pictures I’ll need for the book. She’s a lovely artist and I have high hopes that she will be up to the job, if her initial sketches are anything to go by.

Tomorrow we’re off to Barcelona with Ramon, Beti and Guillem for a meal at the restaurant of Marc and Rosa, the parents of last year’s visitor Gao. They have a restaurant in the Gotic district of Barça, near the old cathedral and just east of the famous Ramblas, so we’re really looking forward to our treat. The next day we’ll be picking up Het and Mike at the airport to bring them back here to Vilanova Park, then it will be a busy couple of days preparing for our return to Scotland on Thursday. We’re looking forward to having such quality time with grandson Ben for a full 4 weeks but Mary will also enjoy having Scott close at hand for a while and I’ll keep busy doing promotional work for my books. That starts with selling signed copies at Forgan Book Fair in Newport on Saturday. See you back in Scotland!

Guillem on non-uniform day ... A Scotsman.

Guillem on non-uniform day … A Scotsman.


Day 2/118: Happy and sad

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You’ll be wondering where I’ve been! Well, we’re back in Vilanova, but not quite as simply as you might expect, because we’ve come back after Xmas and the New Year, returned to England last week and are now back again in the caravan. The unplanned visit last Thursday was to attend the funeral of dear Uncle Brian who sadly slipped away on 13 January after a short illness. Having been particularly kind to me over the years, especially when things were not going well, there was never a question of not attending, despite that involving a flight to Stanstead, car hire and a drive up the A1M to Newcastle and back.

The funeral  went as well as any such event can go and Mary and I had a lovely time afterwards at Brian’s local pub where we met up with almost all of the English side of our family, including many I had never met before! My brother Joe and his wife Mo had made the hazardous journey down from Lochcarron by bus and car and it was great to hear the news of their latest grandchild, little Mabel Rosa, a second daughter for their son Rory and his wife Lana out in Melbourne. Once again, one leaves and one arrives: it’s remarkable how often that seems to happen. But we’ll all miss Brian, even over here where he made a mighty impression on our friends when he and Auntie Pat came to visit last spring.

Our visit back home for Xmas and the New Year was excellent despite me ending up on antibiotics for a horrendous cough and URI. We started Xmas day early with a drive up to Arbroath for breakfast with Gavin, Eve and Artemis (at 08.00!) where we were treated to our granddaughter opening her presents for the very first time now that she is 16 months old. From there it was back down to Dundee to see George, Fiona, Daniel and Ben and yet more presents being opened. Isn’t it wonderful having grandchildren? After a short nap back at the flat, we all went round to Mary’s Mum’s house for Xmas dinner with the family in Dundee.

Ben, enjoying our laundry basket!

Ben, enjoying our laundry basket!

New Year was slightly different with Mary and I accompanying Scott over to a friend’s house in Monifieth where we spent a couple of hours with the parents. We then picked up Greg and Karen before returning to the flat then off to Mary’s sister’s house for the bells. We had a fine time there but called it a day around 3 o’clock and went to bed. This wandering about was made possible by a totally cooperative Mary who, bless her, agreed not to drink but drive us all around, quoting that it would make up for all the driving I have done over here. She’s an angel you know!

Having given Scott BT Sports as an additional present, I was able to watch the Dundee derby a couple of days later from the comfort of the living-room while the boys all went to see it live, but I did join in with the post-match drinks down the Perth Road with them and all their friends. I was once again proud to observe both Dundee and Dundee United supporters mingling happily together in the après-match banter despite the rather one-sided result. Let’s just say my team didn’t win! One other United supporter I met was my old friend and ex-colleague Erwan Ansquer whom we bumped into at the Central Library in Dundee. It was nice to catch up on his news and to discover that his wife Sandra and the two girls are all thriving.

Me with Erwan

Me with Erwan

Much of the rest of the time was taken up with book stuff which I’ll tell you about later. We flew back at the crack of dawn on 8 January thanks to Scott who drove us to Edinburgh airport at 4 in the morning. Well done, son! Mike and Het were there at El Prat airport in Barcelona to take us back to the caravan park and we had a quiet day before I went off to see to Guillem as usual, as it was a Thursday. The following week, my brother called to tell me that Uncle Brian had passed away while I was teaching Guillem at his home but luckily I was able to use their broadband to make contact with those I needed to speak to. So now we had to busy ourselves with making arrangements for a journey back to Britain.

From the moment we had returned, Mary had been coughing her guts up, seemingly having caught what I had had back in Dundee. This would not go away however and one Saturday, the feast of St. Anthony Abat and a public holiday with parades of horses and riders, I took her down to the hospital to get examined. 3 hours later we emerged with prescriptions galore, hoping this Spanish cocktail would do the trick. Well, it did eventually but my poor darling still has the last traces of that damned cough. Naturally she blames me!

I just couldn't resist!

I just couldn’t resist!

How Spanish is that?

How Spanish is that?

Life here on the campsite has been relatively quiet. We have a new entertainments provider, a Scouser called Dave, who runs the bingo on Monday nights and the quiz on Wednesday evenings after the communal meal. He is busy organizing a fish and chips night for Friday so I’ll let you know how that goes. Mike and Het have recently invested in a full-size awning which I helped erect last week along with several other able-bodied guys while Het kept us provided with hot tea. Tom and Greeta have bought a new kitchen tent from which wafts lovely smells most teatimes, Dick and Linda have returned to their usual pitch next door to Fred, and Carol and Rob are just back from Xmas in Liverpool (or the Wirral as Carol insists!).

Our social life as party people has involved only three get-togethers. The first was a dinner at Fred and Jeanette’s before she went back to Copenhagen. She had asked me to sing a few songs after the meal so I took along the trusty guitar and would like to think I surprised her with my repertoire. I printed off some lyrics too, so all those present were able to join in the singing. Jeanette’s cooking as usual was the highlight of the evening and not the post-meal entertainment. Our second “do” was a spontaneous gathering in Sandra’s awning next door late one Tuesday night where Mike and I were the only males present, six of the girls making up an interesting but very noisy coven! It must have been good because we actually got some complaints.

Two Saturdays ago, we were invited down to Ramon and Beti’s for a meal to celebrate Guillem’s 9th birthday. Both sets of grandparents as well as a couple of aunts and uncles and two or three cousins were there to help with the celebrations and we had a truly lovely time with them all. We gave the wee man a jigsaw as a present but I told Beti it was a present for her and Ramon as I expected it would keep Guillem nice and quiet for a long time!

See you Jimmy!

See you Jimmy!

 “Wee Georgie” continues to surprise everyone (including me!) with its sales at Waterstones and I am always on the lookout for different ways to market the product using social media and the internet in general. After those 2 good articles in the Dundee Courier Weekend Magazine and Scottish Television online, we now await the page I’ve written about my metamorphosis from teacher to writer in “The Peoples Friend” on Valentine’s Day. Make sure to get yourself a copy as I think it’s a good read. I’ve had fun watching the book move up and down the bestsellers’ chart at Waterstones especially when I find it next to or preferably above a more famous memoir such as Maggie Thatcher’s “The Downing Street Years” which I overtook recently. I’m also trying out a couple of other avenues about which I’ll keep you informed as and when.

The big news on the writing front is that I have finished “Socrates 2” and will be sending it to Joe for editing shortly. As Lainey is no longer part of the team, we are doing our own illustrations for the second book so that should be quite exciting too! With a bit of luck we’ll be able to publish sometime between Easter and the summer. My work as a wordsmith will have to be concentrated on finishing “Wee Georgie 2” but that means 50,000 new words so that won’t be happening any time soon.

The future has changed slightly and we’ll be back in Dundee for the whole of March to help look after Ben and to see Scott through the first 3 weeks of his second Primary School placement. We intend to return to Vilanova for Easter weekend and on until late June but that could easily change so don’t take it as set in stone as we are prone to making decisions at the last minute.

Right, I think we’ve caught up on the adventure at last. I’ll try really hard to write you a few lines every week or so from now on but please don’t hold your breath! I’ll finish with the biggest surprise yet, from this very morning. This is genuine!

First time we've seen this here!

First time we’ve seen this here!


Wee Georgie gets out there!


Bonus post time again readers. For all those who don’t use Facebook or Twitter so may be unaware of what’s been happening, here’s an article on Wee Georgie written by Catriona from Scottish Television online. We’re back in Vilanova now and I’m about to write an article for next month’s People’s Friend after a surprise invitation from the editor. You never know….!

“Wee Georgie’s childhood memoirs proving popular with Dundonians”

By Catriona MacPhee on Thursday 8 January 2015

Dundee may be a city on the rise, with new buildings shooting up like industrial saplings all over the landscape, but its history and heritage will always be its beating heart.

The colloquial charm of the Oary dialect, the pure teckle Dundonian sense of humour and the stoic way of life are a particular source of pride in the city.

This could go some way to explaining why sales of new book Wee Georgie have been so high in the city.

It is a book of memoirs from retired teacher George Burton and outlines his early years living on Parker Street in the city centre and then Charleston.

It includes mischief, fun and a bit of danger in some of the best known parts of the city. For those who grew up in the 1950s and 60s in Dundee, there will be few anecdotes that ring a bell.

George says he is delighted with the response and credits a fondness for “old Dundee” with its success.

“The book is designed to let people know just what life was like in those days,” he said.

“I actually started it as an autobiography but the more I wrote the more Dundee became the biggest character in it. I didn’t set out to describe Dundee but that’s what happened.

“Life was a bit different then, it was a lot simpler. There were less big surprises and less fuss made about things. When major events happened in my life or family, it just happened and we moved on, there was no big carry on or outcry.

“People were more stoic and almost reconciled to their fate. I think the difference is down to the fact that there was just no money. Everyone was in the same boat.

“There was no competition between families and everybody got their clothes passed down from their brothers and sisters.”

George has held several book signings around the city over the past week including one that was live-tweeted by Dundee Central Libraries.

Nearly 200 of George’s self-published books have been sold in the local Waterstones and the book is now in the shelves of all the local libraries.

And including online sales, George’s first print run of 500 has now nearly sold out.

Kevin Breen, the branch manager at Dundee Waterstones, said: “Wee Georgie was one of our biggest sellers in November and December. Any book on Dundee sells extremely well anyway as Dundonians are proud of their city and we get great support for local books.

“But this book has done very well and seems to have struck a chord with people.”

George was born at Parker Street, where the student accommodation for Abertay University now stands, and was among those families forced to leave in the late 1950s so the properties could be razed.

George said: “I was born in 1953 and I didn’t know anybody who had a car. I saw my first TV in about 1959 and it was the Lone Ranger. The tenements were built for weavers and mill workers.

“There was a shared toilet and generally things were a bit grubby, but we didn’t mind at all. When we moved to Charleston it was a brave new world. It was unbelievably luxurious. It had a toilet inside it! It was a total revelation to us to get out of the city centre.

“We had some wild adventures, such as my brother tipping me into some stagnant water and me getting my own back by dropping a stone on his head. Then there was the time we were shot by a maniac with an air rifle at Campie. I’ll never forget my mother taking the pellets out of our backsides with iodine and tweezers.

“There were no police searches or helicopters, we just got a slap round the ears and told not play up there from then on.”

George, who now spends most of the year living in Spain, went on to study French language and literature and became head of modern languages at St Saviour’s High School. He worked there for 28 years, latterly as Depute Headteacher.

He retired in 2010 and with enough time on his hands, decided to share his happy childhood memories. Wee Georgie depicts George’s life up to the age of 11.

“After I retired my wife Mary kept nipping at me saying, ‘you’ve always wanted to write a book so get going’,” George added.

“I’m glad I did. After I sat down and started concentrating on it, memories just kept popping up. I’m delighted at the response I’ve had. People have really enjoyed reading the memories and comparing stories.”

Anyone who enjoyed Wee Georgie and has an appetite for more need not wait too long as George added: “I’ve written just over half of book two, which will be my teenage years, i.e. the school prank years. There’s plenty to come.”

You can follow George’s progress at his Twitter page or his website http://www.socratesthesnail.co.uk



2014 in review

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Here is a summary of the blog for 2014 which WordPress sent me this morning. I thought it was interesting enough to share with my readers.   Meanwhile, back in Dundee, it’s cold as you can see from the photo taken yesterday at 2.30 p.m. as we prepared to go shopping. A Happy New Year to you all and thank you so much for all your support. (Dot, I’ll look out a Golden Pen for you!)

The battery was flat as well!

The battery was flat as well!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Vamos! Chapter 7: Secret



Tommy’s mother was dead. Recently dead. Very recently. She had passed away during the night after another exciting evening of “Strictly Come Dancing”, “Coronation Street” and her usual bottle of knock-off gin. Now she was laid out in the back room of the chalet, stiff as a board. But her son was not pole-axed with grief at her sudden demise: nor indeed was his wife Angela. No, far from it, both were too busy sitting round the living-room table puzzling how exactly they were going to dispose of the corpse.

-No, Ange, we can’t just dump ‘er in the bin. Someone will find ‘er, that’s for sure, and then we’ll ‘ave to face the Spanish bizzies. No, we’ll ‘ave to be cleverer than that. I’m beginning to wish we ‘adn’t brought ‘er ‘ere in the van in the first place.

-Well don’t blame me, Tommy Mitchell. It was your idea, wasn’t it, to bring ‘er ‘ere with no passport or nuffin’ just to get away from a shitey shopliftin’ charge.

-But, Ange. I really thought she’d be sent down this time if she went to court. Remember, she did break the security guard’s nose with that frozen chicken she whipped out from under ‘er ‘oodie. They were going to do ‘er for GBH!

-I still can’t believe, Tommy Mitchell, that you put your own mother, your own flesh and blood, under the bench seat of a caravan and drove ‘er all the way from Elsmere Port to bleedin’ France without lettin’ ‘er out for a pee or nuffin’. That’s cruelty that is! And now look at ‘er. Stone dead, that’s what she is, and ‘oose fault is that now? I’ll tell you ‘oose fault that is, I will. It’s your fault, Tommy Mitchell, that’s ‘oose it is. You’ve killed your own mother!

-Now that’s not fair it’s not, Ange. You knew as well as I did that she’d eventually drink ‘erself to death, so you did. It was only a matter of time. I just didn’t think it would ‘appen out ‘ere in Spain. Now we ‘ave a illegal alien to get rid of, so we do. ‘ow are we gonna do that then, tell me? Go ‘ead, tell me then!

-Hey, listen ‘ere, soft lad! Don’t you go expectin’ me to get you out of this mess. You brought ‘er ‘ere, now you get rid of ‘er! And you better do it pronto, amigo, cos I swear on me own mother’s life, that old cow is startin’ to stink!

-You never liked my mother in the first place, did you? I know she ‘ad ‘er faults, I know she liked a drop of gin, I know you didn’t like ‘er shopliftin’, at least you didn’t like ‘er getting caught shopliftin’.

-Look ‘ere, Tommy Mitchell. You just get that corpse out of our chalet, and I mean today, or I swear I’ll take a axe to ‘er so I will.

-Alright, alright. Keep your ‘air on! I ‘ave an idea of what I can do anyway. Where’s the key to the Suzuki?

-Where’s the key to the Suzuki? Are you stark ravin’ bonkers, soft lad? I suppose you’re goin’ to sit ‘er on the back and take ‘er for a spin!

-Actually, Ange, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do!

True to his word, Tommy slunk through to the increasingly whiffy back bedroom and proceeded to force his mother’s corpse into a set of leathers which he tightened up as best he could to cover the entire body. After slipping the deceased woman into a pair of biker boots and covering her head with his favourite tinted visor helmet, he finished the masquerade with a pair of leather gloves which he craftily joined together at the wrists with a belt. Mum was ready to go for her first and last ride on the Suzuki!

To get her on the bike, Tommy first backed it all the way to the bottom of the decking stairs. With Angie’s help, his mother was then carried quickly out of the chalet and placed astride the motorbike supported until Tommy took his position in front and slipped the joined arms of his inert parent over his head, past his shoulders and finally round his waist. Meanwhile, Angie did as requested and attached her ankles to each side of the bike using a couple of nylon ties and then used a third to secure the front of her mother-in-law’s helmet to the back of her husband’s leather jacket.

Tommy checked all was well by edging forward on the bike and both were relieved when mother clung on diligently and appeared to all intents and purposes to be simply holding on as any pillion passenger would. Angie waved them off with a final warning that this was Tommy’s idea and she would have nothing to do with it if they were found out. As he expected nothing better from his fiery partner, Tommy accelerated away up and out of the campsite turning sharp right at the exit and heading out over the flat, rough terrain in the direction of the hills to the north of the town.

Two hours later he returned alone to announce that his mother had been laid to rest 30 metres down at the bottom of the reservoir set in the foothills, firmly ensconced below with the help of a bag full of stones tied around her neck!

-Did nobody see you, then? Are you sure? What if somebody did? What if the old cow floats back up?

-Of course nobody saw me, you pillock! I was careful, wasn’t I? I was only throwing me dead mother into a Spanish reservoir after all, wasn’t I? Why would I not want anyone to see that? Christ! I could’ve sold tickets, couldn’t I? Angie, gimme a break, will you?

-So you ‘ad no bother getting’ rid of ‘er then?

-Well, once I’d actually got ‘er detached from me flamin’ jacket, that is! Do you know ‘ow strong those nylon ties are? I ‘ad to lift ‘er arms over me ‘ead and unzip me own jacket to escape! Then I ‘ad to bite the bloody ties off ‘er ankles and that wasn’t easy with ‘er leanin’ all ‘er 20 stone over on top of me. But once I’d lifted ‘er onto the wall and tied the Mercadona bag full of rocks around ‘er neck, she was ready for the off. I just ‘ad to pull the leathers off ‘er, give ‘er a farewell kiss and tip ‘er over. She sank like a bleedin’ stone so she did! Oh but I did keep ‘er teeth as a sort of souvenir like. ‘Ere, stick them in the bedside drawer will you?

-Oh you really are disgustin’ Tommy Mitchell. Imagine takin’ a woman’s teeth out and keepin’ them for yourself. ‘Ow could you? You’ll go to ‘ell for that so you will.

-And I suppose I won’t go to ‘ell for sendin’ me mother to the bottom of a Spanish reservoir, will I?

-That’s not the point is it? A woman’s teeth is a personal thing so it is. It’s ‘er dignity what counts. She may be dead but she still ‘as feelings, ‘asn’t she?

-Well actually, Ange………….



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