Sunday, May 28, 2017

FODMAP - Keep It Up!

If I have done one thing for my health in the last five years, then it is the low FODMAP diet.

I am just going into week 5 and i can say it is good to be a little constipated a few times a week, to be honest after years of bad old jobbies.

Apart from splendid stools of solid substance, I also have a better satiation at dinner times, all less hunger pangs ie longer 'satiety'.

The clues have been there for a very loing time, way back before I had a nasty dose of presumed campylobacter way back in 1995.  When i was training a lot in cycling and mountain tours i would do huge logs before or after, and often struggle to eat enough energy to keep going. I was basically avoiding dairy products and strong coffee from cafetieres or cuppachinos, a double bad.

I put on my first big weight gain around the same time I got food poisoning. My appetite got bigger and i started getting the pavlovian munchies with beer which i hadnt had before. I exercised less, drank more. 15 stone. Then by 1996 I was 18 stone. That was three stone in two years. I had been around 13 from age 16 to 24, and that is thin for my height and build.

I was a bit of a beer monster in those years, it has to  said, but I really didnt drink more than many of my thinner buddies. I did eat a bit more and was less satisfied with ordinary portions.

I only lost weight in 1996 by some pretty hefty training and dropping of beers to just a few a week, and a couple of chinese starters as a weekly treat. I was miserable too! Edge of hunger for months on end.

I put on a bit of weight back on the summer of 96, with sailing being 5 days a week usually a beer of an eve' there with of course. Then I lost weight again when living in a B&B , pub dinners and only an hours walk or swim each day. Something odd was going on!

Beers and big eati in 98 -99 and despite a lot of exercise some weekends, i was by 2000 at a massive 20 stone.

Back to the gym and i was down to 18 snd quite muscly but still a peristent beer gut and w worseing 'toilet habit' with several visits a day, stress jobbies and intermittant constipation. The need was often and what came out varied.

Once again, big mountain tours and big bars resulted. I thought maybe my cuppacino habit was to blame, but in fact it was my healthy eating which was in part to blame, with piles of fermentable fruits and sulphurous onions and garlics on top of my frothy coffee dependency. Off these and especiaøly milk and red pasta dishes, and i would normalise and reabsorb obviously a lot of water.

I started getting bloaty days back in the early 2000s when my gut and side wings seemed to be extra wobbly, often during sport. I should have maybe connected this with losing s lot of fluid in my stools.

Now thisnhas changed, dramatically. Week 1 was awful, lots of diarheoa dribbly crap, but after that , hey presto. Onions and more than a glass of full lactose dairy and i am back to square one.

At week six i can start reintridocing food types to see how i get on, but also i am a bit inspired to diet. I stead of bread i have been having half a packet of crisps with lunch or as a snack when dinner is going to be late. I do allow myself a small dose of wheat, wholemeal per day.

All because i happened to listen to a BBC radio 4 inside health on the issue, and knwew it couldnt hurt to try, since rice, potatoes and a small amount of oats are all allowed !

For more serious IBS then i guess it may tske longer for the 'flora of the gut' to rebalance. For most of us it means no return to some foods which are triggers, like lactose milk products.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Talking Shit...FODMAP diet three weeks on

  More talking shit then.

Let us get the dirty stuff out of the way, shit lovers, haters, proctologists.

For years and years I have had variable loose, runny shit, pelllety shit, fruity smelling shit, irregular shit, three times a day shit, uncomfortable must shit now shit, farty shit, and the odd bit of constipation amongst this. Also I have a decided issue with appetite and losing weight, being about three stones over where I should be or about 20kg.

As in the last blog, I never ever saw the link between a day in 1995 when I bit into a burger to find it stil frozen in the middle and had a bad dose of food posioning as they call it, most likely campylobacterial in basis. After that time I started to put on weight and certainly my appetite altered.  In 1996 I forced myself to do a lot of exercise in the winter and spring while unemployed and working part time. I used to work out at the gym with aerobic 20 mins to half an hour some weight training, followed by a mile swim in the pool and then I would walk home. I crept down in weight a little avoiding beer and maybe having a chinese take away once a fortnight. I was miserable and had an odd kind of hunger. I lost maybe 3 kg in 3 months and started to put it back on.  I Some years later with a relatively high level of activity in 1997/8, i lost very little weight at that time too, and I really eat pretty normally. I did put on some muscle in these three years with weight training, but my trouser size of 34/36 went soon up to 38 by 2000 and has kind of sat there ever since, with the gut being a bit tighter sometimes than others on the waistline.

A couple of years ago, or maybe longer than that actually, I started to notice that my middle aged spread went up and down. I could get quite bloated during exercise or after of course meals, but a while after. I thought back and could remember feeling very flabby during long tours in the mountains. Ah, maybe I was retaining water. Well as Billy Connolly says, " Retaining Pies and Pints of Lager"  more like. I eat well you may say, and I drink well. In fact though, I do quite a lot of exercise too. However I did put this all down to just my roaring appetite, and that a two week shift to cutting way down on extras, beer, wine and upping exercise from 4-5 hours a week to 8 hours.

I did the latter and felt that I was a fair bit healthier for it, but old summer shorts were dug out and were just as tight as the last time I tried them, and also those photos of me in a tight grey t-shirt!  Flabby. But a beer gut and odd, high side wings around a pretty solid guy who exercises a lot. Then I heard a BBC Radio 4 science programme about FODMAPS, and thought well there could be something in this. I have essentially a mild IBS or abnormal bowel behaviour as you read above. I dont have pain, just lots of trips the loo for #2s and discomfort with urgency you could say. So what the hell?

Now I am three weeks into the low FODMAP diet - that is avoiding fermentable oligosaccharides, and some di- and mono-s too. According to some researchers into the Gut Biome, our bacterial populations are severly disrupted from that which is healthy by too much of in particular, fructose and lactose in our diets. There is then an extended list of other saccharides and the sulphurous onion family is to be avoided.

I found a list on a pdf from a reputable source, with recommendations for daily intakes of low and medium FODMAP foods. Basically it sticks around what you might expect. In essence it is a gluten free, very low lactose diet with avoidance of those smelly farty foods like cabbage, onion and garlic. In fact there are some recommended daily 'doses' of the bad or medium bad stuff too. In the table it is not fully clear though on some low fodmap is how little of some things you may be allowed to eat.

It meant not such a huge change in fact, the biggest things being cereals, fruit juices *apart from some tomato- and of course, the biggy here for Norway especially,  bread. Ok you can have gluten free bread and cereals but they are a bit mediocre. One thing which is allowed is a bowl of common or garden oat porridge, which is a saviour, although without the dried fruit I prefer. Oddly sucrose and glucose are ok in the scheme of things, but not in large amounts. Apples and pears are out, bannanas and a small amount of milk chocolate is in. I use lactose reduced milk and the odd expensive lactose free milk, both of which are long life incidentally which is handy.

Three weeks in? Well a week in I noticed the difference, I had four days of very diarrheoa like stool followed by a little constipation and then more ordinary stools there after by in large. I kept on checking my menu in the house. Some more things went out.

Things went well then. I felt less bloated too, and also I started to notice I was more satisfied from food and a little bit less hungry in general. Stools getting by in large bigger and better, a little hard occaisionally. And once a day's worth you may say, more if it was a little constipated and I gave up pushing.

Then in week 3 we have national constitution day in Norway, and I said, what the hell,  patients had talked about ' lettiing loose' once in a while. The day is an onslauight of refined wheat and most of all lactose. Ice creams all round,  at every opportunity and cream cakes, and strawberries and cream, and coffee with cream for once not black.Also we had our traditional beef cakes made with onion and bit of garlic, so it really was a test. Right enough, squits and more trips to the loo for two days.

After three days of being a good boy, and moving to lactose free milk, I was back to better stools and less trips to the loo. My appetite is lower and most of all I feel I can avoid the daddy dreadful eating up what is left because it is less than a portion for anyone tommorrow, or eating up after the kids refuse one more bit. I do get hunger pangs and then there is  no biscuit to take them up, just bananas which in moderatioon of up to three a day, are very low FODMAP friendly apparently and good for fibre and potassium.

I feel now that I can concentrate on actually calorie counting because I am less hungry already and hope that some of my flab was indeed water retention due to a disturbed gut and years of excess fluid excretion. Energy is up and down a bit, especially week 2 was tough but going into week 4 it seems more normalised.

What is stil naughty? Well portions of dinner were a very, very big issue for me, and that is reduced. Also snacking or need a starter is reduced. But because I can eat crisps, potatoes are way ok, then I do, so that has to be cut out. But I feel empowered by a new, natural STOP sign on my appetite.

Now by trade I am actually a molecular biologist, which included a lot of biochemistry and microbiology , so I will have to look more into what fermentation reactions are being avoided and how the bacterial population balance is maybe being achieved, out of interest. For you dear shitty reader with IBS or working out but not losing weight nor appetite, a low FODMAP cant really hurt anyway- consult your doctor of course disclamier discalimer.

When I was a kid, there were very very few folk who were on gluten free diets, while lactose was a minor issue you heard of once in a while. We just arent supposed to drink cows milk really, lactose is not something we can metabolise or readily digest,. Bacteria though can metabolise lactose directly. There have been studies which show that cows milk can actually lead to opiod biproducts which would certainly explain some of my drowsiness in the mornings post breakfast. Between lactose and Casein, cows milk just isnt for us in the amounts we consume it in, and a mixed diet with oily fish and vegetables can supply enough calcium. I still eat cheese which is nearly all low lactose, because those said bacteria consume the sugar in producing cheese after most of the lactose is actually seperated away in the whey from the protein rich curds.

Our western diets are an odd cultrually influenced mix of foodstuffs which reflect mostly our farming heritage and supply chain which provides infact, if you look at the figures historically and relative to family incomes, extremely cheap commodity food, and very affordable small luxuries. IBS is a very major cause of ill health and sick leave in otherwise healthy living people, and as with myself being a little atypical in not having pain and discomfort, but typical stool disruptions, are going under the radar and possibly building up problems for the future.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Talking Shit, FODMAP Crap that is

After sitting on the shitter while shitting out a shit, I came up on a ditty as you should

I realised that in fact I have been shitting out bubbly , fruity craps for years and they have become the norm instead of a once a week annoyance. I have in fact a form of irritable bowel syndrom and I can trace this back to of course me getting a dose of food poisoning from a frozen in the middle burger up in Aviemore in 1995. I was ill for months with it and had to go on a simple lemonade diet and semolina for weeks, but in fact I never recovered

It can be said that about the same time I started to put on a lot of weight, but it can also be said that I was partying more and cycling a lot less, while retaining my appetite from that, Howevver it still has to be said that from 1995 to 2000  I put on loads of weight in successive bouts, losing some maybe in 96 and then 97, but after Ireland just getting  a bit big and tittied, I was a bit cgubby for years and then only thin with the stress of moving to norway, which may actually be a fact that the new water and gut bacteria thing here helped me get thin

Research in this area has been poo-pooed a bit, pardon the shitty pun, Many dieticians will point to the solid fact that obese people eat a lot more and a lot more fatty and sugary foods, than ordinary BMI folk, However I am quite active and dont eat all that much more, and have tried dieting and atkins without a lot of success, I have varied from 108 to 122 kg for years now,

I did say fuck it all, so what, eat and bevvy and as long as your heart rate is ok and your waistline doesnt get bigger than 40" fuck it, I am healthy, Only I am not, I have an acid reflux problem which has come back and I have irritable bowel witout the pain, just the bloating and potential water retention and tendency for something worse to develope,

I heard about FODMAPS, fermentable sugar species not that long ago and how they are thought to generate the symptoms of IBS by altering the proportion of the bacteria in the gut to a fraction where disease is the result. If these fermenting bacteria were doing somethign else then? Making more simple sucrose or actually starving the body all the time so that it on the one hand stays hungry while on the other hand it lays down fat in contemplation that starvation may get worse?

I will have to see if my theory is borne out in any of the research, but it has a nagging little ring of truth to it. I find that my appetite is bigger now and I am not as satisfied with my food,.

Or rather I did because now I am nine days or so into a low fodmap diet. I have gone for the near total exclusion of gluten and lactose as two prime culprets, but aslo a pile of other things like pears and apples. I allow myself a couple of rye wheat crackers with lunch most often and the odd white flour based thing if I am on the move or ;rude not to; sitiuation., The first few days I had diarheoa, but that I think is to be expected. Suddenly the bugs used to nice fermentable mono, di and poly saccharides are starved, and kick up a fuss as they maybe die back, while others caused commotion, After a week though I was down to a little hard stools but much more even shitting it has to be said, although I am only a few days into that.

I wonder also if this has affected my energy levels for years too, I have been up and down this last week or two but before that I was often vapourised in the afternoons and mid evenings, only to regain a kind of high later on in the evening to my annoyance. Perhaps all that sugar fermentation lead to a sugar rush, or perhaps I was a little drunk on alcohols produced from the fermentations?

It is recommended cutting drastically down on coffee which I have not yet managed, but my bowels dont seem to be going at 100mph like they used to, Often I would be shitting three times a day at the worst times.

It isnt a drastic diet, and I have allowed a major unhealthy thing in - chocolate. The key carbos are oats, bannanas, rice and potatoes, so you cannot go wrong there. Fruits are limited it has to be said. All meats and fish which is not processed is admissable, and simple sucrose is also ok. It is glucose and fructose you should avoid apparently, they get more easily fermented in their basic form rrather than the disaccharide made up of the two. 'Corn syrup' is very high in fructose and it is used as a sweetener increasingly this side of the atlantic, having been long established in the USA. 

Wheat starch, gluten and lactose are the other big evils and you hear more about this generally with food allergies to them a bounding in the under 30s. I wonder then if the big change in the generations from eating potatoes as the staple, to eating more pasta based dinners and more auxilliary dairy like yoghurts and refreshing drinks are a big cause for the jump in IBS? or was it one of those diseases people didnt bother going to the GP about before, or just it wasnt in the media? My dad had some form of IBS< but that was in part from poor nutrition and a shrapnel injury during WWII.

Historically sucrose, glucos and fructose have been very low constituent parts of mans diet, as can be seen from the evidence of tooth health in ancient remains through to the early 19th C, where after dental caries starts to predominate in autopsies.

I would like to feel more satisfied with my food, have less in between meal hunger attacks, have less bubbling down there are generally reduce my appitite while increasing my exercise levels a bit. This diet now is going to stick for the forseeable,. when you can then reintroduce slowly and to a lower level, some FODMAPS and see which ones in isolation by reintroduction, really kick you off. I am a lot less farty and have regular solid stools for the first time in years, while also going to the loo lest often for those no.2s, I have still attacks of the tireds, but now I felt today that my hunger attacks were much abated. There is probably a pyscho somatic thing there two, which is good, because it will keep me off snacking and help me push trhough to the controlled portion meal times, which is my next challenge in terms of taking this further and losing some weight.

I am trying to do 8 hours exercise a week, although our 57' N spring is doing its worst to get in the way of this. I kicked this all off with what turned out to be the biggest day out in the hills for well over a decade for me, and it went very well, a couple of concentration exhaustions that was all, on a perfect day bar the huge patches of snow we had to wade through. Health is important, and you cannot ignore an long term altererd bowel issue and just carry on regardless. The same with mental health, sleep, aches and pains, that bad back from sitting in the office too many hours, and of course finally kicking smoking or three nights a week down the boozer. It is never too late and it is not that huge an effort for the benetfits, particularly if you involved more exercise. For me that meant upping my 4 to 5 hour a week to 8 hours , not always making that target, but that being there and much higher, so that I get an average maybe of about 5 or 6 in reality over a month.

If you are lucky your GP or dietician will know now about FODMAPs and the exclusion diet, and I have no doubt that this will be first line treatment for IBS because there is no other proven treatment so far, apart form perhaps faecal implants *repopulating the microflora from another, healthy person" or a total antibiotic kill back followed by what would be effectively the same FODMAP approach more or less., with a simple diet building up until you hit a trigger foodstuff. IBS is very disabilitating in its moderate to severe forms,  with people being embarressed to go to work, on the one hand, while on the other hand being in so much pain and discomfort they take their own lives. I have done that dastardly of anti intellectual, stupid society things and self diagnosed myself but of course there is really no risk what so ever, beacuse the low FODMAP diet is really very healthy and probablyy lower calorie in the course of a day. I could say that taking multivitamins is a good idea because you do miss out on a lot of fruit in the first six weeks which are super low FODMAP weeks.

If you have IBS< or are over wieght, or have unusual variable bowel movements, or are too thin, or suffer from sudden tiredness with no other symptoms, then give it a  go, the low FODMAP but also of course, disclaimer disclaimer, visit your doctor for advice,.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Career Advice -Addressing the MSc Masters in Marketing from Strathclyde UNi

It has been a long time since I blogged about career advice for graduates from Strathclyde Uni's MSc Marketing, whcih I completed myself back in the early nineties.

There is a good reason for that - print media falls away, PR has changed to sound bite and fakish news, and online digital is a different beast from where even I was 7 years ago when I last worked in it.

So detailed advice on career paths is not something I can advise on, and unlike the old tweed jacketed fuddy duddies who worked in careers services 25 years ago, I am not getting paid for this, and you can take it or leave it as more general advice!

From hard, bitter experience and on the other hand many high points and having met a lot of sort of Euroyuppies, what do I advise now?


1) Get on the Ladder And Jump Up Rungs on The Ladder Sooner Rather Than Later


A thing I noticed was that a lot of people I met in marketing from around 2002 onward, had a recipe for success. Nearly all had treated their first graduate job as initial work experience, and bailed out pretty early if they were not on a Blue Chip career path internally. Even then they had moved up asap.

I always was under the impression that you had to get a year on the CV, but that is really wrong. Now more than ever what you need to be doing is looking for the opportunity to advance your career in its early stages before I would advise strongly, settling down for 3 to 5 years work at a company. I have been stung several times, even as a grey haired old timer, by accepting jobs to keep me in work, and then finding out that they were not as committed to me as I was to them, and being left in the lurch.

 I was at the executive job club on St Vincent Street twice in the 90s, both times asking to be on it after just a couple of months unemployment. There the leader said a strange thing i thought was very odd or off-hand at the time - " When you get a job, keep looking for other jobs". He obviously knew even then in the mid 90s that work was a lot less stable for those coming new to the market and those getting a little long in the tooth on the unemployment statistic. The point for you is that there is always going to be a better opportunity for the vast majority of graduates sitting in their first, often rather tedious job they think as a good career step. Get the Hell Out of There if you can get something which works better for you!

Looking for the opportunity means yes applying for other jobs, doing plenty of open applications to while in a job, and getting used to doing this. In the UK especially, the disposable, project telated worker is a thing which is spreading upwards in society as the entitled boss and owner classes can use the minimal legal requirements and treat staff even in intellectual value added positions, as a commodity, or as something whcih can be hired in and out. You should be very aware that companies expect on the one hand loyalty and hard work, while on the other they will dispose of you very rapidly when they see that there can be some 'down time' or a chance to stress the organisation and get higher productivity with fewer staff.

Opportunity also means conversely to this last statement, being open to running with the ball of new projects to taking new career directions. It means a deal of networking, which just means circulating yourself a little and asking people about their work, their companies, their needs for solving problems and completing tasks. You should I think take the option of something like project managing a new building or working as a quality manager in high tech if that is there for you for some reason. You need then to see what the opportunity is and how your personality and abilities could match it, rather than thinking within a small box of job and marketing. This goes internally and externally to where you work.

2) Relocate

This is the big bug bear for many folk from Scotland. We love where we come from and we hate the idea of working in the big smoke, London and the SE.

Basically unless you have a first class honours from your previous degree or a job in Scotland is tailor made for your combination of BA/BSc and MSc, then you are up against huge competitiveness in the market for marketing jobs. Nepotism is rife in marketing and Scottish private business, so if you don't have that on your side, then you are competing with folk that do.

When relocating then, dont think of London and the SE as all bad. I actually love the area, but then again I only ever stay in Hotels or with friends it has to be said. It is highly expensive but there are solutioins to that and in any case if you try hard.

Dont forget that the Manchester - Liverpool area is home to a lot of major brands and on line retailers, and in fact is only 3 hours from Scotland on a sunday night.

It took me five years of temp jobs and rubbish in Scotland to realise that I didnt' have a nice unique combination of qualifications which was so very sought after, and I was competing with old school ties, positive discrimination for women, nepotism and uni' hack networking. I moved to Manchester and never looked back, had a fantastic time. After two and a half years I had my pick of jobs and was able to move from mostly trad' marketing over to internet projects in 1999 at the right time for this.


3) Get Blue Chip on the CV

It is very hard to get into many blue chip organisations in marketing, because they often have a weird formula for success which has nothing to do with marketing qualifications. Quite a few major brands recruit only from Oxbridge and take people like English graduates who were in the debating society or so on. However it is worth trying and worth re-trying again with open applications etc. Here you can take that personnel are actually very often your worst enemy, they are gate keepers, You are far better networking your way to bosses in marketing.

It can be hard for MSc graduates to use sales in corporates as a way into marketing, as many want long term sales people to build "strong and stable" customer relations over many years, or very dedicated go -getting career sellers. However it is not that hard either especially if you can combine your first degree in terms of what you offer a company.

Also you don't need to work directly for a Blue Chip orgainsistion, you as a marketer may find it easier to get a job with an agency who deliver marketing services,  or be in sales and marketing in a quality supplier to the Blue Chip customers, and be able to put those names in what the job was about.

Blue Chip names really help your personal branding and make you shine. But there are alternatives in the career route.

2) b)   Choose Gazelle Companies and Sunrise Industries

This is a very fruitful approach, but you can get burnt by bankruptcies or buy outs and down sizing as a result. Gazelle companies are those with high growth rates, often explosive growth but investors refer to them as those with growth in top end sales of over 20%. Very often they dont advertise positions other than senior administrative management, because they are known in their industries and attract talent via open applicaitons and networking.

 This is because they are very attractive to work for . Very often there are new internal opportunites for more interesting jobs and promotion sooner than in lack lustre blue chips, who are always on the look for 'right sizing' and subject to the knives of merger and aquisition butchers. Gazelles are tommorrows blue chip companies, just look at Apple, a quirky home computer company which now is the worlds highest valued corporate!

Sunrise industries often have many companies who are not on the Gazelle listings you may find for your region or industry. THis is because many of them are in the start up and cash-burn phase rather than actually creating revenue. There are hundreds of app' boutiques, programming away for that next giga-app for mobiles for example. There are the biotechs, there are the nano materials, there are the AI companies. These can be risky to work for, because they run mostly on investor monies , burn capital, and so can have the rug taken out from under their feet and be forced to down size, But they are tommorows Gazelles and nowadays they are often run by people who truly want to build something and not just sell out once they reach a milestone or threaten the market leader.

These are great for the CV, and if things are going a bit pear shaped, then you have a good excuse for getting out when you go to other interviews.


2 c) Go Ugly Early

I have had a good few bosses who have indeed worked for 'blue chip' companies as managers, but not the type of glamerous FMCG ones you might expect. They have worked for faceless industrial supply or finanical services companies, or been managers at lesser known suppliers of marketing services or other supply in the bigger blue chip supply. In effect they went ugly early, they took a management career route in what externally seems a very dull company, a name you see by the motorway in Birmingham or a sign on the main industry area in Slough.

People management skills are actually quite few on the ground because so many companies are delayered. Many product managers these days have no line management resposibities, no longer do they have a 'gofer' assitant PM. Managing a department takes good people skills, which can be honed out in an area with smaller egos perhaps in a less glamerous company before you  move over to something a little more sexy shall we say.

3) Get Super Qualified

Dear MSc graduate, you need more  education I am afraid!

For movement into mamagement then you need to have better than that poor old one year MSc. An MBA is still a ticket into management, and the MSc counts towards units for Strathclydes programme last time I checked. Very often you will find yourself being managed by non marketing qualified bosses who got an MBA and decided they liked marketing best.

A part time MBA is also a good networking opportunity even if you take several years to complete it, or defer it a year or two and so on.

In a technical area from your first degree or perghaps a route you find yourself in, it can be worth doing further on the job certification or just as many courses as you can. Many marketeers end up on different careers because it can be a bit pyramidal and hard to get a management position as a marketer beyond product manager or say PR manager.

In the period of transformation from Trad' Marketing to Internet, I realised I was missing out on skills and knowledge in a lot of meetings, and had pathcy kind of IT knowledge. I did some training while working at the Uni in 1996, but also applied for the reknowned MIS (management for information systems) at Stirling Uni with a view to becoming more of a project manager than in marketing, and earn a lot more at that point in time at least. I deferred entry for about four years in a row because I would have to have funded it myself and gave up, but it would have been an excellent career boost for me at a time when the market for skills was changing rapidly.



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Marketing is a very, very competitive career to get into and you will be surrounded often by very competitive people who can have rather sly ways of winning internal trophies and battles. It is a great career, interesting and varied I found. However dont' be precious with it, if you get an opportunity to be a manger in a different direction, or retraining internally as somethign which pays well, then take it.

I have made the jump over the fence so to speak into supply chain management, which for a marketer is going ugly late ! I still need more courses and certification to really get on, but enjoy it a lot more than I expected and as a middle aged man now, find that the tasks and ways of managing things, and not least the people and their attitudes to suit me quite possibly better than had I stayed in marketing.

Careers are about two things I think - committing to a route and then being opportunistic to get the best pole position to advance your career, and not being sentimental about jumping jobs or relocating.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

You Are Allowed to Become Different Person as You Age!

Much though some philosophers and uber liberals would like to beleive, we are not actually free thinking, existential beings. We are to some extent preprogrammed at birth, by our parental upbringing, by our childhood experiences (especially trauma) , by our hormones, by our education, by our social groups....and so on. As they say in darkest Aberdeenshire, the "the biy is the faithir o' the man'"

However we have the freedom to change or to perhaps accept that we have changed. The middle aged me is surprisingly different and yet often more similar to the prototype me than the supposedly mature 30 something me. I have changes maybe in some predictable ways, becoming more emotionally stable, more structured, maybe a little more dependable. Also i am allowing myself to be a little less extrovert, a l.ot more sceptical and interested to mirror behaviour rather than run around like a lapping, barking dog looking for company, expecting everyone to be my friend, as I think I could be at times.

Personality is not a very, very dynamic thing though. It can be drastically altered by chance events, such as emotional trauma or of course brain damage. The most well known story is really kind of the birth or root of evidence for neuroscience and epi-phenonmenology. A certain Mr. Phineas Gauge and his dynamite tamping rod accident. This is a fact, his skull is on displlay post mortem, and although you can of course argue about the actual personality changes noted from the accounts of family and acquaintances, he did survive and was changed in personality.

Personality is of course a coping mechanism for the world around us. However just like the new alpha male in the wolf pack, often we harbour ambitions or have ambition and social position thrust upon us by chance events, through which we kind of adopt a new persona and start behaving differently. We have in fact in many cultures, a great deal of restraint placed upon our personalities. We have social norms, religious conventions and peer pressure, all holding us down in the more presbyterian, muslim or jesuit community. We get knocked down to size or kept in our place by the kind of pecking orders which develop through out life, from the playground to the workplace to the old folks home!

Some of us then cope better because we were predisposed or learned enough to get along with our fellow social homo sapiens. I never quite did in some ways, reflected most in work becauuse I like to change job frequently, and also dont fit in in very structured, authoritarian or staid workplaces. I developed a big anger explosion thing, which I think was related to cannibis use  in part, and weekly drinking sessions which could go quite large. I suddenly lost the plot in emotional situations or under stress and became angry to the verge of violent. It kind of reflected my past and it kind of carried on, until the fuse actually got shorter! This was explained to me at a management course about anger in the workplace and at home, that really it isnt going to get better without some conscious training to avoid it, becauuse it is a biiological mechanism, fight or flight, which is being switched on.

I realised also that I had spent many years or periods of my life in 'flight' mode. Ready to run. Backing down from fights and conflict. Also I didnt quite trust people or situations to be any good for me, I expected disappointment or was sceptical to values of endeavour. So being able to stop up and be 'mindful' of my current status and why the sitatuiin is eliciting this response, is quite a normal tool for many, but one I had to learn in middle-bloody-age, tail between legs, But at least in terms of the BIG FIVE, I am a seeker, I like and strtive indeed for new experiences and ideas. We are neophiles for holidays, hating to go the same place twice on principle!

In the big five then, which are actually not a terribly good predictor of perrformanc in a job, somewhat better in team dynamics it has to be said, or in particular forms of leadership like the 'transformational' boss, where have I travelled?

Well I am at odds with myself because I have always been looking for the new, enjoying the excitement of the new, while also being quite extrovert I believed, seeking new people too, But in fact my extroversion is probabkly driven by a good dose of neuroticism as well as my open ness and neophillia. I wanted new experiences with people, but in fact I am not v ery externally centred, I am very inner directed in terms of values and expectations in relationships. I have a fundamental conflict there because where I live, in the harbour town, people are a little the opposite of me- stable, boring, and self centred as a social group if not as individuals. They are by in large NeoPhobic. I hate it here sometimes. In fact of course this fundamental conflict only gets amplified here due to the  cliques and the flat social norms expected.

Ok let me think then on the big five, each one to ten, where was I when I was say a young man at Uni and a young Graduate?

Openness / Exploration - probably around 8 or 9

Sability    Probaly below five

Conscientiousness  Probably about 6 or 7 if you take final year and jobs maybe even 8

Extraversion - well was I really that extrovert, or was I driven to meet people without being that interested in them? I would say I was a six but maybe I was only a 3

Neuroticism  . yep, pretty high up at 8 or even 9 sometimes.

How then does the old me rate here?

Openness / Well that is maybe even 10 right now

SDtability - is up a bit over 5, but I still have some issues areound anger and tacking rejection

Conscientiousness / about 8 I'd say, relative to my age about that. Relative to society and colleagues, I am well over average and that has a negaitve effect on my stress level to be honest. I am not maybe a natural at this, like my daughter. I am quite laid back really and not very interested in more than 'cramming' and getting through, less in doing a good slow job and getting on slowly but steadily.

Extraversion. Well here and now I am toning that down, looking to read other people, not rushing in to be in the gang or anyones best mate. I am also looking to get to know shy people more, because before in life I didnt tolerate them well, until Gill came along.  So maybe I am naturally actually a 4?

Neuroticsim. Well now I just have bouts of this, and it is a  bit situatioin and person dependent, I am also growing out a lot  of this on a day to day basis, in parrt due to CBT coursing in rleation to assertive workplaces, and then I took the personal , 3 month course of evening meetings and homework on it. Every manager should do this cognitive based therapy course, it could help them personally and to get much more out of a team, or turn difficult employees around. BTW. I am definetly in a transition between a lot of stress in life and not tackling it very well, and a new slightly laid back, sceptical type I am becoming in respect of many situations which are a nit mundane, like working life to be frank.

In terms of a new partner, and there will be one out there for me believe me, where does this all stand? Well there is truth in both birds-of-a-feather and opposties-attract I believe, alhtough the studies show the best correalation between those lilttle bring matching cardigan types who are highly similar on the big five, or the core three.

I would need an openness lady. 5 would pass if she made up for it in other ways.

I would need a failry stable lady, not prone to negativity or volatitlity. Pretty horizontal that way.

I would need a failry conscietntious, but with the right priorities, bnot nazi about house work`

Extraversion? I dont know, I quite like shy, but they have to be good at putting me first sometimes, and us first most all the time. So shy can be good - it is not a true reflection of extraversion. You may be shy, but actually very empathetic and interested in other people, you just have a social angst from instability or neuroticism, or just lack the tools in extraversion communication.

Neurotiicism. Well a bit is ok, it makes for someone who maybe  isnt dull and flat.

Where have i been in my last marriage?

Control , she has a high need for control. This is driven by her conscientiousness and her neuroticism., She is ultra high on both really, although she is quite stable, to the point of arrogance. Openness is also high, on the side of flightyness up at 9 or even 10. Exraversion is higher than mine, she centres around peoplke and not experiences as I do.

I need someone with far less need for control, and less neuroticism and conscientiousness.

I could say that Narrie Nar was not really in the picture there, she was too unstable. She wasnt neurotic, but she lacked a stabiklity thing. She had had childhood trauma you see. Sandra, my first love as a young man, was really all that I could want, easy going, a bit consientious, caring and outgoing enouugh without being flirty annoying, and a little new seeking but not much. Gill was the big hit. Shy, but not introvert, oriented mostly around other people, but not a lot to say always for herself. We had a real chemistry, a boind, which was kind of greater than sandra or 'nita narr. Nita was flightly and flirty and super extrovert. I thought I related to her better than Gill but in truth, Gill was  kind of a toirch light into the new, mellower future. I ended up with a highly new seeking, neurotic and bossy type who really has some issues now, but has made a good deal of my late 30s and 40s troublesome and  unusually hard work, or rather  futile in effort. We just couldnt resolve it all, there was too big a different, even though we are quite similar in terms of the big five . She is anxious, negative and very judgemental. I wonder what hobby she will take up now, after perfecting criticising me as a sport for the last 15 years?

Now you can of cours plot out the big five to look at behaviours and attitiudes like CONTROLLING or non collaborative or what have you. I have a high need for control, but also am laid back enough to go with the flow. However I have learned to push back on being dominated. I have a high need for newness, or rather trhive with that, but could grow out of it.

In effect I feel just his last couple of months to really have finally grown the hell up, just in time to accept myself and become a horny teenager all over again!











Saturday, March 18, 2017

No News Is Bad News in the Job Process

As a follow uyp to my last bklogg, I would say go with your gut  instinct and parrt of manaing that emotional response is being able to move on quickly from rejection

Rejection is easy to gauge in the interview and job offer process. No news i invariably bad news. It means that other people are being ivitied to interview or offered the job, and you are on hold. These days very few people will turn down a job, or even an interiew but it does happen. So if they say they will tell you by the end of the week, phone on Friday morning and phone back if they put you on answer phone.

The onlyt thing I can suggest earlier in the internview rounds is that you phone up if you get rejection and tell them you were very interested if they had a cancellation for interbview. I havent in truth done this very often because I hate rejection and get nercvous in that type of situation, but I have been mysterioulsy called into intervbiew at short notice on occoasion.

Trust Your Instinct! Gut feeling and the Job Interview/ Offer Process

I am currently looking for a job as the climate for consulting is pretty poor for one man bands, and McKinsey, PWC, multiconsult seem to want a double doctorate with ten As at A level.

So a near miss with the public sector this week, often locked by experience in the law-work , a typical chicken and egg thing. However I made a second interview only to be beaten by someone a little better and with no doubt lingo as a native.

However what have I learned from the last three decades of job seeking and indeed, people in general?

Well most of all it is to trust your gut feeling I would say every single time. Nothing has ever, ever gone against my gut feeling , but occiasonally it has been derailled by other people in the interview or being a bit rose tinted spectacles on what was a 'gut neutral' recruiting process.

Gut feeling is an odd thing, because it reflects not only your emnotional response to the external sti,mul;us but also a subtle two way street on that issue. People have a terrible inbuilt instinct to make very rapid decsions based on superficial and immediate impressions. This is based not just on their prejudices but on YOURS, you will give immediate signals which they will immediatlely react to. It is the first thirty seconds of the encoutner which colours what happens next. It is a bit like love or hate at first sight with the opposite sex though, because in the cold lightr of day either or both parties may find they have made a bad initial judgment and reverse that by the new learning,

No such luxury for that girl who couldnt stand the sight of you but then you fall madly in love a month later once the ice is broken with a crash of defences falling, In the typical interview you have only 15 minutes of the hour to actually present yourself and often you are very lucky to establish a dialogue on the actual position, what the focus and demands are, and what your strengths and short comings may be. That is the ideal situation, as in a first date, there  is dialogue and not a polite process which has to be gone through. I have never had a job offer when the interview has felt like a cut and paste presentation and standard one way questions, when often they start late, rattle on about the company for too long, and then start watch checking about 15 minutes before the end. Most often this has been associated with a very neutral invitation to interview, more on that below.

Very often the employer will have shaped either a very positive view of you from your CV with preconceptions in a positive light, or they are a little dubious but you seem a good fit on many counts, or they have just had a handful of applications. In my last actual job, they had only 8 qualified candidates apply even though the big down turn in the oil industry had put many like me in SCM on the dole!

The job ad' should though not give you a gut feeling. I find that a standard, good application with some explanation of why the company and or job is appropriate for you and vice versa helps. But setting your hopes on one job in this market is the absolutely wrong thing to do. You are competing with very key competance people who are either unemployed or feel their company or department may go under the chop. So you just have to gett the numbers up and hold a good quality letter with your CV. Open applications are both less effective in terms of interviews per hundred, and you need to do hundreds, but on the other side they are more effective in terms of getting a job which may suit you geographically, This is because employers are loathe to advertise sometimes, they get hundreds of applications and then a lot of social pressure from their freinds and family to employ. They would rather do it a little under the radar, although very often this type of approach leads to a stop-gap temporary position.

So I did the wrong thing this time and stopped up with my other applications and dropped open applications altogether in the push to study for the job and be there for the reply after second interview. I was a bit 'rejection fatigued' anyway, but it made this one a bit harder becauuse my head was down and not up looking at the market.

Now we come to the invitation, it should give you a gut feeling. I guess some professions are a little more neutral and square in their invitation to interview, but you can get a good gut feeling if they bother to phone you up. If they send an e-mail invitation and don't call within a working day of it arriving, then you have to ask yourself how much they care and just how many they are interviewing? A personal invitation in the phone followed by an e/mail confirmation is important. If any significant travel is involved, then you should ask if they cover travel expenses / this gives you a bit of a feel for them as an employer.

A stratight No on travel expenses can mean they have tight budgets, it can mean they dont care much for candidates or it can mean that they have more than 10 to first interview, or indeed it can mean that they have a high staff churn rate and cant afford to be nice to people because they arent nice to employees once theyre in!!  A positive tone in the conversation should be expected if it is the manager who you will be working with, while personnel are more netural or matter of the fact, often verging on the rude because very often they are busy and very often you were not their prime candidate ie the manager did not like their choice.

You should pose at least one question at this point, whcih can be as cheeky as how many are you interviewing? / a  very off hand or slightly negative answer to this can be intepreted with your gut feeling. With jobs which are in areas expensive to live in or commute to, I often ask what the wage is, and rarely get an indication to be honest. That is the culture here, but in other areas like the USA perhaps and the UK you should know the wages and some of the conditions from the ad or ask. Where there is a culture for wages in adverts or openess on them, hiding wages is usually a sign to something a little wrong IMHO. All part of the gut feeling.

For a job which you think will be marginally economic for you ie you have to weekly commute or it is part time, then I wouuld recommend trying to change the time point of the interview just to see how they react. , as well as asking them to cover travel expenses. Some firms say they have a policy of not paying candidates for first interview, so why not have a policy of not accepting such interviews? Think of it this way, if it is a very specific skill set they are looking for, then you are quite likely making way for one of your competing candidates to get that job in that area. You would be better served spending say a 200 euro travel expense on doing something positive in  your life or paying debt to be honest. An alternative little wheeze is to say your car is in the garage and can you take it as a phone interview or via SKype since you cannot make it. This all sounds a bit risky, and to an employer reading this, bloody minded, but youu face two big financial risks when you mixs in with a job ouuytside comfortable daily commuting distance. Firstly if you got five interviews 200 miles away, then you would use up all you monthly income in your dole or local waiting job. Secondly the cost of establishing yourself there means you are in negative cash flow for up to two years, which I know to my cost. You are always a monthy behind and needing to use your credit card if you had littlle or no savings to establishy yourself with an appartment or pay for a long daily commute.

Due to the fact that so many quality jobs these days can demand very key competances, youu can often get a good feel that you are a good match for that set, and that there will be less than 10  to first interview. This is often in a set whcih includes not only the core skills, but also specific computer systems (SAP being my bug bear lack on the CV) , supply chain and industry, even down to specific customers such as the public sector, or suppliers such as Bayer or GE., or markets say China or Germany. So when you do get a call with a positive tone from the boss who will be employing you, then you it should feel right. Go though back to the job advertisement and get your feet back on the ground every time at this point, and see through which applications you have out, and which you have to do. It can be worth now putting pressure on all the prime jobs you have not heard from by ringing and saying you are in an interview process with another company and would like to hear yes or no sooner, which will indeed get you picked out or dropped sooner. Also get ringing those other jobs which are out there before your apply, because now you are hot property , off the back foot and on the offensive. In this market in most western countries, employers will be sitting with hundreds of applications with a good few dozen or even fifty good qualified candidates, from whcih they may use some arbitary secret filter, including age-ism, sexism, college snob value, and most of all geography and previous employer brand name. So gettign picked out because you are hot, and would rather have that job than the one you are up for is worth a go. With a smaller job application number it can sound a bit pushy, but it means that you are most likely yet another wrung uip the ladder towarrds securing interview.

At interview employers and especially recruitment constulants, will nearly always ask if you are in another interview round, or give you the spanish inquisition on why you are leaving. A major hidden agenda which recruitment consultants have as a key offer to clients, is wages control and expectations management via the vaneer of a wide net of screened candidates. Very often they send half the candidates as window dressing for the main product so to speak. i hate recruitement constultants a lot because of these two factors. You often end up being an also ran, having had your hopes up, or being presented with a suprisingly low salary offer or discussion nearer the end of the process. They basically wanted to establish the highest motivbateion, most qualkified candidate for the lowest wage, and today they can often get that even if those candidates quite often are the very ones who will job hop out of those mediocre wages asap.

I have had a couple of major mess ups in my career and both times I had my gut instinct a little out of tune. In one I felt the bosses were so odd that this was a bit of a strange department, but I had been out of work over a year. They were odd, I had a dumped marketing assistant called Marianne who no one else wanted to work with because she was a hopeless egotistical spastic who wrote marketing material like a 14 yearr old. It went pear shaped through no real fauklt of my own, and the two bosses even had left within a year if sacking me. Also in another interview some 8 years later, one boss was very bitchy and passive aggressive, while the director was very positive. I went on his side with my gut instinct, but it turned out that she was my boss and she was the fucked up machievellan boss from hell, with no idea how to structiure workflows in an SCM department or how to manage people. She was a bitch delux.

Interviews are always seen as putting all the pressure and focus on the candidate, but in fact the way the employer behaves in an interview and as mentioned, before and after in their approach to you, is very, very telling,. Now to the three Cs=  The Cars, the Carpet and the Coffee. A rule of thumb is how are the offices, the parking lots? Are the cars there scrappy or a lot of new cars? Is there a rich-poor car lot? Then you get to reception, for a company with more than 20 employees at a main reception they should have full time work hours reception and/or security gaurd. Then there are the carpets and the decor. Investing in working environment means investing in people, but also investing in image. Crappy carpets and crappy coffee mean in my costly experience, a crappy employer. The opposite is also true, very fine entrances and artwork can be all show, ask to see the 'cube farm' you will be actually working in? I worked for one ad ' agency whose bosses all had flash fully expensed cars, while account managers got nothing but the going rate for the job. They tried hard to make a good environment in an old church, but they had a them-and- us attitude which sucked big time.

Coffee is a bad thing for gut instincts and first impressions. I would always avoid it in interviews, but be polite to say don't let me hinder you if you need one. If the interview start runs late, as they often do when they have 10 or more candidates to get through in a week, then give quite a blunt no thank you and even say,  we can start as soon as ytou like. Coffee means a lot of time following someone to a machine or canteen, and they will have their back to you and it is awkward with hot, plastic ups or cups and saucers through doors and so on. So judging the firm by the coffee is worth avoiding in terms of getting up to an extra five minutes face to face time with the interviewers. A polite, no thanks I had a bit of time on my journey to have a coffee break, but dont let me hinder you is a good way of getting on with it. It may be that they are dieign for a coffee after back to back interviews in the stuffiest conference room  they got landed with.

Post interview you have to both trust your gut instiution and abate it. Do you have evidence to support it? Did you really answer to their satisfaction? Were the slight negatives which gave you a negative taste in the mouth so to speak, actually real or just hiccups or nervousness on both sides? Did they answer YOUR questions to YOUR satisfaction, or even give you time to ask them? A positive gut feeling often cvomes from buying signs which are both verbal,ised or content basxed, and from tone of voice and body language which in turn is conscious and suibconscious. These buying signs often come in first or even second interview because you have matched or exceeded expectations from your CV, and to that point in time are one of the best candidates they have seen. They have the other candidates to go through, and if they have had any training at all, will know to lay subjective thoughts to one side and appraise on a point for point, answer for answer, skill fo skill needed basis. If not then they will colour an interview result, and often a senior manager will wade in with their prejudices from the CV or how they took you on first impressions. Would you want to work for a company with institutionalised racism, sexism, ageism or snobbery? Lucky escape if this happens to you behind the scenes, or well done WASPY Ivy Leagure boy, you landed your first job on  the old vine network.

Post interview these days is not the time to rest on your laurels given a positive interview. Before that beer or wine, put the job behind you and get on with looking for the newest jobs on the market, and the applications you have inevitably postpoined, especially open applications. Do one application before you uncork that Chardonnay,  Keep it to one beer or two if it is midweek, it could be they call you back that evening or next morning 8am to ask a supplementary question or offer you a second interview. Once I was offered a job next morning because I was the best of the candidates by head and shoulders above them, and one not bothering to turn up!

The offer too shouuld give you a gut instinct, but I have had a couple of mediocre wage offers in my life. Mostly thouugh I have established a win win on that front at some point, and pushed a little for information on it. I would say for any job you should ask for a meeting to accpet the letter of appointment and see round the offices. This means that you have them on the spot about a low offer, and also you get to meet some colleagues and gauge the atmosphere of the office. I usually have gone into most any job  I have got  very up and positive, yet in many cases I have found that this is an odd place to work with some bitchy people with nationalist agendas against foreigners like me. I make mistakes again and again, like letting coworkers get a look at my CV or Linking In with them. Ask your boss specifically not to share your CV and take your Linked In off line is my advice.

Getting a job these days feels like winning the world cup, but come back to earth. I have had a couple of jobs where although I was just qualified enough, I was a bookmark so to speak- holding up head count while they maybe got a better internal candidate to come over after a project. This is a very real phenomenon, and if you are unemployed when you get the job, be aware of this. There can be a rack of better candidates who could not start withouut several months of notice or turn down the job because they have an interesting project to complete.

So when you get an offer you have to ask yourself, is this a keeper or is this a stepping stone? Will you tread water and have this as a wating job? What are the risks your skills will fall a little short? What are your personal financial risks in commuting or relocating?  We are back to then getting those other applications forward to a position where we have other options and we can postpone a decision on a job which is a little shakey. I would say a visit to the company is well worht while to meet the team at this point, and worth doing at your own expense to save potentially a lot. Ask some minions and middle managers how it really is in the company and wh\at they expect of the position if you can. Some jobs are very, very different from the way they are dressed up in the advert unfortunetly, For instance a job with 'account manager with responsibillity for major customers' can mean a telesales job trying to win those customers in reality!

At a job club for graduates a long time ago now in the mid 1990s at the end of the course on applications and everything before we got stuck into doing masses of applications, the course leader said "...and when you get a job, don't stop looking for jobs" . I took this as a little trite or even daft at the time, but in fact this is very good advice, especially for us who dont have a golden handcuffed, blue chip career path.

So with people, go with your gut feeling but reel it in a little in terms of being disappointed with a rejection or a job which is not as interesting as advertised, or being thrown into a frying pan of fire fighting and over work as I was in my last two jobs in fact and why I tried consultancy. Take a step back from your gut feeling, and see if the reality of skills match on paper and how they reacted and what they said or asked really supports your positive or negative take out.  Cold light of day stuff though is only attenuating your gut feel a bit IMHO, go with it in making your actual decision always!!!!





































Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Time to T2 - trainspotting and the visitation to the auld nation

Choose Scotland. Choose kalyard kitsch and tartan tinned shortbread. Choose being run by someone in London. Choose being rubbish at national sports, well the ones which people care about. Choose a kilted image of a warrior nation when actually we would most all die from pie induced heart attacks if we ever had to fight. Choose heavy drinking, wife beating, not knowing where your weans are, not caring where your weans are, not caring where you are as long as it is in a pub. Choose waking up in the morning with a warm fuzzy feel that Edinburgh Castle is still there, the mountain tops have snow on them and Euan McGregor is the greatest man to play Euan McGregor on the silver screen ever....

I chose not to choose Scotland, I Moved away.

Then came T2 and I was, by royal invitation, asked to move back, well come back for a week as it would so transpire.

It all went arse about tit really, ,my oldest mate asked me over and having inherited a bob or thousand, said he would pay, The Scot in me at first said no, I am busy trying to start something new, which will inevitably fail, such is life being a presbyterian, self doubting lowlander. Then part of me said this is too good to be true. Then part of me felt guilty for taking advantage of someone who could use the money towards nurturing their cannaboid addiction or paying for the retirement home said misuse will lead to due to the risk of precocious senility. All those typically Scottish thoughts. Maybe I should let Westminster decide for me, BreEntry, personal, not for Doncaster and Sunderland's mumbling racists. I chose not to choose to be Scottish, I chose to come to Scotland on an expenses paid trip to see Trainspotting 2.

I compromised with myself. I had a window, a bit longer than a week. I could stay off FB and shitey SM so no one would really know who was expecting any pish from me in those few days, and claim winter holiday for the next couple as an excuse after the weekend to have some time to recover and see my mate in Edinbra' on the homeward leg  Stretching it to a week brought down the flight and local train costs here enough to rebalance the guilt-benefit equation my inner Scottish wee stupid self was trying so hard to work over to the ' nah, I'm scottish, dont enjoy yourself at someone else's expense". I chose something else, I chose to book the tickets.

Now my oldest pal is a bit chalk to my  cheese . But we have a lot in common, a lot of water under collective bridge of growing up together and growing old apart. We both have moved out of our hometown and started families elsewhere, but he is ahead of me on two counts the cunt. Firstly he has left one already, and had a bairn with another only to be kicked out of her place for his usual self centredness, smart alec ness,  fuckwhittedness and passive aggression. Not always so very passive. He an only child, me practically that too, my brother being more than a decade older than me and off to sea aged 16. Us both facing up to the facts that the world expects more of you as an adult and father than we are fucking well prepared to give back to the cunty cunts.

I did it all wrong just the same, We are small doses with each other, usually his irritation takes about 16 hours and then he starts picking on things and trying to make sure we understand that this is his place or his son should not be told off, or that you may have bought lots of shopping but that bottle of scotch is a gift he will enjoy all the more for not opening before your tail lights leave his gaff or holiday caravan for the last time. I let him however, know that i was comong for longer than a four day weekend stint, and that was saving him money. So he ended up coming down from the darkest and most twiggy bits of the Aberdeenshire sticks to the so called capital with its parliament and shortbread tin castle. Pissing valentines day too, him with the roof down on his saab cabrio, may as well brought a pink, heart shaped balloon and deep throated the wanker with my tongue getting picked up at the Airport.

Like letting your mates tie you to a railway line, I let my mate know where and when I would be coming to Scotchlandshire.He planned accordinglky to enjoy my company to the full, much to my fcuking chagring the cunt, because I wanted to do some clearing out at my mums house in preperation for the inevitability of her entering a nursing home or having a timely demise. I should have lied and arranged to meet him on Friday and done the big night out on what used to be the big night out in Aberdeen, Satruday. I chose not to be smar, I chose to be at his mercy.

It dawned on me that a leopard does not change its spots, they get a little grey and blurred around the edges that is all, some of them fucking well merge it seems too. It took a whole 24 hours before his irritations and irrational 'friends accounting' took hold. As twice before at least I have pitched up with wads of food, I bought a good fifty quids worth of shopping including some ethanol based libationary fluids. And as before he seems to think that staying in one of his hovels is a novelty, kiind of depravitiy tourism, which I should set such a price on as to then transfer the entire ownership of said vittals and alcohol to him. :Two years ago it took my other half to say that he just did not deserve another bottle of scotch for letting us stay two nights at his shitty no longer mobile home rental, no matter how fine the location. It feels like you give someone half the contents of your wallet yet they expect to command its entirity. This has gone on since 2002 I do believe, a fucking decade and a fricking half. Neither of us has sodding well learned.

This time we discussed it though, and I told him to fuck off when he wanted coffee and a sweet after I made dinner night two, having done loads of dishes from god knows when and the preivous nights late night steak, cooked by a smoker who needs a tadd extra salt his nibs  does indeed indeed. He complained about the cheap steak which he had chosen and I had paid for, which I cooked damnable well since it was rump after all, hot pan, let it cool a wee bit after the initial sizzle, rest the fucker after juices rise tropugh on the second turn. I wanted a slosh of wine not to go out and do the coffee at 10pm. Peace broke out as he realised that I wasnt taking his pish seriously, and after some wine and his whining, I waited for an opportune moment to become the immovable object which moved, got hima  coffee and a damn good micropot sticky toffee pudd' and his unstoppable force managed to surrender to inertia. Peace broke out. T2 was still two nights away.

The last evening was spent running around delivering kids, him having gone like a good daddy to baby swimming at half nine and come back 3p,m with no explanation or even a bastard SMS to me. I had taken a lie-in and also taken full advantage of his whisky collection, which he really shouldnt keep in its original boxes as it hides such comrade driven evaporation. I went for a walk in countryside of which likes drove Lewis Grassic Gibbon whats his face to write books from sheer boredom, about something actualy happenign there. Rolling farmland, exposed to the winds from the North Sea and the Snow topped grampians. The long whale's back that is Benachie a little to the south, I can imagine why the picts held it in such reverance as it is the only sticky up bitty of note and elegance amidst miles and miles of sheer boredom. Perhaps it was more fun with bears, wild boar, elg and wolves running around chomping on your relatives or being chomped upon by them.

The day after we took a tour to where I used to live in the very shadow of said mountain. The house I had been lodger in was still there and the farmer, Geordie Skinner, still was the landowner with his Clydesdale horses. The nice lassie at reception at Pittodrie house told me. My mate took full advantage of being on the high margin colas, and the bill came to twenty three fucking quid for two pints, a whisky and those effing colas. It was interesting, because it was newly opened, 25 years ago, when I lived there. A place where I had turned down sexual intercourse with boith a girl of fifteen and a lady in her fifties thankfully. Not at the same time, it was a niece and aunty coincidence only, them liking tall chaps I guess and not having had it for a while.

Aberdeen's great grey corridors beckoned finally, and we made it in time well for the last late night showing of T2. Dinner was in a middles to shitty tex mex, some big retail opportunity site pish with an awful attempt at being original in decor and ambience. A chimichangas, not had since Dublin days out at Black Rock, soaked up most of the hotel room booze we had downed and some of its own interestingly labelled 'blond' beer from a hard up craft brewery somewhere. The film began about 1125. at night. It was almost empty, and we were the only vocal ones,. guffawwing and lauighting out loud.

On choosing life- one of the guys in the ads was right out of RSADA and he blew the proceeds on not chossing life, he chose some dope and had enough weed for all his mates too. He is now a hollywood director, who i beleive has directed Euan McGregor amonghst other names, one for sure is now Harrison Ford.

"It's been twenty years" as Spud put it. I am sick of Nostalgia. Sick and tired of the sick longing to rekindle, to relive to regurge it all Now at last though I find it an interesting experience rather than having either nerves nor excitement. It happened. As it it was back in 1971 when I was a student. Lang Syne. T 2 though obviously left me a little more melancholic, as if by design, for Renton is now a mere one year younger than my good self, and more Euan McGregor than ever befucking fore. Much like some other nostalgia tripping peoiple do, and our day at the Chapel o' Garioch the day before, the film played heavily on the past, quoting a bit too thickly from "T1" so to speak. Howevver it had a good enough series of plots, and wound the characters back together for what must be one last time, please tell us, just this and no more.

As with middle aged life though, you cant go making a comic book hotch potch of random scenes and let those around you work out what the fuck is going on, while you expect everything to be exciting and edgy. That is the mid life crisis, trying to go back to relive your youth or use your accumulated financial resources to OUT live your youth. Life is duller, harder and has responsibilities and regrets. Health is poorer, fitness is notable by its absence as ailments set in. T2 was for me an unnerving parallel universe with Einstiens theories of relativity pissed on, different speeds but the same time line, scared me. These once pop up cartoon characters now had histories, depth and most of all, most of cunting all, the same pathos you find around you and in your own life. Friends dead to you, times as a child a distant echo, the promise of youth denied by the realities of the world where you arent born with a silver spoon up your arse.

I left feeling my age, and feeling vulnerable a bit, but a little Begby in me kept my chin up as we walked up the hill passed the lappers to Union street in the midst of the pub to club transfer time. I found it all intimidating, so muich so that we asked a pair of coppers where to go, and they oddly enough knew a premises licsenced for later night entertainments and refreshments which was suitabkle for two middle aged fuckers who looked like they maybe had been through lives not unlike those of Renton and co. Drummonds had been on the go a quarter of a century ago as  kind of indie rock bar, and now it was a kind of noisy rocky bar, with various detritus who did not fit into, or did not want to fit into the plastic club scene and had seen enough   labias and bleached anuses for one life time donw the lappers already.  The bonniest Jean in the toon of aberdeen even admired my Hunter S' style attire, hawaiin shirt under leather jacket, and kissed me, mostly because it was her first chance to enter demial about becoming engaged to, remarkably enough, a Johnny Lee Miller look alike who was celebrating his 40th. We down some more, and then sauntered off to the Casino,

I was feelign rather jolly at this point, and I had the furhter pleasure of the world's self appointed smartest alec, pish all his money away on the bad odds of the roulette wheel and the five pound stake black Jack table. THe beer was good though. A taxi back o'er the Dee to some god forsaken Hotel somewhere I did not really remember south of the city other than a big retail pharmacy lay out there and you could eventually get to Cove. 5 am we got to sleep, and the arse decided brekkie would be maccie dees, down the road. Him not being a breakfast man. Luckiuly there was tea and shortbread and some baguette at my place for me.

I took off down the road then to see my crumbkling old mother in the west coast. Not quite fully incontinent, however th\e smell of pee was notable. as was her yet more reduced mobility., Yet what can you do, be there for her, be nice, hug her, run after her a bit and ask all around care supporters and neighbours if she should be in a home against her will, or if she is kind of relatibvewly speaking coping. Which my brother does not agree with ,and rubs his hands at my meagre inheritance being pished away in private nursing home land, five hundert a week. She is no longer just in the long autumn of her life, she is in the flickering last light of december the 31st I do believe. And that is both a great sadness, but also a great joy. As with T2 there were some jamais vu things, happened. I came across old photos of me, pretty much first time home from hospital with my red haired, proud mum standing there as my bother swaddled me in his arms while wearing a klnd smile / not that I have seen that much since, there is usually a patronising or derisory look in his eye when he smiles at me. That gave me a great joy, to realise that I had come home to love and given my mum so much pleasure of being a mother again having lost at least two bairns in pregnancy I have heard about. I was not such a difficult wee boy, and we enjoyed many good times just me and her, going to London to see the museums in the autuimn holidays, or taking my pals on a picnic on Loch Fyne. She enjoyed my freinds parents, mostly outliving them all as she approaches 90 next birthday. She gets great joy now of knowing I have a family and she will see them once more at least before she is released from the pains in her body which come with such age.

It was nice for her  to see me, you see. A few vistis earlier I felt stressed out and worried for her, and for me in a way. My childhood environment, our great family pile, our home, our caslte was going to be squandered away and bought inevitably by a developer to be bulldozed into oblivion and superceded with six figure properties. My refuge too as an adult in times of financial hardness and loss of jobs. Finally moving home to look after her when she broker her leg and hip and being resided to my local lot away from the metropollii and job prospoects. This time though, no, the house is a home still for her, it will pass on with her into history and those stories, uniquely just our familky as it was buiilt for us, will be remembered well by those who remain, and the photos of times before those again, will enter our own little folklore. You can level a house, but as long as the folk are long gone, you can never level away the joys and the strife, the happiness, the tears, the rich history every family experienced within such a long standing little mansion to the ordinary, middle income slekt.

I like the anonymitiy of being back at a place from which my generation pissed off from, it being boring as hell and representing the whole econbomic pressure cooker with the lock being those in privelidge of wealth or age or both,. The older sitting in safe jobs for thirty years, the young wondering why they would never afford a fucking house. One more old palk turned out to be visiting thouuygh and we had a good pint and a chat of real old times at secondary school with his mum and then down the boozer. No one knew me at the pub, and I knew one person though, I used to feel like I was hauinting the places there, about to bump into the living and scare them or be banished or exorcised by them. The last few trips the dribble of faces I knew and could maybe be bothered to talk to, ran dry and I became pleased after a while to have my anonymity. No one to know me, no one to cut me down to size, and no one to have trivial life explaining conversations where one party walks out dissatisfied with their own lives or bored to death at the very least.

In the house, thiis time i could ruthlessly throw stuff out I had gathered over the years. A lot of it actually wasnt mine, it was stuff which had been packed in with mine. I went through my old shoe boxes of post cards, and found a different view of myself. Old love letters - did I ever read of how much Sandra and Esther loved me? Did Kirsten not deserve a reply? Could Fiona have been the one for me? The wealth of the life I had came back to me from the late 80s when I was a young man about Uni. And what a nice coincidenc at one of my favourite pals from that time was home in Edina and could go for a beer on my last night. I threw out the detritus, the old train tickets, the old UCCA applications, variuous tatt, but wnet rhought a lot, careful to keep those little momentos and a time line especuially from uni in those wonderful four years, 86 to 90. I chucked out more stuff than I have ever, ever done before, without flinching. Such is life, loose the shit you no longer need and move on.

Edinburgh came after a last indulgence at the Esdquire house weatherpoons, a place I had flirted a couple of times with the Newton Mainrs/ ears Den females. Sandy or craig or both worked there in the 80s. I had a steak pudding instead of a flirt. and changed trains at GSQst. Martin met me off the Calton street road exit, I think it was thirty years since I came out there last, bursting onto the windy, dry evening with Kenny Dobie on a visit to the auld toon, to meet Sandra. He did some parent stuff,. His kid was quick to get on the phone after his athletics night at Meadowbank, and leave us oldies alone. We eventually wandered out for a bus, which completely confused me as for direcvtion, rendering me 180 degrees out in a mystical uphill part of Leith as far out as Portie' in my mind's eye. We had in fact gone round and were  facing back up towards the new toon, the Leith west triangle catching me as many a dribver, out.

The pub half way up Leith Walk was a kind of hipsterish place with a couple of good beers on the go. Craft beers are indeed a bit better crafted than big brewery ones. We chatted of old times, and who and what, but as always wi  Martin, we talked alot about the now time, the future, politics and personal economics, relationships etc. The bogs had a pile of posters, retro clubs, alternative nights, The clientel appeared suddenly bohemian as were the bar staff. I realised that we are now in a new underground era, the same as we had in the otherwise plastic, thatcherite eighties were there was a hard street movement against all the sqaureness. 

Life suddenly seemed even brighter than it had at Drummonds in Aberdeen or with my old pal at my local, or seeing my mum smile. I felt like a ghost yes, but one who was allowed to be human there for a week and wanted their life back , and got more of their life back than they had bargained for. A bit too much maybe, because now I want to Choose Life, Choose Scotland, choose waking up in the morning and knowing who the fuck I am.