Monday, March 31, 2008

The hottie in this edition of "Hot Scots" is Guinness World Record holder, Mark Beaumont.

On Friday 15th February 2008, Mark Beaumont completed his record-breaking 18,000 miles circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle - all the while raising money for charities. Mark arrived back at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, 194 days and 17 hours after leaving there on 5th August 2007. Total distance cycled was 18,297 miles through 20 countries.

Check out all his hotness on BBC Scotland's documentary, The Man Who Cycled the World: starting Monday April 7th on BBC2 at 7.00pm

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tomorrow will mark my second year anniversary of moving to Glasgow.

Unbelievable; it feels like it was only yesterday I was at the Toronto International airport having a panic attack about moving to the UK. Best decision I ever made and panic attack I ever had.

Walking to work (in the rain, of course) this morning, I was thinking about when I lived here as a student in 1999/2000 and how I immediately fell in love with Glasgow and its "foreignness", to put it mildly. From the people, to the buildings, to the food (yes, even the food) - I loved it all and was devastated when I returned to Canada.

I vividly remember sobbing on the ferry ride back to the mainland from the Isle of Lewis, after spending one of my last summer weekends there. I remember standing on the ferry, waving my arms like a spaz at my friend at, who was back at the port, with tears and snot running down my face. I was returning back to Glasgow to pack my stuff and head back to Toronto.

Another memory from my student days was hearing Kylie for the first time. I was in Bennets with my fellow-Canadian and straight friend, Ben, my brother and SAJ, a Scottish/ South African friend when the gays and hags suddenly went wild.

"What is this"? I asked SAJ.

"Kylie, 'Spinning Around'"


Back then, Kylie wasn't known on the other side of the Atlantic at all.

So, Glasgow, this one is for you:

Thursday, March 27, 2008


See this dude, giving the thumbs, at right? That's David Batchelor from Perth, Scotland. He was recently charged £150 for breach of the peace for feeding pigeons - not only in a thong, dear readers, but in thong that was on backwards.

Apparently while totally wasted, he was compelled to feed pigeons in his backwards thong. Asked why he did it, he replied "I don't know. I was just feeding the birds and if I was wanting to do that I would just go down town and get a whore".

At least he's honest and self-aware to realise that the only way any woman would ever sleep with him, was if she was paid.

Another person that makes Scotland - more specifically, Glasgow - awesome is Limmy (you can read his blog here). He's a comedian that Paul introduced me to last year after he spotted him walking around Glasgow Green. He's been around for a while and Paul made me listen to his World of Glasgow podcasts from 2005. You MUST listen to his podcast of "Xander"; I will never look at the Glasgow Science Centre the same.

Seeing as I have my finger on the cultural pulse of Glasgow, be on the look out for We Are The Physics - a Glaswegian band that Paul's wee cousin is a member of but are also due to be the NEXT BIG THING. Seriously, look out Franz Ferdinand: not only because I hate your music (well, except for that one song that mentions Tesco) but because We Are The Physics will totally out rock you.

Also, if you haven't heard already, Glasvegas are the band of 2008. Just sayin'.

Oh, and apparently the Scottish film, Hallam Foe (starring Billy Elliott kid, Jamie Bell) will be released in Canada/USA in May. Go see it but until then check out the trailer:

Sunday, March 23, 2008


This is James McAvoy, an actor originally from Glasgow.

He's not "traditionally" handsome in that fellow hot Scots Gerard Butler way, but he is hot for a number of reasons:

1. He is talented: these days, pretty face actors are a dime-a-dozen but James McHot McAvoy is not only cute but a really really good actor. See, for example, Shameless and Last King of Scotland.

2. He is humble: he lives in Stroud Green, London - 'nuff said.

3. He is a Celtic fan: not that I care, really...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hot Scots Vol. 2
This is John Barrowman - probably one of the hottest Glaswegians ever. I have an unabashed crush on him; he is the living embodiment of my ideal man - which means, of course, that he is gay (I am a fag hag after all).

He's an actor/singer/author/ hot piece of man pie and can currently be seen in BBC2's Torchwood. Ever since seeing him on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, I totes fell in love:

Don't be put off by his strange American accent - the man is all Scottish. For the best part, skip to 8.00 minutes into the clip!

BONUS CLIP: John Barrowman in Shark Attack 3:Megalodon. Perhaps the best line ever spoken in a film:
I don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day because over here, every day is St. Paddy's Day; who needs a specific day designated to drinking and celebrating your minute 1/48 Irish heritage? Besides, I already had a "big night out" this past weekend - of which the above photo represents.

That is my friend, Kate, who managed to persuade a Glaswegian cop to let her wear his hat. After walking around city centre on Saturday night I have to admit, I feel sorry for the cops who beat the street when all the clubs let out. It's mayhem and surreal - french fries flying about; girls gripping onto one another in an effort to stand up; grown men slurring and weaving through the streets and no doubt, some even fighting one another. However, it's worth partaking in at least once a year; if not interesting, it's definitely entertaining.

On Saturday, Kate, Claire, and I started out at The Loft. God, I hate that place - it's a manifestation of misery and desperation. I don't even know why Glaswegians go there because you can't even enjoy a drink - everyone is too busy watching to see who is watching them. After one drink, we hightailed it to somewhere that actually had character - upstairs at the Horseshoe for some karaoke.

The Horseshoe is awesome, plain and simple. It's full of Glaswegians from all walks of life, out for a good time. At times, it turns into a giant sing-a-long and the entire crowd breaks out singing Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light".

The evening ended with more drinks at MacSorleys and then dancing at the shit hole that is Fury Murrys. The night is what you make of it, however, so it was totally awesome. Claire loves to hit the tiles just as much as I do so we spent the evening/ early morning dancing to the likes of the Stone Roses, Blondie, Michael Jackson, and Hot Chip.

And in true Glasgow style, the evening ended with chips and cheese in St. Enoch square.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Essentials (i.e. visas, money, shelter)

A few years ago, the Scottish government set up a new initiative entitled Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme, which allows students from Scottish universities to stay for up to two years after their graduation and to work without a work permit.

Good initiative – if you’re an international student studying at a Scottish university. Otherwise, you have to get in behind the rest of us dirty immigrants and apply for a visa like everyone else.

Another route is the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme – which is basically a point-based system that was introduced last month and has received wide-spread criticism and sparked a “curry crisis” in Scotland. After spending about half an hour on the Border and Immigration Agency website, I’m still not any closer to understanding just what the fuck it all means. You know if I wasn’t some web-savvy honky from Canada, I wouldn’t have been able to get passed the home page; shame on you, Borders and Immigration!

And then of course, if you’re a citizen of the EEA, you can always migrate to Scotland and work 12 hour days cleaning hotels and/or working in construction.

Personally, I managed to slip through the golden gates of Glasgow immigration via the UK Ancestry Visa system. It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone who falls under the criteria, which is as follows:

*Commonwealth citizen (if you have to ask, you’re probably not one; basically is the Queen on your money and head of your country for no other reason than British imperialism? If you answered “yes”, you might just be a commonwealth citizen!)

*One UK-born grandparent

*Able to work or intend to seek employment in the UK: (I don’t really know what this means other than ensuring you’re not a fucking idiot without any employable skills? Well, you tell me!?)

*Able to support self once in the UK :This one is more purposefully vague and I honestly believe it is - like the rest of Border and Immigration policies - to discourage people from immigrating. I don’t care if this sounds controversial because I have experienced it first-hand and I will tell you this: they don’t make it easy and I’m lucky that I’m white and my mother tongue is English because if it wasn’t, I’d have lost my mind and belief in humanity.

Basically, the British Embassy wants you to prove that you will have enough funds to pay for overpriced food and shelter until you get a job. I wasn’t sure how much they were looking for so I called the British Embassy in Ottawa one afternoon (during their limited hours of about 9.45am to 1.20pm) and asked them.

“Hi. I intend on applying for an Ancestry visa but uhhh…I’m not entirely sure what you mean by the last point regarding “support”; does that mean specifically funds or shelter?”

After a long sigh, “ideally both but it’s mainly funds we look at”.

Confused by the bitchy tone but determined not to be discouraged I continue, “great, so how much are you looking for?”

“I can’t disclose that.”

“Err, well why not? I just want a goal to work towards while I’m saving up, you know?”

“I can’t say because it varies depending on the individual”

“Like what? Their sex and race?”

Personally, I applied with about $2500 in the bank and I’m assuming that was sufficient enough because I got the visa.

However, you will also be asked on your application form if you have family or know someone in the UK with whom you can stay. I was lucky enough to have both. While I put down the address of my third cousins – who I had never met – I also noted that I would be staying with friends. You will have to prove that you know these friends/ family and that they live in the UK (I photocopied my friend’s council tax bill).

Top Five Tips for New Dirty Immigrants to Scotland

1. Let Your Guard Down: As a Torontonian, I am weary of strangers speaking to me in public and even worse as a Canadian, I can come across as a bit aloof. Maybe it’s because of the frigid temperatures, I don’t know. Scottish people on the other hand, are friendly and most of them have good intentions. Don’t be afraid to chat to the wee grannies at bus stops or punters in the pub; most of them just appreciate a good chin wag and if you’re lucky they’ll regale you with stories from the war or meeting Billy Connolly.

2. Try New Things: like Tunnocks Snowballs, haggis, North Sea mussels, go on a weekend bender, attend a football match, hike in the highlands, and attend a ceilidh. You will meet some amazing people and see amazing things – like grown men crying at a football score.

3. Move to Glasgow: Obviously I’m biased but I prefer Glasgow to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city and has many beautiful tourist attractions but I just feel Glasgow is the heart of the country; it feels more genuine as the new Scottish centre of post-industrialisation. Whereas Edinburgh is the “political body” of Scotland, Glasgow is the artistic heart.

4. Increase Your Tolerance of Booze or at the Very Least Learn to Appreciate Booze: you won’t get anywhere in this city if you don’t appreciate a good chat over a pint/ glass of wine.

5. Be Prepared to Say Goodbye to: Cheap Good Food/ Decent Coffee/ Affordable and Good Quality Maple Syrup/ the deliciousness that is Vachon Cakes: you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I'm a little bit late but in honour of Commonwealth Day, which was this past Monday, here is Eddie Izzard's hilarious take on British Imperialism:
Why You Should Move to Scotland

Ever since moving to Scotland, the two questions that I am asked most frequently are: why? And how?

I always knew I wanted to come to Scotland – specifically Glasgow – in the same vein that I always knew my Great Poppy was Glaswegian. Growing up, however, Scotland was always “over there”; existing on the periphery and only becoming fully-fledged when it made the news for all the wrong reasons.

Likewise, my Great Poppy was a seemingly fragile old man who was not born in Canada, but emigrated from somewhere “over there”. I knew him to be a quiet man of few words and whose few words were abrupt and loud. After his death in 1992, I began to learn more about him from family members and the more I learned, the more I realised that I had no idea who he was.

Apparently once in Canada, he quickly turned his back on his heritage and homeland and returned only once to Scotland – in the 1970s. To Canada, however, he brought his history.

And the more I learned, the more I became angry.

Where I thought he was a quiet decent man who left the shipyards of Glasgow for a better life, in actuality he was a harsh man who escaped the drunken rages of his father to Canada. Where I thought he was a fragile old man, he was once a vocal bigot – opposing anyone who wasn’t a white protestant.

Perhaps you could argue that he had a difficult life himself or that the war changed him but I would hope that people better themselves to spite these circumstances or because of them. Apparently, however, my Great Poppy could not escape these deeply ingrained clutches and as such, my Great Nanny, Grandmother and her sisters rarely spoke about life with my Great Poppy. I suppose it’s a true testament to just how strong my Great Nanny was.

To be completely honest, I only became more interested in Scotland and my own “Scottishness” after seeing the film, Trainspotting. I was completely blown away by it; it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to study film (alongside Woody Allen films) and more so, why I wanted to see Scotland. It was around the same time that Belle and Sebastian hit the scene and I thought that Scotland – more specifically, Glasgow – was the most authentic and exciting arts and cultural scene around.

My Great Poppy had originally piqued my curiosity with his “otherness” but it was the city and people itself that I truly fell in love with. And so, after a year on exchange at Glasgow University, I wanted more. I loved the city, the people, the culture, and the junk food; reader, I was hooked!

The city itself is a true dichotomy: once an empire of industrialisation (evidence of which can still be seen from the cranes of the shipyards to coal-encrusted buildings), it’s now a rich enclave of music, art, culture and film. In fact, the new BBC Scotland headquarters in Glasgow is the most technologically advanced broadcast facility in Europe and compares directly with the best in the world. There’s a lot happening in Glasgow beyond the pubs. From the Glasgow Film Festival to the Comedy Festival to socialist marches and of course, pubs for all kinds – there is always something happening in Glasgow. And not just knife fights.

Glaswegians are passionate, kind, value “good chat”, and possess cutting humour. And of course, most are always up for a good time and pint, which I esteem to be quite civilised…

Coming soon: Part II: How to Move to Scotland

Friday, March 07, 2008

During the last couple years that I lived in Toronto, I felt like I was struggling to get by: struggling to pay rent, bills, not completely lose my mind while using the TTC, and to not fully succumb to a slow ebbing sense of depression. I was perpetually trying to keep my head above water, all the while trying to convince myself that a sense of drowning was life at its fullest.

The more I'm away from Toronto, the more I realise just how unique the city and its ephemeral psyche is. The more I'm away from Toronto, the more I love it. I never fully appreciated just how safe the city is, when I lived there. I never would have thought twice about taking a bus home late at night or strolling through Parkdale after hours.

It's a great city but nevertheless, I wanted an out.

I felt a constant anger - from delayed streetcars, to Queen Street West hipsters, to icy sidewalks, to Torontonians who oozed an air of entitlement - and I didn't know why. Most likely it was misguided anger. I felt like I was in a rut - it seemed as if my life was on course and well, that scared the shit out of me.

As much as I love routine, I love adventure more.

Moving to Glasgow, I knew on some level that I was giving up a "better" way of life. Most material goods are cheaper in Canada; you've got four distinct seasons; it's a pretty safe country and so on. And while I agree that the quality of life in Canada is very high, I'm not sure I'm convinced that overall, it's the "better" life.

In Toronto, people live to work; it's a culture of working is next to Godliness. I used to be in awe of lawyer acquaintances who would work 12 hour days. The standard acceptable amount for holidays is two weeks - and even then, people feel guilty about taking off one week, never mind two.

In Scotland, people understand and appreciate a work/ life balance. At my current company, the standard leave for holiday is five weeks. 5 weeks! I honestly originally struggled to come up with ways of plowing through them. As a Canadian, I initially struggled with self-inflicting guilt: could I really take off five weeks?! What would I do with all that time? I've since grown used to the idea of five weeks - how very civilised.

Since moving, I've noticed that I'm no longer angry and depressed. And maybe that's the secret: working in a culture that enforces a work-life balance and laws that protect employees.

Glasgow may not be the safest city in the westernised world and yes, a decent pair of jeans cost about £75, but at least we have long stretches of holidays, a readily-available abundance of booze, and Primark!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm not American but...come on, Hillary!

This is dedicated to all the bitches out there.
On another note, I miss SNL; how funny is Tina Fey - the woman slays me everytime!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Glasgow Colours

Above is an interesting documentary produced by a Swedish TV company about Glasgow and it's two football clubs: Rangers and Celtic. Even if you're not that interested in football, like myself, it's a fantastic insight into the city.

Best part of the documentary is while the crew are interviewing a Rangers fan, a Celtic fan heckles him off-camera. The Rangers fan responds with "Kiss my balls" and then mumbles under his breath, "fenian bastard" followed by "oh, fuck" and slew of apologies. Man, I love weegies!
Weekend of Random Photos

The weather yesterday (Saturday) was total pish - rainy and windy - so Paul and I decided to go to the cinema and finally see No Country for Old Men, which should be re-titled, "No Time for Country Old Coots Who Wax Poetic About Animal Slaughter". But anyway.

Now, I know that film nerds, like myself, get absolutely worked up over Coen Brothers' films and many think they are the high pinnacle of American film-making. Whatever, I think they're good but frankly I could take them or leave them. I mean, I remember watching Barton Fink and really liking it and thinking it was clever, but I can't tell you what the hell it was about. I find that with a lot of their films like Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, And the Man Who Wasn't There.

Anyway, No Country for Old Coots - I loved the first half of the film and was completely engrossed. However, it just seemed to fizzle out towards the end. Also, what was the point of NOT filming/showing the climax of the film - i.e. the point when Chigurh tracks down Llewelyn in El Paso?! And please don't tell me it was some clever cinematic point by the Coen Brothers because that's just bullshit.

Do I sound angry? Because I am. I feel cheated because throughout the whole film, it felt as if it was leading up to a final encounter by all three leading men: the Sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones), the psycho killer and his awful haircut (Javier Bardem), and the anti-hero Vietnam vet (Josh Brolin).

Oh, and The Big Lebowski is overrated!

Ok, here are some more pictures from last weekend on Arran:

Can you tell how windy it is?

This is an old church that is no longer in use. If you look closely, you should be able to see one of these weird palm tree plants that are all over Arran. What's up with that?

Paul, on the beach, and showing me his washed up treasure he found.

Ok, so while I was away in Canada in January, there was a huge march held in Glasgow to remember the victims of Bloody Sunday: 14 civilian protesters who died after being shot by British troops in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in January 1972.

Frankly, I don't like parades - except the Toronto Santa Claus one - and I especially don't like Orange parades that march by my window at 10am on a Saturday morning, waking me up.

Glasgow has enough sectarian problems as it is, so why does the Council allow for religiously-influenced parades to take place? Yes, people should have the right to march and protest but what's the point of having Orange marches every other weekend?

Anyway, I'm assuming that the remembrance walk for Bloody Sunday happens only one a year and I guess it's a hot issue - judging by the police presence from this pictures!

I should also note that Paul took these pictures from the safety of our flat. Thoughtfully, he took pictures and showed them to me when I got back to Glasgow; Paul likes to educate me about the bizarreness of his hometown/ home country.

Apparently there were some dudes who didn't care much for the parade and were screaming at the marchers. The police had to swarm them.

More swarming!

And to end everything on a nice note, here is a lovely wee sunset. Photo by Paul.