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Archives for January 2009

It's Better Than Walking The Streets

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Jeff Zycinski | 16:34 UK time, Friday, 30 January 2009



January is almost over and, in the past month, I haven't even been tempted to light up a cigarette. Not once. Of course, I've never actually been a smoker so maybe that's not as impressive as it sounds when other people say it. Well, anyway, I've not had a sip of alcohol since the 5th of January. That's when my diet started. I've now lost 10 pounds.

My ambition to experiment with various new outdoor activities hasn't come to much. That's despite a very nice offer from Senior Producer Claire White and our Out of Doors team in Aberdeen. They offered to let me pull a sleigh up the Cairngorms or something, although I may have rush-read that e-mail.

So I'm back on my walking tours of Scottish cities. Last night in Inverness you would have found me striding along the banks of the Ness and exploring the old churchyards.

It's only a matter of time before I'm arrested or assaulted. Still, I'm told that prison and hospital food is a lot better these days.


Do You Want To Know A Secret?

Jeff Zycinski | 10:00 UK time, Thursday, 29 January 2009


I'm a natural blabbermouth. I admit it. Tell me a secret and you wont have finished your sentence before I'm looking over your shoulder for someone else to share it with. I suppose that's why I was attracted to journalism instead of the priesthood.

Imagine my frustration, therefore, when Rajar - the organisation that compiles the audience figures for radio stations -decided they would release their data a full eighteen hours before we were allowed to make it public. I spent most of yesterday afternoon suppressing smiles and unsettling production staff with my nudges, winks and knowing looks.

You'll have guessed by now that the figures were good news for BBC Radio Scotland. We've seen gains on the last quarter and also on the last year.

There's a full report on the allmedia scotland website today...alongside figures for other Scottish stations. There's also a report on this other industry site and this round-up on the Guardian's website.'s out there!

The Toxic Language Of Recession

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Jeff Zycinski | 15:19 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Have you noticed how so many things these days are being described as "toxic"? First there was the levels of "toxic debt" that conjured up images of pin-striped bank managers wearing gas masks. On our Scotland at Ten programme last week I heard someone talk about Margaret Thatcher's "toxic legacy" and how modern day Tories would have to overcome it. Then today I heard one of the heid-bummers at BBC Scotland talk about "toxic scheduling".

Actually, that was me. I was just trying to show off. I have no idea what it means.

Another favourite of the moment is "credit crunch". Our own Cracking the Crunch programme jumps on that particular bandwagon, but hat's off to the local pub in Inverness where the street blackboard is advertsing cheap bar meals as a "Credit Crunch Munch".


How To Write A Polish Soap

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Jeff Zycinski | 14:35 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Just in case you ever find youself in Warsaw and are asked to write for a TV Soap, then I offer the following translation service. I found these phrases while checking the spelling of Na zrowie on a website. Reading through the list, a little domestic drama started to play out in my head.

But maybe that's just me.

English Polish

Good evening
Dobry wieczór

Here's to your health! (when drinking to sb) Na zdrowie!

How old are you? Ile masz lat?

Tęsknię za Tobą
I want you (desire)

Let's dance

I'm married (about a man) Jestem żonaty

I don't understand Nie rozumiem

How could you do it to me? Jak mogłes (-aś) mi to zrobić?

I can't live without you Nie mogę bez Ciebie żyć

I'm underage Jestem niepełnoletnia

Let's pray Módlmy się

What are we up to? Co robimy?

Can I kiss you? Mogę Cię pocałować?

I've got a problem Mam problem

Nie znam go/jej
I feel great
Proszę, zadzwoń do niego/niej
Can I do it?

You look hot! Wyglądasz super!

I'm sorry, I'm late Przepraszam, jestem za późno

Let's get married Ożeńmy się

You're so kind Jesteś taka uprzejma

Are you OK? Wszystko dobrze?

Please, say it again Powtórz to

I can't remember Nie pamiętam

Please, repeat it Powtórz to, proszę

We'll talk it over tomorrow Porozmawiamy o tym jutro
I have to go now Muszę już iść

I'm leaving tomorrow Wyjeżdżam jutro

You lied to me Okłamałes mnie

Tell me the truth! Powiedz mi prawde!

I've got a headache Boli mnie głowa

Don't leave me now Nie opuszczaj mnie teraz

Don't get excited Nie podniecaj się

Don't make me laugh (ironic) Nie rozśmieszaj mnie
You are pathetic (about a male) Jesteś żałosny

I want to meet an interesting woman Chcę poznać interesującą kobietę
I want to meet an interesting man Chcę poznać interesującego mężczyznę

Where's my money? Gdzie są moje pieniądze?

I'm pregnant Jestem w ciąży

Don't panic! Nie panikuj!
I need to pee Chce mi się siusiu

I like meeting new people Lubię spotykać nowych ludzi

Happy Mother's Day Wszystkiego Najlepszego z okazji Dnia Mamy

Have a cup of tea
Napij się herbaty

New Kid On The Blog

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Jeff Zycinski | 15:08 UK time, Monday, 26 January 2009



I'm guessing that he must have a gruesome oil painting of himself tucked away in the attic. How else could he look so young and yet know so much about the history of radio? I'm talking about Graham Stewart. You'll know him as the presenter of Morning Extra and The Business but I think of him as that bloke who stops me in the corridor every so often and tells me some amazing fact about Scottish broadcasting.

Of course, it turns out he's been researching a book on the subject so maybe he is as young as he looks.

Today he's launched his own blog right here on the BBC Radio Scotland website. Today being one of those days the BBC has become part of the news agenda. Yes, one of those days when I give thanks that I never got that job as Director General.

Graham is inviting you to join the why not be one of the first to make him welcome on the blogosphere?

The Buzz Of Good Radio

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Jeff Zycinski | 23:47 UK time, Friday, 23 January 2009


"This feels like a coffin," I said to the man with the beard as I helped him carry the wooden crate out of the car park and around to the back of the radio station. He gave me the kind of quizzical look you tend to give a complete stranger who starts talking about coffins for no good reason. The crate, in fact, contained a huge satellite dish, the station was Moray Firth Radio and the man with the beard was the boss, Thomas Prag.


That was in 1988 and my very first day of work experience. I hadn't even reached the front door when I was asked to engage in some heavy lifting. This was typical of my time at the station where you were asked to pitch in with just about everything. As a result you got a great range of experience (although we'll gloss over my time as a D.J presenting an evening music show).

This afternoon I teamed up with Thomas once again at annual conference of the Highlands and Islands Community Broadcasting Federation. The Federation comprises a network of small stations which Thomas helped set up many years ago. Today I was helping him judge the annual Thomas Prag award and what a joyful experience it turned out to be.

I heard some amazing programmes - largely produced by volunteers - and it really renewed my faith in the future of radio. There were some great music shows, comedy, an archive series on war songs, outside broadcasts, political discussions.

The winner, though, was a powerful and moving programme on Cot Death presented by John Carstairs at Nevis Radio. He drew on his own experience and that of his family to describe the full impact of such an event on everyone concerned. It was a compelling listen.

I also enjoyed the breakfast show at Two Lochs Radio in which the local postman turned up at the studio with a present for the station: a wasps nest in a bag, complete with buzzing occupants!

Afterwards, Thomas sent me a note to thank me for my help. I immediately offered to do it again next year.

A Prince And A Poet

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Jeff Zycinski | 23:07 UK time, Thursday, 22 January 2009



The cast list for our massive Burns archive project continues to grow and now the Prince of Wales has added his voice to the collection. He recorded two pieces and we announced that fact this morning on Good Morning Scotland. The Today programme on Radio 4 also aired one of them but, strangely, didn't actually identify the Royal voice.

Since there there's been a lot of interest from newspapers and Press agencies and that's all to the good if it encourages more people to explore the website and listen to some of the poetry.

One such is the Controller of BBC Radio 7, Mary Kalemkerian who sent me a very nice e-mail this afternoon and said she would mention the archive in her own newsletter.

Meanwhile, in case I'm ever asked, I've been trying to decide which would be my favourite Burns poem. I think it's this one.

How about you?


Interesting to see this story being picked up in Australia and Taiwan.

and Canada

and this review from the Sunday Herald

All Dressed Up To Go Dreaming

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Jeff Zycinski | 23:15 UK time, Wednesday, 21 January 2009


We could see them from the window. Who knew that there were so many talented people in Glasgow? Or rather, so many people who considered themselves talented enough to audition for Simon Cowell. The queues snaked out from the SECC but from our vantage point on the third floor of Pacific Quay we couldn't distinguish the talented people from the friends, relatives and hangers-on. There were hundreds of people. Maybe thousands.

I had my back to the window and was talking to our Zones team when Senior Producer, Lizzy Clark, drew my attention to the activity of the other side of the Clyde.

"It's the Britain's Got Talent auditions, " she explained, "why don't you go over there and take part? It would give you something to write about in your blog."

I mulled this over and then gave the team my rendition of Moonlight Becomes You. It's my party piece...or it would be, if anyone ever invited me to a party. I fluffed the first line and the consensus was that I should stay put.

Later, much later, I found myself in the hotel across the river and sharing an elevator with a young woman with a laminated Britain's Got Talent crew-member card strung around her neck. She had unfeasibly blonde hair.

"I bet you've had a busy day, " I said, demonstating my mastery of small-talk.

"I haven't stopped all day, " she told me.

"It must be sad for those people that get booted out."

She looked me over and I could tell she was considering her response. Finally she popped her cork.

"I have never met so many rude people in one day, " she blurted, "I've had nothing but dog's abuse since first thing this morning."

I made sympathetic noises, but I couldn't help but think about how rude Simon Cowell can be with the contestants. You reap what you sow, I suppose. No matter, she wasn't really listening. She shuffled off on the fifth floor, but turned with two final words of despair.

"Birmingham tomorrow."

Then the lift doors closed before I could start singing.

Could You Make Sense Of This?

Jeff Zycinski | 11:18 UK time, Tuesday, 20 January 2009



Joanne, my P.A, has finally snapped and has taken extreme measures to escape from me. She's calling it maternity leave, but I think we all know that this is just an elaborate cover story involving the use of progressively larger cushions.

In any event, we're advertising for her replacement and if you know anyone who would be interested in working for the best boss in the world, then do tell them that they are living in la la land. I, on the other hand, have a vacancy here in Inverness.

You can read the official details here. I wasn't allowed to stipulate mind-reading as one of the requirements. Also, the ability to engage in mindless small-talk about my diet (I've lost half a stone) when there are sixteen other important things to be done.

You also have to accept that the mess on my desk is a sign of my creativity and nothing to do with a lack of organisational skills. Oh no.

Plus there's my most annoying habit...I borrow pens, keep them and lose them.

Could you cope?

Back In The Zone

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Jeff Zycinski | 08:11 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009



There's something funny going on with our Comedy Zone. Not a bad thing, of course, especially when it involves the Zone's apparent success on the BBC iPlayer. You see, for some reason, our weekly compilation of sketch shows and interviews has been climbing the chart of 'most popular' radio programmes from the BBC. This morning I noticed it was in top spot, ahead of the big Radio 4 brands like The News Quiz and The Archers.

Of the five themed zones we launched eight months ago, the Comedy Zone is the only one available on the iPlayer just now. We did that so that we could compare the take-up there with the number of people listening to the online stream. One other recent technical tweak means that BBC Radio Scotland content on the iPlayer no longer requires you to use the Real player.

Does this explain the sudden popularity? Perhaps, but either way it's something to smile about.


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Jeff Zycinski | 10:58 UK time, Friday, 16 January 2009


This is a story of pain, fear, blood and dead bodies. It's a story of one man's stupidity. It's a story of hunger and greed. It's a story of (get on with it - Ed) Ok, let me work back from last night when I found myself talking to members of the Press with half my face frozen and with the wild-eyed, slap-happy look of a man who hadn't slept for 36 hours. I was part of a BBC Scotland briefing about our various Burns programming. There was a haggis 'n' neeps supper and then a screening of the comedy drama No Holds Bard. I got the chance to talk about our big Burns project in which we're recording every piece of his poetry and creating an online video and audio archive. I was a bit, as they say, "all over the place".

I only have myself to blame for my state of disarray. On Wednesday morning, while driving to Glasgow, I had noticed a slight niggling toothache. Nothing too bad. Nothing that couldn't wait until I returned to Inverness on Friday and maybe made an appointment to see my dentist next week. My colleague, Sharon Mair, gave me a couple of paracetamols. All was well.

Or so I thought.

Wednesday night saw me sitting up in a hotel bedroom, risking an ibuprofen overdose and test-sipping hot and then cold drinks to alleviate the agony. Nothing worked. I didn't get a wink of sleep and by the time dawn cracked over Glasgow city centre I had devised a plan. I would drive up to my old dentist's surgery in Bearsden and be on his doorstep at quarter to nine begging for an emergency appointment.

The receptionist was merciful, but no one could see me until eleven o'clock. I had two hours to kill and there was no point in driving back to Pacific Quay. I re-arranged all my morning appointments and decided on a diverting stroll through my old home turf. I walked past my old house, noticed the trees I had planted were doing well. I had a look in the local cemetery and then decided to take refuge in Bearsden library where I leafed through a copy of the Jonathan Ross biography. For some reason it was sitting in a shelf of books labelled 'Misery Memoirs'.

I was engrossed in Ross' tales of his early sex life when the librarian told me I would have to leave the premises. Not just me. They had to empty the place to test the alarm system. No matter, it was finally time for me to see the dentist.

What followed next was one of the most traumatic experiences I've ever had in a chair. Having decided to extract the problem tooth, the dentist needed to give me five different injections to freeze my mouth. It turns out I had developed an abscess and this was interfering with the anasthetic. Eventually I told her that she would just have to "go fot it" regardless of the pain. Oh yes.

A half an hour later she was still wrestling with the tooth. It just didn't want to come out. In what could have been an alternative version of the movie Jaws, she finally decided that we were gonna need a bigger denitist. One duly arrived and he spent another ten minutes filling my mouth with various clamps and contraptions until the tooth surrendered to his sheer brute force. I had been in the chair for more than an hour.

And that was almost that, except that I was warned that my nerve structure had been given a fair old bashing and that I might have a numb jaw for another couple of weeks. I was given a prescription for anti-biotics and told not to drink alcohol or take strenuous exercise for 24 hours. Some of those rules were better than others.

I went back to work and as the afternoon wore on the anasthetic wore off and the pain returned. That was why, at six o'clock last night, in a room full of reporters, I was in such a state.

And do you know the worst of it?

I wasn't able to eat any haggis.

Pig In The Middle

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Jeff Zycinski | 18:24 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009



A BBC colleague took one look at me this afternoon and started talking about fat pigs. Now, call me paranoid, but I didn't spend four years of my life studying Freudian psychology not to know when I'm being insulted by someone else's subconscious.

The colleague in question was Andrea Miller, Head of Factual TV here at BBC Scotland. We were waiting for a meeting to start when I explained that I was starting the year on a healthy footing and that's why I was sipping from a cup of watery soup. She then told me she had been making programmes about the science of slimming,

"Did you know," she said, "that Socrates once starved a pig and discovered that it actually put weight on faster than other pigs once he had resumed feeding it."

I stared at her.

"So I tell you about my diet and you start telling me about pigs?"

"No, I thought I was telling you about Socrates."

"I'm hearing pigs."

I don't blame her. I blame her inner psyche. I intend to get to sleep early tonight and dream about retaliation.

On The Alert

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Jeff Zycinski | 13:33 UK time, Tuesday, 13 January 2009



So you say a few words at a meeting, think no more about it and then two years later you find yourself being quoted on a website. Sometimes there are even photographs too. It's a scary thing, this old internet lark. Mind you, I'm a glutton for punishment when it comes to that sort of thing. I've set up a few Google Alerts so that I get an immediate e-mail if someone goes online and publishes something about BBC Radio Scotland or this blog.
This morning, for example, I was notified about this posting from Zab Mustefa. She was one of the students involved in our election programming in 2007. In her blog she describes her first experience of the BBC.

I was also alerted to this blog about bookshops in which our Book Cafe programme gets a nice mention

Those Google Alerts can often throw up some delightful surprises. I found this blog, for example, in which a couple currently living in Wales describe their various travels around Scotland and include photographs which go back to the late 1960's.

And speaking of blogs, I'm happy to tell you there will soon be more on the way from BBC Radio Scotland presenters. Watch this space.

I Might Have To Kiss Everyone

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Jeff Zycinski | 17:01 UK time, Monday, 12 January 2009



I have been spotted kissing one of our sports presenters and I might as well 'fess up to it. It was Annie McGuire, actually, and now I'll have to ask her to come with me for three days of festivities in Wales. Annie, you see, has been nominated for an award in this at this year's Celtic Media Festival. That's why I shook her hand and gave her the obligatory peck on the cheek. Honestly.

But BBC Radio Scotland, the entire station no less, has again been nominated in the Station of the Year category. Does this mean I ought to go around kissing everyone? Even Tam Cowan?

If you want to see the full shortlsit of nominations, then click here. This year's festival happens over three days at the end of March.

Grilling The Staff

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Jeff Zycinski | 15:06 UK time, Sunday, 11 January 2009



Whose bright idea was it to advertise pancakes on a squinty poster placed above the urinals? This was one of the many daft questions I wanted to ask when I was in that roadside cafe on the A9 on Friday. Now I don't want to mention brand names, but it's that place between Dunblane and Perth which has a small man in a cook's hat as its logo. In fact there are two such cafes, one on each side of the busy dual carriageway. That prompted another question.

"How do you get across the road?"

The waiter was a young man who wore his spectacles on his face in jauntily askew style. I'm guessing that might explain the angled poster in the toilet. He seemed more interested in taking my order than in indulging my curiosity. Funny, that.

"We just walk across the road, " he told me, "have you had a look at the menu?"

I let my eye run past the photographs of all-day breakfasts and juicy cheeseburgers and opted instead for the grilled salmon. I'm still on the diet, you see. I've lost five pounds since last Monday. Alert the media.

The waiter took my order and left me supping a hot cup of coffee, but he returned a few moments later to tell me there was no salmon left. I ordered the vegetable soup and looked longingly at the cafe across the road, wondering if they had the salmon over there and whether or not I should make a dash for the door.

But there was no need. The short-sighted waiter had returned again.

"The chef has just told me that we do have the salmon after all, would you like that instead of the soup?"

I nodded, thanked him and, ten minutes later, the actual chef appeared with with my food. He looked much taller than in the logo and he wasn't wearing one of those big hats, but I didn't quibble. I was too shocked by the mountain of chips sitting next to my fish.

"Oh...I actually wanted the jacket potato, " I told him. His eyes took on a look of panic, but I tried to explain that this wasn't his fault. My potato preference had not actually been articulated and the waiter couldn't be blamed for his lack of psychic ability. Nevertheless,
five minutes later, another member of staff - a waitress - appeared with my baked spud.
I began to suspect they were all talking about me in the kitchen. Perhaps they were drawing straws to decide who spoke to me next.

The waitress, in fact, answered all my dopey questions. Turns out those two cafes are run as separate businesses. I got the impression there was even a bit of rivarly between them. Sometimes the staff cross the road to borrow some stock, but that isn't as risky as I had imagined.

"It's safer than crossing a road in Stirling, " she told me, "you can see a mile in both directions."

I left satisfied. I even left a tip.

But I still wasn't tempted to have a pancake.

Foul-Weather Fans

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Jeff Zycinski | 22:57 UK time, Saturday, 10 January 2009



I suppose there was always the slight chance of my wife exploding or, at the very least, passing out in a shower of sparks and a cloud of blue smoke. As it happened, the electric bodywarmer I'd bought her for Christmas worked a treat and she was as warm as a freshly baked muffin as we watched the Caley Thistle game from our vantage point high on the main stand.

Of the three of us, though, she was the only one that was comfortable. The wind and rain made the whole match experience feel like some kind of weather endurance event. Zed-son snuggled in between us while I sat on the end of the row, taking the full force of the elements in the way that protective fathers ought to. I'm told my expression was somewhere between a grimace and a silent scream. It's the face you see on those prehistoric mummified bodies they're forever digging up in Siberia.

The Partick Thistle fans were loud. One of our Glasgow-based radio producers had told me that he would be among them. I just hope he did not join in the chants about Inverness supporters going home in tractors and so on. I shall scutinise the TV highlights just to check.

Anyway, Caley Thistle won by three goals to nil and made the whole experience worthwhile.
I just hope the wind changes soon or I may never close my jaws again.

Chocs Away

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Jeff Zycinski | 10:55 UK time, Monday, 5 January 2009


Most people returned to work this morning and, what with chocolate Easter eggs in the shops, we now have to accept that the merry-making is at an end. Soon it will be Halloween.

"It feels like coming back to school after the holidays," said Suzy Beaumont, one of the producers in Inverness. Suzy then revealed that she had had the same kind of rotten night's sleep that she used to have on the eve of the new term. Me too. I must have had about three hours kip before the radio alarm went off and I heard Gary Robertson talking about the cost of the new bridge planned for the River Forth.

Business as normal then.

I have to say that my weight-loss plans have received more support from blog readers than I got from my BBC colleagues this morning. Even Joanne, my PA, recoiled in horror when I threw a bag of celery sticks onto my desk and announced I'd no longer be taking milk in my coffee.

"You can't go from chocolate to celery in one fell swoop, " she told me, "that could kill you."

There was something seductive about the notion of a gradual transition to healthy food. I could start with chocolate covered raisins and then gradually switch to naked raisins and then prunes.

But no! I know what her game is. She's just worried that I wont be vistining that damned vending machine so often and then sharing my confectionery in the office.

This is going to be tricky.

The Great Outdoors

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Jeff Zycinski | 16:53 UK time, Sunday, 4 January 2009



Please join me this year in my quest to get fit, lose weight and really get to grips with what Scotland has to offer in the way of outdoor experiences. I've been inspired by our Out of Doors programme which has been recommending all sorts of fun activities. Coastal walking, snow-kiting, puddle-jumping (Ok, I just invented that last one).

Of course this resolution would be a lot easier to stick to if we lived in a slightly warmer climate. But that's no excuse. Who was it that said there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing?.

So sign me up: I'm prepared to do what it takes to shed the blubber...and if you have any suggestions do let me know.

Meanwhile, my plan to walk to work every morning might have to wait until I invest in better footwear. And, anyway, that doesn't include the days I travel from Inverness to Glasgow.
I mean, have a little pity!

Soft Sell

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Jeff Zycinski | 23:16 UK time, Saturday, 3 January 2009



When my children were younger and still believed in magic, I used to make up bedtime stories for them. These yarns usually involved fantastic palaces and evil wizards. My son would enjoy the bits where the wizard does battle with the prince and my daughter would ask me to expand the sections where the princess gets to choose fabulous costumes for the Royal ball. So no gender stereotyping then.

These "make-up" stories used to be a regular part of our evening routine but at some point - I'm not sure when - they simply stopped asking for them.

But then today, at the supermarket, I found myself in the aisle full of surplus Christmas stock now being offered at massive discounts. There were tubes of cheese footballs and cartons of brandy butter and... an entire rack of soft toys.

When I got home I gathered my offspring together and told them what I'd seen.

"Just think..most of the other soft toys would have been given as Christmas presents. They'd have found children to love them...but what about those that got left behind in the shop? Imagine their Christmas morning...waking up in a dark, cold supermarket with most of their friends missing..."

"Right Dad...just stop it right there," said my son, "we know what you're up to."

But I'm sure I saw a tear in my daughter's eye.

Ah yes...the old magic. I've still got it.

Dog In The Fog On The Blog

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Jeff Zycinski | 16:05 UK time, Friday, 2 January 2009



There was an animal expert on Newsdrive last week telling Bill Whiteford some gruesome stories about the things that pets swallow. She, in fact, had once opened up a dog's stomach to find the contents of a cassette tape wound around its insides. More common finds, however, are socks...and chocolates.

Well it was the half-eaten box of chocs that tempted our own pooch - Rascal - to gorge himself this week. That prompted an urgent call to the Vet who asked all sorts of questions. Were the chocolates plain or milk? Did he eat more than his own body-weight? Was he showing any symptoms of sickness? We were then told to starve him for the rest of the day and keep some old newspapers handy unless we wanted a ruined carpet.

In the end he showed no symptoms at all and when the alloted digestion time had elapsed and I handed him a dry dog biscuit he almost took my arm with it.

Of course, I got the blame for having left the chocolates within reach of his jaws. Just like I got the blame that time I left the garden gate open...oh and let's not forget that time I tried to give him a haircut...

Today I offered to take him for a walk in the fog. I just don't understand why the rest of the family were so worried.

Off With A Bang

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Jeff Zycinski | 03:35 UK time, Thursday, 1 January 2009



Jazz, a Gay Gordon, a Dashing White Sergeant, a bonfire, fireworks and stovies. That was how Hogmanay panned out the Zed family last night. The jazz came courtesy of Stephen Duffy's Jazz House programme and the dance music from Robbie Shepherd, Vic Galloway and Bryan Burnett. We were listening to the latter en route to a friend's party. The friend in question lives in a house perched high on the hills to the south of Inverness and what a fine view they have.

I tell you, these Highlanders could teach us all a thing or two about hospitality. There was a bonfire and fantastic fireworks and the biggest dish of stovies you have ever seen.

At midnight the thirty or so house guests gathered around the telly to watch Jackie Bird et al
take us in to 2009 with the bells. There then followed a frenetic round of handshakes and kissing before all the children were given leave to resume their games of hide and seek and lets-see-who-can-down-the-most-fizzy-cola-without-bursting.

A good night and a good start to the year.

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