Listening to: Trenchtown Rock (Bob Marley)
Up to my ears in: wrapping paper and sellotape
It's: nearly Christmas
Done: all my shopping
I was talking to an old friend yesterday, lamenting that we didn't see each other more often when she said: "Tell you what, I'm going to Glasgow early next year, why don't I pop up to see you and Sal while I'm there."
"Err. . . OK," I replied, "but have you looked a map recently. There's no popping to Orkney from anywhere. It's a two-day expedition. It'd be great to see you though and it's definitely worth the effort."
That's the thing. English people tend to think of Scotland as a small country stuck on top of the Lake District. It isn't. It's bloody enormous.
(Pause to allow American, Canadian and Australian readers to stop laughing, dry eyes and so on).
Look at a map. Not the stupid weather map the London-based "British" Broadcasting Corporation put on the telly (don't get me started)*, but a proper map like the one I'm looking at on the wall of my brother-in-law's study.
If I put my elbow on Wolverhampton, my wrist is at Carlisle. If I put my elbow on Carlisle, my wrist is at Inverness - 130 miles shy of the north coast of Scotland where you catch the ferry to Orkney. Wolverhampton to Thurso is ten-and-a-half hours driving, seven of which are spent in Scotland.
So "popping in" for a cup of tea isn't really on the agenda, although flying makes things easier, but from most places in the UK you still have to get three planes to reach us.
That's all a long-winded way of saying that home is a long way off, but I'm setting out the day after tomorrow and there'll be a little whoop as I cross the border into Scotland, a cheer as I cruise past the Central Belt, songs and general happiness through the Highlands, flags out at Thurso and when I get to Westray. . . well, that's nobody's business but mine and Sal's.
* Actually, do get me started. For those who don't know, the BBC map of Britain is seen at a slant, as if viewed from the Director General's holiday home in Brittany. Orkney is a tiny speck in the far distance, while the Isle of Wight (half the size of Orkney in reality) sits in the foreground, as large as Jonathan Ross's ego (another don't get me started).
The weather "forecast", presented either by a moderately attractive woman or a small man (why no big blokes on the BBC?) and uses the effect of a camera panning over the UK. It begins with Scotland where they wave dismissively and say "wind and rain" before trundling quite briskly over the north-east and Yorkshire, slowing as they pass East Anglia, building up to the detailed rundown for the South East (where everyone important lives).
They then stroll along the south coast before lovingly lingering over Devon and Cornwall (where everyone in the South East goes on holiday) which by now are about the size of the Soviet Union (I swear I spotted my mum's house near Dartmoor the other morning). Tearing the camera reluctantly away, the forecaster hurries past Wales before cutting out just before anyone has to admit Northern Ireland is still part of the UK.
A petty point, you may think, but it illustrates the BBC's dismissive attitude towards the regions. The cutbacks announced recently mean the quality of news coverage can only diminish. Hard-working journalists on as little as £15,000-a-year will lose their jobs while the BBC continues to pay millions for that arrogant arse Ross to interrupt his guests and laugh at his own jokes on his painful TV show.
Thank you for listening. I feel better now.