The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

I only needed 13 miles today to complete my 100 miles in five consecutive days, which I had decided was the minimum weekly mileage for my Holland trip, but we all have to start with a realistic goal.

I dilly-dallied until after 10 am before setting out, the skies were overcast and a keen east wind blowing, I wish I had pulled on my woolly hat, my lugs were fair nipping by the time I arrived at Guardbridge, Just over 3 miles from home. I had passed a field being cultivated by one tractor, furrowed by another, with gulls in attendance.

And finally planted with potatoes from another.

How far we have travelled from the land I knew as a boy.

No school kids now gather the potato crop,

A potato monster will now do the job.

At the old bridge over the Eden River, I saw a cyclist resting there, we had been nodding to one and other, in the passing, for months now, so I stopped for a blether, and to take a few photographs whilst I was stopped. I was cooling down fast so made my excuses and pushed on, promising to meet up for a coffee when the weather improves. Improves it’s the middle of May for god sake.

And a coupe of antiques on the bridge

The old adage tells us,

Never to cast a cloot until the May, flowers is oot,

Coming along the cycle path, the broom was in full flower, and bluebells lay in drifts on the woodland floor. Wild garlic stung at my nostrils over by St Michaels. The May, flowers may well be out but with weather like this, I will not be casting any cloot just yet.

I turned off at St Michael’s and headed back via the A914 for Dairsie Osnaburgh roundabout then onto the A91 for home, pushing me 6.3 miles over my 100 targets.

I’m H-A-P-P-Y I’m H-A-P-P-Y, I know I am, I’m sure I am, I’m H-A-P-P-Y

Today’s music is a collection of Aria from the Royal Opera House. Puccini wrote some magnificent aria and from Suor Angelica, comes one of the worlds favourites. Senza Mamma, Angelica has brought disgrace on her family by giving birth to an illegitimate child. In remorse she has entered a convent but is unable to forget her son. Her aunt, the princess, tells her that the child has died. This aria is as delicate and fragile as fine bone china, that fragility and hurt from this deserted heroine is palpable when sung by Nina Rautio, Nina, was still very young in the 1990s when I heard her for the first time at the Edinburgh Festival – I’ve loved listening to her ever since, (I may be wrong but I believe she is Russian), but music knows no borders it is universal, as are the voices of its singers.

My iScot magazine arrive this morning so I better hang my Do Not Disturb notice on the door, for I will be otherwise engaged for a while.

Keep safe. 

Yesterday I woke up about as lethargic as the weather, switched on the television on and padded off to the kitchen and put the kettle on, the day will not start for me until I have my morning pot of tea.

How could I even hope to write about my wows when up on the screen came an Advisor to the Prime Minister screaming into the microphone about the brutality being inflicted on the Israeli people from ‘Hamas’. Note how the Palestinian people have been conveniently airbrushed out of the picture.

The Israeli Air Force AH-64 Apache was used as a platform for shooting guided missiles at Palestine targets and employed at the targeted killings policy against both militants and political leaders, What was missed out of the conversation was the killing of civilians including children, (brushed aside as collateral damage)

The UK government (a yapping dog at the feet of the US president) sent a TEXT to ask for both parties to draw back from an escalating conflict.

The American President, is sending a peace envoy to the region, (will he be anything like Tony Blair sent by Bush as Peace Envoy to the Middle East, he set up his offices in Jerusalem, which turned into a front for American and British arms sales to the Middle East.

The latest troubles started when Israel started to ethnicity cleanse the city of Jerusalem of Palestinians, forcefully removing people from their homes. Riots broke out, boys started to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers. As the trouble escalated (well away from the gazing eyes of the western media who had their blind eye to the telescope at the time) the Israeli soldiers throw stun grenades into the Mosc. No big deal you might think, until you remember the repercussions of a cartoon of Mohamed that appeared in a Paris newspaper and outside a Mosc in England when the teacher brought the subject up in his classroom.

What is happening and has been happening over most of my lifetime, is the violation of the Palestinian People’s, human rights. Their land taken from them, Israeli homes being built on land stolen from the Palestinian people, who are now excluded from it. Palestinians kept in an open prison in Gaza, refused access to their ports, forbidden to leave or return to their own lands – or at least only at the bequest of Israel.

If Palestinians protest along the border with Israel. Israeli soldiers will shoot across the fence line deliberately aiming at the legs of the protesters, hundreds have been injured in this way, all within their own borders.

Anyone in the west that stands up against what is happening in the Palestine will quickly find themself branded as Antisymmetric, and drummed out of office, Jeremy Corbyn.

As for the US the only power in the world that can enforce change. Sorry we can do nothing, you see ‘The Hill’ is stuffed full of Jews and Jewish dollars.

The UN, now only a (very expensive) paper tiger, can only condemn what is happening. The UN can not make a move without the consent of the US – they may as well swap the ‘N’ for an ‘S’.

Big change is upon us, the balance of power is moving from west to east. The US is finding it difficult to sustain its huge arm forces around the world. Israel is playing a very dangerous game, how long before the Arab World, decides enough is enough, and full-scale war breaks out once more across the Middle East?

Well I’m glad to get that off my chest. Yesterday I rode down to Anstruther and back via Crail – the wind was very light and out of the east, so very cold, since it was straight of the North Sea. Today it will be Cupar, an easy day for me, I am well on track for my first week’s goal of 100 miles, feeling pleased with myself, sadly it comes at a cost, my body feels shattered on my return. I normally shower (which revives me) but once I set my bum down on a chair with a cup of tea – I am reluctant to rise again until bedtime, which can not come soon enough. Old age doesn’t come alone, I expect it to take at least a month to get back to where I was a year ago, that what a year (seriously) off the bike does to you.

Stay safe.

 Tuesday was another great day awheel, I went out the B939 boy was it windy, not a headwind but coming over the port bow, I just had to dig deep. Having a goal to aim at helps enormously, you simply just keep telling yourself it is all in a good cause, dangling a carrot in front of the donkey’s nose. It was a relief to drop down into Pitscottie, for you get shelter from the hills there. Even the climb up into Ceres and then on up to Scots Tower was easy peasy after the wind from St Andrews to Pitscottie.

The National Trust for Scotland did say they would be opening some of their buildings but when I reached Scots Tower the door was locked. For a building that dates back to the 16th century and later rebuilt in 1620 it is in remarkably fine shape, and so long as it keeps its roof I see no reason for it not to remain that way for a few hundred years more.

The tower is six-story and largely intact, you can not help but be impressed when you enter the thickness of the walls, six feet if they are an inch. You can tell this by the recesses of the windows, set into the walls. Down each side runs a seat, where you would be able to sit and be bathed in natural light.

The first floor that would have been wooden (the joist holes are still viable) the floor long gone, giving you a view of the vaulted ceiling of the second floor, (all other wooden floors are intact) vaulted ceilings are repeated all the way up and would have given the tower great strength.

The original 16th century building was the home of the Inglis family. Bought by Sir John Scot (Author of the satirical novel “The Staggering State of the Scots’ Statesmen”.) Sir John rebuild the tower in 1620. Scotstarvit later passed to the Wemyss family and in 1948 gifted to the National Trust for Scotland. The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Time to turn tail for home and since it is mostly downhill from here to the sea at St Andrews, and since I was now running before the wind, I damn near freewheeled all the way home.

Have been poring over my travel guide books, collected over the years, putting plans in place for my trip to Holland. You do not take a bike to Holland unless you like riding your own stead. You jump on a bin flight and Borrow, Share, or Rent a bike when you arrive. Share bikes are known as OV-fiets, a public transport bike. The White Bike in the De Hoge Veluwe National park is legendary. Donkey Republic (get the app, get this bike) Rent a Damstraat, or Mac Bike. Depending on how long you wish to stay or if you wish to go gallivanting around Holland by train, picking up a bike for a few hours – there will be a bike for you. There has been an explosion of e-bikes in Holland. Rather than own a car, the thrifty young Dutch are using e-bikes to commute to and from work, In Holland this is not looked upon as a poor man’s car, it makes sense in an overcrowded country, it is also good for the environment, and the general health of the nation, (not breathing in fumes from cars and buses). The move to e-bikes is being encouraged by their government through tax exemptions.

You can not book ferries for most have been cancelled because of coronavirus or are not taking bookings. However, I have been able to check up on ‘friends of the bike’ they are still operating, although greatly reduced and restrictions in place, as the vaccine programme rolls out and the virus become suppressed things will improve. The loops I have chosen to cycle this time around are.

Amsterdam-Noord I was attracted to it by the stunning architecture of the Film Museum Eye to get there you have to catch a ferry over the river Ij (eye). Once a rundown, poor part of the city it has become very trendy with a 30K cycle path around the area.

Ooijpolser is an area around Nijmegen, an area I know well for I was stationed just over the border from here when serving in the RAF. I joined up with a cycling club in Nijmegen. Ooijpolser has a 38K cycle path running alongside the River Ooij. The scenery is stunning.

Maasduined National Park with a 57K cycle path, some of it is off-road rather than tarmac the route starts at the Boxmeer railway station.

Glenderland National Park Veluwezoom, it is many, many years since I visited this park so it will be a nostalgic trip for me. It reminded me very much of ‘The New Forest’ in the south of England. Ponies wandering around free and I even saw a toffee coo there. (a highland cow was on the cover of bars of McGowan Toffee, so we as kids called them toffee coos).

Winterswijk is to Holland what Constable country is to England. It is picturesque and where, Piet Mondrian, spent his childhood. He later became one of the Netherlands’ famous painters. Yes, I had never heard of him either until I went to Holland. What is remarkable about Winterswijk it remains pretty much undisturbed by the developers. A short cycle path takes you to the door of Museum Villa Mondriaan 24K ride.

Van Maas en Waal, lies between the Maas and the Waal rivers, the route is a circular 40K where you cycle along the top of the dikes.

Upper Groningen, I have never visited, it is in the countries most northerly province, which was a draw on its own. But when I was doing my research I discovered Martinistad (Martini City) has a tower in honour of Saint Martin of Tours. When I cycled the length of the Loire from source (although there are more than one) to the river’s mouth in France. I visited Tour and the basilica of St Martin (patron saint of France) and found out much about his fascinating life and work. I may not do much of the 93K trail for there is not a lot to see, very flat open farming country

And finally a 22K round trip of Noord-Holland dune reserve, I’m not sure, but I think I have been here before on a day trip to see the war museum. Mostly you walk through discarded World War Two, military equipment scattered around like broken toys. Then the museum itself has a building that houses all the trapping of war. It is right on the edge of the North Sea, mile upon mile of pristine sandy beaches stretching all the way from Den Haag in the south to Den Helder in the north. When I last stayed on this coast surfing was a big thing, surfing the huge rollers.

I will of course visit again the Peace Hall Den Haag, and leave a ribbon on the Peace Tree. This time I will try not to upset too many cyclists in Amsterdam – Cycling in Holland’s busy towns and cities, you must not slow down or hesitate at the crossings, momentum is the ename of the game, you just keep pedalling. Never mind the cars and buses, they see you. I was forever braking to make sure it was safe to shoot out in front of a car, buses or trams, that seemed on top of me, even if I did think I had right of way, the cyclists behind gave no quarter, and were very vocally at this dumb foreigner, braking in front of them. Dutch people are not cyclists they are two-wheeled acrobats. They seem to just glide through the traffic, swaying one way swaying the other, as they cut their way through the traffic, never slowing down never hesitating for an instance. Joining this river of free-flowing bikes, cars, lorries and buses, is scary until you get the hang of it. Riding in Amsterdam, my survival senses were always on high alert, I was exhausted by the time I got to where I was going. Cyclists taking a corner on the inside of a bus, inches apart, was the norm, bus drives (all motor vehicles for that matter) lookout for cyclists, all the time, then again, they and their whole family cycle in the same way.

Keep safe

Having put many miles into my legs, over the years cycling, I thought I could go on forever. However, now that I have found myself heading headlong at warp factor speed, towards your 80th birthday,

“The crystals will not take much more of this Captain”

Reality has hit home, you can not cheat old father time. Hills get tougher and headwinds become your Achilles heel. The spirit is still willing but the flesh is most defiantly weak.

If I were to keep on cycling touring into old age then an e-bike or a conversion to an e-bike may be the answer, I would give it a try. Now since I already had a decent bike, several really, I chose to convert rather than buy a new one. Now after all the trials and tribulations that entailed, and with over one thousand miles under my wheels of that conversion bike, I feel I can give a summary of how it feels to own and ride.

Definition.

First off, an electric bike is a pedal cycle with an electric motor and a battery that provides assistance as you pedal. This is important if you have an electric bike that you do not have to pedal to activate the motor, such as a trigger or twist grip that controls the power, then, legally it is considered a moped, and can’t be considered for free tax and registration-free ownership, in the UK or EU. One other stipulation, you will be restricted to 15mph/25kph in the UK, EU, and Australia, (in the US it is 20mph) above that speed the motor should cut out.

The restricted speed more or less disqualified them from fast road bikes. Most lightweight road bike will happily trundle along at 15mph hour after hour with little effort so why carry the extra weight.

Commuting

I suppose the first question we should ask is “Why do you want an electric bicycle?” if you want it to commute to work each day, and the distances involved are less than 40 kilometres round trip, or you have access to a 240V power source to recharge the battery, an e-bile will do that.

You will be told by the maker the mileage you can expect to travel on a fully charged battery, but there are so many variables to consider. Hills, headwinds, speed, and how much effort you yourself are willing to put in?

When I was considering an electric motor conversion, I did a lot of research on the internet but since most of the information to be found there is supplied by companies trying to sell you something, you will possibly end up even more confused at the end than you were in the beginning.

At the time, the rear wheel seems to be the obvious choice, but it is not that simple, like everything else in life it was a compromise. For instance, I found that gear change and brake levers that came with the kit were for a seven-speed block and my block was eight-speed, and since you have to use the brake/changers leavers that come with the kit, for safety reasons. They are wired directly into the controller and when the brakes are applied the controller will kill the motor.

When it came to fitting the wheel, there was little room to play with at the rear forks and spacers were required to shim the wheel into the position where the disc brakes would line up with its calliper. This was a bit of a pantomime so trying to remove the wheel if I ever had a puncture would have been a real headache. You can of course repair an inner tube without removing the wheel but again this is fiddly.

That said, most e-bikes are heavy and even when the motor cuts out they will freewheel at a great rate of knots down a steep hill, it is then you have to remember this is a bicycle with a bicycle braking system, and skinny tyres, although disc brakes front and rear are now common on modern bikes.

Mountain Bikes (e-MTB)

Downhill riding is great fun but getting up there in the first place that’s the bind. e-MTB can get you to the top fast and with lots of energy in store for the fast exhilarating ride back down. However, you will compromise on handling downhill, something new to learn. Then there will always be that breed among us, that will thrive on the allure of the hard climb up hills, and will find that hard to resist.

Hybrid Bikes

Are the least expensive option so provide good entry-level e-bikes. Their upright position makes them ideal for around town or leisure riding, on trails and plodding around the local parks. They will also be a good choice for the daily commute. E-hybrid bikes are often heavy, mainly because they are less sophisticated, no lightweight tubing, aluminium or carbon fibre for hybrids, still, this will only make them stronger and more robust, but it will come at a cost in weight, therefore if you do happen to live in that top flat in your Glasgow tenement, you will be looking for storage at ground level.

Storage a problem,

Not if you have an electric folding bike. Travelling on public transport, other than the intercity buses that have a large boot space that will take a fully grown-up bike, otherwise, you will require you to buy a folding e-bike (many tour operators will not take e-bikes on board). Their lightweight and foldability make them ideal for commuting to and from work or the nearest bus/train station. And for those weekends away, they will not take up much room in the boot of the car either. Most will have the battery hidden in the frame, making them very compact, and their light weight gives them a good range from a fully charged battery. Many folding e-bikes are made from aluminium or carbon fibre, which makes them more expensive than the run or the mill hybrid bike, but the flexibility of a folding bike more than pays you back in all-around usability. On good weather, you may wish to commute all the way into the town, but if the weather is iffy, only as far as the railway station, that is the flexibility of a folding e-bike.

Motor Position

The motors on electric bikes can be mounted as a wheel hub therefore gives the bike drive in the normal way, front or rear. Middle motors are slung below the bike on the bottom bracket and driven through the powered train of gears and chain. The biggest advantage of the mid-motor is the low centre of gravity, so stability is less of an issue, but will give less ground clearance, so could make off-roading problematic.

Rear wheel drive is popular, this places the motor low down and where most of the weight (the rider) is carried, making for good grip, and generally good handling.

Front wheel hub motors are a little more tricky for they will affect the steering and with less weight over the front wheel, reducing road grip. They do have a big advantage over rear-wheel motors when it comes to removing the wheel, if that becomes necessary, yes, even e-bikes will get punctures.

Batteries

All e-bikes will be powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, for their low weight and outstanding performance, along with a rapid recharging ability, normally only a few hours. With batteries, you get what you pay for. The bigger the battery, in Amp-hours, the more miles you will eek from each charge.

Mainly there are two systems for controlling the output from the battery to the electric motor. These are by torque or cadence sensor, it is they that will send information to the controller and in turn to govern the flow of electricity from the battery to the motor.

Most kits come with a cadence sensor, this is a magnet that fits down at the pedals, as you turn the pedals the sensor reacts to the cadence (speed) that the pedals move at and the faster you turn the pedals the higher the flow of electricity from the battery, through the controller, to the motor. The speed along the ground will depend on the gears you have chosen on the bicycle and the assistance you have preset on the screen display – normally 1 to 5.

The torque sensor, on the other hand, detects the force you are exerting on the pedals, and you have to supply around one-quarter of the power all the time. If you take a break so will the motor. The magic happens with some very clever electronics in the torque sensor controller, either in the motor’s gearbox in the case of a unit fitted to the bottom bracket, or the cadence sensor can be exchanged for a purpose made bottom bracket torque sensor. The torque sensor will pass on the information to the controller and in turn the motor. This will range from 50% power to 300% full power and will be displayed on the screen in Watts. The advantage of this system is that it rides more like a bicycle with a bit of assistance.

The cadence sensor has an obvious disadvantage, as soon as you hit a hill, your cadence will drop, and so will the supply from the battery to motor, just when the opposite is required.

On most e-bike conversion kits, the cadence sensors will have a thumb trigger, that will override the system and deliver electricity straight to the motor, the further you push the trigger the faster the bike will go, but it will also be depleting the battery at a much faster rate of knots.

Batteries

Warning, few kits come with a battery, so although they may appear to be inexpensive, you will have to factor in the cost of a battery, which can be as much again as the motorised wheel. My front wheel conversion came with a built-in battery and controller so a neat package. The battery can be removed for recharging or recharged on the tricycle. Since everything is contained within the wheel itself it requires only one wire from the unit to the screen display on the handlebars, or if you wish you can use your mobile phone to programme it so no wires at all.

Battery location

My rear wheel conversion has a battery that was designed to fit the water bottle braze-ones. But when it arrived it was so big, it would not fit inside my small frame. Likewise, the control box should have been housed onto the rear of the seat down tube and in front of the rear wheel, but again there was insignificant room to accommodate, ho hum.

Knowing what I know now I would have bought a battery that fitted as a normal rear carrier on a bicycle. However, since my bike already had a rear carrier, my initial thoughts that if the heavy battery was placed on the front down tube, this would help spread the weight. I finally made up a board and the battery and control box was firmly attached to this, then the whole lot secured to the rear carrier.

Alas when I came to fit it to the carrier, I had once more to modify it, by screwing blocks to the underside I was able to raise it up high enough to allow my pannier bags to be attached to the carrier. Lessons learned.

Battery Pack

Power packs will be made up of Lithium-Lon batteries and some also contain the controller, making them very neat and much smaller than the older models. The market is changing so quickly with new products arriving almost daily. You may find by the time you have unwrapped the one you bought, it is already obsolete. The beauty of this, there is that bargains to be had, so long as you are not a follower of fashion, and only the latest technology is for you.

I find it truly amazing how far battery technology has advanced. For something that you can hold in the palm of your hand to have the ability to hurtle you up the road for the next 40 kilometres, and be recharged in 2 or 3 hours, remarkable. I remember having to take the accumulator, for the radio, down to the local electrical shop to be recharge, a trickle charge at that time would take 12 hours min. You’re giving your age away again Hamilton.

Motors

These little hub motors, at around 300W, can certainly pack a punch, they are also high torque (around 40Nm) and brushless, so extremely quiet and with no brushes to wear out, what is not to like. I have also found them to have very little drag if any, even when pedalling around town with the motor switched off it feels just like a normal bicycle.

Summing up

With the cadence sensor you only need to pretend to be pedalling to get full power, you can simply use the throttle. With the torque sensor, you are always helping. Even at 300% level, you are still providing one-quarter of the power yourself. However, if you are still fairly fit the torque sensor bicycle will feel much more like riding a normal bicycle but with power assistance, the pedals will feel light, like you have young legs once more, and you do not have to fiddle with screens or triggers, and a fully charged battery will take you much further, because you are helping.

Best of both worlds.

The only bicycles I have found that has both a cadence sensor combined with a torque are the Smart Motion and Pace/Catalyst, which allows you to select which mode to ride. Torque sensors are very complicated, which is reflected in the price, and the main reason I suspect why most kits will come with a cadence sensor. You can if you wish buy a torque sensor bottom bracket separate from the kit and replace it with the one on your bike. The main reason for doing so would be to make it fully compliant with the law as an e-bike and still keep the override capability for those really steep hills.

When it comes to bottom bracket motors the market leader at this time is Bafang but not to worry, you will not have to take nigh classes in Chinese instruction come in many languages. These motors replace the bottom bracket on the bicycle so first, you need to know what type of bottom bracket your bicycle has, and crucially its size. Also, you will require special tools to remove the peddles and bottom bracket, and possibly press a new shell into place. You would be wise to find all of this out before parting with your cash.

Both the Bafang BBSO2 and the BBSHD motors come in a variety of widths to fit several JIS and BSA bottom bracket shells.

Personally when it comes to bottom bracket motors it is best left to the professionals to fit. And when you weigh up the cost of conversion, it would possibly make more sense to buy a new e-bike.

Last year, before anyone had heard of coronavirus, and before the bikes conversion, I caught the bus over to Glasgow and cycled back to Kincardine via the Forth Clyde canal. At this point, I had intended to catch the bus from here home, but with a strong tailwind and a fine day ahead, I cycled all the way home along the coast. It was a long, long day, with little stopping, but proves if you can plan your journey driven along with the prevailing winds, it is as good as an e-bike when it comes to touring.

Summing up

I have done just over one thousand miles on my converted bike, what have I learned?

Yes, having a 300 Watt motor assisting you up the road will keep you on your bike. But it is so easy to use it as an electric scooter than a bicycle, you get lazy and pedal-less and less. Is that a good or a bad thing? If it gets you out of the house and into the fresh air when you would otherwise not be able to then it has to be a good thing. I have been using my conventional bike to keep some resemblance of fitness in my legs. Believing in the old adage, “If you don’t use them, you lose them”. My hope is that an e-bike will keep me on the road for many years to come. Hope, is a good thing, maybe the best of things.

Keep well.

P.S. I have a front wheel with a self-contained motor. It can be programmed from your smartphone or by a single wire to a switch on the handlebars. You can change from a normal bike and back again to a conventional bike in a matter of a couple of minutes, with no fiddly wires or connectors. £200.00 and it’s yours. I am buying a purpose-made folding e-bike to take on public transport, extending my range of travel.

 Monday once more.

The fine rain over the last week or so has been really good for the garden,

“YOU CAN STOP NOW!”

It being Monday, it is also laundry day, I’m sure the rain will have passed by the time I rescue my knickers from the dryer.

Yesterday it was out with my maps and travel books planning for my next trip and I have decided to go to Holland in spring 2022. I have cycled Holland a lot over the years, they have a great network of cycle paths (many have now been updated from paths to proper cycle roads). The Winds in Holland can be a bit of a bugger, predominantly from the southwest. Holland being mostly flat and close to the sea the winds can be very strong indeed. But like Boldrick, ‘I have a cunning plan I will start in the south of the country and travel north and east. I intend to join the Vrienden op de fiets (friends of the bike) it is an organisation that links you with people that will put you up in their own home, B&B for a set sum of 22.50 euros per night. So £1,000.00 is the budget I’m working too, this should see me well catered for over the fortnight, if I do not eat out on too many days, picnic and press my camp stove into service for pots of tea, which in more or less how I always do things when touring anyway.

Planning

I hope to plan well in advance, booking the overnight Megabus to the South Coast and the ferry over from Dover to Boulogne-sur-Mer, part of my pilgrimage every time I visit Europe will be visiting my grandfather’s war grave there.

Bus to Brugge (or Bruges) my stopover, when I last visited, was at a Youth Hostel called Charlie Rockets an old cinema in the heart of the town, that was an experience, the youths were a bit on the wild side. From here I cross into Holland and follow the N57 all the way up the coast, with the wind on my back I will make Den Haag in no time at all. On my last visit, I stayed at a Jorplace at Scheveningen and one in Delft itself. I loved it, mostly the live music, but do not get carried away with the beer or your budget will be blown.

Planning my stops off as I travel north, booking Vrienden op de fiets B&B in advance, for although there are over 6 thousand spread over the country there are also an awful lot of cycle tourist to Holland each year.

I would love to go from the north of Holland over to Denmark and when it is time for home take a ferry over to Aberdeen and the direct bus from there down to Dundee and home. I have just under a year to tie up the loose ends and get myself fit.

Day one – working on the new me.

Cycling is about mental attitude as much, if not more than it is about physical fitness, and today I was feeling good mentally. I was ready to push myself a little more than I had been pottering around over the last year. It was near as damn-it 12.30 when I set off, you could not ask for better weather, light wind clear skies. The wind was still running down the coast from north to south so I was now fighting what little wind there was.

As I passed Leuchars airfield there must have been half a dozen vans, cars and pickups, parked on the slip road, along with the vehicles, men, with their cameras fitted with enormous telephoto lenses. Thinking it might have been another parachute drop, but seeing no plane in the sky I pushed on to Tayport.

I visited my brother’s house but of course, he was not home.I turned the bike around I headed back home. Tayport is a nightmare, I always get myself lost, and before I had left the town a mile behind the skies turned black and down it came. I stopped and put on my cycling top, but by the time I reached the turn off for Leuchars I looked like something the cat dragged in. the rain was literally stotting off the road. By Leuchars, it had passed and the sun came out.

The lads were still standing around as I came upon the airfield, so I stopped to ask what all the fuss was about. Then up from behind the dip rose one of those American aircraft the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, (I am not sure if it was this or an earlier model)

they have turboprop engines at the extremities of their wings, able to swivel through 90 degrees into the vertical to give them lift, much like a helicopter. Once airborne the engines will swivel forward once more so it now becomes more in keeping with a conventional aeroplane. It did a low short circuit whilst I stood chatting then landed once more. Looks like a sales pitch to prospective buyers – the British taxpayer. I pedalled on.

By the time I reached the Old Coarse Hotel my top was near dry, but a big black cloud was waiting for me and as I climbed the last hill up home, down it came.

It will only be around 13-14 miles to Tayport and the same back. The time when I arrived home was 2.20 pm. Happy with that. All I have to do now is double that distance whilst still keeping that average speed, and of course feel comfortable at the end of the day. An average of 50 miles at an average of 10 mph, is just about right, putting in the miles but leaving plenty of time for sightseeing.

Another thing I love about Holland is that the Dutch are multi-linguistic, so you will get clear instructions and be able to seek out those hidden gems in areas off the main tourist trail. The one thing I do not like about Holland (and that goes for most of Europe) the heavy cost of getting into museums. However, if you look out for them there are plenty of free walking tours around big towns and cities, (although most will put their hand into their pocket and give the tour guide something for his time and knowledge, (you will always know the Yorkshire man, he is the one that sneaks off just as the tour comes to an end).

That’s unfair, I was invited to a Yorkshire lad home for tea once, the table was absolutely groaning with food – and all at a reasonable price.

Keep safe.

Today the weather was very quiet as I set out for Strathkinness, I was in no hurry and there seemed to be little headwind as I climbed out of Strathkinness for Knock Hill. By then the clouds bubbled up and there was a couple of short showers that really came to nothing. A big Weeeeeeeeeeeee down the hill and into Pitscottie, as soon as I turned at the crossroads I felt the wind on my back and much stronger than I had thought, so a nice easy pedal home.

The consensus of opinion seems to be that coronavirus will be so suppressed to an extent that by August we will be kissing and cuddling once more, although from what I saw of the student’s party, just across the road from me last night, such naughtiness is already in vogue.

Europe is still catching up but maybe by next Spring April-May, things will be much the same there too. So, with my itchy feet playing up again, I am starting to think again about that European trip, that was knocked on the head over Coronavirus, and I had thought this time last year that the dream was over forever.

Lockdown had really done great things for my bankbook, hardly spent anything at all, certainly no expensive purchases. As for new clothes, not much point really, as mum always said

“It doesn’t matter what I put on you, you still manage to look like an orphan from the storm”

The sale of the van also help to bring in another £1500.00 (and of course no tax or insurance expenditure) which now it may be possible to take a trip using public transport, and cheap flights (to hell with global warming) to get to the areas I wish to travel in and a folding bike once there, hopefully using (the equivalent of) youth hostels over there. These places are very basic and normally full of young students kicked out of college and universality for the summer hols, intent on having a good time until all hours of the morning, but I’m sure I will survive, I have before.

Although I have been out on the bike a fair bit, you would hardly call it cycle touring, so I have decided to put in a bit of effort and distance between now and Spring, (and lose a bit of weight) which is much easier when you have a goal and date to aim at.

Keep safe.  

It is all over bar the shouting. The Tories got a grubbing in the Scottish elections. The Liberal Democrats threw their party under a bus to keep the Tories in power in Aberdeenshire. The Tories held their nose and voted Labour to keep the SNP out and Jacky Bailey (Labour) in her seat at Holyrood. Labour voted Tory in the borders to keep the SNP out.

Now what was it Nicola Sturgeon said when she heard that Alba had been formed only week before the election? Oh yes!

“I will not cheat or try to game the system to win” Good one Nicola, Are you really that scared of your position?

Stupidity is when you keep making the same mistakes over and over again hoping for a different outcome.

The SNP collected slightly over 1 million list votes in Thursday’s election, which nevertheless elected just two list MSPs because SNP voters care about power for the SNP rather than about independence, and chose to let dozens of Unionist MSPs get seats rather than other pro-indy parties. Hell, mend them, when Boris is through with them.

Keep safe.

ALBA

threewheelsonmywaggon

Declaration for Scotland

“We hereby proclaim the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and declare and pledge that in all our actions their interests shall be paramount.

We further declare and pledge that our deliberations shall be directed to the following ends:

To assert the sovereign right of the Scottish people acting through their Parliament to secure independence.

To mobilise Scottish and international opinion to ensure that this right is respected and acted upon.

“For in truth it is not glory, or riches, or honours for which we are fighting but for liberty – for that alone, which no honest person gives up but with life itself”

Although the wind was light it was bitter cold coming as it did from the north and running down the east coast, I wanted to do much more today, but a wee circuit out to Pitscottie and home, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

Back home I started pottering in the garden, you will always find something to do there. The rain has certainly helped there too, and at last, the Gladioli are starting to show above ground, I was beginning to worry that they would ever come up, and other plants and seed as well, all good.

Indoors and with the sun now well over the yardarm it was on with the tatties for dinner, I put on the television with the sound down to watch the results as they came in, no big surprises there, same old same old. The SNP verses the Unionist parties for another five years. People still do not get it, if you vote overwhelmingly for the SNP on the constituency vote, there is little point in voting SNP on the list, for the system is “Giveth with one hand – taketh away with the other” – one million votes will be cast for the SNP on the list that will gain no SNP MSP they will only help elect Unionist parties (mainly the Tories) into office, how stupid are they to do this time after time?

Nicola Sturgeon does not mind of course so long as she is the biggest party, keeping her pension pot growing. We need some diversification and a proper opposition for the parliament to work, not this constant 50/50 split. Like Boris she has benefited from the vaccine rollout. However if she continues with this “We have to make the case for independence” kicking the can down the road, and not deliver on her promise to hold another referendum, she will quickly know the wrath of the Scottish people, she is now on a very short leach. As I looked over the headlines on this morning papers in Scotland, most have a jubilant picture of the yellow coated Nicola Sturgeon, On the front page, I did notice however the headline on one that read

“Wow for independence” – the newspapers get it, why can the people of Scotland not get it, how they are being led by the nose – then again they are the Nicola Sturgeon fan club after all, why they even have their own fan club newsletter “The National”.

As the afternoon progressed and the results come in, I rode with Mark Beaumont across Australia, New Zealand, south of North America, and then back to Europe, riding up from Lisbon (in Portugal) into Spain then France to finish in Paris, 194 days 17 hours and covering 18,296 miles. Quite a feat, but you have to ask Why? I don’t mean riding around the world, people are doing that all the time. I mean punishing the way he did. If you really wished to circumnavigate the world on a bike in the fastest time to win some trophy, (which makes no sense to me) you would have a very light racing bike, carry no gear, and be followed by a camper van that supplied all your needs, food, bed, medical aid and bike maintenance.

He said he was riding for charity, but I could not help but notice there was no appendix to tell you what was collected from sponsors and what was the expenditure on the trip, the only mention of money was when he was crossing Australia, at one point he said he has to spend £1,000 on food during that short spell out of Perth. If this was the kind of expenditure involved I suspect it cost more to do the trip than anything the charities received. Then again if you fancy becoming another Michael Palin, you have to do something like this to get your name in the right places.

“What’s with all the negative waves?”

I have love-hate relationship with charities, every Wednesday, my day off work, I would captain a tandem for a blind lad. It had all started when I answered an advert in the Telegraph and Argos, place thereby a blind lad, who wanted someone to steer his tandem on a charity ride (for a blind charity) – a very hilly five miles loop called the ‘Bike Hike’. I thought it would only be a one-off, two years later I was still riding as captain on the tandem. We rode all over the Yorkshire Dales and once a year over to the York Rally. It was during this acquaintance that I become aware of the difficulties faced by blind people.

I started making a monthly direct debit payment to ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’. I am still happy to carry on doing this, but the hate part is that they send out begging letter and books of raffle tickets for me to sell on their behalf. I have often wonder how much money goes on this form of money raising. Collecting money for charities in this way has become a growth industry, begging the question, what percentage of the money raised really benefits the charity whose coattails they ride on.

You will meet lots of people when riding long-distance – one of the first questions none cyclists will ask, after you explain what you are about.

“Are you riding for charity?” They never seem to understand that your ride your bicycle simply as fun and adventure.

Oh help, I’m morphing into a grumpy old man.

Boo-hoo. 

Stay safe.

Yesterday started for me when I went off to vote, I left at around 8 o’clock, thinking I would have to stand in a queue to get in, but once inside I was surprised to see an empty hall before me, strange not only was I handed two slips of paper but a pencil, coronavirus could possibly be spread by using the one pencil, I would not have thought of that. The day was very iffy weather-wise, certainly not spring or early summer, bitter cold north wind and showers. Once home I stayed indoors reading.

THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM

Chapter I
Ignorance is Strength

by Dr. Emmanuel Goldstein

I have been reading a very interesting article by Dr Emmanuel Goldstein, in it, he tells us how there have been three tiers of people in the world from – well, from man’s understanding. As soon as I read it took me right back to a Monty Python sketch I had seen years ago on the old black and white television.

Upper Class, Middle Class, and Lower Class. They have come in many disguises over the millennium, but basically the essential structure of society has never changed.

The objective, for those at the top Upper Class, is that they wish to remain in their position of “We Rule”.

The aim of the Middle Class is to change places with the Upper Class. “We Fool You”.

The aims of the Lower Class, is less straight forward, if they have an aim at all, it is to create a society in which all men shall be equal. However, for the most part, they are so crushed by drudgery to be more than semi-conscious of anything outside their daily lives.

This the good doctor tells us is a recurring pattern that has gone on since time immemorial. The Upper Class securely in power for a period of time. Then for whatever reason, they are overthrown by the Middle Class, who enlist the Lower Class on their side by pretending to them that they are fighting for liberty and justice. Of course, as soon as the dust has settled, and the Middle Classes have now become the Upper Classes, the Lower Classes once more find themselves back in servitude, back in their box.

A new Middle Class will emerge and the whole scenario will play out once more. Sound familiar.

Of all the groups – the Lower Class is the only group that will never achieve its objective, Liberty and Justice or any kind of Equality.

It would be wrong to say that the Lower Class has not made progress, the average human being is physically and materially better off than our forefathers of a century ago, but are no better off wealth wise. No reform or revolution has ever brought human equality an inch nearer. Inequality, it would seem, is the unalterable law of human life. “We Rule”.

This is the preaching of the Upper Class, the kings, the aristocracy, priests and lawyers, all the parasites of society. They will give promises of compensation in an imaginary world, even extending beyond the grave.

The Middle Class, so long as they are struggling for power – have always made use of such terms as freedom, justice and fraternity. Revolution under the banner of equality, and then as soon as they establish their goal, establish a fresh tyranny.

Socialism, a theory that appeared in the early nineteenth century and was the last link in the chain of thought stretching back to the slave rebellions of antiquity. However, in each variant of Socialism that appeared from about 1900 onwards, the aim of establishing liberty and equality was more and more openly abandoned.

By the middle of 1900, a new movement appeared. Ingsoc in Oceania, Neo-Bolshevism in Eurasia, Death-worship, as it is commonly called, in Eastasia, has the conscious aim of perpetuating unfreedom and inequality.

This time it would be different, the Middle Class would turn out the Upper Class, and become the Upper Class themselves but this time by conscious strategy, the new Upper Class would be able to maintain their position permanently.

Technology has changed everything, yes, it would be necessary for human beings to do different kinds of work, but no longer necessary for them to live at different social or economic levels.

The new aristocracy was made up of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociobiologists, teachers, journalists and professional politicians. These people had been brought together by a world of monopoly industry and centralized government. They on the whole were more interested in what they were doing than crushing opposition.

All the tyrannies of the past were half-hearted and inefficient, by today’s standards. Part of the reason for this was that in the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance. It would be the power of the press, film, and radio that made it possible for governments to manipulate public opinion. The development of television made it possible to transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, our private lives had come to an end. Now every citizen (or at least those important enough to be worth watching) could now be kept 24/7 under the eyes of the police and the sound of official propaganda, with all other channels of communication closed. The possibility of enforcing not only complete obedience to the will of the State, but complete uniformity of opinion on all subjects now existed for the first time.

This is only a brief outline of the work, but to me is fascinating, for I have always said we are being manipulated day in and day out. I am already well aware of the power of advertising (I mute all advents on television as soon as they appear) and my computer, seems to know more about me than I myself know.

‘Big Brother’ is certainly ‘Watching Us’.

I like the way he brings in modern-day equivalents to bolster his theory. Saying how new political theory, that came in around the 1920s, led back to hierarchy and regimentation and a general hardening of outlook. Practices long abandoned, in some cases for hundred’s of years – imprisonment without trial, (Julian Assange) the use of war prisoners as slaves, Germany during the Second World War) public executions, (Dron strikes by the UK and America)

torture to extract confessions, (renditions by America of people to countries where such things are tolerated and nothing said) the use of hostages, and the deportation of whole populations ((Myanmar)

have not only become common again, but where tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive.

Stay safe.

Yesterday morning we saw lots of cloud over St Andrews but the wind was keeping the rain at bay, it was hard work cycling into such a strong headwind but the alternative would be to buy a Turbo Trainer and stay indoors, no fun in that.

These winds over the last two days have stripped petals from the flowing cherry tree and strewn them across the lawn, now a beautiful carpet of green and pink. The wind that shakes the darling buds of May.

Later I went up to Aldi to stock up, it was eerily quiet, and most of the goods were at knockdown prices, all good. I was in and out in no time at all, laden down with bargains, then again they are only bargains if you need them.

I had intended to take my stall along to Church Square for the last day of canvassing, but when I passed there the place was almost deserted so I carried on down to the harbour, a place that draws me like a magnet.

Just as it did yesterday, and at around the same time of day, the wind dropped, but it was cold out and the clouds began to bunch up so I hot-footed it for home. In the nick of time as it turned out down it came, not rain but hail.

I have still followed Mark Beaumont, his journey now taking him from the Turkish boarded into Iran and on into Pakistan as far as Lahore and the border of northern Indian. He is certainly a gutsy individual this was a tough leg.

I would not enjoy this sort of ride, I am too much of a peoples person, I like to ride where there are towns and villages, and ahead of me the place that I have chosen to stop for the night, have a proper wash and do my dobby. I travel very light, and always on a light touring bike. I will be on the road as it gets light – summer in Europe that would normally mean around 6 am. I will put in my best miles until around noon then spends time, sightseeing. The destination that I wish to achieve that day will be fixed, but my days are always fluid. I will check in at Tourist Information Centres to see if there is anything in the area that I am passing through that I needs to visit. A castle, an abbey or château, even if it means me going offpeak for a while and returning to my original route. If I am behind scheduled then riding late into the afternoon or early evening is acceptable. I always build in rest days, even if I’m feeling fine, I will try to make that a large town or city where I can walk the streets. Window shop or simply sit and watch the world go by.

I was still doing long trips into Europe in my early 60s and still fit enough to join in with local groups of club cyclists that I would meet on the road. Diving into the middle of a peloton was always a good way to get a free hurle, and a bit of company for a time. Even just relaxing in the bubble of the peloton out of the wind being towed along, hearing the noises around you. The loud chatter of human voices, even if you can not understand the language. The noise of dozens of chains running over dozens of gears has a music of its own, hypnotic and trance like.

This does not mean I do no like to be on my own, I do. Riding in the early morning on long, straight flat and deserted back roads of France is always a joy. However, there is one problem, the kilometre road markers, every damned kilometre, 100K, 99K, 98K…….. it is so soul-destroying, you feel that you will never get there.

This morning we go to the polls here in Scotland to choose a new parliament. This time that will be the church halls of the Holy Trinity Church in Queens Terrace. The Town Hall is the normal venue for voting but has been closed for some time now, not sure why.

Up until a few days ago, the media was calling it for the SNP talking about them getting an overall majority. That has only been achieved once in the lifetime of the parliament, and will never be repeated again because of tactical voting since, so you have to wonder what was behind this ruse. Now even the BBC are saying they do not know what the makeup of the parliament will be since the polls are all over the place. I believe they have been ignoring the elephant in the room and no matter that they have airbrushed parties such as Alba out of the picture, the people of Scotland are not daft. Until Alba entered the race, the Yes campaigners had nowhere to go but vote for the SNP and see their second vote on the list elect Unionist parties into office. Now they have a choice and I believe many will make that choice. There could be a lot of MSP that has been sitting in super safe seats on the list vote since the parliament was re-convened in Scotland, they will not be so sure of returning to Holyrood after today. For me that has to be a good thing, this parliament has run out of steam over the last five years, and the SNP have been moving further and further to the right as New Labour did before them. (Thankfully unlike New Labour they can not go and attack Iraq.)

Keep safe.                     

The wind is something else in St Andrews today, so no cycling, I am still ploughing my way through Mark Beaumont – the man who cycled the world, Like mark I have been doing it in legs rather than in one go.

Now, anyone who rides a bicycle will know that dogs, especially in the country are very keen to protect their property from passers-by – cyclists in particular. Mostly they will be safely behind a garden fence so all bark and no bite. However, any dog that is on the loose may well run out and attack your wheels. It is believed that the noise of the air passing over the spokes of the bicycle wheel, is what causes them to get their dander up, this to a dogs is would seem is akin to chalk scratching across a blackboard is to a child.

Don’t tell the RSPCA but when your we had an 18″ bicycle pumps lived down the down-tube of our bicycle, a wee tap on the nose with said bicycle pump did the business, but don’t, whatever you do, stick out your leg to kick the dog, that is an open invitation for the dog to have a go at your leg.

Something far worse than a dog attacking your wheel is a goose, when I lived in the borders I would have to pass a particular farm going over the Dreiva Road, that was protected by a rather aggressive goose. This goose hatted cyclists with a passion,

boy did you have to move fast to get out of its way. But I diverse.

It was interesting to read that when Mark reached Istanbul he received in the collection of goods sent to him from his mother in Scotland. Something he never expected, it was an electronic gismo that sent out a signal, unheard by humans, but audible to dogs, and the noise that dogs heard would send them to flight. Mark thought he would try it out on the local stray dog population, of which there seems to be many wandering around the streets of Istanbul. It did not work, the dogs simply stared back at him, (then maybe there was a language problem, the Turkish dogs did not understand what they were supposed to do.)

The reason it amused me was my next-door neighbour, only a day or so after moving in, high jacked me in the corridor to ask if I was having trouble with mice?

“I have been awake half the night thinking about mice, I’m sure I hear them running around in the roof” she said.

It was autumn so I said possibly she heard a field mouse they will come indoors when the weather starts turning colder. They will not be in the house but in the soffits or roof space, I assure her. Field mice are tinny they will not do any harm and will be gone by the spring.

The other day Agnus had me in to hang a really large picture and a curtain rail, I needed a plug socket for my drill. The one nearest had some sort of device inserted into it with the obligatory LED light glowing, not sure what it was, so asked

“Is it OK if I remove this from the socket?”

“Yes” came the answer “It’s there to scare away any mice that may be in the house, it sends out a signal that scares them off”.

I could not help but wonder if – like Mark’s dog scarer the marketing bumf was greater than its usefulness. Then again placebos work don’t they?

The wind that had plagued us this morning had abated by late afternoon and because it is light until after nine in the evening it was possible for me to put in a few miles – just out to Strathkinness and home, but I felt better having put in the effort.

I was coming through the library when I was called back, it was a couple from upstairs, they don’t look old, still, in their 60s I would have thought, but clearly, he is not well, they were coming from the laundry and her husband had to stop and sit down to catch his breath, he looked wan and pale. They had been heading for the lift. When I went over to where he was sitting, he immediately started singing our praises for the work we were doing in the garden. I told them, yes, the girls are putting in a lot of time and effort and how I’m only the labourer. Still, it is good to know that they are appreciating the work that has been done. I am looking forward to when it all starts to blossom, although it may be a year or two before the hardy perennials, such as the Delphiniums and Lupins look their best since they were grown from seed and have not long been planted out in their permanent flowering position. Another good day.  

Stay safe.

Yesterday after the laundry was out of the machine, I set off on the bike, just as far as Leuchars and back for I wanted to get the Alba show on the road. The town was again quite so when the wind picked up, ahead of a weather front moving in from the west, and ahead of the rain, I hot-footed it for home. The rain when it came was heavy and prolongedly, on for the day, but well-received after such a long dry spell, we all want to see our hard work in the garden come to fruition. I was too restless to sit and read, so put on my foul weather gear and headed out for the shore, I love walking in the rain when I’ve dressed the part. Yes, I know.

When I was in the RAF we had pre – AOC inspections, once a year, this is where someone not so high up the pecking order comes to the camp and does an inspection so that when the top man himself arrives soon after, he can more or less, show face, then head off to the Officers Mess for a bit of a doo.

Today the UK is hosting, face to face talks (the first in two years) of G7 Foreign and Development Ministers – sort of pre – G7 meeting much like the pre – AOC inspection.

We are told that top of the agenda will be the coronavirus virus outbreak in India, and what they can do to help.

When coronavirus raised its ugly head in China all those months ago my first words at the time was

“Thank God it was not India”

We all know the state of India, overcrowded, people living cheek to jowl, poor medical facilities for the size of its population, corruption at every level of society, coronavirus coming to India was a disaster waiting to happen. Now two years on the G7 will meet and talk about what can be done.

Over three million people have now died in this pandemic and it still has a long way to run, despite the enthusiastic rhetoric coming from, Boris Johnston.

I watched on television a the time as news of this new virus came to our knowledge. It was a “Time Laps” film of the new temporary hospital being constructed in China, it was happening at breakneck speed (one week) and would hold one thousand beds. Anyone testing positive for this virus would be taken there for treatment. Along with this, there would be a system of track and trace, helping stop the spread. In no time at all they had coronavirus under control in China. The same in Vietnam and other Far Eastern countries, why even little New Zealand had someone in charge that had a bit of common sense to do likewise, and close down the airports to stop any infection into the country. These countries and their people were saved, their economy was saved – we on the other hand in Europe and North America (where we had Trump, rather than listening to WHO (the world health organisation) was blaming them and threatening to leave the WHO, what a Trump) We in the West are still struggling with the effects of coronavirus two years on from the last G7 summit.

One of the other questions up for discussion, they tell us will be “Climate Change” when we see how the 7 richest economies in the world have handled coronavirus all I can say to that is

“Good Luck”

The (UK) International Trade Secretary was on sky this morning telling us how we are talking about ways to help the people of India, how we might get more vaccine supplies to them. Too little Too late International Trade Secretary. And going by the way your government has handled the coronavirus pandemic in this country……if I was in India’s shoes at this time then I would do a deal with Russia, they will send planeloads of Sputnik V vaccine today if asked.

The mist is now lifting and ST Andrews in starting to brighten up, but there is a bloody cold wind out of the north, better put on my woolly poolly, under my cycling jacket, before I go.

Keep safe.  

I often switch on the television and flick through the news channels as I eat breakfast, to see if there is anything of interest, but since all news programmes are dominated by English and American interests, there seldom is anything that would interest me. And have you noticed how all the news never has any real insight as to WHY?

This morning it was about the shortage of homes in Devon, demand outstripping supply. Young people being priced out of the market. Nothing newsworthy in that, it has been happening in Wales in Scotland, just as it has in every secluded beauty spot in England too. This is not news but regurgitation. What we did not get was WHY?

I was sitting in a hub with a local lad, we were talking about the up and coming Brexit referendum, and the golden opportunity for the independence campaign (being dragged out of Europe against our will, if it were to happen that way, and how that would be a gift for the Yes campaign as he saw it, (but alas a missed opportunity by Oor Nicola). My friend at the time had said

“Try getting a house in Scotland after Brexit, when all the holiday and retirement homes are sold up in Spain and France as owners repatriate back home, will be a nightmare. Chickens coming home to roost – maybe.

Five Eyes was supposed to be a loose grouping made up of America, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zeeland. The idea behind it was, each would share any intelligence that came across their respective desks with the other four members. When New Zealand, saw that China had become public enemy No one for America and that the loose club sharing intelligence was becoming, very political and ganging up on China, New Zeeland said,

“Thanks, but no thanks, we have good relations with China diplomatically and in trade”.

Suddenly the other four members of the club moved against them, with friends like these – who needs enemies?

Now I know little about the internal working of China, or what if any human right abuses are going on in that country. America and The UK are forever taking the high ground, calling out China, on their human rights record, I only have three words (out of many I could quote) for them,

Julian Assange,

Guantanamo,

I bought a card to send to my niece, it was to wish her happiness in her new home. Today I went along to the post office to buy a stamp to send it off. The post office was closed (even although the notice said it should be open). OK, I will buy a book of stamps at the supermarket, even although I really only needed one stamp. Over £7 for a book of second class stamps. In hindsight, I should have sent flowers. An amusing thought came to me as I walked to the box to post the card,

I will now have to live past Christmas to use up all these second class stamps. The daft things that come into my head.

Really need to go rescue my washing from the machine and get on my bike.

Keep safe.  

Saturday starter out clear and bright that was then, by the time I reached Dundee the clouds were beginning to gather.

The rain when it came was only a shower and by then I had found a charity shop to hide away in. It was a charity shop that sold only books and very reminiscent of old books shops that were once commonplace across our towns and cities.

The town was busy, yet the shops were mostly empty, maybe people just wanted to get out of the house for a while, just because they can now. There were a small group of Green Warriors, protesting about the lack of progress on climate change, and a busker, performing at the normal venue, just outside the shopping centre, he was a young lad and actually very good.

Having just finished “Becoming Michelle Obama” a book that should be compulsory reading in our schools, I was hoping to find more of her work or that of her husband but alas not. I cannot remember ever reading a book that affected me as emotionally as this one by Michelle Obama has. All the way through I laugh with her, felt her anger and frustrations, and tear of emotion as she told me her story, warts and all.

It was clear she not only loved her husband but was in awe of him, something close to worship. Strange they hit it off really for they were chalk and cheese. She was so disciplined in her life, liked everything in order, she needed to be in control. Barack had no time for housework, the garden, cooking or cleaning, DIY or anything like that. He had a hole (a den) in every home they ever lived in, where he would go and shut himself away for hours, he would read to all hours of the morning, anything that he read would be discarded onto the floor. Papers books, newspapers, he lived in a mess, where his wife like order around her. She always insisted his Hole had a door, even to look at his mess was off-putting.

When they moved into the White House he had three military valets whose job it was to make sure his shoes were shined, his shirts pressed, his gym clothes always fresh and folded, life in the White House was very different from life in the Hole, Michelle told us.

One morning at breakfast, Barack had mirthfully told her,

“See how neat I am now, have you looked in my closet?”

“I have” she said, smiling back at him, “and you get no credit for any of it”.

I remember I heard (the late Diana, Princess of Wales) in a television interview and she said one morning she asked her husband,

“What do you think of Police?”

He replied that he thought they were a fine body of men, but of course she was talking about a pop group called Police. chalk and cheese. Then again he was from a different generation, 30 years her senior.

I loved Michell’s mother too. How she was able to guide her children as they grew up, without them being aware of it. Michelle had a great mother. I loved when she came to live in the White House, where everyone was now under strict security, but not her mother, no one was going to stop her from doing what she wanted to do. If she wanted to go out and find a group in some church basement in town well she just went. And if anyone in that group said

“You know you look just like the mother of the First Lady”, she would shrug her shoulders and say,

“I get that a lot”.

And of course before long Mrs Robinson had much of the staff eating out of her hand.

Now I am not sure whether it was her mother’s influence, or whether Michelle was just one of those people who was open, but I loved how she was able to talk about anything and everything around the dinner table, when she was growing up, nothing was taboo, even down to announcing one day.

“I had my periods”

I am now keen to read Barack’s story, the other side of the coin. Although I did not find any books by either of these authors, I did find three Lee Child books – but I had read all of them, I have read so many of his books that I have to read the first chapter when I pick one up in a charity shop now, for I have in the past brought books home only to find, when I do get around to reading them, I had in fact read them before, then again some books are worthy of a second or even third read.

The book I did bring home with me today was “The man who cycled the word” by Mark Beaumont. I’m sure when I read it he will have done years of research and training before the off. Most of my long-distance treks have been kind of spontaneous. I may read about something that catches my imagination and decide to go have a lookie see. The planning part is never too intense, then again what I found out very quickly when I started doing long distance touring was, everything you put in your saddlebag you have to carry. Little point in having a super light bike than loading it down with superfluous. A small polythene bag of washing powder is lighter, and takes up much less room, than a change of clothing, and most man-made fibre sportswear normally dries quickly enough, or at least are dry enough by morning to put back on.    

Stay safe.

Wednesday

I did take my conventional bike out, well, I was having withdrawal symptom. The wind was out of the east and in St Andrews there is no way to head any further east on a bike, so I ran with the wind first Strathkinness – then Dairsie before a hard beat home via Guardbridge. Since these short runs are more about daily exercise, than distance, I tend to put in a bit more effort, higher gears and a few hills thrown in. exercises is easy if you enjoy it.

There are roadworks and temporary traffic lights everywhere, I am at a loss to understand why they did not do much of this patching when the roads were (more or less) free of traffic during lock down.

Children in Scotland, we are told by the finding of the “What Kids Are Reading” survey, have been reading longer and more challenging books during lockdown. The experts tell us it is down to having more time to read allowing kids to immerse themselves in literature. And it is true I have been devouring books by the dozen these past few months and not only sticking to my normal diet but dipping into all sort of faire. And yes even reading well above my reading age level, why I even try read the Guardian (with all its big difficult words).

We have a library here at City Park, the books are changed on a regular basis by the local library, which I very handy for those that need large print books. However, I find their choice of books a bit on the feminine side. Thankfully we have a section that is books read by the residents then left for others to read. When the collection gets a bit too big, the old books will go to a local charity shop, from whence most of them came. I find this section much more to my liking. At the moment I am reading “Becoming Michelle Obama” and just loving it.

Written in an easy manner and so true to life. The simple stories of her childhood can be very amusing to read, but also tell a lot about Michelle’s self-driven childhood, she was always going to get there. I have always admired her, she is beautiful, exceptionally clever I believe she deliberately tones that down, more so when she was First Lady, well you would not wish to usurp the President of the United States, would you?

Once I start a book I am reluctant to put it down, even if I find it not to my taste. One such book this week was “Bay of Sighs” by Nora Roberts. Described on the back cover as Nora Roberts – the world’s greatest storyteller. Bay of Sighs: two of the Guardians Trilogy – an enchanting novel of love, magic and destiny. It was easy reading by really, mermaids borrowing legs to help fight evil, na not for me.

Saturday will be the 1st of May, this was a big day in the calendar when I was a boy, the Miner’s Gala when we would all get dressed up in Sunday best and march behind the bands all the way to a local field for a picnic and games.

In Europe (especial in Austria) May Day is still calibrated big time but much more grown up, beer and jazz bands.

I hear that the Yes groups are getting together in small groups across the country to show the flag for independence – so I will be off to Dundee tomorrow for the May Day celebrations there.

Thursday

Is now the only day I buy The National newspaper (although I do read the headlines every day on the internet) for me it has become a “We Love Nicola Sturgeon” fan club newsletter. But Thursday is different I need my fix of Lesley Riddock. Today in her own inevitable way she tells us about the launch of “The Europe for Scotland” campaign. It is a letter that had been signed by many leading lights, encouraging Scots towards Indiref2 and a bid for EU membership in our own right as an independent state.

She is quick to point out that none of the signatories wishes to tell Scotland what to do or how to vote, but wish to clear the path of traps and road blocks, should we wish to take that path. This along with stopping Westminster from muddling the waters, by asking the EU to put out the welcome mat, and say clearly and unanimously, If an independent Scotland wishes – the door is open for membership. If you wish to support the letter by signing it too, then go to http://www.euroeforscotland.

A week today we go to the polls to elect a new Scottish parliament, even with restrictions lifted I see little in the form of campaigning, and what we hear from the standing hopefuls and their leaders on the television, they may as well have done a re-run of any of the election campaigns of the last decade. No matter what anyone says, there will never be settlement here, and Scotland will never move forward, until the constitution question is settled. Maybe this time around.

Well short and sweet today, the weather is too good to be hanging around here, time to check the tyres and get on my bike, now where did I put my hay fever tablets?

Stay safe.  

Yesterday’s fine rain did the garden a power of good, and today the clouds have cleared once more tempting me out on my bike.

In my youth, The co-op was where almost every stitch of clothing on our backs and where the food for almost every meal came from. However when we went into ‘the toon’, mum would visit Lipton’s grocery store at the bottom of the high street, a different world from the Co-op. In Lipton’s, hams hang from the ceiling, and there would be all sorts of exotic cooked meat and cheeses behind the big glass counter. The smells were intoxicating. This is where mum would pick a little treat for herself.

If you ever read Lipton’s life story, you will find him a larger than life character, and for a long time all we knew of Sir Thomas Lipton, grocery millionaire and yachtsman was from his autobiography published shortly after his death in 1931.

The autobiography was in fact nothing more than a work of fiction, Lipton had created a new more exotic life for himself a persona. In the book “The man that invented himself” by James Mackay

There we find that the worlds most eligible bachelor (his name linked romantically with Rose Fitzgerald, the future mother of John F. Kennedy) had a few skeletons in his cupboard. A youthful indiscretion that led to forced marriage and a homosexual relationship that lasted for thirty years. Lipton was a genius of self-publicity.

Lipton was a showman, who combined that flair with one of genius for organisation, and in the process created a nationwide, second to none, grocery chain.

Anyone interested in marketing might find his story worthy of their interest. Do you want to sell cheese – Lipton ordered five-ton cheeses stuffed with gold sovereigns. It was to be made in Holland. Each week you would enter his shops and find out how the cheese was progressing. How many Dutch cows it had taken to produce the gallons of milk required to make the cheese. The number of horses that would put the cheese-laden cart to the docks. And the progress of its voyage to the UK. By the time it had reached our shores every morsel of the cheese had been pre-sold.

The newspapers of the day loved his showmanship and quick witty lines, all free publicity. He is reputed to have said about advertising.

“Chicken, when they lay eggs, make a lot of noise”. “Ducks”, he said “lay their eggs in silence, how many people buy Ducks eggs?” he asked.

Between 1898 and 1930 he pursued his dream of winning America’s Cup with the same intense passion he had put into building his business. He built a succession of yachts, all named Shamrock, but the rules of the race were heavily weighted in favour of the American defenders.

Lipton’s challenges are now the stuff of legend, the disappointments and the near trumps, was a fitting end for this, the most colourful and flamboyant of tycoons.

For me, Lipton was the flawed hero, worthy of the pen from any great adventure writer. When the legend is bigger than the man – print the legend.

Stay safe

mother earth smiled again”. We did have a little rain this morning, alas only enough to dampen the surface, I went out first thing and the rich smell you get after rain, more so after a long dry spell is like nothing you have ever experienced.

Last night I watched the last of the programmes on BBC 1, Greta Thunberg – a year to change the world. Clearly, it was not the programme they had planned but along came coronavirus in the middle of filming.

We heard from many scientists about their work on reducing our carbon footprint, but all were, very much still at the experimental stage, and none that we saw could do the job on its own. It would also take governments to make the changes even if the scientists came up with the answers, and that was the Achill’s heel. Even the Danes who talked about a target of zero emissions in the next decade – way before anyone else there were compromises (air travel in and out of the country was exempt). 

The other countries that had targets were proving to be already over-ambitious and will never be met. The UK of course blowing its trumpet about the reductions it has already made. However, these cuts were on the back of out-sourcing to countries in the Far East. We have our goods made there, then call out China, Taiwan and India as the countries that are the biggest polluters, moving the blame, is not a solution.

Greta Thunberg said

“People listen to me, but I don’t want them to listen to me – I want them to listen to the science”

However, if you read my blogs “The truth is what I say it is” you will know that is a flawed science too.

Our world is in a bad way and I see no knight on shining armour riding to its rescue.

25th April 2,336 deaths from coronavirus in India and they say this could rise to half a million a day by the end of the week.

The World Heath Organization (WHO) are concerned that because the coronavirus pandemic has overshadowing everything else, vaccination programmes for other killer diseases are being scaled back across the world, and cancer is being overlooked ……….. we are only storing up trouble for ourselves.

A world’s people now living under a cloud of global warming, a coronavirus pandemic, worldwide famine, lack of any kind of healthcare in many parts of the world, companies that generate so much money that no government can stand against them, they can dictate to countries to make policies changes that are against the wishes of the people. We have children growing up in poverty, even in the richest countries of the world.

In Scotland alone 1 in 4 (25%) of children are living in relative poverty after housing costs – that’s 240,000 Scottish children. 1 in 6 (17%) of Scottish children live in persistent poverty – persistent poverty – this means that for a least three out of four years.

Then there is homelessness, the scale of the problem is notoriously difficult to tie down to accurate figures for we have rough sleeping – people trapped in temporary accommodation or hostels and shelters. Homelessness is not always visible, hidden homelessness, also known as sofa surfing, is virtually impossible to count as people staying at friends or relatives homes are out of sight.

Our World order reduced to ‘the devil take the hindmost’.

If we have a vaccine that will stop coronavirus in its tracks, why is it not being produced in every country in the world, and delivered to the population free of charge, rather than allow large pharmaceutical companies to call the shots, whilst the world suffers?

Why do we have countries that are capable of growing their own food, living on food aid, that only pushes them further into poverty and in servitude to the countries supplying that aid?

Why Food Banks and Food Stamps in the richest countries of the world such as America and the UK?

War still raging in Afghanistan after 20 years. From October 2001 to March 2020 there have been 454 fatalities of UK military and civilians in Afghanistan under Operation Herrick – 2009 and 2010 were the worst years, both recording over 100 deaths in each of those years.

Britain still has occupation troops Iraq

Britain still deeply involved in a proxy war in Yemen, that has caused a humanitarian crisis.

The UN Humanitarian office puts Yemen war dead at 233,000 mostly from ‘indirect causes’. Millions of children across Yemen face serious threat due to malnutritions in particular and the lack of basic health services. All these threats are caused by the ongoing war and hostilities in the country.

And on and on…………

Whilst all these questions go unanswered, we hear that the Royal Navy is going to sail to India – not to use their aircraft carrier to help save lives of a nation desperate for help with medical supplies doctors and medics, No, but to fly the flag, to show how Britain is once more a power to be reckoned with.

‘Rule Britannia – Britannia rules the waves (so long as it is flying the Stars and Strips)

I looked up the cost of each of the six aircraft onboard HMS Elizabeth

and it works out at the relatively low cost of $80 million each, which The British government will say, for the best fighter in the world – a bargain. But this is deceptive, the F35 has proven so expensive and challenging to maintain that every hour an F-35 is flown it coast $36.000. so bad is this new version of the old F-16 (that the Americans have managed to palm off on the RN), that the American Air Force, has admitted the F-35 Stealth Fighter has failed.

Oh I love my planes I do,

They are designed to kill that’s true,

But the more I have in my collection,

Why the bigger my erection.

Why? I ask, when there are so many pressing problems in the world is the UK playing silly buggers?

Scotland needs out of this Union, like Now.

Stay safe

Saturday

The day started off bight enough but the brisk east wind was holding temperatures down. By 10 o’clock I had been to the shops for milk, did not need anything other than milk, but picked up a half-round of soda bread as a treat. Showered, changed I then presented myself at the local hospital for my second jab.

It was Saturday so it was not the highly efficient operation we saw the first time around, a skeleton staff. I recognised many in the line up on chairs along the corridor – over the 70s and second jab. The first time round it was in and out in around fifteen minutes, this time the best part of an hour, skeleton staff, and the old chestnut, computer problems. I was asked if I had any after-effects from the first dose, yes but nothing to write home to mummy about. Then a long talk on the possibilities of blood clotting and what to do if I had……. common sense stuff – too much information I would rather not know, ta anyway. I can not understand peoples reluctance to have a vaccination because of side effects, that may or may not cause death, would the alternative be better? I am only here because of a lot of very clever people that produced this vaccine, I will put my faith in their skills.

I arrived home and put the kettle on and popped one of the quarters of soda bread into the toaster. When eaten and the tea drank, I suddenly felt unbelievably tired, I lay down on top of the bed and pulled the duvet over myself, it was two hours later that I awoke, side effects – possibly.

Feeling good, I went off down to the harbour, being a Saturday, normally a day that St Andrews is awash with people, but again only a few locals and young students, walking two by two.

I had picked up a stone in the tread of my walking boots so stopped, removed the offending boot and on closer examination found that, the sole of the boot had worn so thin that a stone had punctured through, what was now just a thin layer of rubber over a honeycomb that made up the soft springy nature of the sole. I make my way back along South Street and into the shoe repair shop.

Can you stick a new sole on my boot for me, please?

“No, we have to send them away to be repaired – it will cost £74.00”

Big Gulp: I’m sure they cost less than that when I bought them – how many years ago now? I think I will pass on that. Looks as if I now have another pairs of old boots for work in the garden, ho-hum.

I sat out in the sheltered patio stretched out on one of the loungers, well I am recovering from a coronavirus jab, after all, that’s my excuse anyway.

Apart from a run over to Cupar on Sunday I have no idea what became of the weekend.

Monday, laundry day.

The skies are over cast but the cloud is high so may not come to rain, although the garden does require it.

The First Sea Lord was on Sky this morning singing the praise of the Royal Navy, well that’s kind of his job really. He is taking the £3 billion, Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and her 14 escort ships on a jolly to the Far East – in his words – to show that Britain is once more a powerful force in the world, and of course support our NATO allies, (He means America) Just a thought, does the NA part of NATO not stand for North Atlantic and the Far East was not the North Atlantic when I was at school.

This is nothing to do with defence and everything to do with Big Cocks. (I couldn’t help but notice that the aircraft carrier was flying a flag of St George, from the control tower, so thankfully this is an English exercise and nothing to do with Scotland, although we will get to pay 10% of the bills.

The Americans are laughing all the way to the bank, selling us all those, top of the range, stealth aircraft for our bonnie new boat. What will they cost, well the last estimate I read was 2.2 million each, but Wheesht about that.

Bairns not Bombs.

Stay safe.

Many of the blogs I have read over the past month or so, have been waxing lyrically about the coming of spring, and not only in words, but some beautiful photographs too. This is hardly unusual at this time of year, people do feel better when the dark dreary days of winter come to an end and the sun comes out once more. However this year the joy we all feel seems much more intense than usual, why?

2020 has been an especially bad year for us all, being under the cloud of coronavirus and lockdown has not been easy for anyone, more so with the threat that coronavirus can kill, so the fear we felt was well founded.

I read a regular blogger from America and today its writer was telling us how beautiful everything around him seemed, telling us how truly beautiful his world is. This was to get me thinking. I wondered just how much of the beauty we see around us is down to our attitude, mentally and physically, and our contentment with life.

I hate to think how many times I have watched the movie “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness”, released in 1958.

The story was based on the book, The Small Woman, by Alan Burgess. Gladys Aylward was a tenacious British woman, who becomes a missionary in China at a time of great world upheaval, the lead into the Second World War.

Like all movies this award-winning film took liberties. Ingrid Bergman (Helen Lazell) a tall 5 foot 9-inch blond Swedish actress was a world away from Gladys Aylward,

Gladys Aylward

Small in stature, dark hair and a North London accent. The scriptwriters had ignored the struggles of Aylward and her family to send her to China in favour of their plot, also her struggle by train across Russia, China and Japan were greatly ignored.

Again many characters and place names were changed, her adopted children, the name of the inn, and instead of the Chinese belief in the number 8 as being auspicious, it became 5 in the film. The Chinese name she was given was Ai Wei De, the Chinese approximation to Aylward (Virtuous One). In the movie we had the name Jen-Ai – pronounced Zhen-Ai, (True Love). And of course, the loves scene in the movie was total fiction, Gladys Aylward in fact had never kissed a man in her life, and she did not go back to join her lover as portrayed at the end of the film but worked with orphan children until her retirement at 60 years of age.

The film was shot in Snowdonia, North Wales – most of the children in the film were ethnic Chinese children from Liverpool, home to one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe.

Cast

Ingrid Bergman – Gladys Aylward

Curd Jurgens – Capt. Lin Nan

Robert Donat – The Mandarin of Yang Cheng

Michael David – Hok-A

Athene Seyler – Jeannie Lawson

Moultrie Kelsall – Dr Robinson

For me, none of the above will distract from the message of the film. In one scene, where Gladys is helping Jeannie Lawson hang the sign outside the inn, Gladys told Jeannie that Hok-A had told her that there were only 5 happiness, what is the 6th happiness? Lawson answers that you have to find that out for yourself.

Later in the film when all the dignitaries meet for the last time the Mandarin of Yang Cheng, tells them that there is one among them that took their troubles upon herself, he was singing the praises of Gladys, who had clearly made an impression on him. She answered with all humility that all the beauty that she now saw around her – was lost to her until she came to China. Life for her began on coming to China.

Yes, there is joy and beauty in the coming of the sunshine and the renewal that we call spring, but this only happens because, like Gladys, change was made from within. Her life had changed forever when she reached China, she was rewarded in her work, making a difference gives understanding to her life. We see it all the time, pride in our work brings its own rewards.

Happiness within brings us joy from without. And that was the message of the film for me.

If we are content and happy with our lot, the world will always be a brighter place, and the flowers even more colourful, I truly believe that.

Marketing and advertising are all about selling you a better lifestyle, that expensive perfume will get that handsome man falling into your arms. The girl undressing before stepping naked into her car, tells you that this car is all you need. During lockdown we all became a little depressed, so we went onto the internet and bought ourselves happiness in the form of goods. How much happiness did they really bring us when the package was opened? Very little I suspect.

Happiness starts inside us, and why good affordable housing, a job that pays the bills and leaves us a little to save for that special day, “Hatches, Matches and Dispatches”, (births, weddings and funerals) that gives us control over our lives, and a happier, more content people will means a more content community, and everything in Scotland will be that much more beautiful.

The Dila Lama, tells us “Happiness is not a gift, you must worked at it”.

Let’s work at it, to make the world a better place for all.

“Bairns not Bombs”.

This morning the post delivered a magazine and on the front page, emblazon in big letter was the message,

CAAT NOMINATED FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE,

This was alongside “Mwatana for Human Rights”, a grassroots organisation working in Yemen.

“Bairns not Bombs”

Stay safe

 Life was a little special today, after the chores in the garden I hitched the trailer to my tricycle and headed down to the harbour, on what was now a hot summers day.

I was surprised that more people were not out and about, still with lockdown easing on Monday things may pick up and flying the flag can commence in earnest over the remaining three weeks. I will also have my second injection by then, (Saturday).

I sat in the pleasant sunshine, staring seawards, the rhythm of the tide, a healing balm for the soul. The cooling salty laden air, comforting. After a couple of hours I returned home, I was surprised when a neighbour said

“You’ve caught the sun” sadly I do not go that rich California beach-boy bronze, more a dirty brown colour, ho-hum. Maybe one of my distant ancestors, some great, great grandfather had gone native when fighting out in the Far East for the East Indian Company. You have such an imagination Hamilton.

I was on detachment to Cyprus, an whilst there I spent every off-duty moment touring around the dusty roads of the island on an old German DLW motorcycle, a little two-stroke that rattled like a bag of bolts. God alone knew how many owners it had had over the years but by its gravel rash paintwork, quite a few. My other indulgence was to play with the buoys, down at the yacht club, when I returned home, I knocked on the door and when my father answered, he took one look and asked, in a very serious voice,

“Can I help you?”

It’s me dad, honest. That distinctive, Jimmy Hamilton smirk, crossed dad’s face,

“I thought you were a Shellac” he mused – the name he gave to the coal carriers that bunkered the ships in foreign lands, such as India.

I use to love the sun, and when I sailed regularly, I was brown from top to toe almost permanently, alas, I am much more careful now, that we hear so much about skin cancer.

“It’s illegal, It’s unlawful, or it makes you fat”.

The audio wallpaper today is Ruth Etting – ‘Happy Days and Lonely Nights’ I can understand why she was such a hit on the radios of the 20s and 30s, she is so easy to listen to. The double CD I have is just a constant stream of uninterrupted songs, 2 hours 36 minutes of them, and since the tempo never really changes, sort of dance rhythm all the way through, you are just carried along in the music. Now all her ‘Blackbirds are Bluebirds Now’, no they just don’t write them like that any more.

The National

I was reading a war correspondent’s take on the build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. He was saying that if war breaks out between Ukraine and Russia it could happen very quickly – even as soon as this weekend and this should not come as any surprise to the west, Russia has form.

And in the Times newspaper

“The UK is deploying warships to the Black Sea next month, further ratcheting up provocations by the United States and its stooge regime in Ukraine against Russia.

(by next month, it will all be over by then so this is just another of Johnston “Rule Britannia” stunts)

Russia has amassed substantial forces near the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine regime endorsed a strategy to “recover” Crimea. The strategically vital peninsular was annexed by Russia following the far-right 2014 coup in Kiev, which was backed by the US and the European Union (EU).

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence told the Times, “The UK and our international allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Royal Navy Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Defender. HMS Defender is the fifth of the Navy’s six £1 billion Type 45 destroyer”

The correspondent in the National put up a good case for his thoughts, but this is all sabre rattling, I believe the US is on top of this, they will back down over allowing Ukraine to join NATO, for this is what the build-up is all about, a warning to America, stay out of Russian politics, the UK sending a token two boats to bolster the Ukrainian Navy is not going to put the frighteners on Russia – they have a few boats there too.

Also, Crimea is a fortress, even sailing into the Black Sea during these exercises is provocative and foolhardy. Then when you have a fool at the helm of HMS Britannia……….

You have to understand that the Black Sea is the only ice-free port that Russia has, and their only route into the Mediterranean, and the world. They will never allow the north shore of the Black Sea to come under the control of NATO (America) more so when the south shore is already controlled by a NATO member, Turkey. Anyone who thought that Russia would allow Crimea, and Russia’s largest naval base there, to slip out of their control, well they just don’t understand.

The only way that Russia will cross over the Ukrainian border is if America doesn’t draw its horns in. Ukraine has already asked Russia for talks, wisely for they know the Russian army will roll right over them, and their Black Sea fleet

will be sunk minutes after the first Ukrainian shots are fired. It will be swift and messy. Not only will Ukraine be the loser but, it is harder to get an invader out of your country once they are in, than keeping them out in the first place. (Just ask the Iraqi people, who have asked repeatedly for America to leave their lands, likewise the Afghanistan government.) the only excuse that the Russians would need is that Russia is protecting Russian speaking Ukrainians as they did in the East of Ukraine when they needed to control free access to the Crimean. No Ukraine would be better looking East to Russia, than West to Europe for a better neighbour. They already have, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland on their borders if they wish closer trading relationships with the European Union. In this case, it is the Americans that are the aggressors by trying to rule Ukraine by proxy, not Russia.

Please vote Alba and get us to hell out of this unholy Union, before these daft buggers start another war.

Keep safe       

Although the wind has changed into the north, from a direction that is never warm, in the sunshine and out of the wind it is a beautiful spring-like day, here in St Andrews.

I sat up until the early hours of this morning reading “Merchants of Doubt” (Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway). The book was five years in the research stage so I can not do it justices here.

That said, the book only confirms from in-depth research much of what we already knew. For a long time now, when I hear a ‘snake oil salesman’ masquerading as a spokesperson for the government, coming on television and telling me “their information is all based on science” I want to scream at the television

“Pants on fire”.

Possibly the links between tobacco and cancer was the reason I started to question what I heard from the media “inconclusive” was the buzz word in the late 1950s, early 1960s. What we did not know at that time was that the tobacco industry had poured vast sums of money into research centres and think tanks, not to research how smoking or passive smoke from tobacco smoking effected the human body but to study atmosphere, or industrial materials such as asbestos and their effect on the human body. So when anyone challenged tobacco companies in the media or in court, the tobacco companies had a ready pool of scientific data to show – well it could be other things causing lung cancer – after all some smokers do not contract lung cancer and our “Scientific based research” shows that – “the oxygen in the air we breathe…. plays a role in radiation-induced cancer. As dose asbestos and many other industrial chemicals and materials”. The link between tobacco smoking and cancer was inconclusive, and we have the scientist and their research to prove it. In short, they used science to muddy the waters and save their arse in court.

Once doubt is sown it is difficult to dispute and present the truth as credible. In 1999, researchers Gail Kennedy and Lisa Bero at the University of California, San Francisco, examined newspapers and magazine coverage of research on passive smoking and found that 62 per cent of all articles published between 1992 and 1994 concluded that the research was “controversial”. Yet, the scientific community had by that point reached consensus, and the tobacco industry had known the degree of danger even before that.

We heard the same scepticism echoed over ‘Acid Rain’ in the 1990s. As the media attended to the idea that what caused acid rain was still not established.

And around the same time, that the ozone hole was perhaps caused by volcanoes and not the gas that propels spray from cans.

Until recently the media presented global warming as a raging debate long after the US National Academy of Sciences first announced that there was no reason to doubt that global warming would happen if man continued to use fossil fuels.

So why has the “Balance” become a form of bias, in the media’s coverage?

This campaign to market doubt has been going on for many, many years, The tobacco industry led the way when they created the Tobacco Institute to foster research, but its primary purpose was to develop a pool of experts who could be called upon in time of need. The tobacco industry created the Center for Indoor Air Research, designed to deflect attention away from tobacco onto other causes of lung troubles. Newsletters, magazines, and journals, with titles such as Indoor Air Journal, Tobacco and Health, Science Fortnightly, with reviews from eminent people, all to cast doubt.

Writing in “Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville lamented the cacophony that passed for serious debate in the young republic:

“A confused clamour raised on every side, and a thousand voices are heard at once”

That was two hundred years ago, now the problem has multiplied 200 fold. Radio, television both with multiple channels, and now the internet. Anyone (even I) can now have their say. The internet has become a ‘Hall of Mirrors’ where any clams, no matter how preposterous, can be multiplied indefinitely, and that disinformation never dies.

A third of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attack on the twin towers on September 11.

Surprisingly by all accounts, as recently as 2007 – forty per cent of Americans belied that scientific experts were still arguing about the reality of global warming.

“Merchants of Doubt” shows us how a small group of men with scientific bonafide and deep political connections deliberately distort public debate running effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades.

It saddens me to know that this is still going on today, even with coronavirus, we heard how easing lockdown was based on scientific evidence. We had a second wave of coronavirus, and the death toll climbed. Then Christmas came and the scientific evidence said, it was safe to have a normal Christmas, resulting in the third wave of coronavirus and more deaths, when the scientific advice was not to ease lockdown over Christmas, quite the opposite. This however was drowned out by Ministers coming on the BBC, ITV and Sky News to tell us otherwise. Begging the question “how independent is our public services broadcaster and mainstream media?”

The media march expert after expert before the camera, but the BBC, ITV or Sky never mention the fact that the high ranking officer we see on our screen, telling us about the Iraq war, and how well it is going, was retired after the Cold War ended and knows no more about the Iraq war than anyone who reads the papers, but he is allowed to waffle on. They never mention either that s/he is in the pay of an arms manufacturing company.

And like manna for heaven – yesterday on BBC Scotland – a report out shows that there are so many variants, it is not possible to confirm that there is any link between people dying in care homes after patients having being moved there from hospitals, “Inconclusive” evidence. How convenient is that for the Scottish Government?……………do I need to say more?

Stay safe.

 Climate Change.

I have been watching a year in the life of Greta Thunberg on the BBC’s Open University programs, what an eye-opener, these programmes are, and if you have missed any of it I believe it can be found on i-player.

When I first saw this dour wee lass, sitting outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2008, demonstrating “her school strike for the climate”

my first thoughts were possible, she could do with a good feed. However, what feeding she may, or not, have neglected on her body, she certainly has not been neglecting her brain.

Greta Thunberg has now become a household name attracting international attention since her lone demonstration. That demonstration has grown experientially and has bought more than 10 million people onto the streets worldwide to demand action on climate change.

But has Greta Thunberg’s speeches been other than preaching to the converted?

Have the people that mater, those that can make the changes to reduce global warming, are they really listening, or simply using the bandwagon of Greta Thunberg to make worthless pledges, scoring brownie points for that up and coming election?

What I believe is different in the Greta Thunberg story is how she stands alone. Greta is not part of a highly efficient large organisation, funded by big business of taxpayer’s dollars, and that strikes a cord with people who may have thought that climate change was too big and could only be tackled at the highest level. However, seeing this frail little girl, standing on a box so that she may be seen over the podium by her audience, they too can feel, if this little girl can do something about climate change, then maybe I can too. No one is too small to make a difference, and the school children she was speaking to outside the Swedish Parliament that day in 2008, are now 13 years older, they will be well educated, have continued their education at colleges and universities across the world, and still with Greta’s inspirational word ringing in their ears.

I was in the dressing room of a rugby club and the coach had written on the white board.

“It takes only one inspired player to lift the rest of the team to victory”.

I grew up in Fife where ‘old king coal’ had reined for centuries, I lived in a village where every household had a coal fire, and in quiet weather condition in the 1950s would see a cloud of smoke hanging over the village. And in London that shroud would be so thick as to descend as smog. Eventually, the clean air act was passed in parliament.

Later in life, I worked at the Westfield Open Cast mine for a time,

it was then the biggest hole in Europe, and producing more coal, than all the deep coal mines in Fife combined. Coal was the heartbeat of the nation.

I watched Greta on her journey to the Turow coal mine in Poland, a mere 80 km east of Dresden (Germany). Westfield, pails into insignificance, a hobby pit, in comparison with Turow. 8 miles across and estimated 760 million tonnes of coal reserves,

Turow, produces around 27.7 million tonnes annually and still in full production to this day.

Lignite was found near Turasow in 1740 and between 1836 and 1869 more than 70 shafts were sunk, and in 1904 the owners formed themselves into a joint-stock company called Hercules. three years later Hercules started strip mining. Following on from the Second World War in 1947 Poland took the mine over from the Russian military administration (KWB). The mines license was set to expire in April 2020, but in March of that year, the Polish government extended it by another six years. The company that operates the site (PGE Group) wishes for that license to be extended for a further term right up until 2044.

Greta also visited England and the Drax power station, less than 7 miles south of Selby.

She was there to see CCAS (carbon capture and storage) in operation, which is just an expensive PR exercise. Under David Cameron’s government, a million pounds was offered to research CCAS, there were two contenders for the money both in Scotland so the money was withdrawn. However, a small unit was set up at Longannet power station, here in Fife. Basically, chemicals are used to separate out the carbon dioxide gas from the other gasses, before they go up the chimney, the carbon gas will be pressurised and pumped into old oil wells deep under the North Sea where it would be held in captivity by the pressures down there. The costs were high and a full working model (piping the gas down into the seabed) was never built, when Longannet closed the experimental plant was shipped down to Drax, where it is still a very expensive experiment. Since no government in the UK have any real plan for how to replace Drax (these plans are now left to private enterprise since Maggie Thatcher’s government gave away the power stations and national grid), so Drax will continue to spew its carbon dioxide laden fumes into the atmosphere. But since this was a film made for the OU (open university) I suppose Greta had to make the journey to see it.

What came over very clearly in the films I watched was that Greta Thunberg’s actions are consistent with her words. Her fiery demands to world leaders, at the UN or at the US Congress demonstrated that anyone can – and should – challenge powerful institutions and people.

This brings me to ask,

“How can I be sure that what I see is a reflection of Greta Thunberg’s own effect and not the influence of the many climate activists around the word?”

This is a question that can not be answered definitively, there are many things that could explain why people are taking action on climate change. But you can not dismiss that being familiar with Greta Thunberg appears to have a unique influence on the extent to which people are empowered to make that change.

To me, the Greta effect has a remarkable similarity to the run-up to the 2014 Scottish referendum on independence, it appealed to people across the political spectrum, that shared identity with the wider public. The Greta Thunberg effect suggests that calls to action may be able to mobilise broad segments of society, regardless of age or politics. 

Stay safe    

Tuesday

The weather is shaping up to be another belter of a day, can’t wait to get out on my bike

Forget the news, its a disaster, no not coronavirus deaths, no not famine and wars, no not even climate change, or the condition of a certain Russian prisoner on hunger strike. No something much worse, seven of the top football teams in the UK are off to join a super-league in, wait for it, Europe, oh no, help ma boab, murder polic’.

But not to worry Boris is on the case and he vows to stop these upstarts in their tracts, even if it means legislation to stop them. Now I don’t no about you but I thought football clubs were businesses run by powerful men and nothing to do with governments, companies will always do what is best for their shareholders and not what is best for the government, and if Europe is a bigger richer pond to swim in than The UK, then that is where they will go. Companies leaving the UK in their droves for Europe since Brexit sort of confirms that.

Just a thought – if Boris is so upset about seven football clubs leaving the UK that he is willing to change the law in order to stop them, how far will Does he go to stop Scotland from leaving the UK? Exactly, (now where did great-grandpa put that old rifle of his?)

History has its eyes.

This is just a snippet from a blog by Dr Malcolm Kerr, “History has its eyes” dated April 18th 2021.

“Behaving as if we are intending to become independent. Independence needs to attract the acceptance, or at least the acquiescence, of our current opponents. It needs a sound base of ethics and integrity.

We have to go back nearly 100 years, to the 1922 General Election, to find a time that was as momentous, and replete with possibilities for the Scottish people, like 2021. In 1922 the Independent Labour Party, swept Glasgow with a landslide victory, taking 10 out of 11 constituencies from the Liberals. Led by John Wheatley, the group headed for Westminster with Home Rule high on their agenda.

But not before offering a contract to their celebrating constituents. At a victory rally in St Andrews Halls, 8000 gathered to hear them make a pledge to the people of Scotland with a historic and stirring declaration. It concluded:

“In all things we will abjure vanity and self-aggrandisement, recognising that we are the humble servants of the people and that our only righteous purpose is to promote the welfare of our fellow citizens and the well-being of all mankind.”

What, then, are SNP MPs doing in London bars, getting publicly drunk, and sexually harassing their staffers? As servants of the people, how humble are our “futile 46”?

We either need a new leadership ethic, or new leadership. One which respects diversity, understands the need for cooperation and delegation, one which is prepared to harness and enable volunteers (maybe our greatest asset). Leadership with strength in depth, which doesn’t see a threat in competition from potential future leaders, genuine or imagined.”

Some of us have been saying this for years and all we got for our trouble was abuse, from the Nicola Sturgeon fan club, and SNP MP with their slogan “eyes on the prize”, when their slogan should have been “eyes on the pension”.

Many who wished independence after 2014 signed up with the SNP, and year after year waited for the starting gun to be fired and the independent campaign to start, under Nicola Sturgeon, it never has and never will. All she has done since coming to power is put down roots, cosy up to big business and dangle the independent carrot in front of the gullible voter’s noses. What choice did they have, the SNP was the only pro-independent party at Holyrood. As more and more members became discussed with way SNP leader’s were taking the party (ever more to the right, New Labour personified) and a starting gun nowhere to be seen, let alone heard, rumours abounded that Alex Salmond was begin asked to return to front line duty, and form a new party.

Shock waves went through the high heid yins in the SNP and Salmond had to be stopped. They chose to blacken his name and discredit any credibility he may have as a politician. They failed spectacularly. Sadly for the independence movement, the courts work at their own pace and by the time Alex had cleared his name, the Holyrood elections were upon us. Sturgeon was home and dry, or maybe not.

Most knew what was happening within the SNP, they also knew that what the high heid yins in the SNP needed was a term out of office, relegated for a term on the “naughty stool” but that would have left the Unionist in charge for the next five years, no self-respecting supporter of self determination wanted that and was prepared to hold their nose and vote SNP. Nicola had survived, or had she?

Sadly for the SNP, the Alba party rained all over their parade. The lunched of the Alba Party, not to contest the constituency vote, (there was little chance of uprooting the SNP they were well-grounded at Holyrood and Westminster). However, Alba would contest every list seat in the country (8X4 = 32 potential seats, although a big ask), still, the list was an open door, no need to even push on it.

The list vote was part of the electoral system already at Holyrood set up at the concept of devolution by the Labour party, in power at Westminster at the time, (Tony Blair, Labour PM, likened the devolved parliament at Holyrood to being much like a parish council in England) this would be their guarantee that no independent party could ever gain a majority at Holyrood, and put them in a position to challenge the status quo, of the Union.

The list vote has now turned out to be a ‘double-edge sword’, you could have a pro independence party challenging for the constituency vote (in this case the SNP) and a different pro-independence party challenging the list vote, (it would work even better if the party contesting the constituency vote did not stand on the list).

Set up incandescent for just this purpose the Alba party beavered away throughout 2020, hoping to scoop up all those disillusioned with the lack of progress from the SNP on independence, (although not all were SNP voters, this was a broad church, Yes, was a grass-root moment) Those that set up the organisation, already knew that there were potentially the numbers to pull it off, however, they needed a big hitter, to lead the new party, someone with a track record as a winner, “cometh the hour cometh the man” Alex Salmond.

Now our Nicola is livid – Hell has no fury like a woman’s scorn. It is too late however, it is all above board. So far despite, the fact that time is short to get the message out, and coronavirus has meant no door to door canvassing is possible, and there will be no help from the mainstream media, that’s a given, which only leaves the internet. Oh there is a lot of hatred and bloodletting going on mostly from supporters of the established parties, they see the danger to their hold on power, but ‘there is no bad publicity the more they shout the more people hear.

It could go two ways, the polls point to moderate success, possibly 5 seats. But I have been on AUOB marches and I can tell you there are a lot of us out there. Who knows what will happen, on the 6th May 2021? I think it could be one of those time, that years from now, you will remember where you were on the 6th May 2021. Just a thought, don’t bother to sit up all night waiting for the results to come in, they won’t – it will be Saturday possibly Sunday before the dust has settled.

Counts, recounts, possibly even legal challenges, it certainly will not be dull, that’s for sure, the branch office Unionists parties in Scotland will not take defeat lying down.

Stay safe.

With everything more or less planted out in the garden, all that is left for us to do is sit back and wait for the flowers and bulbs to come into full bloom, well apart from weeding, watering and tending the beds that is. The front of the building with its newly refurbished seats has been well used over this last week of good weather.

The patio too has been pressed into service although looking a little bare at present but very much tidier, so a quiet day ahead.

Out for a wee bike ride in the morning, home via Aldi and then settled in for the day with a Lee Child book ‘Blue Moon’ Jack Reacher takes on two rival criminal gangs, one Albanian the other Ukrainian, and of course comes out on top. Escapism at its best, I found myself giggling away at some the quick-fire lines, yes, I know.

At around seven in the evening I put down my book and switched on the television, on came a recorded broadcast from 1992, Bob Dylan: 30th Anniversary concert from Madison Square Garden, some of the worlds top musicians on stage,

Hey Mr. tambourine man play a song for me……… and what about Blowing in the Wind, you could call this the definitive anti-war anthem, just what I needed, ‘it’s only rock and roll but I like it’s brilliant.

Monday

a rather dreich sort of day, with a sea fog hanging over St Andrews but unlike the fog we must not hang around. I will be out and about with my tricycle stall, later in the day, hopefully drumming up votes for Alba, but first the laundry.

I have been very critical of the Climate Change Forum that will take place in Glasgow later in the year, and nothing so far has changed my mind that it will be anything other than a PR stunt, for Union Jack waving Boris Johnston.

A professor at Harvard University looking at the subject, then asked the question,

“How many scientific paper has been published that categoricity links climate change and the burning of fossil fuel?”

She found none, so after a lot of research, she wrote a paper that did. As soon as the paper was published the hate mail flooded in, being a communist and anti-American were the ones that could be published here. Again it all comes down to money.

The CATO Institute in America is more or less funded by large oil companies such as Exxon-mobile, a spokesman for this ‘think tank’ when asked if this compromised their thinking on climate change said “No we need funds as do Universities, who likewise are also funded by the like of Exxon-mobile, (criticise us and you criticise institutions such as Harvard University). CATO is saying that Climate Change has nothing to do with the burning of fossil fuel, Climate Change was initiated in Sweden to raise tax revenue.

Some years back we had tobacco companies, funding research into health issues, when the link between tobacco and cancer became undisputable universes stopped taking sponsorship from tobacco companies for health issue research. No such safeguards are in place for research money from oil companies and climate change research. Hardly surprising since the American Petroleum Institute, payout billions to the likes of Harvard University, for research work. Nothing wrong with receiving sponsorship from large petroleum companies that make a billion dollars every three days, and what they donate can be written off in tax. But when an organisation such as CATO are simply lobbing companies for large oil investment companies, who pay fast-talking mouthpieces to come on state television and spout fake news about climate change, then it is time the American people knew the truth. For there is something wrong with our media that allows such people to come on television and spout such rubbish (presidents too, like Donald Trump, when in office), without any research into the truth behind the words.

There is a book out called “Merchants of Doubt” that looks deeper into the subject of oil money being used to cover up any link between climate change and fossil fuel, I must order a copy.

Have to go and rescue my washing from the machine.

Stay safe.  

Having been over a Leven on the bike yesterday I did not feel like a long trip today, so I though I would give St Andrews a second chance at hearing the ‘Good News’.

The weather was simply brilliant, a joy to be out, locals and visitors alike must have thought so too, for they were out in their hundreds.

The spot chosen was up on top of the sea cliff by the cathedral, looking out to sea and watching a dozen dinghies racing around the buoys.

Fulmars nest on the cliff here and were very active today, racing across the cliff face on slender wings, gliding in the up draught from the cliff. Puffins too, much less elegant on stubby wings, more flap than glide to stay aloft. High in the clear blue skies House-martins did their own special brand of aerobatics, feeding on the wing.

This is a popular walk from the harbour to castle and so it proved today. The tricycle always attracts attention

and I was surprised how many people came over to read my poster setting out what would have happened if all those that voted SNP on the list in Fife (and gained not one MSP seat) had voted Alba last time out.

Alba a new form of campaigning, it’s called, Laissez faire, (you are on your tod).

I almost lost my satire to a young lass who was intent on taking it home with her. The canon, in the photograph, I’m please to say, never fired a shot in anger, (don’t tell anyone, but they are made from fibreglass).

Keep safe, Walter.

 Saturday and the skies are brushed with light wisps of cloud, so looks like another great day in the making. After yesterdays forge to Leven, I am feeling my age this morning, so rather than a hard 20 miles round trip down to Anstruther, I will stay closer to home.

Next Saturday I have an appointment for my second coronavirus injection, ho-hum.

When I walked down through St Andrews yesterday the crowds seem to be returning to the town, and the East Sands were awash with visitors. So, I intend to give the East Sands, the Abbey and on into Church Square, my attention, see if I can not drum up a few ears willing to listen. St Andrews in not natural independence territory, but if I can get a few visitors taking pictures and posting them to friends on the internet, you never know who will pick up the message and spread the word. With only three weeks to go to the election, Alba really needs more bodies on the street, more public exposure.

At present Alba is lying at 6% in the polls, (same as Green), not bad for a party that only formed 2 weeks ago, and predicted to gain 5 MSP in May, better if I was up around 10%, then we are talking real breakthrough. Five MSP will get a foot in the door, and give them a voice, setting them up for the 2025 General Election and with coronavirus stabilising in the country we could have AUOB (all under one banner) on the march once more.

I watched Alex Salmond being interviewed on Sky yesterday morning and the interviewer was not interested in anything that Alex had to say, only wishing to blacken his name with allegations of his conduct from some 10 years ago and what party members, now standing candidates on the list said in some tweet on the internet, yonks ago. However, Alex is too long in the political tooth to let anyone away with that and soon had the conversation turned around to talking about the Alba message. And this is why he is such a threat to the Union and why the BBC – ITV and Sky have tried to starve the party of oxygen, and if you side is not strong enough to take on the opposition’s players, then don’t go for the ball but the man. However they lost their chance to quieten Alex when they failed in their attempt to have him shut up and locked up in prison, convicted (or his credibility trashed) on sexual charges in the High Court.

The last time we saw a plan less likely to succeed was when the then British government’s planned to take back control of the Suez Canal, totally incompetent, farcical and ended with them losing face, good one Nicola.

When I went through Upper Largo, yesterday I could not help but notice a modern well equipped and maintained 30-foot inshore fishing boat fitted out for creel fishing. Sadly not in the water earning her keep, but parked up on the patio in front of the owners home.

Is this the new state of the Scottish fishing industry after Brexit – boats making good garden ornaments? What did Boris tell Scottish fishermen?

“Take back control of our waters” as skipper Buchan recently said,

“If Boris comes up to Fraserburgh, he better be able to swim, for he will be going in the harbour”

What I can not understand why (like Trump) people are so easily taken in with his lying rhetoric, he is a politician – he lies for a living.

Well, things to do, places to go.

Stay safe.  

 What a gorgeous morning it was, to good to be indoors so I checked over the bike and blow up its tyres. I was using my conventional bike today, it just feels right.

I headed out on the Pitscottie road but turned off for Peat Inn at the crossroads. It is a steep climb from here but I was feeling good. I don’t know why for I am keeping student hours at present, sitting up reading until all hours. At around 1 am, I switched on the television just to catch up with the news. You never know with Biden reverting to type and doing his bullhorn diplomacy towards China and Russia at the same time, we may be at war by now.

Thankfully not, the television was showing the start of a French film (with subtitles). The problem with the French they talk at 100 mph and the subtitles have to keep up at warp speed to follow the conversation and me being a slow reader……. the film did not finish until fifteen minutes before 4 in the morning, well, I thought it would get better, but it didn’t, I’m still not sure what it was all about. Anyway, to cut a long story short (too late) I did not rise until gone 9 am this morning but surprisingly I was well slept, not a cover had moved on the bed.

So, Peat Inn, Largoward, decisions, decisions, at the crossroads I decided to take the A915 for Upper Largo then on into Leven, I have not been into Leven for such a long time. And even a very much long time since I had been to Letham Glen.

Very 1920s like the architecture of ever co-op building at that time

We would come here in 1950 it was such a magical place for a young lad with a very vivid imagination.

Old King Coal reined in Fife, from as far back as the great monasteries of Fife, and Leven had coal mines on the Dura estate, including the terraces to either side of Latham Glen. (originally it was called Sillerhole Den (1854). The quality of the coal that came from the Durie estate was of such high quality that it lent its name to all high-quality coal mined in Scotland. Mostly the coal was shipped over to Holland where it was prized highly.

In the early 1920s plans were underway to extend the burgh of Leven, with housing extending to the boundaries of Durie. The landowner, Mr Christie, had no objections. In addition, the burgh was undertaking relief-works for unemployed miners, one scheme involved building an open-air swimming pool in the Glen, then known as Spinkie Den.

Mr Christie refused to sell the land so consideration was given to its compulsory purchase. By April 1925, Christie agreed to feu the land for £115, this included the timber, entrances at Scoonie Bridge and a 6ft wide path out to the Cupar road.

In the same year (1925) Mr John Letham (from Lower Largo) donated £1000 to the Town Council to allow for an investment income that could pay for the lease of Spinkie Den. And why Spinkie Den was renamed, Letham Glen.

Plans were laid out by Mr Maxwell Hart a Glasgow landscape architect, who had laid out the new Bowling Green in Leven. The work was completed in 1926. The site of the swimming pool was later converted into a sunken garden

and the side of the glen was lair out with rock-lined walks, the laying out of the pubic park was contemporary with the development of Leven’s promenade. In 1946 the

freshwater swimming pool, putting greens and a platform with railings (Leven’s open-air theatre.)

Alas all gone now, all that is left is a rather neglected wooded area running alongside the burn, a place to walk the dog.

There is a playground for kids and an outdoor gym, today there was a family using the playground and picnic tables, and a few strollers. When I remember it in my youth the banks were well managed and flowerbeds festooned the park, and the animal and birdhouse was a big attraction for us kids.

The day was wearing on so I headed into Leven, (I had thoughts of getting an estimate for a haircut). I sat awhile in the main pedestrian precinct and enjoyed a birdie and a drink from my water bottle, whilst soaking up the rays.

It is about 23 miles home from here, I’ll let the bus take the strain, so I popped the bike in the boot of the X60 for St Andrews, you can not beat a bus pass for getting you home when legs are tiring, or is it the spirit that is waning?

Keep safe.

Where has my week gone, the great spell of good weather had brought a rush of jobs to the fore, and of course I have managed to put a few miles in on my bike. I have used my conventional bicycle, hard work but much more rewarding, even if the distances travelled are curtailed. The mornings have been chilled but that comes with the cycling territory.

The rest of the days has been taken up with the gardens, turning over beds, transplanting the seedlings into their new homes, a bit early I know but they are getting so leggy and they will be less work, looking after them in the ground than in numerous pots.

Then there is the Alba party, I believe Scotland’s last hope if they really want independence. It is interesting how the Alba party, has brought unity to all the other parties (including the SNP), they have found in Alba a common enemy.

I hear today that we are at last getting boards and leaflets along with pens and badges to hand out, I hope they are all recyclable, we have enough rubbish in our seas.

Interesting e-mail came my way, it was originally generated by Geoff Bush from the SNP supporters for Independence Group. He is referring to a reply from an SNP candidate, to his e-mail to all SNP candidates. The email was the last gasp attempt to get candidates to consider the Manifesto for Indy approach of making the May 6th 2021 election a de facto declaration of independence. This is an extract from the response. Warning it may shock.

“I note the points you make but I personally do still favour having a referendum. However, I would prefer to wait until support for independence as shown in the opinion polls was up to around 70% John Mason.”

Prof if prof was needed (I have been saying this for years the SNP are WOW for Independence) and why Scotland desperately needs Alba to flush out those who have no interest in pursuing the Independence agenda. Those that are happy to pick up their salaries and build their pension pot rather than pursue the objectives they were elected to full fill.

They are now hoping that ignorance will get them over the winning post and another five years in power. If folks understand how the electoral system works the game will be a bogey and unionist seats will disappear like the snow of a dyke in spring the length and breadth of the country.

More surprisingly the SNP Leadership agree. The last thing they want is another pro Indy Party in the Parliament. Worse, one with a plan and strategy to make it happen! One that is not willing to wait for a 70% or the end of 2023 or like the Greens 2026! – neither of these two parties wish their feet held to the fire, so a bad-mouthing Alba.

The SNP wish to hijack people’s votes for independence and use them to push ahead with policies almost nobody wants. No one in the Scottish parliament at present cares what you think, as for Nicola Sturgeon, she never said more truthful words than these, when she was interviewed at the Edinburgh Book Festival, “I see my job as keeping my party in power in Scotland”.

At the moment this is what the poles are telling us, but with four weeks to go to the election that could all change.  

There was still a few folk clubs around in the 1970s and pub music was still prevalent. One of the new sea shanties that was doing the rounds at that time was ‘The Silver Darlings’ by Jim McLean and Bob Halfin.

The final verse is that one that spoke to me,

There’s ice on the rigging and death down below,

With the gales screaming wild and the glass hanging low,

The wives and the sweethearts are women who know,

The price of the silver darlings.

When I was in the RAF a friend was posted up to Stornoway, Ilean Leodhais (Isle of Lewis) Where he met and married a local girl, I went up there just to see what all the fuss was about, staying with his new in-laws. I told his father-in-law that I would like to go out on one of the Herring drifters, and he arranged for me to go out on the ‘Ive Rose’ and 80 ft wooden fishing boat, whose skipper/owners name was Murdo.

We sailed south for Na h-Eileanan Mora (Shiant Islands) I stayed up in the wheelhouse with Murdo as he watched with interest the echo sounder, looking for little lines like matchsticks to appear, all the time chatting with other boats mostly in his he-drum ho-drum language, but when one of the boats asked in English

“Have you seen any spots yet?”

Murdo, asked me to reply

“Only the spots if front of my eyes”

“The message was soon answered”

“Where did you pick up the Southeaster, Murdo?”

Years of living in barracks and working all over England and on the continent I really believed I had lost my strong Fife dialect and gained a more metropolitan accent, although very much Scottish. But I had been found out, the skipper of the other boat had nailed my Fife accent, in seconds.

The rest of the message was lost to me in the language of the west cost Gaelic.

I had done a fair share of sailing and thought my sea sickness days were well behind me, but I tell you now, when the nets were cast and the drift sail set and the engine closed down. The old boat rolled like an old tub and the smell of fish and diesel oil hung like a heavy cloak over the boat, I had to go out on deck to concentrate on anything that would take my mind off my heaving stomach, thankfully the nausea quickly passed.

A whale came alongside rubbing along our hull, it glowed pure white in the deck lights of our boat. Murdo came out and explained what was happening, how we would circle around on our own nets. He then lifted a hand held search light and cast its bean across the water inside the net, and the water sparkled like new minted silver coins, cast in the rippling clear waters of the fountains in Rome. A few at first then the waters of Caolas Nan Eilean sparkled like quick silver.

The catch that night was eight cran and four boxes.

When the nets came onboard, one of the crew took a fish box and filled it with fish. When gutted and cleaned he dropped them into a large pot that was simmering away on top of the coal burning stove, standing just off the companionway where they boiled in salt water for twenty minutes.

The crew assembled around the mess table in the cramped quarters below deck, forward in the bow of the boat, there the Herring lay in a large bowl and alongside was a basket of rough hand cut bread. I was about to help myself when just in time I caught myself, for all had their heads bowed and payers were said.

Precious memories, and the fish, the best Herring I have ever tasted – bar none.

Stay safe.

JOHN BUCHAN BACKS ALBA by iainlawson27

EMBARGO 07:00 HRS TUESDAY APRIL 13thPETERHEAD SKIPPER JOHN BUCHAN BACKS ALBA Video: https://youtu.be/zWsDrfkK_9g

Boris Johnson better learn to swim if he visits Peterhead Harbour again”

John Buchan, of the Peterhead boat FAIRLINE, has declared in support of the new ALBA Party.
One of the most experienced skippers in the Scottish fleet, with 40 years at sea, Buchan has recorded a message of support for the Party’s list of four candidates in the North East of Scotland. The Fairline is now on escort duty in the Irish sea on offshore renewable wind turbines.
Buchan takes aim at the Brexiteers who use the fishing industry as political pawns but are nowhere to be seen now that prices have collapsed due to the problems with European market access.

He says
“Back in the 2016 referendum on an almost daily basis at the harbour in Peterhead, you had either Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, a’ these people who made political capital out of the fishing industry. Now of course they are conspicuous by their absence.
“If Boris Johnson was to turn up in Peterhead tomorrow then he would need to learn to swim very quickly because he would probably be tossed in the dock because he used the Scottish fishing industry as a political football …that is take control of our waters, bright new dawn for the fishing industry, it’s all been lies, I feel we’ve been let down very badly, we’ve got the worst of both worlds…………………….. Follow the rest of the story on iainlawson27.

Hollywood actor and director, Angus Macfadyen, who played the hero king in the Mel Gibson’s blockbuster Braveheart and reprised the role once again in Richard Gray’s film depiction of two years ago, has announced his backing for Scotland’s newest political Party.

ALBA Party leader and Former First Minister Alex Salmond said: “It is great to have Angus on board. ALBA at two weeks old Scotland’s fastest growing political Party and with Robert the Bruce on our side the other parties should start to tremble. It is indeed people power which can propel Scotland towards independence – from Superman’s dad to #Supermajority”

At present we do not have a proper government in Scotland, it is devolved, so no real powers to change anything that would be of benefit to the Scottish people at the detriment to London or England.

We are kept in check by only have pocket money rather than control over our own economy and natural resource. This along with the monopoly of the English media, that feeds the Scottish people its ‘Rule Britannia’ messages and censors anything that might smack of more powers coming our way, and at all cost, anything that smacks of Self Determination for the Scottish people.

Take the banning of Alba (a new political party in Scotland) from any debate on television, yet we are in the middle of an election to choose who shall represent the people of Scotland for the next five years at Holyrood.

“Yes”, I hear the mainstream media cry, “but they are new – so irrelevant, they do not hold any seats in Holyrood at present, not like the real parties in Scotland”.

I find that difficult to swallow, it is a lame excuse when the Alba party, already have more members than the Liberal Democrats, more elected Councillors than the Green Party, twice the Parliamentary representation at Westminster of the Scottish Labour Party. And the cherry on the top of the cake, led by a Former First Minister of Scotland. The Alba party have ensured that Self Determination for Scotland is now the number one issue for discussion in the run up to the May election. They are far from irrelevant when the Tories describe Alba as,

“The biggest danger the Union has ever faced”

Ah, Now the penny has dropped, a threat to the Union, then we must use every trick in the book to make sure they are starved of oxygen, and their massage is stifled.

Alba making their case, outlining why a vote for the SNP on the constituency vote and SNP on the list vote is a bad idea, since few of the SNP list votes will be counted or materialise as seats in the parliament. In fact the opposites is true, the votes will all go to parties that have failed to gain a constituency seat, so a vote for the SNP on the list is a vote for a party that the Scottish people have rejected at the ballot box. The SNP list votes will be divided and subdivided until they are worthless.

But even if most of the list votes were wasted, but one seat was gained for the SNP on the list, and that seat was enough to push them over the line and win a majority in Holyrood, would that not be worth all the wasted votes?

Well, no. I would say 32 Alba MSP replacing 32 Unionist MSP in Holyrood would give more clout to the people of Scotland, than anything the SNP could pull off.

What I dislike most about a majority of SNP MSPs at Holyrood is the road that they have taken Scotland down over the past, moving further and further to the right, climbing into bed with big corporations. Using Scottish Enterprise, to facilitate high-level meetings between Senior Scottish Ministers and arms industry “clients.” These range from Ministers being wined and dined by arms companies to MSPs hosting a cosy evening receptions for arms companies within the Scottish Parliament itself. The SNP government syphon of Scottish taxpayers money to companies such as Raytheon and Leonardo. Oh we are told by the SNP government that this money is to fund

“Aid Diversification Effects”

or for civil engineering projects despite the lack of monitoring of its actual use. Sorry folks, Hamilton is up on his favourite Soap Box again,

“Bairns not Bombs.”

So what about ‘Scotland Bairns’, we have the Hate Crime Bill and GRA, Disgusting and dangerous legislation that endangers the health and well-being of our youngsters, the Scottish Government funding for organisations that support reducing the age of consent in adolescents, that supports self ID for children as young as eight.

The Scottish Government have just provided £1.1 million of public funds to Stonewall Scotland and LBGTY Scotland, both of whom are signed up as members of the ILGA World (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) Whose policies include removing any legislation of laws that criminalize sex involving adolescents. Many women are outraged and I do not blame them for one moment.

Remember the Scottish Government is doing all of this

“In Your Name”

And all in secret. Did you sign up for this?

I shall not read out the full text in a reply to a freedom of information request but The last part says it all.

“Disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between the Scottish Government and these stakeholders, which in turn will undermine the quality of the policy making process, which would not be in the public interest.”

Or we need to keep such thing secret, less the people find out and riots ensue. Or at this sensitive time people do not vote SNP – SNP.

So the absence of the Alba Party means these issues will probably never be discussed and kids in Scotland will face increasing dangers from the Woo, Woo brigade in the SNP, who have become stronger every day thanks to public money that is being showered on them while many Scots live in poverty and face homelessness.

Please all you SNP voters, think before you put your X on the list vote paper. Your X against Alba party on the list, would return the power back to the people of Scotland.

Stay safe.

First thing Aldi to restock Mrs Hubbard’s cupboards. The town was very quiet, as was Aldi, the weather out wasn’t so bad, still not summer but the sun was shining which always helps.

I took the trike and trailer over to Church Square but it was pretty well deserted, so headed home once more, dropped off the trailer and since I had the tricycle out anyway, may as well go for a wee run, I went over to Pitscottie and back, far enough with all the plants awaiting my return, they really need to be out in the garden now, regardless that the forecast is not great. It was after three o’clock by the time I had finished and cleared away, I was ready for a meal, potatoes and beef sausages, with a serving of baked beans on the side. It has been a good day, for my body knew well it had done a bit of work.

Chilling out to Eric Clapton – ‘Live in California’ nothing like the blues to chill out to, and Eric adds a little bit of his own magic, playing now Keys to the Road.

When I was attending college, I had a one hour slot as A DJ on Hospital radio and since we were always looking for funds, I asked around if any local bands would be willing to do a charity concert if I could organise a venue. The Adam Smith Theatre, in Kirkcaldy, was chosen for the venue. I had hired a large hall with a small stage at one end, and asked for it to be set out with table and seating around the walls, so that people could get up and boogie to the music if they wished.

The Adam Smith Theatre

I enlisted a friend who had a friend that was once a roadie at large concert venues, to help. I picked them both up in the hired van and headed out to Cardenden, to a theatre hire company there, I could not believe the amount of equipment they were ordering, feed back monitors, what the hell is a feed back monitor, miles of cables, stands, mikes, and a central conceal, with switches, slides and knobs that could easy have been mistaken for part of a space shuttles dashboard.

It had taken until lunch time to just get the equipment up on stage and in position. With all the cables running up the isle to the conceal at the rear of the theatre – lunch, down the pub. Gee I hope we sell enough tickets to cover all of this expense. Back in the theatre and the drummer sat behind his kit and beat a steady beat for around twenty minutes whilst the roadie twiddled, and finally when he was happy that all was well we headed home for a beak and tidy up for the evening concert.

The concert would comprised of three local rock bands, none of which I had heard off. It was now time to get out the worry beads as the clock ticked on to 7 PM the officially start of the concerts. Up until this moment I had been too busy to worry.

The bands seemed to have brought along their own audiences, or should that be camp followers, who along with the band seemed content to monopolies the bar, despite my insistence that the concert was running late and the theatre audience was getting impatient.

The first band made it onto stage only 35 minutes late, heaven knows what the others two will sound like by the time I get them out of the bar.

I need not have worried, my two friends had been a blessing setting everything up, and the bands went down well too. My worry beads again came into play as I tried to get all three bands, now combined into a jam session, off the stage, since it was now well past the allotted time. I had to bung the caretaker to pacify him, for we were still loading equipment into the back of the van after midnight, It was an experience, one I would not have missed for the world, but not one I’m in any great hurry to repeat.

“Oh no, It’s only Rock and Roll but I like it”. The Stones.

We had a snow flurry earlier on, but the skies are clearing away now so I better get out and put some upturned plant pots over the lupins, ho-hum, still it will all be worth it I’m sure.

A funny old day, and no mistake.

Stay safe.

 Sunday and I awoke to the lawn, that stretches along in front of my window, covered white with frost, thankfully I had bought four meters of fleece at the garden centre yesterday and covered over the beds as best I could, a timely intervention.

The first time I heard of universal basic income (UBI) was a project carried out in Finland over 2017 and 2018. the study paid 2000 random selected unemployed people around £500.00 per month with no obligation to seek employment and no reduction in the payment if they found a job. Participants in the project were found to experience less stress, less depression, less sadness and less loneliness. They also did better in other measurements of well-being such as confidence, sense of independence, feeling of security……………

Today I read an article by Dr Steve McCabe on UBI and from his article it seems that the idea of UBI has been around for over a century.

Coronavirus has pushed UDI once more to the top of the list for discussion at government level, for it is a proven fact that the richest in our society will always fair better than the poorest when it comes to fighting off diseases, such as coronavirus. However it doesn’t take a pandemic to tell us that, poverty and poor health along with low education standards, make good bedfellows.

The Spanish government announced in 2020 that they intend to roll out a basic income to a million of the poorest households in Spain. Likewise, The First Minister of Scotland floated the idea of a basic income, around the same time as Spain. But still only being talked about not acted upon,

UBI has always been talked about in economic terms, however, the real benefit of UBI is to public health and well-being in our society.

In Canada, an experiment in UDI began in Dauphin near Winnipeg. One thousand families, about 30% of the population were given a monthly income designed to keep them above the poverty line. This income was named ‘mincome’ Four years later a new conservative government in Canada stopped it. The data collected during the experiment was put away in a box and there it lay for the next 30 years. Evelyn Forget, a professor at the University of Manitoba found the contents of the box and analysed their data. What she found was quite astonishing in terms of public health. Hospital admissions in the ‘mincome’ group fell by 8%. This amount in terms of the healthcare budget alone amounted to a substantial financial saving opening up the possibility that UBI may actually pay for itself through its health benefits.

Much like prison reform, rather than building more prisons, prison reform, is the road out of a revolving door of reoffending. But having turned prisons into private industry for the likes of G4S, a money-making business, funded by the taxpayer, there will be little movement in that direction from Westminster. The reoffending rate in the UK is the highest in Europe and most of the developed world, and not surprisingly much of it can be traced back to poverty and poor housing, dysfunctional families, children growing up in the streets where drugs and prostitution are a way of survival, and where such children will know at least one household in the street where a mum or dad is in or had been released from prison. But I’m off on a tangent once more.

The good news did not stop there. Mental health, something that is talked a lot about at present, also improved, along with a reduction in violence. In short ‘mincome’ improved public health.

Last August (2020), when UDI was brought before the House at Westminster, it was dismissed out of hand by the Tory government. The Under-Secretary of State for Work and pensions, Will Quince, Conservative MP, described UDI as “a costly mess” that “would disincentive work in key industries and leave the country’s finances ruined….. The government have no plans to introduce this policy”.

This, even although studies have shown the opposite is true that rather than recipients becoming work-shy and lazy. There was no significant reduction in working hours and some participants actually found work or increased their existing working hours.

The system at present in the UK is a disincentive to find work or better yourself, for every penny you make over the limit is taken from you and if you rise above a certain threshold you lose out on, housing benefit, free dental care, free glasses, free night school tuition, yes, taking even a part-time job to help your family eke out a living and you crash out of the system – applying to return into the system means five weeks without any financial help at all, but there are always ‘Food Banks’ that are becoming more and more part of the welfare system in this country, and fast becoming like prisons, a growth industry, being funded by government grants, (taxpayer funded).

I would like to see UDI rolled out across Scotland, tomorrow, if possible, but it will never happen so long as we have Tories such as Will Quince able to dismiss UDI out of hand without even looking at the data. If it has already been proven that UDI can improve our countries health, mentally and physically, and greatly improve the well-being of all our citizens, whilst at the same time paying for itself in savings to our NHS – why are we still only talking about it a hundred years on from its conception.

With all my wee jobs in the garden taken care off, and with the skies clear, and the sun out, to hell with the housework, the open road and a life awheel beckons me on.

This letter popped into my in-box and I found it so funny, (but alas true) that I had to pass it on. It is a mixture of fact and fiction. The electoral figures and results are all factual.

Dear Nicola,

The Union would like to place on record our deep appreciation for the SNP strategy of BOTH VOTES SNP.

Where would we be without your help and support?. A lot poorer for a start, with fewer MSP’s, offices closed across the land, staff made redundant. Yes your strategy is the best news we could hope for. Particularly when you are planning to do so again even after that troublemaker Alex Salmond has launched that Alba Party thing. You know that Party we are all working together to stop, Unionist and SNP alike, to keep them out the debates and out the MSM altogether (unless any of us have a bad news story about them, nudge, nudge). Who would have thought it, here we have all this common interest? Who says the Scots can’t work together Nicola, Ruth, Douglas, Humza, Murdo all working together, marvellous?

Let’s look what is being achieved. Well from an SNP Point of view, you guys must be enjoying being the darlings of the Brit Media. Bet you never saw that coming. It’s a luv-in on the Record, Daily Mail, Herald for you Nicola. You know something, I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the £3 million pounds of taxpayers money you gave the media, no I think it’s a genuine appreciation of how good you are at staving off calls for a referendum. 2023 is it now? Can’t be easy, but the cult idea was a good one, a set of young attack dogs to set on anyone who demurs from your announcements. How you  get away with insisting there can’t be a referendum because of the pandemic, as part of your election campaign, while everyone goes to the polls next month is just fabulous. General Election no health risk, Indy Ref lethal to organise during a pandemic. Where do you get public health advisors like that? 

If Boris tried that line there would be a Revolution but you can pull it off no problem. The nodding dogs behind you just all nod in unison. Good enough for Nicola. Good enough for them. Just keep the salaries rolling in. We can all agree about that!

Let’s have a run through the regions, see what happened last time and what we can expect this time, nearly said all things being equal, but there is no way that will happen as long as you guys stick with the both votes SNP DEAL.

Let’s start with the West of Scotland. It was a cracker,  the SNP got 136,000 list votes. It was NOT enough under the rules, our rules, to win you a single seat. No instead 72,000 votes elected 3 Labour MSP’s and another 72000 votes elected 3 Tory MSP’s. For good measure just 17000 votes elected  1 Green MSP. Union 6 Indy 1?

Was much the same in Mid Scotland and Fife 128000 SNP LIST VOTES was not enough to win you even a single seat instead 73000 Tory list votes elected 4 TORY MSP’s and 51000 Labour list votes elected 2 Labour MSP’s as well. Less than 18000 Green list votes secured 1 Green MSP into the bargain Union 6 Indy 1?

Over in the Lothians 118,000 SNP LIST VOTES elected ZERO SNP MSP’s. It was a tight race with the real votes, you know the ones that have not been devalued until they are worthless. 75000 Tory list votes elected 3 TORY MSP’s, 68000 Labour List votes elected 2 Labour MSP’s while the Greens won the jackpot with only 34000 votes electing two Green MSP’s. You guys really deserve a lot of praise for the tolerant way you are happy to see all your votes binned. Not sure we could do it! Union 5 Indy 2?

Over to Scotland’s biggest city now Glasgow. Here 110,000 SNP LIST VOTES failed to elect a single MSP. ZERO again, sorry but that’s the rules. Labour had a field day here 59000 Labour list votes elected FOUR LABOUR MSP’s. 30000 TORY LIST VOTES ELECTED TWO TORY MSP’s and 23000 Green List votes returned 1 GREEN MSP. Union 6 Indy1?

Central Scotland next. This is a really good one. 129,000 SNP LIST VOTES DELIVERED Zilch, nada, zero again. I must say this was my favourite because 67000 Labour list votes DELIVERED 4 Labour MSP’s and a mere 43000 delivered 3 TORY MSP’s. I hope you noticed that the combined vote of Tory and Labour here was LESS than the SNP total but it delivered 7 Unionist MSP’s  while the pro Indy side got Zero. Did I mention this to you? Both votes SNP FOLK ARE GREAT, JUST GREAT! Union 7 Indy 0

To the North East now. Great performance with 137,000 SNP list votes being shown to be worthless electing ZERO SNP MSP’s. Never mind it can be cold up here and the ballots kept the fire going while we counted the real votes. That result delivered 86,000 list votes for the Tories, electing 4 TORY MSP’s, 39000 Labour list votes electing 2 Labour MSP’s and 18000 Lib Dem list votes electing a single Lib Dem MSP. So they need to be grateful for your strategy as well. I think it’s fair to say the Union gratitude for your both votes SNP STRATEGY is genuinely all Party. Union 7 Indy 0

Now we are closing in on the really exciting bits of the country where the UNION are confident we can make some GAINS on the list. Let’s take Highland first. Last time 81000 SNP List votes elected 1 SNP LIST MSP. 44000 Tory list votes elected 3 TORY MSP’s, 23000 Labour list votes elected 2 Labour MSP’s and just 14000 votes for the Greens elected 1 Green MSP. Can’t see that happening this time. Current constituency polling shows you way up on last time, so we have this Region down as one of the two where the Union expects to make list gains! How exciting is that? We confidently expect to reduce the SNP TO ZERO ON THE LIST and bring you into line with the rest of the country. Union 5 Indy 1 Indy? 1

Finally we arrive at South Scotland. Last time 120000 SNP list votes elected 3 SNP LIST MSP’s. 101,000 Tory List Votes elected 2 Tory MSP’s and 56000 Labour list votes elected 2 Labour list MSP’s. Union 4 Indy 3

Personally I wouldn’t want to change this as I recognise that you need one region where you can point too, and show some SNP LIST SUCCESS IN. It’s important and I love how you use this South Scotland list success to justify the two votes strategy everywhere else, when we all know there is not a snowball’s chance in hell of it working anywhere else. My fear is that the constituency polling could put at least two of those list seats in jeopardy, maybe all three. What would we do then at the next contest? It’s a big worry. If you guys could just pull back your efforts in a few constituencies down there it might allow the status quo to continue. Too much to ask? Consider it Nicola at least, you might see the advantages.

Now if there is anything we can do to help don’t hesitate to ask. We recognise this current system could fall apart if voters catch on to the very dangerous ALBA party message which exposes how vulnerable the Union would be under, if voters, especially your voters, start realising the huge advances that could be made if they were to swap to Alba with their list votes. We must work hard to make sure that never happens. No worries about the BBC they know what to do. Whatever you do don’t mention UKIP, that Farage was all over our screens when he didn’t have a seat anywhere. Don’t worry we can say that was an English decision made in London. Nothing to do with BBC JOCKLAND..

For these reasons I am marking this message top secret and putting our top agents in charge to make sure it reaches you safely and doesn’t fall into the hands of those pro Indy bloggers, you know the ones Salmond has set up as the NEW MEDIA GROUP. THAT WOULD BE A DISASTER.

LETS BOTH LIE LOW UNTIL THIS IS OVER AND WE CAN CONTINUE AS BEFORE. THAT’S WHAT ITS ALL ABOUT. The UK government endorsement for whatever job you are looking for at the UN is in the bag. Just let us know when. Not too soon I hope.

The first week of April has already gone down the ‘craw road’ as Judy (Collins) would also ask “Who knows where the time goes”.

7 am and the skies over St Andrews are ringing out as clear as the note from a bell, thankfully the overnight frost, that had been forecast for the area did not arrive. I did my perambulation of the garden for inspection of the newly planted, and to my relief, they were all standing up like little soldiers on parade. We travel hopefully.

With little wind and the sun on the ascension, I need to get out on my bicycle once more, it has been almost a week now and withdrawal symptoms are setting in.

I did go out on my non-electric assisted bike (yes I still have one) and it was cold, not at all windless and hard work, that’s what becomes of having a week off, like going back to work after a two week holiday, loafing around in the sun, you take it ill out.

Home and I went onto the net to see what was happening in the real world of news. And as soon as I entered the virtual world a message popped up on the screen from Elie Weather, frost expected tonight, ho-hum, I will have to think of protection for my new plants.

Now there has been a big stooshie in the Scottish parliament for what seemed like forever about a contralateral bill ‘The Hate Crime Bill’. Now I have to admit I had little interest in a bill that seemed to be a big distraction to the real problems that face Scotland, like Boris Johnston, and the stream of bills coming out of Westminster that we have no input or control over.

Today as part of the Alba party, Denise Findlay

Denise Findlay

– in advance of the Women’s The conference, today had written a lengthy piece, I shall not cut and past it, all by here is a taster.

“Women’s concerns have not been heard.  All parties in the Scottish Parliament is signed up in varying degrees to gender ideology.  

The Greens and LibDems are irretrievably anti-women in hock to an ideology that is dangerous to the health and well being of women and girls.  Andy Wightman resigned from the Greens due to their intolerance of any discussion of women’s rights claiming party leader Patrick Harvie is captured by Queer Theory. …………………………

Just before recess, the Scottish Parliament passed the Hate Crimes Bill (HCB). This bill does not give protection to women whose sex have been ignored by the bill.   A man dressed as a woman has more protection against hate than a woman. But it does pose significant danger and risk to women.

The bill introduces a new offence of ‘stirring up hatred’ which requires that behaviour must be judged “abusive or threatening” by a “reasonable” person.

Define ‘Reasonable’ when using the word ‘female’ can be judged transphobic.  When our own justice secretary can’t say if there are two sexes and a judge in England ruled that belief in two sexes was ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society.  When many women’s accounts have been suspended or banned from social media for stating a biological fact. 

During the passage of the bill amendments that would have given women a small measure of protection was withdrawn due to an outcry by the trans lobby.”

Now you can see why it has caused so many problems and taken forever to pass-through parliament. Now my complaint is not with the bill, I simply do not know or understand enough about what the bill is trying to achieve. No, my problem is if the SNP were to gain an overall majority in the parliament, such bills could go through and be given Queens Assent without due scrutiny and for me that is (duly elected) dictatorship, such as we see at Westminster, Boris sitting with an 80 vote advantage over the opposition with less than 40% of they country’s voter’s approval, and one more reason for more diversity in the Scottish Parliament.

I can not for the life of me understand why we in Scotland get so hung up on gender. Some years back I did the Compostela de Santiago staying in refugees in the process. All refugees (apart from one that was a convent of nuns, although the girls had to pass through the male dorm to get to theirs and passed the male showers that had no door, strange compromise) all others were very much mixed quarters. And since girls outnumber us lads our toilets was not a safe haven, and soon become an overspill for the girls. There seemed to be no problems with modesty either (I don’t mean that people ran around naked) but the odd flash of tits did not seem to be a problem for anyone.

Again on a cycling trip across France, on a day that was inexhaustibly hot, I came upon a hotel where a group of cyclists, both male and female were made use of a hose in the yard stripped to the buff they were happily hosing each other down in a playful way, no inhibitions about sex. Maybe it is time to stop the silliness and (with modesty) accept the reality on the ground, and not try to create problems for ourselves.

Hate is only the prerogative of ignorant people.

Today I have reawakened memories of my years in Germany, amongst some of the best in my life. A top entertainer in early 1960 in Europe was Nana Mouskouri

Nana Mouskouri

she seemed to be constantly on the local radio. When living there in Germany, I bought an LP “Weisse Rosen Aus Athen” – in later years updated to CD. One track on it was a real blast from the past Ta pedia tour pirea (Ein Schiff wird kommen) it was the theme song from a film ‘Never on Sunday’

It’s all Greek to me

– the song was later released in the UK (in English and the words changed to protect the English innocent blushes). I was surprised I could still remember enough of the words of ‘Weisse Rosen Aus Athen, to sing along with Nana, great fun or should that not be Viel SpaB – oh come on Hamilton your just showing off now.

Stay safe.

 What a day it has been, the clock is chapping 5 pm and for the first time today I can at last sit down and have a well-erned rest, a cup of tea and a banana sandwich.

The wind had been blowing hard as I ventured out to the shop for bread and milk for the breakfast, I was surprised how warm it was even in the wind. So for reasons better known to me, I decided to do a bit of gardening. I turned over the plot in front of the netted wall and spaded in some of the compost I had acquired earlier, may as well plant the sweet peas since I am here.

Noon and time for lunch, Oh, what’s this the post has brought me, iScot magazine and live plants, yes the strawberry plugs for the hanging troughs, ho-hum.

I could not help having a peek into iScot, as the kettle boiled and the pork chop sizzled in the pan. Of course, I was soon engrossed in an article ‘May’ by Jason Michael McCann.

“In terms of party membership, the SNP did not really register on the United Kingdom’s political landscape before 2014. The independence referendum campaign of 2012 to 2014 was not an SNP campaign. While it is true the SNP contributed greatly t the campaign the reality is that this was in the main grassroots campaign directed by the politically non-partisan Yes Scotland. Put more simply, the Scottish National Party did not create the independence movement- the independence movement created the SNP. Yet, ever since its astronomical growth in membership in the wake of the campaign, the SNP has worked very hard to become the sole political party of the independence movement – to become ‘the vehicle’ of the movement – it has successfully monopolised the discourse on independence politics by silencing all dissent within the party by demonising and expelling even the most loyal of critics and by relentlessly attacking the alienating oppositional voices and opinions across the movement.”

I believe that pretty well sums up the SNP and it has a dismal record in actually campaigning for independence – ‘Wheeshed for Independence’, and of course why Nicola Sturgeon is so miffed at the creation of the Alba party. Dangling the independence carrot in front of the voters noses at each and every election since 2014 and saying vote for me on both papers or you will get a unionist coalition in my place and what chance your prestigious independence then, (that I never will champion, so long as I can keep my party in power and myself as First Minister) as it was then, as it is now. Thankfully we now have the Alba party that will hand back the independence campaign to the grassroots, the people of Scotland.

Goodness me is that the time already?

Must do something with these strawberry plants, and whilst I am at it I may as well make a start to planting out the maypole

This led to planting, the young Lupins

along the wall and the Chrysanthemums on the raised beds.

The cold weather is forecast to return tomorrow hope they survived after all the effort that has been put in raising them from seed to this stage. If all goes well we should have a fair show in June and July and right through until the first frosts of winter.

Me I’m frightened to sit down or I will fall asleep, all this fresh air has taken its toll.

Keep safe.  

Today the wind has abated, but still icy cold out there, I did however move the plants outdoors in a sheltered spot, hoping for some better weather so that they may remain outside permanently until planting time. The disappearance of the wind means I can once more climb ladders so will put up the netting down the outside wall at the front of the building as support for the climbing French beans. Once commonplace as a vegetable on the diner plate, but seem to have gone out of fashion, maybe getting them for free will revive their popularity, personally I love them.

St Andrews is still very quiet, I thought with the lifting of some restrictions more people would have returned to the streets but alas no, looks as if it will take better weather to bring them out of hiding.

I did service the tricycle and a bit of spring cleaning, how can one man get the place so untidy? I must go on the internet, for sure there must be instructions somewhere on there to tell me,

“How do I get bike chain oil stains out of the carpet, before my mum comes home?”

Audio wallpaper today, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, “Got a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand, Sent me to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man”. Born in the U.S.A.

I listened to Alex Salmond’s speech yesterday, opening the Alba campaign, (Alba pronounced as if there were another ‘a’ after the ‘l’ Alaba, sort of rolls off the tong) He was brilliant, the man has not lost his common touch with the people, or clarity of message. Next week it is the turn of the women of Alba to have their say, (who incidentally outnumber their male counterparts standing on the 6th May for election) and there will be weekly sessions all the way up to the election, these at the moment will all be on the internet, which kind of rules out many older citizens of Scotland who do not frequent Facebook, Twitter or the likes. However, Alba lawyers are in negotiations with the BBC, making sure that Alba is represented on any further political programs.

The reality on the ground has shifted the attitude of the media and the SNP (especially Nicola sturgeon) she is now saying she will work with the parliament chosen by the people, whatever its make up. I think she knew she was acting like a petulant child, I’m sure the other members of the party would have had a word in her ear, for no one wishes to see the demise of the SNP party, for this is no longer about one party it is about Scotland’s right to exist as a country.

A NEW DECLARATION FOR SCOTLAND

Speech by Alex Salmond leader of the Alba Party on the 701st Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.

“Last year for the 700 anniversary I contributed to a project on the Arbroath Declaration. What struck me about the essays in the book was how the concepts which underpinned the declaration still resonate today.

We are shaped and moulded by our history. But we are defined by how we apply those principles to our own lives and to the here and now.

A document from history with profound and modern ideas.

Of course the Arbroath document was not, in reality, a declaration.
Rather it was a letter asserting Scotland’s rights to the international authority of the day – the Avignon Papacy.

The importance of the “Declaration” was not that it came just from those in positions of wealth and authority. Rather, it’s enduring power and appeal was that it was rooted in the whole Community of the Realm of Scotland.

It was the recognition of the need for that essential endorsement by the Community of the Realm which elevated the letter far beyond what it could otherwise have been if simply endorsed by loyal supporters of The Bruce.

And how successful that strategy was.

Within a couple of years of the Declaration, international opinion moved in favour of the Scots.

It was the English King who became diplomatically isolated and eight years later Scottish independence was negotiated, acknowledged and accepted.

As it was then, so it can be now.

The appeal for Scottish independence cannot – should not – be restricted by the party. No one party has the ownership of Scottish independence. It is rooted in the sovereignty of the people, all of the people. 
Scotland’s Parliament is the modern democratic expression of the Community of the Realm. It exists to allow modern Scotland to define its own future. To tell the wider world who we are and who we want to be.


And in this election more than any other, it is about putting the nation before the party.”

In his address, of which this is just a small portion, the whole speech can be found online for anyone interesting in reading it. Alex handed power back to the people, this forthcoming election is about just that,

“Who rules Scotland – the people who live and work in Scotland or Boris Johnston, or Nicola Sturgeon, for that matter?”

I attended all of the AUOB (all under one banner)


Grey skies and showers did little to dampen the spirits of marchers taking part in what’s been described as the biggest and boldest demonstration of independence ever to have taken place. Photograph: Colin Mearns

march before coronavirus closed down protesting in large numbers on our streets. And in the last march which took place in Edinburgh the estimate given, by police Scotland, of people marching was over 200 thousand, and for me, that was a very conservative estimate. Not only the people marching but the pavements too were lined with like-minded people all cheering us on, a sea of satires. You can rest assured that none of those on that day were marching to secure ‘baby boxes’ or ‘controversial legislation’ but to secure ‘Self Determination’ for their country and its people – the right to chose their own destiny not have one hosted upon them by a party at Westminster, especially parties that the Scottish people have rejected in general elections after general election, some since before the war.

The ball is firmly in the hands of the Scottish people on March 6th 2021, Will they run with it?

Stay safe.

The snow actually purred away for a while but came to nothing, I decided to leave the plants inside for today.

Headed up to Aldi on Shanks pony I near froze my ball’s off, the wind was cutting. Returning the long way around by the harbour and abbey, but only found a few brave dog walkers out, so the roadshow will be going nowhere today either. Time to hunker down.

The audio wallpaper today is Judy Collins,

And playing now something very special, “Send in the Clowns” (Stephen Sondheim)

I noticed on my way up to Aldi that Rhuaraidh Fleming (SNP) has a prominent poster up in St Andrews for the up and coming Holyrood elections. He will only be a token vote, for he is a lad without much charisma, a rather dour fellow, unlike his opponent, Wee Willie Rennie, the incumbent Lib/Den candidate. Willie has made himself very viable here in St Andrews and has his feet well under the table at Holyrood, so will be hard to uproot.

You would not blame him for putting in the effort he has over the years, well, he would not wish to go back to driving the Kelty bus.

Picture taken at the Lothamond Bus Museum (Fife)

However with the insurgence of the Alba party, Wee Willie could pose a lonely figure in the parliament’s opposition seats after May, all his list vote MSP could be disappearing under an Alba avalanche of list MSP.

“Where are the clowns There ought to be clowns………….”

Back in the 1950 and 1960 we had clippies on the buses, and one lass from Kelty stood out. She was very tall and had reduced her ‘postman pat’ hat to a token of its original size and shape, it was now pinned on top of a mane of bottle blond hair. The straps that held her ticket machine and money bag have been extended to a point that they now hung around the calves of her legs. Legs that seemed to go on forever until they met up with her cutty sark, (short skirt). Possibly modest enough in today’s world but an eye-opener in the 1950s – then you could say the girl was “Just a Kelly Clippie”, (or there again just happy in her own body).

“The times they are a-changing”

Keep safe.

Easter Monday, and being any Monday, my spell in the laundry. Then I took off on my walk.

St Andrews is pretty much a ghost town, with all the student on Easter break, curtains in their flats hang limp and dishevels, indicating departure in hast. The streets too, devoid of Q outside the coffee shops, with no students needing their daily fix. Taking the roadshow out would have been a total waste of time today.

I did however do a perambulation of the town. The ice-cold wind was howling along South Street where men Q outside the gent’s hairdressers, I did not join them, I hate standing in Qs and will do without first.

Dropping down to the Kinness Burn. Now out of the wind, it was pleasant walking along the path beside the crystal clear water of the low running burn. The Willow waved her greeting in the genial wind as if to show off her bright new dress, to its best.

I carried on along the foot bath to the bridge at Dempster Place, where the Flowering Cherry was in full bloom. Ducks rushed forward at my coming, sorry boys and girls, no bread today.

Up now past the Byre Theatre, So-called, (elementary dear Watson) because it was once a byre.

Turning back into South Street, the icy blast hit me head-on. At St Andrews, Holy Trinity Parish Church, I turned into the square.

At the time of its building the parish church would have been within the cathedral precinct, the new church was built so that the church could distance itself, physically and metaphorically from the influence of the cathedral. At the time of its building the church was not just a place of worship, it was a place of commerce. Altars were founded within the church, at which prayers could be said for their founder. Eventually, there may have been over thirty such altars within Holy Trinity, some of which would have served as guild altars for the trades of the burgh.

It was from the pulpit of the Holy Trinity Parish Church, that John Knox roared out against the Roman Catholics, his vial tong did insight the congregation to march on the Dominicans friary, a little further down South Street from the parish church and as Knox would have it, kick the Papists out of St Andrews. The ruins of the Black Friar still stands by the roadside.

The Dominican friars founded in around 1215, in the Toulouse area of southern France, came to Scotland around 1230. the order placed great stress on academic learning as a way of combating heresy, so St Andrews would have been a natural choice for the order in Scotland.

Church Square where I had set up my stall the other day was all but deserted, only a few outside the coffee shop awaiting their orders to be taken.

Home once more, where I met Jean in the hallways, she wanted to know what should be done with the Geraniums?

I suggested, landfill, I told her they are all dead. I had removed three from their troughs, and there was no sign of life, so not worth hanging onto. I persuaded her to fill the planters with strawberry plant grown especially for hanging baskets, not only would it be a show in the summer but I’m sure the strawberries will not go to waste.

“That’s a brilliant idea” she said.

“Guess who got the job or ordering (and I’m sure planting them when they arrive)?????

So it has been a very interesting morning             

In two fundraising campaigns in 2017 and 2019, people gave money to the SNP in support of the campaign for independence. The money we were told would be ring-fenced, to be spent only on a future indiref2, that was our guarantee. The amount generated stood at £600,000.

When the party’s 2019 accounts were published they showed that the SNP had less than £100,000 in the bank at the end of the year, and a total net assets of less than £272,000 – what happened to our £600,000? The then treasurer said that it was woven through the accounts.

Following this, a complaint was made to Police Scotland on Saturday 27th March 2021, at Barrhead Police Station. Then came the resignation of three members of the Finance and Audit Committee of the SNP, for having been refused access to the SNP accounts.

That same evening two members of the Financial Investigation Unit of Police Scotland issued a statement under the incident number PS20210352082. Currently subject to a civil case at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

On Tuesday 30th March, officers visited the home of the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon and her husband Peter Murrell, in connection with the investigation. When the First Minister appears a few hours later on the BBC televised debate, it was noted that she looked tired and below par.

I have no way of confirming any of this since it is all second hand information, but clearly something is afoot the curtain of the SNP secret inter workings has all but been thrown open now.

Who I wonder will be wearing the number across their chest now, not Alex Salmond, that’s for sure.

The good and mighty from around the world will descend on Glasgow later in the year (if it is not cancelled) for a summit on climate change and what can be done to arrest the devastating effect that climate change is having on our world. They will dine on the best that Scotland can provide and no doubt, talk for hours. Then after signing up to a commitment that will have little or no effect on global warming, there will be photo opportunities galore, column inches will be written, that could stretch from here to the moon and back. And after all this, the delegates will get back in their polluting limousines and aircraft and head home.

The biggest group there will be the Americans, who I am sure will make some grand speeches and talk of change.

Today I watched a documentary on Sky, from the great river delta, near to Windhoek in Namibia, on the south-west coast of Africa.

The Okavango River
The Okavango Delta

This is one of the last places where wild animals still live as they have for centuries, the last great delta basin where you will see many animals that were once commonplace right across Africa, alas all but gone now after the ‘White Man’ came to Africa to steal its wealth and enslave its people. Now the Americans are back in Namibia drilling for oil in this unique and unspoiled river delta.

Of course, the American company will give all sorts of assurances that there will be no pollution and will bring much-needed jobs to the area, just as they did off the great river delta of Nigeria. The oil was bought cheaply enough, with only one corrupt president to pay off. America was quick to back his claim when he said ‘all the oil, offshore in Nigeria belongs to him. A percentage of the revenue paid into an American bank account in his name.

The great river delta in Nigeria is now a stinking polluted hole from the oil spillage. The environmental damage has been enormous. Local indigenous people have seen little if any improvement in their living, whilst suffering serious damage to their natural environment. More than 7,000 oil spills between 1970 and 2000 and it is estimated that a clean-up (if this were ever to come to pass) to restoration the swamps, creeks, fishing grounds and mangroves, it would require millions and take at least 25 years, this will never happen, for who would pay for it, not the American oil companies that for sure. Namibia will suffer the same fate, the people will receive not one penny in compensation, or will even be asked for their approval. American foreign policy personified, whether it be oil or any other raw mineral.

What makes all this so unpalatable is there is more oil in the countries around the world then America could ever need. Countries in the Middle East, and South America, this is not about a shortage of oil, it is about oil that is easily accessible and more or less for the taking and American companies will exploit any rich picking regardless of the environmental damage they may do,

“Just so long as the buck stops here”

American foreign policy has distorted the market for their own ends, buying oil from the Middle East (even if it were needed, which it is not) is not profitable and America has placed sanctions on countries such as Iraq, so that their oil can not be sold on the open market. Now the Chinese are buying up Iraq’s oil at a knocked down price, what choice do the Iraqi people have?

Climate Change Conference in Glasgow will change nothing,

“When we play our charades, we are like children playing”

I was in the common room, reading and listening to Etta James at the time. I like it in the common room for it gets the sun most of the day through its floor to ceiling Edwardian windows.

“Do you have a minute – could you come out and have a look at these?”

no point in doing anything other than what you are told, I went out to see what the girls wanted from me.

“We cut the Geraniums back in the winter, they don’t seem to be doing much, what do you think?”

how long have they been in those pots? I asked,

“About four years now” was the answer.

Maybe the soil is tired, unless you have been feeding them, then again Geraniums are a poor soil plant. I would try changing the soil, maybe even move them out of the pots altogether and into the garden proper.

Back inside the conversation had reminded me of a lad I knew when I lived and worked in Edinburgh. Tam and I would acquaint the same West End pub and would sit together for a blether. One day Tam told me his grass was not doing well at all, yellow patches everywhere, he said.

Well it can’t be the lack of water I said, all the rain we’ve been having, maybe you could try feeding it, I told him, it may simply be short on nitrogen, if you come in tomorrow around the same time I will drop you off a bag of fertiliser. Which was not a problem for me since I worked for the Scottish Agricultural Industry at the time. I filled a small bag with fertiliser, that was high in nitrogen and dropped it off for him that evening.

It had been a while since I had seen Tam, he called me over to his table as soon as he saw me coming at the door of the pub. I carried my pint over and sat down, to get the conversation going I asked him how his grass was doing.

“Oh fine” he told me, “I don’t bother putting away the lawnmower, I just leave it where I finished”.

Sky Art has some great programmes but why so early? yesterday morning starting at 6 am the Royal Ballet performing Sleeping Beauty, the dancing was superb, but why so early? I could only watch a little of it during breakfast.

The other day it was “Ancient Land” – Celtic Women from Johnston Castle in Ireland, but again at an inappropriate time. The morning is for getting on with work, the evening is a time to relax and watch such splendour.

this morning Berlioz Requiem, from Notre-Dame Cathedral, with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and a choir of many. But once more on from 6.30 am until 8.30 am. Again brilliant stuff but I could not sit for two hours at this time in the morning and only listened in for half that, during breakfast and tiding up.

Once-upon-a-time we would set the machine to recorder and watch programmes later in the day,. Sadly the BBC (especially channel 2) never kept to scheduled and you missed either the beginning or worst still the end of a programme.

Yesterday (at a more reasonable time of the day) I watched Handel’s Messiah, on the BBC, I wonder if the Frenchman that misspelt the name in the carving he did of Handel, did ever received his money when he presented his bill?

Messiah was writing in double quick time, less than a month if memory serves, as Handle neared the end of his life. It was written for Easter, however, it is mostly performed at Christmas time for some unknown reason. Me well I play it all the year through, I just love the work, there was a time when I had a voice and would sing along, mostly with the contralto parts.

“He was despised, rejected, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief”

“And he shall watch over us, like a shepherd, and he shall gather unto him the lambs with his arms.”

Handel in his masterpiece puts wonderful music to major writings by the prophets of the Old Testament this evening it was an edited version so much was left out, however this did not distract from the performance, and during this time of coronavirus lockdown, there would have been a restriction on what soloists would be available on the day, cutting your coat to the cloth.

In today’s performance the choir was outstanding, “Behold the Lamb of God”, moved me greatly, then again I am just an old romantic, full of emotion when it comes to such music.

In the film “Pretty Woman” at the end of the opera,

“Did you enjoy the performance, my dear?”

“Oh yes, I near peed my pants”

Yes, music can move people in strange ways.

Keep safe.

The day was bright but cold, as I pedalled my way along South Street to Church Square where I set up shop.

I did not need my music since the busking accordionist was doing a swell job, paying medley after medley, he is actually a very accomplished musician, you will see and hear him all over Fife, today he was the roundabout when all were attracted to the swings, not a penny dropped in his hat during the two hours I spent there.

I did have three people came for a blether and a lot of photographs were taken, so hopefully a photo or two on social media.

One woman (I have seen her at the Tory stall during the 2016 election, she certainly was clicking away with her camera, so I can expect competition from now on, of course, they will have all the expensive signs and banners.

I did a few circuits of the town, just to fly the flag,

One guy waiting outside the coffee shop, starting jeering and shouting “Idiot” my message is getting through and clearly they don’t like it, worrying times for all the main parties, including the SNP.

Oor Nicola earlier today made a statement, telling the press that she did not believe Alex Salmond and the Alba party should feature in any further debate, the girl certainly believes in democracy. She must know that she is only in her post by the grace of the Yes voters in Scotland, and their patience is growing very thin indeed. The endless road she has taken them on for Indiref2. Their support is waning, she thought her popularity would gift her a further 5 years as First Minister, no wonder she is not best pleased with the Alba party. A woman’s scorn knows no bounds.

Well the gauntlet has been thrown down in St Andrews, they know we are here now, and I intend to keep up the pressure, as the days count down to what will be a defining election for Scotland.

Keep safe.    

 Friday was another fine day, weather-wise, I spend most of the day finishing up all my wee jobs, since we are now into campaign mode, and time will be scarce. First Blake 7 a new stand for her television, I suppose it does save space rather than have it sitting on a table or television cabinet, since our living rooms are not overly big.

This time I decided to read the instructions first, when every move is being watched best not to look like an idiot.

Then came the plant pot stand for the garden, I decided to modify the rocking boat (plant stand) since it was starting to look a bit shabby. As it turned out this took a lot less time than building up the flat pack television stand.

I looked up from my work to see the flowering cherry tree in blossom, it was like magic, one moment it was just a tree, next it was a glorious joy to behold.

At the moment I am having to bring the young plants in at night and take them out in the morning, since the clear skies bring a keen coldness during the hours of darkness, even a ground frost. Better to be safe than sorry.

The early evening was taken up with preparing the trailer for tomorrows campaign road trip. Rather than take my tools up to the old kitchen, for you will always need a tool you never brought with you, it would be easier to bring the trailer down to the flat, where all my tools were to hand. I cleared a space in the living room and drilled and bolted the two sideboards on. They certainly improved the whole look of the trailer.

Then came the 12V car battery to run the DVD/CD player, held in place with a ratchet strap, then the inverter, that will be required to charge the battery on the tricycle, with the solar panels, these will not go with me tomorrow since I will just be around the corner from the flat. However, they will be needed when I go further afield to recharge the battery on the trike for the return journey. Flags and flag poles. The circus has certainly come to town.

Time to take it back to the old kitchen, who’s a silly boy then? Adding the boards to the trailer added one inch to its width, just enough for it not to go back out the door, so off came the door. Once out, the door was screwed back in place. The trailers home will now permanently be the old kitchen.

By now I was starting to feel my age, but pleased with my day and tomorrow will be much more relaxing. Doing what I do best blethering.

Saturday

a bit nervous about the task today, for I am going into battle in a predominantly small C conservative area and many will be students or past students from England. I have no real knowledge of the Alba party, how many members it has (I have heard 4,100 banned about but no official tally), no authorisation, and no big hitters from the party on television or in the media, so it is all very much in the deep end today. However, the Alba party is holding their conference today so should know more by my next blog.

When I was in college, during the summer recess I took a job with the combined insurance company of America, I did not of course tell the interviewer that I was really a student and would be going back in the autumn. After my two weeks of training, I was set loose to find my own leads and make my own sales. I parked the car up in Carnoustie car park, it was then I knew as far as selling went, I was not even born yet. To say those first steps from the car park were nerve-racking, would be an understatement. As it turned out I was a natural, I really liked the job. In fact in hindsight maybe I should have packed in college and becoming a super-duper salesman, then again I would never have become a DJ in a strip club, but that’s another story, and maybe its telling is better left until after the watershed.

Today feels just like that first day as a salesman with the CICA, but a faint heart and all that.

“To the breach, dear friends.

Why put myself in this position, well, it is all about self-determination, my wish is for Scotland to break free of bad decisions made for us by parties at Westminster, parties that we never voted for, in fact, rejected in election after election going right back to the war years. I really did not wish to leave the EU, or have our economy trashed by Brexit, and sadly I feel that Nicola can not, or will not, call another referendum on independence so long as she can hold onto power in Scotland without doing so.

In theory the Alba party makes sense if all the failed SNP list votes had gone to Alba in 2016 we would have had 24 more pro-independent MSP at Holyrood and 24 fewer unionists MSP, a much stronger hand, but Oor Nicola bottled it in 2016, so we are where we are. I feel this election is the last chance saloon for Scotland, I can only put my faith firmly in the Scottish people to see that and vote for Alba on the list, “let’s get independence done”.

We travel hopefully.

 A snapshot of the UK to the EU trade in food and drink shows some worrying stats. Exports fell in January 2021, driven by a fall in sales to the EU of 75.5 % compared to January 2020, a drop of nearly £0.75 Billion. Other factors do come into play, such as stockpiling by the UK prior to COVID and ahead of the transition period. However much is due to new non-tariff barriers faced by the UK exporting collapsing and shut out of many SME exports. The UK food and drinks exports,

All food and drinks – January 2020 – £1.7 billion, January 2021 – £824.9 million, a change of -51.1%.

EU January 2020 – £1.0 billion, January 2021 £256.4 a change of -75.5%

Non-EU January 2020 – £639.9 million, January 2021 £568.5 a change of -11.1%

This is the result of Brexit and the “smooth transition” so freely spouted by Boris, what happened to the huge opportunity and how we had nothing to fear from leaving the Single Market?

Take the trouble to look into these figures that have just been published you will find that the top ten products that we exported to the EU

Whisky – a drop of £63.1%

Cheese – a drop of 85.1%

Chocolate – a drop of 65.4%

Beef – a drop of 91.5%

Animal feed – a drop of 6.8%

Lamb and Mutton – a drop of 45.1%

Salmon – a drop of 98%

Pork – a drop of 86.9%

Fish – a drop of 79.1%

Breakfast cereals – a drop of 74.4%

I’m sure you will have noticed the enormous contribution Scotland make to the UK exports figures. Almost all of this list has a big impact on the Scottish economy, beef, lamb, fish, porridge oats and Salmon all will be products leading the economy of Scotland.

Yes Corvid does have a hand to play, but we should not be hoodwinked, these figures are in stark contrast with Ireland’s economy that has grown by, between one and two per cent over 2020. Oh I’m sure we heard a lot of fine words from the five puppets on the BBC yesterday but did anyone really have an answer to how we escape the dead hand of Westminster, whose polices will ruin many business owners and many thousands of jobs in the very near future, Madness.

I could have written screeds about these figures, but really they speak for themselves, urgent action is required from our MSP not more promises (vote for me and I promise, you not only the moon but the stars too, anything to stay in power, and none of it within their gift to give) promises for a future that will never come.

Yesterday we had five leaders of the parliament in Holyrood on the BBC answering the questions the BBC had chosen for them, and the answers just as predictable, questions that we could have heard any day of the week from these trained puppets. Leaders debate, Aye Right.

Let’s stop living on dreams, let’s stop kicking the can down the road until it eventually hits the wall, and the game ends, with Scotland the looser. End this now, vote SNP 1 on the constituency paper, and Alba Party on the list vote.

In 2016 election, if all the people that voted SNP had voted for SNP 1 and Alba on the list vote, there would have been 24 more pro-independent SNP in the parliament at Holyrood. Better still there would have been 24 fewer Unionists MSP. And don’t forget if you take out the unionist MSP you also take out their office, their staff, their voice, and their vote. You weaken the opposition and at the same time strengthen the cause for interdependence.

 Sorry, I have been neglecting my blog over the last week. But you see we are having elections to the Scottish parliament in Holyrood on the 6th May 2021, and I’m sure there are many bloggers out there that are much more into the ins and outs of Scottish politics than I.

I, for the first time in my life had decided not to vote this year, even if everyone in Scotland voted for Nicola Sturgeon, there was little hope of another referendum on independence under her leadership.

Independence is,

Self-Determination,

Not,

Separation,

Stupid.

Unknown to us, beavering away clandestinely in the background, the Alby Party was putting the finishing touches to the scheme to stand only in the List Vote in Scotland, to give a huge Pro-independence boost to the Holyrood parliament.

This of course has thrown a grenade, into the system, and has not gone down well in the unionist quarter, (and of course, has had little coverage in the national press or television news programmes), for it means there will be fewer limpet MSP in the parliament, people that have never been voted in by the people of Scotland to any office, but are thereby the grace of the list vote.

I can not understand Oor Nicola, acting a bit like a petulant child over the Alba party, maybe it is her Ego that is suffering and not that of Alex Salmond. This is good news for the future of Scotland’s – independence, now closer than it has ever been since 2014. I can not wait to become a European citizen once more. You see every unionist party MSP you knock out of the ring, you at the same time demolish their base, their office, their staff, and their voice. This will weaken the opposition and strengthen our cause for self-determination. All Good.

I am really pumped about the events of the last week, last Friday’s launch of the Alba Party has shaken the grassroots independent supporters out of their slumber, and it is palpable.

I intend to start my ‘Road Show for the Alba Part on Easter Weekend. Taking my tricycle and trailer around the towns of North East Fife, (and possibly Dundee) over the run-up to the 6th May. It has all been a bit of a rush, but I hope to play music, (not Scottish traditional music) Tina Turner, Blondie, (love parallel Lines), Eva Cassidy, Suzi Quatro, and the evergreen ABBA. As Muddy Waters would have put it “The joint is jumping”.

All this has taken time and the main reason I have been neglecting my blog, I do not intend to turn this into a political blog, (too late) but hope to tell you a bit about my journey around Fife, lots of pictures and hopefully lots of sunshine – other than the sunshine that is now shined from the hearts of the pro-independence supporters at this great opportunity to further the cause of Self-determination for Scotland.

I happen to read in the ‘long letter’ to The National on March 25th 2021 John Edgar (Kilmaurs) said he is genuinely perplexed, and asked ‘can someone explain what is driving him (Alex Salmond) to continue his attacks and criticisms of our First Minister when we are only weeks away from important Holyrood elections?’

Well John, have you ever heard of a woman called Annie Oakley,

Annie, was a sharpshooter in the days of the travelling shows around America and later Europe. Her eyesight, her eye to hand coordination and timing set her apart from most of her fellow sharpshooters at the time, she was just that good. When 1900 came along, the legions and myths that had grown up around the Old West, were now depicted in the cinema and not the wild west shows, Annie career was nearing its end she would by now be a middle-aged woman.

In 1904 newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst published in bold, large typeface the headlines “Annie Oakley, arrested for stealing to support her drugs habit”. The story was ‘fake news. The girl that had been arrested was not Annie Oakley, but a burlesque performer (not the type of performer that Annie would wish her name to be associated with in the 1900s normally looked upon as a girl of loose morals) it would seem she told the Chicago police that her name was Annie Oakley. What the newspapers had failed to do it point this out to their readers.

Most of the newspapers that printed the store had done so on the Hearst article, they had not checked their facts. Most were quick to retract the libellous error, Hearst had not. He tried to avoid paying court judgments of $20,000 (around $570,000 in today money), by sending an investigator to Darke County, Ohio, with the intent of collecting reputation-smearing gossip from Oakley’s past. The investigator found nothing.

Annie spent the next six years of her life travelling around the courtrooms of America suing each and every one of the newspapers for doing a hatchet job on her good name and winning all but one of the cases she perused. In the end, her bill for legal expenses outweighed the money she received from the courts. You see for Annie (as it is for Alex Salmond) their good name means everything to them. Get the picture, John?

Annie Oakley, made herself a legion in her own lifetime, what of Alex Salmond?

The Fiery Cross has been firmly set ablaze with the new Alba Party, led by Alex Salmond, a grenade into the upcoming Holyrood Elections. How many will flock to his banner? Well, I marched with 200 thousand of my fellow countrymen in the ‘AUOB’ march in Edinburgh and I don’t believe they were marching for baby boxes and controversial legislation, all were marching for total control over our own affairs, independence from Westminster control. So you ask how many will flock to the Alba banner, I would say pretty much all that marched that day, and a million or so added to their numbers.

Could Alex Salmond, become a legion in his own time?

 Huge Montgomery is the tip of the spear in a large London incentive care unit, and once more he was being interviewed on the Alex Salmond Show.

Coronavirus has taken its toll on everyone, none more so than our NHS staff.

He went over the highs and lows of the last year, in the front line of intensive care, not everyone made it and that was hard. He knew this not only as a doctor but as a father. The man was close to breaking as he told us of the tragic loss of his son, doctors are human too.

He was asked. If you could get all of the leaders of the four nations of the UK in one room what would be your advice to them?

Without hesitation, he would tell them to invest in Social Care. Many of those that came into intensive care were obese, he told us, this cut down their chances of survival. There is little point in telling people they are fat, or lazy and need to diet, if it is difficult for people to exercise or they live in such poverty that all they can eat is cheap unhealthy food.

Schools, he said, should go back to not doing exercise but playing games which is exercise but also fun. Being able to cycle on roads that do not put people in danger. Fast food is cheap but it is the main cause of obesity, make it more expensive…………….

The way humans are living much closer to animals and the way we factory farm means that there will be more and more coronaviruses jumping from animal to human and human to animal.

The way we travel around the world, will spread viruses very quickly too. this will not be the last we see of such viruses, and not the last lockdown unless we mend our ways.

Watch this interview if you can, for it is clear, doing nothing, not learning the lessons of this year, is not an option, for if we ignore the warning then this Bad Dream will become a Recurring Nightmare.   

1%

Pay rise for nurses in England (effectively a pay cut), which ministers say is all they can “Afford”.

11,65%

Increase in UK military spending between 2020 and 2021 and 2021 and 2022. Bigger increases are planned for each of the following three years.

4th

The UK previously had the 8th highest military spending in the world. It is predicted to become the fourth highest following recent policy announcements.

59%

Percentage of British public that want the UK to sign up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, according to a recent independent poll.

47% Cut in UK aid budget to Yemen for 2021, attributed by the government of Boris Johnston to the “fiscal situation”.

£6.8 billion

The minimum value of the UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the six years since Saudi Forces (trained by UK forces) started bombing Yemen.

260

potential number of nuclear warheads that could be owned by the UK government, up from 180.

The lies on the bus go round and round…………

Keep safe.

 Monday so must be laundry day and a chance to catch up on all the little jobs, today it was for Blake 7 (Agnus my neighbour).

Agnus is a little woman around 5 feet in height but what she looses in height she makes up in energy, never off the stot. She moved in a little over a year ago and her flat looks like an interior decorator came in and turned it into a show house, you would think that no one actually lived in it. She seemed happy with my work.

I did go out for a short run over to Pitscottie and back it was a cold wind and strong enough to have me working hard on the outward leg.

Many daffodils that have grown up along the roadside banking are now in bloom.

When my mother lived in Cottingley, West Yorkshire, (Where the Cottingley fairies came from),

there was a park where I would walk mum’s dog. At one end was a steep bank that the council had planted out with dozens and dozens of daffodil. One afternoon I came down with the dog and a small girls, possibly around 8 0r 10 years of age, had an armful of daffodils, and was continuing to pick more.

“What are you doing?” I asked

And was told, she was picking the flowers to take home to her mum. I suggested that she stopped it and went home with the flowers and to tell her mother where she picked them. Another triggered memories

Then I spend some time transplanting seedlings from a tray, into separate pots, they are looking fine and healthy but too cold to go into the cold frame so they are still in the common room which is making them very leggy.

As I work around the house with hoover and duster I have the news on in the background. The riots in Bristol are prominent, what is interesting is the mixed messages coming out of Westminster. On one hand, unacceptable behaviour, and how the police are already rounding up the ring leaders. And on the other hand, how free speech and freedom of protest must be protected.

What is more serious is that MP live in a bubble and simply seem oblivious to the simmering tension going on in the country. It is like a weak dam with the water building up behind it and not sluice open. The country is split over Brexit, split over the way the coronavirus pandemic has been handled. Lost jobs, lost income, teenagers leaving school, college and university with no future prospects, and all the government have to offer is a vaccine.

The second topic is the reshaping of the armed forces. Army cut by some 77 thousand, which reflects how armies are more about technology these days than boots on the ground. As for the Royal Navy well they are heading for the Pacific, where they will be based on a permanent footing. Since all the planes on board the Elizabeth class aircraft-carrier will be American, and of course her escort ships, clearly this is where the US wants them.

Interesting reports coming out of northern Syria where the Kurds are holding thousands of refugees, that no one wants ownship off, since most are women and children (more than 50% children) and many foreigners to the region. They are living in misery, in makeshift camps, with no future. What the report was about, not how they have been abandoned, by those responsible for their flight, but how a new Islamic State caliphate is growing up in the camps. Now that is a surprise?

When is the US and its allies going to get the message? If you go into a country, destroy its infrastructure, its law and order, and government, and the collateral damage is millions of displaced people, then children that are growing up in such camps will not thank you for what you have done to their country or to them. They will become what Gaza has become under Israeli occupation, a breeding ground for discontent, that will spread across the western world. The US did not make itself safer by such bad foreign policy, it put itself in danger. These kids in these camps only have slingshots now, what will they have in 10 years from now?

With tension now between the US and Europe, I can see a permanent split coming, Europe will form its own northern alliance, without the UK and US, it will be more of a European defensive force, since they do not have any foreign territory to defend, and will withdraw from NATO (as it is now, a dumping ground for American arms sales).

I see Jimmy Hamilton QC has cleared Nicola Sturgeon of all allegations, as mum would say “Never trust a Hamilton”. Strange times indeed.

Keep safe.