The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

 Over the weekend it was a case of holding out until Monday when I could find a dentist to give me some antibiotics to settle my wobbly tooth, or extract the tooth altogether, although I was loathed to lose another tooth. Alas, there would be no dentist forthcoming.

The home cure was all that was left for me. I had heard of oil of cloves, but there did not seem to be any for sale locally. However, if it was an abscess under the tooth then it would take time to settle. Up until now, I had been taking Paracetamol to try and deaden the pain, but they were not cutting the mustard and I was starting to get stomach problems with all the tablets I was taking on top of an empty stomach, and I was still not sleeping well, if at all.

I went off to Superdrug, and rather than Paracetamol chose Neuofen, I also bought a large bottle of mouth wash with alcohol. Hoping the wash would clean the wound if sloshed around the mouth for a time, and the Neuofen would kill the pain. It worked and I was able to get a good few hours of sleep, magic.

I could not drink hot tea but found cold milk straight from the fridge fine, but I would really have to start eating, so I put on a pot of potatoes, mashed with butter and a little milk, turning them into a cream, I had no problem eating them and felt better with something in my stomach.

I can not see the NHS lasting another decade in this country, oh the name will still be there but Boris will have no problem introducing creeping privatisation. Today, I for one would have been happy to pay for dental treatment, whatever it cost. And if I ever need a hip or knee replacement, in the future would I care whether it was some private company that replaced it or would I rather wait for a couple of years for the NHS to do the job, no contest. The state that NHS Scotland is in today, will make privatisation an easy sell.  

Keep safe.    

 I have had one hell of a weekend, a rocking tooth has kept me awake and fasting all weekend. I went on the internet to find a dentist in St Andrews, the one up at the clinic said they take NHS patients and charge £7.50 per extraction. By this time I did not care how much it cost I needed dental treatment.

I walked the mile or so up to the clinic and no they only take patients who are registered with them. How do I register? Sorry, we are not taking any more on the register. Try ‘Smiles’ on South Street.

At smiles, no we only take people who are registers with us. But you can call this number – Dental Advice Line 01592 226 555

Back home and I phoned the number, sorry this number is unavailable, please leave a message and we will get back to you.

Back on the internet – NHS emergency dentists, call 111. (this is not an advice service it is a way for the NHS to keep you hanging on the line until you die of old age.)

I called 111 and was put in a queue, played silly music, interrupted by an electronic voice that told me

“We are sorry to keep you waiting all our service operators are busy – please stay on the line and we will get back to you as soon as possible. We know you have been waiting 10-20- 30- 40- 45 minutes but please stay on the line or you will lose your place in the queue.”

45 minutes later the lad came on the phone and told me to phone the Dental Advice Line on 01592 226 555 – despite me telling him I had already done so and that line is no longer operating he insisted I call that number. Then hung up.

We have no effective NHS service in Scotland any more, the only way to beat the system is to have a heart attack, otherwise suffer in silence.

Keep safe.    

The weather today was rather mirksome with the cloud base down to zero once more, but I did want to give my new bike a shack down, so I set out along the cycle track to Guardbridge, giving plenty of opportunities to play with all the buttons and leavers to find out what they all do, before I entered the road system proper. It rode well as a normal bike with very little drag from the motor, which I liked, for I do not intend to use the motor on normal rides or playing around on city streets pedestrian precincts or flat roads. No, I will save the battery for those long rides when legs start to get tired and hill increase in severity as the day wears on.

The trip over to Dundee was pretty painless although this is the main road and very busy, would have been better has I gone via Tayport, but that would have added a good few miles. I stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the rail bridge, but it was almost lost in the mirk so pressed on for the new V&A museum and Discovery, then using the pedestrian crossings to get me into the town centre, so far so good.

The good ship Discovery
The Dundee V&A (It is supposed to look like a sea cliff) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Then my dilemma, what to do with the bike. There was no way I was going to leave it outside if I entered a shop, other than in full view all the time, maybe best if I taken the bike to the railway station and stored it safely in one of the lockers,

Dundee Railway Station

but I did not have a padlock so that was out. It meant I had to choose my shops carefully. At the big charity shop where I always find a few DVDs, or books, I decided to wheel the bike nonchalantly into the shop. I did get a few strange looks from the staff, but no one suggested I could not bring my bike in. I’m sure when I approached the counter, having selected half a dozen DVDs from their massive collection, they were much happier about this strange lad with a, much smaller in appearance now, bike.

The Caird Hall Dundee.
Oor friends from the Beano.

Went the day well, I tried out all the different selections of assistance, and it certainly did make the pedals light, but again all I did was move up the gears so doing the same work and going faster, then momentum is a good thing on a bike. I liked the safety ideas too, lights and flashing indicators, although they are only safe if you remember to look behind you, before pulling out into the middle of the road, to show your intentions to turn right, even with the indicator flashing, (Life Saver)

“Oops, sorry mate, I didn’t see you”

And again, just before you finally commit. (Life Saver)

I enjoyed my day awheel, and I was please that the weather was much more to my liking.

Warning, now the heavy stuff.

“Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose, nothing left for me and Bobbie Mc…..” Can someone please explain to me “Freedom Day?”

How stupid are these people running the Westminster government, have they not been paying attention to the figures, deaths in the UK, the worst in Europe, and most of the other nations of the world, and rising? The number of people testing positive with coronavirus rising. The number of people self-isolating (or not) rising. Long covic, that we still do not understand the consequences off, rising. Children unvaccinated, so at risk of getting coronavirus, spreading coronavirus, suffering the long terms effects of long covic. Waiting lists for anything other emergencies stretching to eternity, and beyond, in the NHS.

I asked how stupid are these people…. Well, maybe not so stupid, for a country that is in chaos, will accept changes that they would not accept under normal circumstances. No one was held responsible for the death rate, the trashing of the economy. It was not bad management, not Brexit, no it was coronavirus. We have already seen cuts to foreign aid. Restrictions in pay rise, 1% (now 3%) offered to NHS workers (and Boris rolled out that old dear who gave them a gong) when inflation is at 2.5%, and of course you will be taxed on any increase. And as the waiting time in the NHS for routine operations grows longer, will England accept privatisation, US companies coming in and taking over services? Yes, of course, they will. And what about the other nations of the UK? They will just have to follow suit, for England holds the purse strings. Power devolved is power retained.

The only person in our community here at City Park that has an escape plan is a neighbour with a dual nationality passport, the UK and New Zealand. Me well, I will be keeping my mask on for a long time to come, and trying, to the best of my ability, to dodge the bullets.

Where the world is not on fire, it is being washed away in flash floods. Our seas, rivers and streams are polluted, with chemicals and plastic, to the detriment of us all. But do you hear anyone calling for a ban on plastic, promotional items, cheap plastic toys, plastic carrier bags, plastic packaging….. No, plastic is a money-spinner, and convenient. Its manufacture is also a high polluter, but we must compromise when it comes to company profits.

Global warming, we have known about for years, decades, how far have we travelled it tackling polluting cars, vans, lorries and buses? Manufacturers are always looking into the future and the next new product. Will that product be electric, or possible hydrogen vehicles, (or none) so do we have to wait for the money men to decide where to invest their money before anything is done?

The spokesperson for the WHO came on our screens, at the start of this pandemic and told us, without any ambiguity,

“No one is safe until everyone is safe”

I believe that is the message that should go out to all the people of the world and not only over this pandemic, but plastic pollution, global warming, poverty, illegal immigration, endless wars…….

“There are no problems in this world – only solutions” John Lennon. However the solutions must be global,

“No one is safe until everyone is safe”

Stay safe

I had been reading again Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, and now had my map spread out on the table marking off the towns and villages he has passed through on his journey, from Le Puy-en-Velay (where lentils come from) to sur-Gazeille. The original track is very much that, a track. But since that time roads have improved and I was looking at a route that could be cycled and running close to the original route taken by Stevenson.

When it has finally arrived.

There was a couple of times over the last months when I thought this day would never come.

On opening the box, I was all that I hoped it would be, ultra-light (for an e-bike), and all the equipment on this bike is well thought out and very good quality, even the hand grips will give comfort for miles upon mile.

Something that can not be overlooked when you can not move your hands around the bars, as you can on drop or butterfly bars.

Everything shouts quality

Of course I started immediately I pulled it from the box to assemble it, although there was little to be done. The pedals came separate, so spent a long time hinting for my 15mm pedal spanner to tighten the pedals. When altogether I hunted through all the boxes and packing to make sure I was not throwing anything out with the rubbish, guess what? A 15mm key, these guys have thought of everything. Even the little rack was able to take my 20L pannier bag, which carries all my spares and extra clothing. (make mental note to buy a tube for the new wheel size).

With the battery pack on charge I could not help myself, I took the bike our for a wee run, out as far as Strathkinness and back. The bike rode a treat, you soon get used to the feeling of sitting on the button of a ship mast, but the riding position is very leisurely, the balloon tyres soften the overburden of the roads, and you really do feel like you could ride a good few miles on this little gem.

What’s the snag, I hear you cry? Well quality does not come cheap, and now that they have moved production to Portugal, because Brexit had disrupted their supply chain, import tax, could be a problem for sales in the UK.

(I shall say no more about Brexit, or Boris Johnston, for I’m sure I am already being tracked by ‘Pegasus’ and all my e-mails are being passed on to MI5), an over-inflated belief in your own self importance there Hamilton.

So My first impression of this little bike has surpassed my expectations, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Now, what map shall I choose?

Keep safe.  

This is young ‘Percy’ 

s/he arrived in the garden in a cardboard box, carried there by two young students, where they found the young gull is anyone’s guess, possibly wandering in the middle of the road, that is where most of these young flightless birds come to a sticky end. I watched it for a few days, no parent came near, its chances of survival, were at best poor. With no parent to feed or teach the youngster, I did not fancy s/he’s chances of survival.

But after a month, and to my surprise, Percy was still wandering from one end of the garden to the other trying anything that might look edible, Percy stumped the growth of a few Lupins, but no real damage done, seems we have the only vegetarian gull in St Andrews.

Today I found a slice of Lorain sausage in the back of the fridge, a sausage sandwich would be nice I thought, but once cooked and I bit into the sandwich, well, it just did not taste right, I decided to forego sausage, and instead have boiled egg and toast for breakfast.

I was about to toss the sandwich in the bin when I spotted Percy outside the kitchen window. Whether attracted by my presence in the kitchen or the smell of cooking wafting through the open window I have no idea, but instead of chucking the sandwich in the bin I decided to chop up the sausage into ‘beak size’ pieces and tossed it out to Percy. Instantly Percy was alert and dashed forward to where the food had landed on the grass.

As this saga was being played out we had a watcher in the form of a young fully-fledged gull that had been on sentry duty, atop of a dormer window across the street, the young bird saw a potential meal, and swooped down to the garden and tried to bully young Percy from the prize. Well that ‘orphan of the storm’ must have been an extremely hungry youngster, for Percy tore into ‘Johnny come lately’ grabbing hold of her rump with such aggression that the young bird, twice the size of Percy, ran off, flapping madly trying to escape into the air. Finally she did, leaving behind a lot of squawking and not a few feathers,

I though – Percy my boy (or could be a girl), I think you are a survivor.   

I have built a couple of campervans and done a lot of work on wooden boats, but when I saw this van I was really impressed at the standard of craftsmanship, Though you might like it too.

Sorry I do not know how to upload the film sowing the interior, the workmanship is impressive.

 The morning was cool, I was out on the road early for I had an appointment at the optician at 9 am due to my reading

glasses’ loss, and I’m really lost without them now. I did buy a pair of magnifying glasses to tide me over but they are a poor substitute. The good news, it only took three girls and about an hour of my time for the test. The bad news, I collect my new glasses on the 1st August, ho-hum.

Yesterday, in St Andrews, it was hot, hot, hot. So hot in fact that opened the house up to the outdoors, and let the fresh air blow all the way thought. Sadly opening up the kitchen window to the wall not only let the cooling fresh air in,

I presented an open invitation for Mrs Gull to help herself to whatever took her fancy. The only thing edible was my loaf of bread,

I would not have minded, and gladly given her the odd slice of bread, if only my dinner guests, had more table manners.

When the heat goes out of the day, I will have to get the garden hose out once more. Almost a daily routine now, the plants in pots and tubs dry out at an alarming rate in this hot dry weather.

On the subject of weather, what a disastrous effect the weather is having on our planet, in America the fire season has started early, wildfires breaking out down the west coast, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. Same in Australia, if it is not brushfires its flash flooding. Now here in Europe, sadly with great loss of life. Modern European communities that over the centuries have used the best technology in the world to tame the rivers and sea, now find these flood defences are no match for natures fury. When you see the sea defences and dikes of Holland you wonder how they could ever have been breached.

In the East of England, (Norfolk) gave up on sea defences and simply allowed the tide to wash over the land. It is not as if we have not been warned often enough over the past 50 years, of my life, we have seen and been told by the experts what was likely to happen if we continued to ignore the warning signs. But governments are only in power for around a five years stretch, so simply kick the can down the road. And now that Maggie Thatcher has transformed our country from utility owners to private enterprise, they have the perfect scapegoat,

“Not our problem anymore”

Thankfully the EU is not a five-year term government, no matter the cost to the EU coffers it will be sorted this time around. If you thought the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow 2021 was going to be a dull affair, like all the others, talks about talks, they know it is too late for that now.

America is at a crossroads too. I see Biden is going ahead with allowing more drilling, are they really serious about global warming? A wise president would be talking about the opportunity for America to get back into the industrial game, manufacturing wind turbines, wave and tidal turbines, and all the infrastructure that will be required for a modern zero-carbon world. Yet, I read the other day that there has been a 25% increase in containers being landed in LA from China. Sorry America, no point shouting down China, and placing sanctions on that country when it is America that is simply taking the easy way out. Outsourcing.

“Don’t ask what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Importers such as Wall-Mart is making big bucks selling you cheap Chinese-made goods, and you are greedily buying up their flat-pack furnisher and cheap plastic toys that will be added to your landfill in six months and at what cost. Think about what that is doing to the home industry in America. And as the one-way traffic increases, where will the jobs be for young working-class America. (Well, you could try selling more arms around the world but even that trade is drying up.)

Before the world gets burned up – or washed away, I think I will take a walk down to the harbour.

Stay safe.  

 Thankfully we had the wind from off the North Sea, to cool things down a little, for there is a lot of heat in the day. My plans for a big knock down ride on my new bike did not happen, I take it that UPS have different days for different areas, yesterday was not their St Andrews delivery day, and I can not see them delivering over the weekend, boohoo.

During the 1960s, I went to the moves twice sometimes three times a week, there were lots of larger than life actors and actresses around at that time, the big names in the men were Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, They were almost in competition with one another. The girls, well, they were just too numerous to list. But there was one up and coming star that just had my attention at the time, and that was Faye Dunaway.

I was up the street yesterday and popped into the charity shop in the passing. I always look over the books, the LP records, to see if there are any covers from the early days that would adorn my walls. So much of this art on LP covers just appealed to me. Then finally the DVDs, with all the charity shops closed for such a long time much of their stock is new to me. Jumping off the shelf at me were two classics from the 1960s “The Thomas Crown Affair”, starring Steve McQueen and the gorgeous and talented Faye Dunaway.

I could not get it home quickly enough and played it that evening. Two lovers, that are also two adversaries, cat and mouse play throughout.

The wardrobe of Dunaway was very outrageous 1960, the hats, and that dress she wore when they played chess or were they really playing chess? Did absolutely nothing for her, and possibly why it worked.

Where did you get the dress?

The scene, play chess, was a masterclass, silent cutting close-ups, the finger touching her lips, evocative. Running a finger up her arm and over her bare shoulder. Then quickly panning to a close up of McQueen, losing concentration in the game, well, at least the game of chess. He stands up and comes over to where she is sitting.

“Oh, there’re going ta da’ it, they will have to get married noo”

I loved how in these films, they did not start ripping each other’s clothes off and naked as Jaybirds start romping away in bed. Now we had the swirling a kaleidoscope of colour swirling over the screen, our imaginations did the rest.

The theme song and theme music “Windmills of Your Mind” sticks in your mind long after the film ends and sets the scene for the choreography of the gliders aerobatics, and the swirling romance and intrigue of the plot. The soundtrack was perfect for the film, that crescendo of notes up and down the keys of the piano, was the perfect link, for the cutting back and forth of scenes.

Then every boys dream the ‘beach buggy’ ride,

A fast car and a fast lady in the passenger seat. There were lots of kit cars around at that time and of course beach buggy kits, but you would have to have deep pockets and a lot of skill to build this one for yourself. This was no VW beetle, with a plastic body, bolted on top, this was the real deal, Porsche engine, wide wheels and all the chrome mod cons money could buy. The noise from the engine fill the hall and sent excitement all the way up your spine, this was classic Norman Jewison directs.

The other DVD I bought was “Chinatown” again co-starring Faye Dunaway alongside the great Jack Nicholson, an atmospheric film noir, that I will keep for efter,

“I wish it was efter”

I planted some corms in early spring, they were called, Brodiaea, I had no idea what they looked like but they did finally arrive at the surface, looking not unlike grass, they then promptly keeled over and looked for all the world as if they had all died off.

Internet to the rescue, seems there is hope for them still,

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.

Brodiaea grass-like leaves appear in spring and then fade away when the flowers appear in late spring and early summer. You’ll want to plan for this when thinking about where to place them in your garden. The overall height is about 15-20”.

Queen Fabiola’s blue-violet flowers are borne in clusters, with individual flowers opening continuously for a month or more. This extends the bloom time and also makes Brodiaea an excellent cut flower. Bees and butterflies love them, too.

Keep safe.

 Home by midday and it would seem I have had the best of the weather, the cloud started bubbling up as I entered Cupar and chased me all the way home, still it might come to nothing, then again, if it does may help clear the air.

It’s that Hamilton again, oot wi that garden hose of his, I saw him ma’sel’ last night, a kent it would bring on the rain, there should be a law against it, hanging too good for him.

Coming up past the recycling bins I spotted a large cup and saucer, clearly a planter. I had been left beside the bin rather than dumped inside the landfill bin, someone thought it too good to be in the landfill – someone might make use of it. I dumped the bike at City Park and walked back to fetch it. Once home, it was out with the kitchen cleaner and a scouring pad and give it the once over.

Seems that the decoration is only a stick-on transfer, so I think I will unstick what remains of the transfer and paint nice stylized flowers all over it, Van Goch, eat your heart out.

Oh no, not more bloody roses, yes but this one is a bit special.

My iScot magazine arrived, as ever Robbie Dinwiddie, excels himself, did you know he is also a talented artist? No neither did I.

Today, on my return and over breakfast, continued my reading. Now I really never took much notice or interest in the trans debate, which has now turned into a right stooshie that could tear the independent movement apart, why it has come to this I have no idea. In iScot we have James Kelly’s take on the situation it is clear and unambiguous,

“If you think “Trans women are women”, you’re likely to have given both votes to the SNP and to be happy with a leisurely timetable, or no timetable at all, for an indyref2. But if you hold gender-critical views and oppose self-identification for trans people you’re much more likely to have thrown in your lot with Alba.”

Then Jason Michael McCann,

“What has Gilead to do with Bethel?”

His take on the quandary is much more a philosophical exercise but comes to the concussion, be you Gilead or Bethel. A house divided cannot stand.

Me, I know nothing, but seems to me that an offal lot of people have gotten the knickers in a twist about something that has little or nothing to do with a Scottish independence debate.

And at last, my ultra-lightweight, carbon fibre, folding bike, will soon be with me, according to UPS. What a saga, this has been. I wanted a very light folding bike to give me much more flexibility. Many of the historical places I wish to visit are too far for a bike journey alone and in a day, or outwith the main towns and cities. I can not take my grown-up bike on anything other than the big intercity buses, so even going to Dundee or Broughty Ferry would be impossible, (local buses). When I wished to go over to Stirling Castle I went onto Stagecoach planner, it is more than a four-hour journey from here and I do not know if I can get there without going on local buses. I tried from Dundee, no direct bus, change at Perth, change at Crieff then on to Stirling.

What about a direct bus from Edinburgh, nope it will take you to Perth where you will change for Crieff then onto Stirling. Then surly from Dunfermline, just across the country to Stirling – only 22 miles, nope, you have to go to Perth and yes, you are already ahead of me. This is where the lightweight folding bike comes into its own.

I expect delivery tomorrow so I can start planning for a trip out on Friday and this weekend, make hay whilst the sun shines. I am looking at the bus to Kincardine, then cycle back into Dunfermline. Visiting again Culross, and Dunfermline Abbeys, lots to see. Then the Glasgow bus home from Dunfermline sounds like a plan.

With a bit of luck, I may be able to find a small girl or boy (around 7 or 8 years of age) to give me a lesson on how to set up my Edge Explore, that way I can download all those little graphics and data for you to peruse, I know how some like all that stuff. I really bought it for my fore coming trip to Europe, keeping me on the right road, and navigating my way through large European cities should have the hang of it by then.

Stay safe.

Toady I thought I would do something different, I would actually go inside St Andrews Castle,

I have passed it often enough and, read reams on the castle over the years. Sadly there is not a lot left of what would have been a most impressive castled, it really is a rune, perched high above the North Sea, looking down on Castle Sands.

A castle has stood here since the time of Bishop Roger (1189 – 1202) the son of the Earl of Leicester. It was the home of the Bishops whilst St Andrews was the ecclesiastical center of Scotland, in the years before the Reformation.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence, the castle was raised to the ground, it was rebuilt and destroyed sever times as it changed hands between the English and the Scots. It was occupied by Edward 1st of England in 1303 after the sack of Berwick, 11 years later after the Battle of Bannockburn, the castle once more fell into Scottish hands and repaired by Bishop William Lamberton, Guardian of Scotland. Lamberton was a loyal supporter of King Robert the Bruce.

In 1330 it was once more in the hands of the English, who reinforced the defenses in 1336,

But despite this, the castle fell once more to the Scots in a siege lasting three weeks, under the leadership of Sir Andrew Moray, Regent of Scotland in the absence of David 11. fearing the English would once more take control of the castle and use it as a stronghold, it was destroyed by the Scots in 1336-37. years later Bishop Walter Trail, set about rebuilding the castle, completing the work in around 1400, he died within its wall in 1401.

After this time many Bishops and Kings spent time here. Including James the 1st of Scotland 1406 – 1437, receiving part of his education from Bishop Henry Wardlaw (founder of St Andrews University, in 1410).

later Bishop James Kennedy was in residence, he was an advisor to James 11nd of Scotland (1437 – 1460).

and in 1445 became the birthplace of James 11 of Scotland

like all castle it had its dungeon but the one in the castle of St Andrew was notorious the Bottle Dungeon. A dark airless pit cut deep into the solid rock and shaped like a bottle, once inside there was no escape. Other than the lawless of the community, there were the noteworthy such as David Stuart, Duke of Rothesay in 1402. Duke Murdoch in 1425, and Archbishop Patrick Graham – judged to be insane and imprisoned in his own castle in 1478

During the Scottish Reformation, the castle became a centre of religious persecution. John Knox referring to the bottle dungeon wrote,

“Many of God’s Children were imprisoned here.”

James Beaton, then Archbishop of Glasgow became Bishop of St Andrews in 1521 and took up residence in the castle.

Beaton altered the defenses to enable the castle to withstand a heavy artillery attack, as tension grew between English Protestants and Scottish Catholics. In 1538 James Beaton was succeeded by his ambitious and wealthy nephew, Cardinal David Beaton.

It was he who put up strong opposition to the marriage between Mary Queen of Scots, and Prince Edward (later King Edward 5th of England) Edward was the some and heir of Henry 8th of England, this helped spark a new round of fighting in 1544.

This was a terrible time in Scottish history, Protestants were seen as enemies of the state, and in 1546 David Beaton imprisoned the Protestant preacher George Wishart (1513 – 1546) in the Sea Tower, then had him burned at the stake in front of the castle wall.

In response some of Wishart’s friends gained entry to the castle dressed as stone masons, they overcame the guards and seized Cardinal Beaton, and hung him from the walls of the Castle stuffed his mutilated body into a barrel of brine and lowered it into the bottle dungeon.

The Protestants then took refuge in the castle and formed the first Protestant congregation in Scotland.

A siege was ordered by the Scottish Regent, James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran. Today you can still see the mine cut through solid rock by the attackers, and a second tunnel cut by the defenders. During the armistice in April 1547, John Knox entered the cattle and served as the garrison’s preacher for the remainder of the siege.

The end came when the French arrived with their Italian engineer, Leone Strozzi who directed a devastating artillery bombardment to dislodge the Protestants from the castle. One of the largest Scottish canons was called “Thrawynmouthe” and it was said by Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie that the bombardment rendered the castle undependable in only six hours. The defeated Protestants were taken, some to France others like Knox condemned to the galleys.

Again the battered castle was rebuilt by Archbishop John Hamilton, the legitimate brother of Regent Arran. The castle was then occupied by the Constables Parliament after the death of Archbishop Hamilton in 1571. and separated from the church in 1606, later granted to the Earl of Dunbar, constable since 1603 – 1612. by 1689 the Reformation of Scotland was complete and the office of bishop was finally abolished. Deprived of any real use the castle quickly fell into ruin. By 1656 the castle fabric was so bad that the council ordered the materials to be used in the repair of the pier.

All that remains of this once great castle is the south wall enclosing a square tower, the bottle dungeon, a kitchen tower, and the underground mine and counter-mine. (the mines were closed to visitors because of coronavirus.)

On my way home along South Street I took a couple of pictures on the evergreen Oak in the grounds of the science labs.

Stay safe.   

Al-Jazeera, like RT, do some great half-hour programmes dedicated to one subject, today on Portal (Al-Jazeera) it was US Guns. People killed by guns in America, the figures are staggering, 20,000 last year alone. Automatic Assault Rifles accounted for one-quarter of that number. More guns than people now in America, and it is growing daily.

From the 1950s and 1960 – black people came onto the streets in great numbers protesting the inequality between Black and White Americas. We all saw it on our televisions, even as recently as Black Lives Matter. Well guess what, the largest number of Americans now buying guns are Black, what does that tell you.

An American (I believe he was a Senator) came on television and told the American people

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”

Lock them all up in prison, then the guns will be off the street. Does that make sense to anyone?

The big change and proliferation of guns on the streets of America came at a time when the laws were relaxed and guns moved from Sport to Protection in the home. It sold a lot of guns, and maybe that was why it was introduced – the gun lobby is strong in America, guns are big business.

There are organisations like BRAG and Guns Down Life Up, that are trying to change the minds of young black men (mainly men) away from carrying guns. But to my mind, this is a band-aid on a gaping wound.

Why are young black Americans joining gangs, and carrying guns, well go back to the 1950s and 1960 when we had peaceful protest by black people, the writing was on the wall in big bold letters, but the powers choose to ignore the warning signs. Sow a wind, reap a whirlwind.

The generation that went before me had 100 platitudes and biblical sayings for every occasion. One was

“The devil finds work for idol hands”

Is this not the crux or the matter? I’m sure most Black American families want what every other family wants a good education and good prospects for a better life. Why not give them that opportunity, you could start by making college free to all, then poverty would not be a barrier to getting on in life. Some may not be able to take that road out of poverty, so others must be found, surely genuine job programmes (give the local councils more money to improve the local area, and local amenities, but make the jobs real jobs) that, I’m sure will be much cheaper than locking men up in prison, which can so easily become the university of crime and leaving victims no better off. (and the cost of policing and the justice system that proceeds it). Then maybe I’m just a dreamer.

Well, must go and rescue my clothes from the dryer, then maybe think about a wee run down to Anstruther, haven’t been there for a while.

Keep safe.

We are now living in a dangerous world. The morning is very quiet and a bit dull but the cloud base was high so it will be a fine day I’m sure. The house looks like a bomb had hit it, discarded clothing lying everywhere, so will need an hour of my time. The garden too is needing my attention, dead-heading of roses and the welcome rain has brought with it the much less welcome weeds.

Weeds, free for the pick.

No matter the rain the pots and tubs always dry out and require watering on a regular basis. We waited so long for the summer to come, now it almost over and the flowers having fulfilled the reason for their being now are passing at a fast pace indeed. Still whilst they are with us they certainly have brightened up our lives.

There is a theory that says, Governments want turmoil in society, the more the merrier, Brexit, coronavirus is right up their street. for a society that is in deep trouble feels variable, people become scared. Scared for their safety, their jobs, a roof over their head, therefore will be reluctant to change horses in midstream, so the government is safe, no matter how corrupt they are, or how they may be working against the good of that society. The voter will keep voting for them, believing, better the devil they know. This keeps corrupt governments in power no matter what they impose on society. ID cards, high unemployment, high taxes, the people will accept any change without question. Changes can be imposed now that they would not have been acceptable in “normal” times. And we can see that in real-time now with this Johnston government. Our world, at present, had become a very dangerous place.

 The cloud was down at zero when I left for Ceres, but as we neared Pitscottie the mirk lifted and black clouds rolled in but came to nothing. I was a little early so had to wait for the rest of the party to arrive. The guided tour was very much shepherded around with a guide for each section, being deaf, I heard little of what was being said, so had time to examine in detail the craftsmanship of around the place. An Edwardian house will have large floor to ceiling windows, designed that way to bring in as much light as possible into the rooms. To stop sunshine streaming into Hill of Tarvit, the NTS has installed fine mesh over all the windows to stop sunlight fading the fabric of the building so it is a bit gloomy inside making it difficult to see any real detail and certainly the paintings are only wall decoration now, the subject matter obscured in darkness.

Again like Falkland Palace there were many large tapestries, and like the palace much of the colour had been bleached out of them.

The plasterwork of the ceilings was first class, with domed centres in the larger rooms to amplify the sound and cast it around the around the room. Apart for the private collection of porcelain, bronze and ivory, housed in specially constructed display cases, the trapping of the house were modest, all the clutter that we associate with Victorian homes has been swept away and replaced with a much more simple elegance of design. I would have loved to be able to wander freely through the building without the tour guild shuffling you along, from room to room and out the door.

Still the tour of this fine house was a joy, the luxurious apartments of the Sharp family, is no money spared personified. Truly breathtaking, is the craftsmanship on display here.

I did manage to dilly dally and take a few pictures in the bedrooms, but this would be impossible in other parts of the house. So lots of bedrooms and toilets shots only. But you get the feel of that simple elegance that I was talking about earlier.

I

Same room
My lady’s chamber

Yet another bedroom
The height of luxury for its time.
“Hey, someone’s put two dummies in here”.

I set off for home, back the way I had come. As I entered Ceres the rain came down heavy so I quickly pulled on my cycling cape. The rain eased on the way down into Pitscottie and by the time I reached Morton of Blebo the roads were bone dry, if I had left 15 minutes either side of the time I did leave, I would have been home in the dry all the way.

Hill of Tarvit takes its name from the hill on which it sits, and is owned and operated by the National Trust for Scotland. This Edwardian style home is set high on the south-facing side of Hill of Tarvit which itself lies just south of the town of Cupar, and near to the little village of Ceres. The grounds in which it sits are made up of 40 acres of garden and 279 acres of open estate, which includes woodland, parkland and farmland. A walk to the summit of Hill of Tarvit (behind the house) will reward you with a spectacular view in every direction and well worth the short walk to the top, for this alone. However, the site dates back to at least the Iron Age. The remains of a homestead were excavated in 1946–1947 at the top of Tarvit Hill. During the excavation, an elaborate circular wooden house of about 17 m in diameter was found, it was within an oval bank which enclosed an area of 33×27m. The house is thought to have been occupied between 200 BC and AD 200 and rebuilt at least twice in that period

In 1905 and 1906 the house and gardens had a makeover by the renowned Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer. His design for the house incorporated furnisher in the style of Chippendale and French furnisher then in vogue at that time. The paintings and fine porcelain were collected by F B Sharp.

Frederick Bower Sharp make his fortune in the jute industry, having large factories in Dundee just over the river Tay from his home in Fife. He was reputed to have sold sandbags to both sides in the American Civil War. Sharp added venture capital and rail transport to his business empire. Frederick, needed a home close to his factory in Dundee but also to St Andrews golf club, golf being a passion of his. He also required accommodation for his extensive collection of porcelain, paintings and tapestries. Sharp chose Wemyss Hall, (renamed Hill of Tarvit) of modest size and did not suit Frederick’s requirements, so he engaged the architect Sir Robert Lorimer (a name you will hear again later when I visit Kelly Castle, for it was Lorimer that did extensive work there) to rebuild it, in the form we see today. Replacing the main block of the house but retaining the service wings. No expense was spared, including electricity, an internal telephone system, and central heating. In 1924 Sharp added the 9-hole golf course to the south of the house, and still in use today.

Frederick’s wife Beatrice White was born in 1864 at Castle Huntly, she was the fifth child of James Farquhar White, who amassed his fortune, trading with America in jute, linen and other ‘dry goods’. They married in 1896, so late in life. Beatrice’s sister (Eleanor) had already married Frederick’s older brother, John Sharp, in 1886. Beatrice’s elder brother, Martin White became a liberal MP. The families kept their money well protected by keeping it in the family and the families were clearly not short of a bob or two.

Martin along with his father had installed electricity at their house, Balruddery, in 1881, possibly the first house in Scotland and second in Britain after Cragside to have a domestic electrical generating plant (though Lord Kelvin at Largs had installed electricity earlier using batteries). Beatrice was thus well-equipped to partner Frederick in the modernisation of Hill of Tarvit and her house-keeping and hospitality was always considered exemplary.

It amused me to think that all newcomers to the house were taken on an excursion of the generating plant (whether they wished it or not). Sorry, just the way my mind works.

Hugh Sharp (born 1897), Frederick and Beatrice’s first child and only son, inherited the house on his father’s death in 1932. Hugh served with distinction during the 1914 -1918 war.

His particular interests were rare books, and botanical specimens (many of which can still be seen in the gardens). In 1937, Hugh was travelling by rail to meet his fiancée Mabel Hogarth in Glasgow. He was one of 35 people killed when the Glasgow-Edinburgh express collided with a stationary train at Castlecary. His mother Beatrice continued to live at Hill of Tarvit until her death in 1946. Two years later, on the death of his sister Elizabeth, born 1909, (died young what would she be 39) the house and the family’s collection was left to the National Trust for Scotland, with a sizeable endowment for upkeep. Hugh’s book collection was presented to the National Library of Scotland.

(The National Trust for Scotland were offered many stately homes and castles in Scotland but would only take them on if they came with a large endowment for their upkeep.)

Stay safe.

The cloud base was havering around fifteen hundred feet when I set out for Hill of Tarvit. I had journeyed all the way out on the A 91 as far as Cupar then a short spell on the A914 before turning onto the A916 and the long steep climb all the way up to Hill of Tarvit. At something close to 2000 meters. The cloud had lifted a bit but you could not see the summit, so no point in climbing up there today, unless all you wanted to do was say you had been there. I had arrived at the entrance at 10 minutes after 11 o’clock according to my new Garmin Edge Explore GPS, which according to the instructions, it should have given me an altitude reading, but since I am still not sure how to work it, it didn’t.

At the door of the house I rang the bell and when a lady appeared I told her who I was and that I had booked a visit in online.

“But we are closed today” she told me.

The second question I asked sealed my fate,

“Is Kelly Castle open today, do you know?” the answer was yes it is.

“Would you do me a kindness and check whether I am booked in for a visit here tomorrow?” off she went and on her return, confirmed that I was at 12 o’clock.

Drat and double drat, I had mixed the two-places, I should have been at Kelly Castle today and Hill of Tarvit tomorrow.

However the day was not a total loss for I was able to visit the grounds, which are extensive. I met with the gardener on my perambulation of the gardens, he told me he was in a gang of one but did say that he gets help from the gardeners at Kelly Castle and in the summer months they have students volunteering.

The strong smell of summer flowers was overpowering

The first thing you notice is the mature trees they are huge.

I then went on to visit the laundry,

it was locked up but looking through the window you could see the tables and irons (that would have had to be heated) and the clothes drying cabinet for when clothes could not be hung outside. If anything freed women from the drudgery of wash day, that something must be the modern automatic washing machine.

Then onto the stables,

And on my way back to my bike, a well with beautiful ornamental blacksmith work to hold the pulley block.

Wishing Well
The house as seen from the tennis lawn
Cat in Residence
The house looks gorgeous from any angle.

Homeward bound, in Ceres, rather than drop straight down to Pitscottie, I climbed all the way up to Baldinnie before the long weeeeeeeeeeeee, all the way down into Pitscottie, for no outer reason than just a bit of fun. Then home on the B393, which was into a headwind all the way, the weather forecast said 8 mph but on tired legs if felt like double that.

I plugged the computer into my laptop when I returned home to re-charge the battery and it said I had done 27.8 miles and climbed 1427.5 ft which I would guess to be about right. Tomorrow I will do it all again, this time to see inside the house, and I know it will be open to me this time around.

Keep safe.  

 Thursday once more, and the sun is splitting the skies, another warm one, but at least we have lost some of the mugginess. It’s a funny thing you know when I have put in a bit of exercise during the week, I do not feel tired at all, in fact, quite the opposite I feel alive. If I sit around reading, or whatever, I am falling asleep in front of the television by 9 o’clock in the evening. Yesterday was an alive day, and by the time I did make it to my bed, I still felt the buzz from the day’s adventure. Slept late so missed the Alex Salmond show must try and pick it up later in the day. I put the kettle on for breakfast and noticed the strong smell of onions from the bin so set off to empty it. Passing the roses I noted that many needed dead-heading so popped the bucket down and returned to get the secateurs, this lead to cutting out the runners on the strawberries and…… where did all the time go?

I set out to replenish Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, the town was remarkably quiet, it was a pleasure to be out in town. I don’t normally buy The The national newspaper now, preferring the Guardian far better, and more balanced views of what is going on in the country. However today Lesley Riddock was firmly displayed on the front cover of The National with the headlines “Indyref2 must be held in 2022” so two papers to read today.

I not only like Lesley’s casual style of writing, but the girl seems to have her finger on the pulse of Scottish politics. Today however I felt she was more ‘travelling hopefully’ than hopeful. I believe she is underestimating the shock wave that ran through the SNP party when the Alba Party arrived on the scene, far too many staunch supporters of the SNP have become disillusioned with her wheeshed on indiref2, I’m concentrating on Covid -19. Sadly for Nicola the crutch of Covid-19 is looking more and more like her playing the old soldier, it is well documented now that Covid -19 will be with us for many, many years to come, we are somehow going to have to live with it.

Lesley is asking the SNP branch members to act and push the leadership into declaring a fixed date for a referendum on independence, I think they would be wise to follow her advice, and for the SNP leadership to get their ducks in a line. Some believe that the SNP have nothing to fear from Alba, after all, only polled a very small percentage of the vote, and won not a seat at the Scottish Elections. However for a party that had only come into existence weeks before the election to poll in the numbers it did was something remarkable in its self, and if Boris goes to the country early as he is predicted to do, what then for the SNP at Westminster? Take comfort in the fact that alba only won a token number of votes, if you like, but remember, Nigel Farage was never elected to a seat in the Commons, or won a bi-election, but his influence went right to the heart of the Brexit debate and some will argue turned the tables on Cameron to call a referendum on Brexit, why? Farage like Alex Salmond in Scotland had his finger on the pulse of English politics. Nicola would be wise to better judge the mood of the Scottish people, ignore them at your peril.

I did not go far on the bike today, but I feel I have to make the effort, in fact, the morning ride has become addictive. Tomorrow I will be riding over to Hill of Tarvit, another of the National Trust for Scotland properties. It has been closed during the coronavirus pandemic, now open two days a week, but you have to book in advance. I booked this along with Kellie Castle, open on Saturday, at the same time but when I came to download I chose the wrong download, I chose electronic which it would seem is for Smartphones and of course, the office printer would not accept the information, so no proof that I had booked. Thankfully when I was over at Falkland Palace yesterday I noted that they have you listed in a book and score your name out when you arrive. I travel hopefully that Hill of Tarvit, use the same system, or the gardens, golf course and a walk to the summit of Hill of Tarvit, will be all that is open to me.

Hill of Tarvit is a mansion house with extensive gardens (including a 9 hole golf course) the building dates from 1696 but was extensively expanded in 1904, From what I have seen of it from afar it is a beautiful Edwardian stately home reputed to be stuffed full of Chinese porcelain and Raeburn paintings, looking forward to seeing inside this beautiful house.

Finally, I did get to hear the Alex Salmond show, this week it was trying to get to the bottom of the politics of Northern Ireland, for me they may as well have been talking about the dark side of the moon, I don’t think anyone will be able to get to the bottom of Northern Irish politics.

The Staunch Unionist, dedicated Brexiteer, and Labour member of the house of Lords, (Hoey) was up first and is still as much stuck in her ways and thoughts as she has always been over Northern Ireland so we learned very little from her except NI is British, and it is all the fault of the EU, they are using NI to punish the UK for Brexit, Boris must love her.

Then came Mick Fealty (a respected professional blogger on Irish affairs), he told us that when the censors is published, he believes you will find that, for the first time, there will be fewer Roman Catholics in NI than protestants. What he sees as the big change in the political landscape of NI is the 20% in the middle – not protestant not Roman Catholic no real religious leanings and not Nationalist and not Unionists. He believes they will ring in the changes in NI. He said that NI has at present the best of both worlds, able to trade freely with the EU and the UK (apart from a few exempt goods), so he sees real hope for NI. Me I’m still confused, then a lot of things confuse me these days.

Stay safe.  

I had booked in for a tour of Falkland Palace, scheduled for 1 o’clock, the morning skies were not looking their best, big black clouds bubbling up, and threatening rain at any minute. To save my wee legs I took the bus over to Cupar, and cycled from there over out on the 91 climbing out of Cupar then left at Melville Lodge for Ladybank, I was now on the A92 and boy was it busy, in hindsight maybe I should have turned off at Bow of Fife and meandered in the back door. Then “lid of metal, what’s inside the Kingskettle”. Under the railway bridge and out onto the Freuchie road.

There was once a gasworks just along here, big Ian was one of the men that worked there. Ian liked his bed, and it would have taken a bomb blast to get him out of it in the morning. When he was on an early shift, he was never at work on time and so well known for this, that when the pressure of the mains gas started to drop, to a point that it would not boil a kettle, one of the villagers would go around to Ian’s home and chap him up, and get him off to work. Big Ian just laughed it off, he would simply jumped on his old, sit up and beg bike, and pedalled off along to the road to the gas works and started loading up the oven and the fire below it. The world was full of such characters as Big Ian then.

The cloud had been lifting all morning so by the time I had reached Falkland, it was a beautiful day, although still a bit muggy.

The palace dominates as soon as you enter the village, and cannot help but impress the visitor on their arrival.

Anyone who has visited France and who have seen Renaissance architecture at its finest, will immediately recognise this style of building, in it a French château in miniature.

I was early by half an hour so it was suggested that I visit the gardens first, before a tour of the palace. As I walked the grounds I saw an elderly man edging the lawn, he told me there were only three permanent staff and eight volunteers to run the show, they are certainly doing a fine job for the grounds are extensive.

Entering the Palace the first thing that strikes you is how small and cosy it is compared with many grand houses and castles, then again it was only built as a hunting lodge, not a permanent home.

The little chapel was a bit special, the little organ, the beautiful painted ceiling, and oak everywhere. The stained glass windows depict the coats of arms of the kings, and Queens including Mary and her mother the queen.

The tapestry Gallery came next, faded now, they must have been so rich and vibrant in their day. Again oak everywhere, with magnificent carved doors and ornamentation of the chairs.

The King’s bedroom was closed (where James V died) but the Queen’s bedroom was open to the visitors, and again it was big, but not overly big – cosy. In it was (I think it was a replica) of the dress and knee-length breeches that Mary wore to play tennis in. it was stunning and the needlework was so fine it must have taken an age to make. It was said that the wearing of such attire by a woman was scandalous. (Anyone holding that view had not visited Anet, the home of Diane de Poitiers and attended one of her legionary pageants.)

I visited the Royal Tennis Court, a game that seemed to be a cross between lawn tennis and squash, where the ball can be plaid against the wall and along the roof of the court. The long viewing gallery is open to the world, and the home of many house martins, and why there are all the paper lined basins along the wall.

I spent my allotted two hours, in the house and gardens, you could easily spend that again, if you had a picnic basket full of goodies and a bottle or two of wine, Falkland Palace would make a grand day out.

My return Journey was via Kettlebridge the A914 not only did it prove to be much quicker it was also much quieter since there are many little villages along the way to slow the traffic down. Crossing the railway bridge into Cupar proper, the bus from St Andrews to Edinburgh was at the stance (going in the opposite direction) so I abandon cycling home and stopped at the bus stop and enjoyed the ride home in the bus. A very pleasant day out.

Reversed Robin Hood Syndrome.

I see that another car company, Vauxhall, is willing to help us towards our target of zero emissions, by ‘?’ These car manufacturers are now wishing to diversify from making diesel and petrol vehicles to making electric vehicles, and yes again, following on from Nissan, another a one billion-pound investment has been mentioned in as many days.

The Japanese carmaker (Nissan) will build its new-generation all-electric model at the site as part of a £1bn investment. And Nissan’s partner, Envision AESC, will build an electric battery plant. Of the £1bn investment, Nissan said it would invest up to £423m to produce a new-generation all-electric vehicle in the UK, building on the success of its existing electric car, the Leaf. (the keywords for me were – up to £423m.)

And again good old Boris (Santa Clause) Johnston, will be doing his bit by putting in taxpayers money to help them with the diversification. How much and on what terms, well that is all commercially sensitive material, we can’t tell you that. So the taxpayer will never really know how much of their money will be giving away to a private company, or on what terms, fair enough.

Stellaris declined to reveal the size of government subsidies it had secured.

Paul Willcox, Vauxhall’s managing director, said the investment was on a “knife-edge” before securing government support, and that it was “never a given”.

If we hadn’t got the government support I doubt we would be sitting here today with a positive announcement,” he said. “Having clarity on the trading conditions in Europe was very important as well.”

Now I have no problem with the government subsidising a company to keep people in employment, however, before, when we did that, it was either a nationalised company or we bought shares in the company (Royal Bank of Scotland – which they should have let go to the wall, throwing good money after bad.) now we just hand money to private companies, no questions asked.

Oh, while you have your purse open Boris, there are a few businesses in Scotland crying out to give a hand out McVitie’s in Glasgow, BiFab ……….

As for the media – well they will always dance to the Tory government’s tune, you would not wish for them to be excluded from any government press announcements or press releases, after all, we need to know what MPs are doing in our name, don’t we?

So it doe’s not look as if ‘ We the People’ will be getting a share of this brave new world of zero emissions, be that wind, wave, or e-cars, sorry but that can only be done through private investment (oh, and large subsidies from the taxpayer.) I think it is called Reversed Robin Hood Syndrome.      

Stay safe.

 There has been a dramatic change in the weather here in St Andrews, a dullness has descended over the town, and it did rain rather heavily, but like Camelot, it was only allowed to rain overnight. It is good to see the earth dark after the rain and the plants stand as erect as toy soldiers.

After the Monday chores I settled in with Antonia Fraser’s book ‘Mary Queen of Scots’

A book that I’m sure will take me the remainder of the year to finish, for it is so full of detail I keep running off to find maps of France or the internet to translate some of the French and Latin, or find out more about somewhere along the young queen’s journey.

I visited many of the places associated with Mary over the years and read the notices that tells us that “Mary slept here” or planted a tree here or….. and like Bruce’s caves (doted all over Scotland) all with their obligatory spider’s story, most are pure fiction. And Antonia with her careful research, has blows many such myths about Mary apart too. Also by reading the letters of those around Mary at the time we get a far better picture of how Scottish history at that time was so interwoven with the politics of the day, so we can understand better how such stories, started and grow into fact.

I have cycled extensively in Basse Normandie and Bretagne and have visited the little chapel that marks the spot where Mary was reputed to have come ashore in Roscoff, the pamphlet I read at the time stated that ‘it is believed that Mary herself commissioned the building of the church to mark the occasion’ but again I find out that this too is possibly incorrect, then again, you must have a story to tell to the tourists.

Then there are the surprises that come by coincident throughout the book. Like how 200 years after Mary stepped ashore at Roscoff – and no there is no footprint in the rocks, that also is just a nice wee story, sorry. We find that Prince Charles Edward Stuart, arrived at that very same small fishing village, after Culloden. Two hundred years, of war and upheaval and going all the way back to Wallace before that. Maybe Culloden was not such a bad thing for Scotland after all. OK, it turned Scotland into a vassal state, for a while, (but still an independent nation) with English garrisons throughout the land, and the New Town of Edinburgh said it all “We won”. But at least it ended the reign of the feuding bickering Warlords and constant wars with England. It also ended the power that the Catholic Church had over the lands. (at the eve of the reformation the Church revenue was £300,000, whereas the royal lands only brought in £17,500). So Knox was right to call them out, as a ‘greedy pack’. The clergy had grown fat, literally, off the land, whilst the people starved.

“That which you do unto the least of my brethren, you do unto me” The idea of their pastoral mission seems to have been lost in translation along the way.

St Andrews castle was the home of Cardinal Beaton, one of the most powerful men in Scotland, still being a Roman Catholic Cardinal did not stop him have an open relationship with at least one mistress. The RC church was so corrupt and far too close to the seat of power.

(although I do believe he would have made a better leader and diplomat for Scotland, at that time, than an infant queen, and all those that were trying to use her to grab control over Scotland.)

The spell was broken at the coming of the reformers – no need to give your lands and wealth to the church to have prayers said for you from now to eternity – easy to see why many thought,

If that’s the case, I want my land back”.

Many blame religion for all the wars and evil that has gone on down through the ages, but it was not a religion but those men of the cloth that used religion for their own ends.

True to his word the president moved all the US troops out of Afghanistan as promised, I did not think the people on The Hill would allow him to do so. Sad that they left like a thief in the night. On Channel 4 News tonight, we heard that the Taliban have recaptured two-thirds of the country already, including one of the US main bases and all the munitions therein, cases and cases of modern guns and ammunition. The Afghan army soldiers fled across the border – seems they are not willing to fight a civil war with their countrymen. Echoes of their departure from Vietnam – leaving behind chaos. 20 years – trillions of dollars – and hundreds of thousands dead, for what?

“I like the smell of nay-pone in the morning – smells like – Victory.”

My bike did not arrive today as promised, boohoo, they now say tomorrow. Anyway, the weather forecast is crap for tomorrow, don’t want to get it all wet and dirty on the first day anyway do we.

Keep safe.

Scotland may follow Bougainville’s lead in SNP quest for independence Laurie Smith, on the United Nations charter and why he expects a Scottish independence referendum within the life of the new UK government Eight-year-old Erin Burns, from Partick, waves a Scottish saltire flag while her mum, Katy Burns, steadies her at a Scottish independence rally in Glasgow on 2 November 2019. On the day of the general election, you reported on the referendum in Bougainville, a chain of Pacific islands that has voted for independence from Papua New Guinea (, 12 December). Independence has to be agreed by the government ‘In the mood for celebration’ Bougainville Islanders voted to be world’s newest mation of PNG, but if it refuses then the matter will go to the United Nations. The UN charter guarantees the “self-determination of peoples” and will apply sustained pressure on a nation that disregards a legitimate wish for self-determination by part of its territory. This happened in Timor-Leste where the UN eventually sponsored a referendum in 1999 which secured the counry’s independence from a highly reluctant Indonesia in 2002. The SNP has always campaigned for independence from the UK. Winning 48 of the 59 Westminster seats is a clear expression of a wish for self-determination. If the UK government refuses to allow a referendum and the matter goes to the supreme court, it will have to take account of the UN charter. If the court decided a referendum is a requirement of international law but a Johnson government still refused, Scotland, could take the matter to the UN through other sympathetic countries. Not being a matter relating to “the maintenance of international peace and security” (article 24 of the UN charter), it wouldn’t go to the security council, where the UK has a veto. It would go to the general assembly, where a resolution requiring a referendum would be likely to pass by a large majority. If the resolution is expressed in binding terms, the UK would have to comply or suffer huge reputational damage. I would expect to see a Scottish Independence referendum within the life of the new government. If it goes the SNP’s way, Scotland would join the community of nations soon after Bougainville.
Laurie Smith

Friday, the weather had been muggy but no rain seemed to be forthcoming so I stretched out the hose at the rear of the building and gave the planters a good soaking. Over to the front of the building where the hose there is not so posh and leaks a lot at all the joints, so you get wet feet and clinging wet trousers, which makes me feel like a small boy once more. This, of course, induced the overnight rain, in fact, a guaranteed way to do so. 

Heading over to Balmarino, yesterday, I had no idea I would be going there it was just that the main road (A191) was a constant zoom, zoom, zooming with traffic. Zero emissions by when? Not in my lifetime. I turned off just after St Michaels onto quieter roads. I did not climb over the locked gate this time around to visit the abbey, but retraced my wheel tracks homewards – I know all too well, about the very long and very steep hill if you continue on this road.

I put down my book at around 9 o’clock in the evening and flicked through the Television channels – O’ one of my all-time favourite films. ‘Notting Hill’,

I’m not sure why, it just works so well. The cast was well chosen, the script superb, or maybe it is just the way the actors seem to feed off one another. I love the part near the end.

Ann Scott, (Julia Roberts) comes into the small book shop, she has with her a peace offering, a valuable painting. Maybe bought for that time she feared.

“Waking up someday to find she could not act and had the face of someone that once was famous for a while.”

The picture would of course have looked totally out of place in William Thacker’s (Hugh Grant) flat, the printed poster it would replace being much more appropriate there. Then she delivers the immortal line,

“Remember, I am just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”

Wow, tissue time, then again I’m just a daft old romantic. Not to worry boys and girls, it all comes out well in the end, as all good fairytales do.

We have two bushes, although one is really now a hedge, that are a mass of flowers this year, one white the smaller blue.

I have no idea what you call them, but they do attract bees with a vengeance. I was sitting out there yesterday and the bush was alive with bees, mostly bumble bees but some honey bees too. If you have Lime trees anywhere near to where you stay, go there when the tree is in flower, the tree and the very air around it will vibrate to the sound of bees working on the flowers. The nectar is so toxic, the bees can actually get so drunk, they will fall from the tree.

Perfect cycling weather once more, but all change from Monday.

Keep safe.

No Names, No Pack Drill.

The girl that wrote this piece below has it spot on, she has summed up what many of us have been saying in our blogs and talking about on social media, for a year now. Scotland has been let down by this SNP led government.

I felt I should publish this now, (I’m sure she will not object to me doing so), for we Scots have to wake up, and ditch these incompetent governments, both here in Scotland and at Westminster. More delay is not the answer, it only gives Boris more time to work on his Great British Nation plans. I switched on the television this morning, and the BBC was doing a travel programme, they would be travelling around ‘All four nations of the UK’ with their roadshow, highlighting the greatness and diversity of this Great Union of nations. Aye right.

It is not more Boris propaganda we need it is proper government, we need independence. We have local elections coming up next year, let’s send a clear message to Nicola Sturgeon, by voting for parties that really are interested in independence for Scotland not the self interest of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Part. All the Yes groups need to be singing from the same hymn sheet – Independence not more delay, in the up and coming Council Elections.

SCOTLAND’S CHOICES – LIFE OR DEATH

You’ve seen the figures for Scottish deaths from Covid-19; amongst the worst in the world and the positive case numbers are the highest in Europe. There are reasons for this, not the least of which are the obvious strategy of following the 4 Nations approach, refusing to close borders and ports, being feart to depart from Boris’ line and moving positively tested patients into nursing homes. The early abandonment of test, trace and isolate was wrong – I said so then, in March 2020, and got pelters for it. My Dad was in hospital repeatedly over 2020 and though he never had Covid, was never in a Covid ward, there were patients in his wards who had Covid – contrary to advice tendered, wards were mixed, some ambulance personnel refused to wear masks and gloves, including those contracted by Forth Valley Hospital privately, and my family’s loud complaints were useless after the fact of a deadly virus. PPE supplies didn’t run out but at times were in jeopardy. Courts were not prepared at all. Not at all. No social distancing, no hand wash, no masks; just busy courts full of folk mingling. Then when the guillotine fell on 23rd March the courts were closed; some have barely reopened since and justice, especially for those on remand, and for families, and children in care, has suffered, to the great shame of a country which considers itself modern, civilised and progressive.

The presence of Covid-19 in Scotland, its virulence, its murderous nature – all of that was known at least since February when skiers and rugby fans were exposed; our FM knew about pandemics because she was previously our Health Secretary. What prep was there in public life or in the NHS for Covid-19? Seems like not so much from what I saw then. Even when there was a requirement for patients aged 70+ to be tested on admission to hospital, that was not extended to patients already in hospital; some patients were allowed visits from relatives not wearing masks, other patients were denied visits and were given life changing information, including death sentences, while alone without a close relative for solace. Carers employed by private companies drove around teams, in panic, on overtime, delivering aprons, masks and gloves. I was in hospital in Glasgow after first lockdown and barely any staff had as much as a mask; there were shared pens, for inane form-filling, no hand sanitiser and yet only urgent appointments were conducted so that for many months standard diagnostic matters have been ditched.

We’re paying a bigger and unnecessary price for this lack of preparation now – many of us have not been able to see a GP on time or get a referral for a health issue when further assessments are desirable so that problems have been stored up and issues have developed through ignorance and delay. Folk with life threatening cancers now could have lived had they been seen last year; mental health patients might not be contemplating suicide had they had therapy before now; I’m a minor player in the game as I’ve just been waiting for an MOT on the leg for 18 months. I will get a couple of new ones, but the parts are delayed because of Brexit.

So, you know I am not a fan of the notion that Independence comes when Covid-19 is gone. Am I wheech. And here’s another reason why – the Scottish drugs death statistics are due soon, unless they are massaged and delayed once more. 1264 people died in Scotland through drugs last year. Most of us on or near the front line fear this year will be worse. And that remains Scotland’s shame. One hundred and more years ago folk like my Grandads born into poverty in Lochee and Clackmannanshire saw a way out through Army service; later in mines and heavy industry. Nowadays the descendants of their peers see no hope. It is very hard to be optimistic in Scotland today; we’ve become jaded, scared, isolated with a government telling us we have to hang onto the coat tails of Westminster for a while yet. If we need Westminster to recover from Covid, isn’t that a white flag? A sign that we in Scotland believe that we cannot stand up for ourselves, cure ourselves, create our own futures, liberate ourselves, craft our own dreams, ambitions, aims and aspirations?

It is time, Scotland – time to stand up, get off our knees, we’re in the ring, and it has become time we danced.

Keep safe.

I had cycled as far as Leuchars turned up through the village and out past the guardroom at the old RAF airfield and headed back into Guardbridge. As you come up out of the village you pass a little road that disappears down toward the estuary – I wonder where that goes? It turned out to be someone’s backyard, thankfully without a junkyard dog.

Next diversion came a little closer to St Andrews on the cycle path, a road down to the estuary this time.

Off-roading on a deep dry sandy track is not easy.

When I reached the end of the spit two lads were waist-deep in the waters fishing, I remember thinking, a wee boat would be handy.

One of the lads stopped on seeing me and came out of the water for a blether.

“What are you fishing for” I asked – “Sea bass” I was told and on we blethered, and no there was no Salmond coming into the river, then his answer left me wondering if he ever fished the river itself, or just the sea waters of the estuary.

Pressing on for home, I noticed the maincrop tatties are coming alone fine in the farmer’s field, no flowers on them yet so no indication of verity.

When we joined the Common Market, as it was then, we changed from imperial measurements to European metric. The story went,

“I’ll have a half stane (half a stone was 7 Lbs) of tatties, greengrocer” she said as she came forward to the counter.

“We’re in the Common Market noo hen, it’s kilos,”

“Is that right son, then I’ll have half a stane of Kilos then.”

It’s the way I tell them.

I have given up on Boadicea and the warrior queens, to much myth and legion, I was struggling with this book from the start. However, Antonia Fraser’s book Mary Queen of Scots has inspired me from the first page. I have read many books about Mary, and know much about her time when she left France and returned to Scotland, the difference, Antonia starts at the beginning and followed her all the way to France, covering extensively the years she spent there. This was of course what made her the woman she would become.

I fell in love with the French countryside, from my very first visit there, in particular the Loire Valley, I had planned to move to France on retirement, a failed dream alas, life got in my way. Constantly, over the year, I have been drawn back there. During those times I have visited many of the large hunting lodges of France – the young Mary’s playground growing up there. Mary was an accomplished horsemanship and love to hunt with hawks. I’m sure I will return someday to the Loire Valley, and next time I will be armed with much more knowledgeable information of Mary’s life there.

Strange that I should be booked to going to Falkland Palace next week, a place the young Queen Mary loved, she said it reminded her of France and the Loire Valley, then again the landscape of Fife would have been much different in those days.

Mary was unfortunate to be born at the wrong time in history, coming to Scotland from a totally different society, now queen over a land that was not only divided along religious lines but was something akin to Afghanistan today. A land lorded over by ruthless warlords, who squabbled amongst themselves for a bigger slice of the cake. And Mary, like my sister, had a poor taste in men.

Keep safe.

There are many rose bushes down the perimeter wall, that separates our garden from City Road. They were not doing very much, so after a long session on the internet watching experts prune rose bushes, I set about ours.

“Stand back mum, I’m going to risk it”

The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Bushes that you would have said – best pull them out, have produced some beautiful blooms this year. Sadly the hot weather and bright sunshine have made their blooms short-lived, (are gardeners ever happy?). They are coloured, yellow, red, pink and one with multicoloured roses on the same bush. But as if planned, the one outside my window is a ‘White Peace Rose’.

One of the things about riding a bike, you know where the potholes are in the roads. Of course, car drivers do not like you moving out into “their” road to miss such impediments to your progress,

“Look at that silly bugger on that bike, stuck his hand out, then right out in front of me, there should be a law against it. Get on the pavement where you belong, Numpty”

however there is a lot of road repairs going on around the area,

“Why, sure it takes a man with intellect the lumps of tar to melt, Oh, you have to be a genius for the hot ash felt.”

I see on the news that Nissan, is to expand its factory in Sunderland to produce a new all-electric car and a plant to make the batteries for such cars. We are told that they will be investing £1billion, not that much really when you think about what was spend in California on the plant there making electric cars. Boris, well he is cock a hoot, hailing this as a great success and how the UK government is investing in the plant. We don’t of course know just how much of that £1billion the UK taxpayer will have to stump up, but it will be a sizeable chunk, if not all of the money, for Europe, would have been the first choice for Nissan, after the Brexit fiasco.

The biggest problems will be continuity of parts, now that they are cut off from their main source of automotive parts and steel, but those clever Chinese will simply supply straight from China, modern container ships are so efficient now that it only cost £2.00 per ton to move goods from China to the UK.

Just how efficient is that, well in the 1800s it cost £2.00 per ton to move coal, from the coalfields to the industrial heart of England, by barge.

The biggest percentage of the cars made here are sold outside the UK. (So what will be the real cost to the UK taxpayer to keep Nissan in the UK?) Remember when Brexit became a nightmare for PM May, she went straight up to Sunderland to keep the Nissan plant in the UK when they were already talking about moving lock stock and barrel to Europe. She must have opened her pocketbook wide on that occasion. Nissan really does have the UK treasury over a barrel. The British taxpayers will never know the true cost, until about 30 years from now when the files become available. There was a clue in the clip on the BBC News, the Chief Executive of the plant, Ashwani Gupta,

Ashwani Gupta

had a right cheeky grin on his face during the interview, looks like he will be laughing all the way to the bank.

I also, see that the City of London has been shut out of the European money markets, so our invisible earning, that has kept London afloat for so long, really is now invisible, vanished before their eyes, looks like they will be trading through the US from now on.

The EU has also said there will be no extension for Northern Ireland, at the end of the month, no child food will be allowed into NI, so no more English breakfasts, for you my lad, no bacon from Denmark, sausages from Holland, you really will have to “Go to work on an egg”. Chickens coming home to roost, (excuse the pun) and no pork pie with your pint, – I really do think your future lies in the south and back in the EU.

The British teams are heading off to the Olympics, amongst the competitors is a 12-year-old, skateboarder, Sky Brown. I have seen her perform, she looks good and has all the confidence of youth, but mostly she just looks as if she is having fun. Good luck to them all.

I have nothing against competition, but I feel it has become far to money orientated, win a gold medal and you will be made for life, never off the television, lots of lucrative advertising contracts, any other position and you will be forgotten by the end of the competition.

I remember a time, not so long ago, when only armatures were allowed to compete, turn professional and you were out. Sadly countries cheated their top athletes were all in the services, which for some reason did not count as professional, (since it was not their full-time job, ha, ha). Now they truly are carer athletes, they join the state-run institutions, where they have doctors, physiotherapists, trainers, dietitians and the best equipment money can buy. All of this is set up so that a country can gain as many medals as possible. I really do wonder what each of those medals really costs the taxpayer, and is this good value for money?

Lots and lots of soapboxing today,

Stay safe.         

It was again a beautiful day as I set off on my morning ride, out to Pitscottie – over the hill and down into Cupar and home via Dairsie and Guardbridge, same old same old, but of course it never is, for every day is different. Today for instance they are laying stretches of the road down into Cupar, so traffic lights and that oh so wonderful smell of newly laid tarmacadam. Dairsie I caught the wind that had arrived out of the east, possibly on the changing tide, challenging now tiring legs.

Yesterday evening, I was sitting reading when I heard a strange ringing noise, where was it coming from? After eliminating all the normal noises, doorbell, entry system, I realised it was my mobile phone. It is one of those pay as you go phones, that I bought years ago when my sister was still alive and not at all well, just so we could keep in touch really. After her death it has sat there on my desk, silent as the grave. Who could possibly be calling me?

The caller turned out to be an electronic voice from the Bank of Scotland, they were concerned about the vast amount of money leaving my account – most unlike me, could I confirm that it was me and not some fraudster that was doing all the spending.

People are amazed that I do not have one of those Smartphones – how is it possible to live without one? They will ask. Well for a start I am not going to pay around £30.00 per month for something I have no real use for. And secondly, they are rude.

I hate going out with younger people for a meal, as soon as there is a lull in the conversation outcomes their Smartphone and the start scrolling through it and texting off messaged,

“That was Jean, I was just telling her that I was out for a meal…………”

Would it be the end of the world if Jean did not know at this precise minute that they were out for a meal?

These phones, or at least their overuse, has killed conversation around The dinner table stone dead. I have even seen two youngsters talking to each other in the same room by text, how stupid has it all become.

I do have a computer, well, you have to have one, for all government information, directives, or forms that you will require in this modern world, can now only be accessed online. And since I do not carry the internet around in my pocket, I have to set aside time each day to go online via Wi-Fi from the common room. This brings me to another of my wee soapboxes.

Internet connections – Why do we have to pay a server for internet connection, when people like Google, Amazon and the like are harvesting all of our details for their own purposes. Type anything into your computer and up will jump a message from Amazon to tell you they sell them, it is all part of our service to you, not some marketing ploy, they assure.

Just the other day I read how the German government has asked all of its members of parliament to end their Facebook pages, why? Everything they write goes straight to America.

If all these multinationals are happy to harvest our information, I believe, they should at least give us a free internet connection, we really should get something in return. Better still I would like to see Scotland having it’s own internet provider. Does that sound impossible?

Lesley Riddoch, in her film and lecture, following on from her visit to The Faroe Islands told us that the Faroe has its own internet service free to all. It operates on the island and for 8 miles out to sea, so clearly it is possible. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Of course so long as we are willing to pay £30.00 per month to text a friend to tell them that you are on the bus home and will be with them in five minutes, then these companies will keep on getting bigger and obscenely rich, at the expense of your bankbook.

I wonder if everyone in the country simply cancelled their Smartphone contract and went onto a pay-as-you-go phone, and only used it for legitimate reasons and, not just because I can, how long it would take these large companies to have a change of heart?

“Up the revolution”

That is the trouble with cycling, you have far too much time to daydream.

Stay safe.

Oh, it’s Thursday – Oor Alex will be on the telly.

Today he was interviewing Jerome Kim, a high heid yin in the International Vaccination Institute (IVI). Why is it that a man like Alex Salmond, can bring such enlightened people on to his programme, People who really do have the answers we seek about Coronavirus and what we as a nation, and as a world, need to do to combat and win this war?

Sadly all we get from the BBC, ITV and Sky are politicians and their soundbites, or PR daily briefings, more heat than light.

Put aside any prejudices that you may have over this broadcaster RT, that has been branded, wrongly, a Russian propaganda broadcaster by the British media, and tune into the Alex Salmond Show today, get yourself educated about coronavirus.

At the G9 summit the another week, big-hearted Boris and those present, promised 2 billion doses of vaccine for the world’s poorest nations, when we really need 20 billion – how do we step up our efforts, in manufacturing enough vaccine and the logistics for getting it into peoples arms?

What are the consequence of failure, to vaccinate the world’s population?

Tune into the Alex Salmond show today, for the answers.    

 Wednesday and another fine day awheel. I was grateful for the light breeze as the day was hot and the pollen count high. My nose run like a burn, until I downed a couple of tablets, that I always carry with me. I did not stop off anywhere along the way today, I simply kept the pedals turning, down into Crail along the coast to Anstruther and then I turned for home.

Checking my e-mails on arrival home I found one from UPS to tell me I was due to import charges amounting to £359.06 – payable to UPS Limited. That is what Boris *&^%£$%^&*%$$^&&& Johnston and his gang of Brexiteers has cost me this morning and will have cost the bike manufacturer a lot of potential UK customers (I hope to get a refund). The good news, my now even more expensive folding bike, will arrive on Monday.

I thought a good shakedown ride would be over to Scotstarvit Tower, the door maybe open this time, so I can take some photographs of the inside, this is a really well-preserved tower. Then there is Hill of Tarvit, and Kelly Castle, some beautiful plaster ceilings to be seen there., and all on my doorstep too.

Falkland Palace. Well worth another visit, I can put the bike on the bus as far as Cupar and cycle from there, then return via Kettlebridge, and depending on how I feel catch the returning Edinburgh bus, back home to St Andrews, after all, that is the only reason for having a folding bike, flexibility.

Falkland Palace is only open on Sunday and Wednesday and you now have to book in advance, (coronavirus restrictions) so I booked up for the 7th July. 1300 Hours. Give myself plenty of time.

Having to book is a bit of a bugger, more so when your pass comes via e-mail, for you then have to print it off. The big problem, my printer went on the blink months ago and I never replaced it, well I don’t really use it all that much. Anyway, I’m as well to get some return on my National Trust for Scotland membership, It has been a dead loss over the last year or so. But, if like me, you regularly visit such places, it will soon pay for itself.

I have noticed the days drawing in and soon I will need light on my bike if I am going to trail around the country. In two or three months time we will be coming into autumn, ho-hum. Still, I hope to keep up my training runs all the way into spring if I can, even a short circuit will keep the knees and hips lubricated.

I started to dip into The Warrior Queens Boadicea’s Chariot, by Antonia Fraser – strange book and not at all what I expected. It is very academic in its nature and is really looking into the psychological makeup of a warrior queen. We get much history and myth from, Greek, Welsh, Irish, Persian…. And right up to modern times people like Mrs Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher.

We hear from the Xerxe’s council, (My men have turned into women, my women into men), talking about Artemisia. Mrs Gandhi was described as (The only man in the cabinet of old women), and Labour politician George Brown called Mrs Thatcher (the best man in the Tory Party). Why this is so? I’m sure Antonia Franser, will tell us in her own good time. So far it has not been much of a page-turner, more a hard slog.

I always go through the programme guide to see if there is anything I wish to see, mostly not. Tonight however there was a programme on ‘The life of the midge’ the programme was conducted by a Dr James Logan, who has spent many, many years of his life studding the little buggers (sorry beasties.) I had to wait until the end of the programme to hear what I hoped I would hear, that some people are immune to midges.

Thankfully they are not this size.

After years of research, they found out that some (around 1 in 7) of us produce a chemical odder that is repulsive to the midge, and thankfully I am one of those 1 in 7.

I wonder if that is the same oddar that has made me repugnant to beautiful young ladies, fair of face and with beautiful long slim legs?

Keep safe.

The weekend was over in a flash, where did it all go? The highlight on Sunday morning was Aida from Sydney Harbour, thankfully my headphones allows me to move around the house freely, far too early in the morning (Sky for better reasons known to themselves put a two and a half hour opera on at 6 o’clock in the morning) still listening to opera works for me at anytime. The aria at the end of Aida, where the two lovers are to be sealed up in a dungeon, must be up there in the top ten of the opera areas, I can not get it out of my head, even now.

I cycled over to Leven in the morning and sat on the promenaded for a good hour watching the world go by. Then I set off along the coast for home, stopping off at Elie on the way. As I sat next to the bus stop, outside the church, enjoying an energy drink, the St Andrews bus pulled up – what the hell, I stuffed my bike in the trunk –

“Home James, and don’t spare the horses”.

It had been a long day from before 6 o’clock in the morning and by 2 0’clock on what was now, Monday morning, my eyes were starting to close on the words and I was no longer taking them in, that is the effect that a Wilbur Smith book has on you, time for bed.

The backdrop is South Africa, as it would have been in the early 1900s. It must have been breathtaking. Smith paints a canvas so rich and colourful, its mountains, mighty rivers and vast open savanna, right down to the smell of the very earth itself. He tells of the fight for the survival of its creatures, this is the canvas he has painted for his actors in this page-turning book.

His players are real people, you get to know then as you would your immediate family members, warts and all, morality and immorality, greed and corruption, the power crazy and the dreamer, it is all there. Or heroes are of course larger than life. As for Martin, he has more lives than a cat, and just when you think you have it sussed, the master, like a conjurer, will put another rabbit out of the hat to surprises you, and off you will go on one more glorious adventure.

A Sparrow Falls is really a sequel, or more like a continuation of Where the Lion Feeds, and it would be best if you could read that before you start on a sparrow falls, for in the first book you will get to know the family in an earlier time (during the 1800s) and before the wars, the ethnic cleansing, and the coming of the White Man, in any great numbers, to steal and plunder. He takes by the sword, and in the name of his lord.

The big problem with such books is, once you read the last chapter, where do you go from here? I find this with all books that I have enjoyed as much as this one,

“It is difficult to equal that glorious experience,” Said the maid to the gardener.

I do have the answer to my dilemma The Sound of Thunder by Wilbur Smith, but I will not be lifting it from the shelf just yet a while, I am still basking in the afterglow of A Sparrow Falls. (pure sex).

Monday of course was, dhobi wallah day, My allotted time in the laundry was almost at an end by the time I rose from my bed, however the lad that follows me has been moved to a care home so I was clear for another two hours. Whilst the dryer was doing its work I cycled over to Aldi and stuffed my pannier bag with goodies to restock Mrs hubbub’s cupboard.

The morning was once more conducive to cycling and as soon as the washing was out of the machine I set off on my bike, climbing up and over the hill for Elie, cresting the summit at Lawhead, you will look down to see the River Forth spread out before you, it is a sight that never fails to impress. At Elie I continued my journey, from yesterday, riding along the coast road, high over the waters of the Forth. On through, St Monance, Pittenweem and Anstruther, before turning for home.

“Summer time and the living is easy”

Tuesday, I think I will have a rest day, or at least a day away from the bike, maybe a walk down by the harbour.

Keep safe.      

It has been a busy time for me since my brother seconded me into his service. He is downsizing and wanted me to sell some things for him on eBay. What a hassle, over to Tayport to photograph them, listing them online, cart them back on the bus to St Andrews. Find packaging, parcel up, trot them down to the post office, writing cheques to pay him the money that had been transferred into my account from their sales. And yes answering the same daft questions over and over, even although I ticked the box for the answers to be posted on the website. What the hell, he’s my brother after all.

Today, the good news, I had an e-mail from eBay to tell me the last of the listings has been sold and the money is in my account. Thank goodness for that, the last listing just happened to be a bicycle and it had been stripped and packed into a proper bicycle box, carted home from the local bike shop. I have been tripping over this very large box going to and from my bedroom all week. So a big OAP cheer, for the box is now in the hands of the PO and I’m told will be delivered on Tuesday to the proud new owner. Hip, Hip – replacement.

The second piece of good news was that the folding bicycle that I purchased is on its way to me – I even have a tracking number.

This has been another long story. Way back in March 2021 I decided to purchase a folding bike. I wanted to travel on buses other than the intercity buses, which are the only ones that will take a full-sized, grown-up bicycle. I also have been making plans for a European trip in the spring of 2022, (coronavirus or not, I’m going). I wanted the lightest I could find so lightweight aluminum (aerospace) or carbon fiber. After a lot of searching and checking, I found what I was looking for and placed my order on the 24th March 2021.

After about four weeks of hearing nothing from the company I sent them an e-mail asking about a delivery date. Now the last person I would have expected to be holding up my purchase would be, good old Boris Johnston, yes, the Prime Minister, the very man. The company, based in England, sourced much of their equipment from Europe, Brexit had severely disrupted their supplies of parts so they had production problems that meant a backlog of orders, was building up. Clearly they could not continue as they had been doing so decided to re-locate its production to Portugal, more disruption and delay. (At this stage they offered me a choice, staying with them, or asking for a refund) I was in no great hurry, since almost all the National Trust for Scotland attractions are still closed because of coronavirus, (or very restricted) and the bikes main task would be my European trip anyway, where weight would be a big problem, I decided to stick with it.

I have just received an e-mail from them to say the courier had uplifted my order, and it would be with me next week. The sting in the tail, now that it is a foreign import, I may have to pay customs duty on it. Don’t you just love Boris Johnston and his band of Brexiteers?

Returning from the post office, I noticed the old lady that has the cat sanctuary setting up her stall in Church Square, worth a look. The books I purchased were

Women of the War Years 1939 – 1945. Janice Anderson. My aunt was a machinist during those war years – but that’s another story.

Mary Queen of Scots, Antonia Fraser.

The Warrior Queens, Antonia Fraser.

And two that I have read before many, many years ago, but I’m sure worthy of a second read.

A Sparrow Falls.

The Sound of Thunder.

in fact, they were my introduction to Wilbur Smith, for me, when I read When the Lion Feeds, quickly followed up by the two just mentioned.

Oh and I could not resist a pair of bookends for a child’s (or man in his second childhoods) room.

The day here in St Andrews is dull and overcast but pleasant enough out, and just out are these sweet peas.

Stay safe

Today they give us figures of people who have died after testing positive for coronavirus and their death can be contributed to coronavirus. The figures have become meaningless, we have become Sanitised to death from coronavirus – now just statistics. It is hitting home that coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. Vaccination has helped us cope with the virus, now a bit like winter colds, something we will have to learn to live with, but it has been a hard lesson when we count the cost.

I am still doing my daily routine, a few miles on my bike, I am at the stage, if I don’t go out, I regret not having done so, I miss the exercise, both mental and physical.

My bike is like a time machine, for cycling, Is Zen-like, the steady cadence makes it so. At times I will sing away to myself, while away the miles. However reading John McCarthy’s book

I found out, that I am not the only one that speaks with the dead, something I have been doing for many years now.

“She died (his mother) well over ten years ago yet I’m still stuck with a need to be in touch with her. That’s the way it works, of course; Loved ones may be gone but we keep talking to them.”

I know I do, on those ‘Lang Scots Miles’ or those long, long, straight roads in France, that never seem to have an end.

I will ask those questions I should have asked when they were alive, laugh along with memories of a conversation we had in those happy, happy times, but ‘Sorry, is the hardest word’ I will often ask forgiveness for a thoughtless word. Instantly realising the hurt that came with my words, yet unable to say sorry. And even if I had, the words were out there and they had cut deep. Saying it now, is a healing balm, and educational, for you learn to bite your tong, and be much more thoughtful of the feelings of others.

I have been thinking about sanitised statistics, for coronavirus. How much more so, civilians killed by wars.

Civilians casualties during the,

First World War (1914 to 1918) – 10% of the total killed were civilians.

Second World War – 50% of the total killed were civilians.

Vietnam War – 70% of the total killed were civilians.

Iraq War – 90% of the total killed were civilians.

The War You Don’t See, is the latest film by John Pilger, John is a native Australian and where he started his career as a journalist, before moving to London. He has won all the top awards in journalism and television, both in the UK and the US. He was a foreign correspondent and front-line war reporter during the Vietnam war. He has always been discriminating and a critic of Western economic and military power, some of his eyewitness reporting has been described as a presence on British television, he goes where others dare not go.

Many will know John from his award-winning documentary ‘The War on Democracy’, this the new film, The War You Don’t See, is powerful and timely investigation into the media’s role in the war. It traces the history of “embedded” and independent reporting from the carnage of the First World War (1914 – 1918), to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan.

Each and every one was preceded with lies to get the public on side, ‘promoting war’ like how the Pentagon spends $1 billion per day on advertising and recruiting for war. And how what we saw on our televisions beamed straight form Baghdad was all taken from the balcony of a hotel, the real fighting and opposition to the American lead invasion was taking place elsewhere, out of sight of the cameras.

All but Al Jazeera, who was right in the thick of it, were turning a mirror on the west, so the offices of Al Jazeera had to be bombed. We hear from an eyewitness, a correspondent for the BBC, the only man that was there at the time, how a warning had been given, to get out of the building, then it was targeted. It was reported as being hit on the news, but not targeted, collateral damage.

Yes, Blair were ultimately responsible for taking this country to war. (against the wishes of the people of the UK at the time) But there was an awful lot of MPs in the Commons that were just as ready to march to the drums of war, and they knew full well that it was on a false pretence, there was no Weapons of Mass Destruction and they knew it fine.

In interviews with correspondents, who had been covering the war at the time, and asked why Knowing what they knew were still towed the BBC, ITV and media line? many said they are embarrassed that they did, but we could hardly call Blair (the Prime Minister at the time) a lyre and keep our job.

When Obama hit the presidential campaign trail, he told the American public he was against war and would close Guantanamo and bring back the troop from Afghanistan, yet he signed off on $700 Billion for the war. Obama was like all the others, a warmonger, for war makes money and that is now out of hand, uncontrolled, in America. As one Congressman put it “wars will last as far as the eye can see”.

The only threat these warmongers face is the general public – therefore they must be eliminated.

Remember when Cameron was PM he brought forward the rule that no PM could take the country to war, without the full approval of the Parliament. When he tried to take the country to war he lost the vote in the Commons, what an embarrassment, that rule was soon scrapped.

Someone once said “Believe nothing until it is denied” never truer words were spoken, The public service broadcaster is not there to inform the public but put forward the government’s wishes in a way that the public will be convinced that it is in their best interest.

Twenty four seven news coverage makes it easy to pump out their propaganda, for the lie can be repeated over and over again every half hour until everyone is convinced that it is the truth, there will be no one questioning it.

Boris “I will die in a ditch first” – “I will lie in front of the bulldozer” – “Boris Island” – the bridge from Scotland to Ireland, “the sea of opportunity.” All total crap, but remember the media coverage they received. We have no proper media coverage, (and the only one that came close is ‘Channel 4’ with great news coverage and programmes like ‘Unreported World’ sorry that has to go, the last thing we want out there is the truth. And don’t ever mention RT (all lies, well it has to be it’s Russian state-controlled, another lie) or Al Jazeera, ‘The truth is what we say it is.

You can find John Pilger’s work, online, at network.  

This weather sure has made cycling a pleasure, I went over to Tentsmuir Forest today, just for a change. Crossing the bridge at Guardbridge the tide was out.

Look Mum, somebodies pulled the plug oot.

And as I passed along the road into Leuchars, the sent from the wildwood rose was overpowering, (you don’t get such pleasures driving past in a car),

This set me off singing,

The blossom of the Wildwood Rose, hangs heavy on the bower,

Tho’ once they were my heart’s delight, they do not move me now,

For my heart holds only sorrow, grief and bitter pain,

Since Sandy went a soldering along the coast of Spain.

This song is about a soldier going off to the Peninsular Wars, a time when you did not get a telegram from the War Office, you just waited and waited in the hope that your loved one would come home.

And when the rose doth blooms again, perhaps he will return,

And he might be a husband to me, and a faither to his bairn,

So god protect my Sandy, and bring him safely hame,

Nay mare ta’ gan a soldering, alang the coast of Spain.

Today I listened to part of an interview on Sky News with Lord Richard Dannatt, he was talking about the incident in the Black Sea with a British ship and the Russian Navy. He told us that America and Britain do not recognise Russia’s right to the territorial waters around Crimea and that this territory belongs to Ukraine, but in the same breath tells us that these are international waters, sorry run that past me again. Then went on to tell us that it is the Russian that is in the in the wrong here and we will continue to challenge our right to sail in these waters. Well, good luck with that.

This is all about the US using a British naval ship, (we’ll make the bullies but we would like you to fire them, proxy wars are always best, not so many body bags coming home and upsetting the voters). This British warship is being used as a stick, to poke at a hornet’s nest – Much like the US is sending HMS Elizabeth into the China Sea, for the same reason. And you know what happens if you poke a stick into a hornet’s nest, people get stung.

Looks to me like Biden’s presidency is in trouble already. Big trouble on the southern borders. The increasing influx of Chinese goods into the country (the only way to stop Chinese goods from coming into America is for America to produce the same goods at a competitive price to the Chinese, it’s called the Free Market, a market that the Americans keep telling us they wish to uphold). Crime in America is at an all time high, murder up by 25%. Talking about controlling some types of guns will not cut it, America needs to look at the whole gun scene in America and ban all forms of guns that are not purely for sport, and tighten restrictions on their ownership. Start looking at equality and fairness in the justice system for minority groups and ask themselves, why so many black families find it difficult to get employment?

I would put money on Biden being a one trip pony, and I see the rise of Trump (or someone in the same mould) again in the half-term elections.

Have just started John McCarthy ‘A ghost upon your path’ McCarthy set up home in a wild an isolated corner of County Kerry where his ancestors were living a thousand years before, in this book he is not only taking a journey into a small rural community but also into his own history and family. This is turning into an ‘I can’t put it down book’.

Keep safe.  

 Another find morning awheel, I am feeling good these days, possibly losing so much excess weight over the summer months.

There is a (self-seeded) Foxglove in the front garden at City Park, it is growing out of an old stump.

I like Foxgloves, they brighten up the countryside – out on the road from St Michaels to Tayport, there is a piece of ground that was clear-felled at the end of last year. Now nature has reclaimed it, and the predominant flower there is the Foxglove in perfusion.

We grow Lupins from seed this year and they are doing well, here is one of those seeds now in full bloom, makes it all worthwhile.

My brother is many years my senior so we did not have much in common growing up, in fact he was married and out the door by the time I entered my teenage years, mum said,

“I never got a penny from him. As soon as he finished his apprenticeship and got a wage he was gone.”

Now that we are both retired and both having returned to our roots in Scotland I have been seeing much more of my brother than at any time in our lives.

The other day I was over at Tayport sitting with my brother in the beer garden of a local pub, having a bar lunch, (£28.00 for what amounted to fish and chips for two, I’m glad none of us drinks beer at £3.80 a pint.) but what the hell it was good. Somehow the conversation came around to politics and I was almost shocked when he told me he had voted Conservative all of his life.

Campbell, more than I would have known the aftermath of the First World War, the depression and hardship of the 1930s, then the Second World War the great social movements across the Central belt of Scotland, that spread from the west in the 1950s and 1960s (mostly airbrushed out of history today). The Socialist Sunday School, and the time when I took time off to go over to Glasgow for the ‘May Day rally in 1960 to hear Paul Robeson, (the African American singer who sang ‘Loch Lomond’), marching along with the 10,000 flags and banner carrying crowed, and the hundreds of floats that day. We cheering shouting sung our way to Queen’s Park. These were the halcyon days of Labour in Scotland, how could you ever consider voting Conservative. Dad will be spining in his grave.

It saddens me to see what has become Scottish Labour, today? Although I stopped voting Labour myself when Tony Blare stole Socialism from the party under ‘New Labour’ (that still splits the party today) and lied through his teeth, so he could follow America into another destructive and pointless war, how could I vote Labour again?

However, you can take a man out of a socialist party but not socialism out of the man, I am still a socialist at heart, now that Nicola Sturgeon has taken the SNP further and further to the right I have no political allegiance to any party now (my only hope of seeing socialism return to Scotland could be if Scottish Labour ceases to become a branch office of the Westminster Labour party or the rise of a new socialist and democratic party such as Alba gripped Scotland once more).

Before you dismiss socialism as a loony left fringe, read below the ten socialist commandments (later changed to precepts), of the National Council of British Socialist Sunday Schools,

Love your school fellows, who will be our fellow-workmen in life.

Love learning which is the food of the mind; be grateful to your teacher as to your parents.

Make every day holy by good and useful deeds and kindly actions.

Honour the good, be courteous to all, bow down to none.

Do not hate of speak evil of anyone. Do not be revengeful, but stand up for your rights and resist oppression.

Do not be cowardly. Be a friend to the weak, and love justice.

Remember that the good things of the earth are produced by labour. Whoever enjoys them without working for them is stealing the bread of the workers.

Observe and think in order to discover the truth. Do not believe what is contrary to reason, and never deceive yourself or others.

Do not think that those who love their own country must hate and despise other nations, of which that, is a remnant of barbarism.

Work for the day when all men and women will be free citizens of one fatherland, and live together as brothers and sisters in peace and righteousness.

At the time there was a greater emphasis on women, and how they were equal in every way with their brother’s. They were to take responsibility for our country too, for equally, they would be the leaders of the new world.

Well, that is all the thoughts for another day, still, the rain forecast for today has not arrived, it certainly has been a dry spell of weather.

The BBC afternoon Scottish news programme has just come on the television as I finish up here – The ‘top story’ There was positives to be taken from the result, yesterday, WHIT? The Scottish team played their normal rubbish and was severely thrashed, as a result. This is the sort of crap we have to put up with from the BBC. If you don’t like the story, change it.

And what was the British Navy thinking about – sailing into Russian territorial waters, within sight of Russia’s biggest naval base, in a wee boat. Not surprisingly, the Russians sent a shot over their bow. Which they ignored,

“Can’t you see – were British?”

A Russian aircraft was then sent out and dropped a few bombs along their intended course – now they get the message, stop playing silly bugger. What are these stupid people trying to do, start another war? Have thy not read the Bedford Incident?

Stay safe.

 I set out for Anstruther today and although the morning looked find, and pretty much windless, it did not long before I had to stop and pull on my cycling jacket, it was bloody cold. Arriving down at the harbour there were a few people around but mostly locals then again it is Tuesday.

One of the advantages about travelling by bike, you get the opportunity to meet and blether with people and today was no exception. I saw a lad working in his garden and stopped for a blether,

“I see you have lots of rhubarb,” I said

“Yes, it is beginning to take over the garden” he replied

“In that case, can I have a small root?” If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

The root he dug up for me, I would have needed my trailer to get it home, so I asked him to break it down to a size that would fit in my pannier bag. Which he did. I popped it into a black bag then into my pannier and with my thanks ringing in his ears I set off for home. I planted my rhubarb root outside the guest room window and watered it in well. It will take a season or two for it to bed itself in, but I am looking forward to stewed rhubarb with my custard in 2022. You have to be patient as a gardener.

Another enjoyable ride.

Well, I did get some water to the plants that live along the border, that runs down the length of the boundary wall. I rolled out the hose as far as it would go – then filled my clothes tub with water,

I used this as a transfer station, from tub to plants, keeping the hose running, just enough to keep the tub charged with water. I am pleased to announce that the young plants that were showing signs of stress, now look much the better and I’m sure much happier. Who said gardening was easy?

I see that there is a new strain of coronavirus on the horizon ‘Deli’ virus, now I don’t know much about viruses but I know that if you do not nip them in the bud, they mutate. Why are we finding this concept so hard to understand? If we do not stamp this out across the world then we will all be living with it for years and years into the future. The good news Boris, you will have solved the demographic problem, the lack of affordable housing, hospital waiting lists…………..

Stay safe

With the laundry over and the morning far too good to be doing housework, it was out with the bike. I had no idea where I was going- but as the Cheshire-Cat would say,

“If you don’t know where you are going, all roads lead there.”

Out onto the B939 for Ceres, then the back road to Strathkinness, I stopped at the crossroads make your mind up time. I turned right and went charging off on a big weeeeeeeeeee down into Guardbridge. Looks like I am heading for Leuchars. But before I reached there I turned left and followed the back road into the village of Balmullo, there I turned left again to come back into Dairsie roundabout, then home I had compilated a figure of eight.

Near high tide as I cross the bridge at Gaurdbridge.

The weather was perfect and the roads quiet, this once was a big fruit growing area and one year I asked the farmer at Pittormie Farm if I could bring a few hives of bees over when the strawberry fields were in flower,

“Not a problem” he told me.

I trailed the hives all the way up from the borders and set them along the edge of the field of strawberries and raspberries canes should make a very light and sweet honey, and of course the farmer will receive a few jars, as a thank you.

A week later I received a frantic phone call at work, the farmer had phoned to say they intend spraying the fields with insecticide, tomorrow, just to warn you, Whit.

Rushing home from work I swapped a motorcycle for Land Rover and drove all the way up to northeast Fife, the best part of three hours. It was late by the time I arrived so most of the bees were in the hives. I stuffed the entrances, put straps around them and loaded, the now heavy hives, onto the land rover. It was a big risk moving hives with wet combs, but I had little option, I had not wish to open up hives and remove combs at that time of night. By the time I arrived back home, honey was seeping from two of the hives, what a disaster.

The farmer did not receive any of the promised honey, what a Numpty, he must have known that they sprayed the crop when it came into flower, and not just that day.

“I hope your strawberries all go fusty” I called as I passed the farm.

I am reading “when you dead, you dead” Guy Martin.

The book is really 18 months of his life crushed into its 314 pages, and much of it is about the television programmes he did during that time. Like Guy, I have always loved motorcycling, unlike Guy when I entered motorcycling racing as a teenager I was totally clueless, the only possibility of me winning a trophy would have been if they had a World Championship in break-dancing in the middle of a race track during a race Thankfully I realised my shortcoming before I killed myself. But like Guy I just loved to be riding my bike, it was all about freedom in the 1950s and the motorcycle became part of my life. When I look over the pages of classic motorcycles magazines today and see some of the beautiful (and crap) machines I had, even a Vincent, that I bought for £35.00, and see what they fetch today…….

What was it, 2016 when I lost my balance, I dropped a heavy motorcycle on my right leg and broke it in three places. That was when my sister convinced me to hang up my riding boots. Actually, they are still hanging in the cupboard along with my helmet and touring leathers, and although I know it is foolhardy at my age to even consider another motorcycle, I have to sneak past motorcycle showrooms still.

The title of the book came from a saying of his father’s “When you dead, you dead.” and that he said was the reason he tries to live every day to the full. I am not so sure that this is true, for I know the Guy Martin within me, We see things and think – I would like to try that or I would like to see that and set about getting there, it’s more of an adventure nature than any real ideology.

Guy made a few programmes for television, I watched a couple but did not take to them, the media company seemed to be trying to turn him into another Fred Dibnah – the working man image, the down to earth Grimsby accent, when really they were light-years apart. But Guy took the money so had to perform to their script, and he always looked awkward, as if he was a bystander.

I suppose that is what I loved about my life, I really did do it my way. Most of my early travels were on my bicycle, I was fit and it was easy then.

When I found myself at Kishorn, at the start of the oil boom in Scotland, companies were throwing money at us, we thought we would never be poor again. I worked on the Ninian Platform, it was four weeks on two weeks off routine, for the next 8 years. Working constant nightshirt, 13 hours a day, (half an hour ferry ride to work and the same back), we no longer spoke to one another by the end of the month, we just growled, such was the intensity of the work.

This is where the money and my brand new BMW R80RT came into their own. As soon as I was free to leave the site I headed for the south of England there to catch a ferry to Europe. With lots of silver in my pocket and a perfect touring motorcycle under me the world – or at least Europe, was my oyster. In the winter months, the south of France or Italy  (although it was often cold even there, I was well used to the cold weather drug a Scottish winter, so there is cold and cold).

So yes, I can associate with much of what Guy is saying in his book when he said things like “Sometimes, I just want to ride my bike”, or like when he talked about his ‘Chimp Moment’ – referring to a book by Dr Steve Peters – your chimp moment is the behaviour of a chimpanzee, you do things without thinking of the consequences of what you are doing. Or possibly you ignore the possible consequences and you just go for it. I’m sure we have all been there.

If the book has not come my way, I don’t believe I would have bough it myself, even from a charity shop, for the language is that of a different generation, and written for them not me.

Another great day awheel, now how will I get some water to these plants along the wall?

Stay safe.

 Last night, or should I say, early this morning I finished the book ‘The Black Ship’. As I have said much of the book contained detailed facts about the pirates themselves, the secret weapon the writer had was a man called Ken Kinkor a historian, who called himself a piratologist.

“One of the most important areas of research for kinkor was the dicey subject of the pirate crew’s racial mix. Many black activists in the Boston area were upset that so much had been made of the Whydah, especially since she had been a slave ship. I thought it might please them to know that many of the crewmen were slaves who had been freed by the pirates and worked as equals on the ship. To my surprise, this news seemed to infuriate them even more.

Most vocals was State Representative Byron Rushing, who for ten years had directed Boston’s Museum of African -American History.

“I think you should tell the story of black people in New England, but I’m not sure if I would start with gangsters, which is what pirates were” – “To me, that’s like telling the history of blacks in the 1990s and starting with drug dealers. Sure it is part of the story, but it’s not everything and not where you start.”

“Many would see pirates as scoundrels, pure and simple,” said Kinkor. “I take a different approach. If we look at the pattern of European society of the period, we are compelled to conclude that these men were not simple robbers, rather they were acting against social grievances.”

Kinkor, published a major paper in American Vision magazine entitled “Black Men Under the Black Flag.”

By studying the historical record, he found that as much as 25 per cent of Bellamy’s crew was black. Further research revealed that as many as 30 per cent of all pirates during the years 1715 to 1725 were of African descent. The reason, he felt, was that escaped slaves could be counted on to fight to keep their freedom. He even found two entirely black crews, with the exception of a single white man apiece.

“Piratical racial tolerance did not proceed from an idealistic vision of the fundamental brotherhood of man,” wrote Kinkor “instead, it sprang from a spirit of revolt against common political, economic, and social oppression. The shared experience of oppression was thus a solvent that broke down social barriers within a pirate crew. Shared feelings of marginality meant that the primary allegiance of pirates was given to their brethren. It is hardly surprising that so many blacks – confronted with far worse prospects by staying put within the European or American social order – chose piracy.”

To me, this was so profound. For as it was then, as it is now. The fight for freedom and social equality has been going on since the dawn of man’s understanding, and just as it was for the pirates of old, it is for us today in Scotland. They try to cover it in a veil but that veil is being parted and the people of Scotland are peeking into a world from which they have been excluded. kept in poverty, to protect the few they are fed a diet of deceit by politicians and their propaganda machine the National Media.

They cry out when overloaded rubber boats arrive on the shores of England, but who were the cause of these people risking everything to arrive on their shore, the British government and a disastrous foreign policy. It was they that went to war, destroying the infrastructure of countless countries, they made the mess, clean it up or suffer the consequences. Illegal migration does not have a solution here in The UK but in the countries from which the migrants are coming. The UK’s solution, end Foreign Aid, aye right.

They cry out as the reoffending rate in our prison increases, (reoffending in Scotland is three-time that of our worst European neighbour). The cure is not ‘bigger and better prisons’ where many are young offenders, let down by the education system. A high percentage of people in prisons and young offenders institutions have the literary skills of a primary school pupil. Without any hope of being allowed the privileges of a well-paid job or the privileges that come with a good educated they, like the pirates of old, turn to crime. The prison population will not decrease or that of reoffending until you tackle the cause, not the symptoms.

Poor wages, poor diet, homelessness, food banks, poor health, lack of housing a rising prison population, poor education…………. Are all products of choices by the government, most of the problems that exist in our society lye squarely at their door, of the Scottish government. And the cure – well, if they do not change tack soon Nicola, I suspect REVOLUTION, and your job on the line.

Stay safe.

 The rain that was forecast for yesterday, did not arrive in St Andrews, which is good and bad, good for the tourists, bad for our garden, then again, gardeners like farmers are never happy.

Scotland V England football, after all the hype, ‘guess what?’

We had all the pre-match talk – the game – and then all the post-match talk – and when it was all over – the “Game” was a draw, would you credit that? I did not watch any of it.

The tartan army will head home today, nursing their sore heads, with their empty pockets – and let’s hope that is all they bring home with them. Scotland football supporters must be the most optimistic people in the world.

I was in Paris just after the world rugby cup matches were held there, Scotland had been represented in that competition.

I was dressed for cycle touring in shorts and a bright yellow top, with red rampant lions scattered across its surface. I was carrying my folding bike in a bag over my shoulder, saddlebag in one hand my water bottle in the other as I entered the Metro train. Two teenage lads got on and stood opposite me at the doorway.

One asked

“Unicycle?” I think he thought I was a busker.

“No, bicycle,” I told him in my schoolboy French.

He shook his head – I nodded mine, this was repeated again and again until I finally I unzipped my bag and showed him the folding bicycle.

The lad then asked. – “English?”

I turned my back towards him and showed the words ‘Audax Ecosse’ emblazon across my back.

At this point the young lad snatched the water bottle from my hand, pretended to gulp down its contents, then started to dance around like a lunatic.

The ‘Tartan Army’ had sure left a great impression of native Scots, when they visited Paris.

I am coming to the end of The Black Ship, and yes, they did find in the end and it was authenticated by the finding of the ships bell, inscribed around the bell were the words The – Whydah – Gally – 1716, They had found the only Pirate ship ever discovered in the world.

Now whether Barry Clifford was just that enthusiastic about pirates as he was about pirate ships, or was it simply to pad out the book, I do not know, but the team’s research into the life of pirates was extensive, and made for fascinating reading.

I now know that the Whydah was a slave ship sailing from Africa to the Carolinas with 400 captured slaved chained to the lower decks when it was boarded and taken by the pirate ‘Black Sam Bellamy’ and since it was more to his liking than the one he commanded he put it to the crew and they voted to take the ship as their own.

Freed slaves were given the opportunity to “Sign the Articles” and become pirates themselves, a no brainer since this was the only work an escaped slave could get.

Pirates were a truly democratic society, and clearly not colour prejudice .

Up until reading this book, I knew very little about pirates, and what I did know, was from the American movie industry, mostly a swashbuckling Errol Flynn, the terror of the Spanish Main. It was an eye-opener about their life and travels. We even find pirate ships that were solely manned by Black men. Something United Artists did not mention, well that would have been too sensitive.

We have all heard of “pieces of eight” and that it was a silver coin. But why pieces of eight?

Pieces of Eight

Indian slaves hammered silver ore loose from rock walls, lugged it to the surface from the 900 foot deep mines and ground it into powder, for refining. Mercury was then mixed with the powder to amalgamate with the silver, which was then removed by cooking the amalgam until the mercury boiled off, (Live expectancy in that job must have been very short). It was them cast into discs, bars, or ingots, much of the bullion was converted into coins. Coin-sized slices were chiselled or clipped, these were known as cobs. The cobs were hand-struck between two dies, embossing them with the royal coat of arms on one side and the cross of Spain on the other. Assayer would check the coins for correct weight, clipping off any excess (and I’m sure they were not the only people clipping of parts of the coins) – no two coins were exactly alike. They were struck in denominations of one-half, one, two, four and eight – the largest being known as a “Piece of Eight” (one once). is that not fascinating. As Michael Cane would have said,

“Not many people know that”.

I would like to stop and blether more, but places to go, people to see. I am off to Tayport, meeting up with big brother for a bar lunch, he is off on one of them there bus tours. I think I will press my bus pass into service today, I found cycling home on a full stomach a bit of a pain, last time.

Stay safe.

Another find morning awheel, just out to Pitscottie and back, the afternoon I spend in the garden making ready for the heavy rain destined our way tomorrow. We really need it for the hose will not reach any of the borders along the front wall and the land there is as dry as an old stick, a good soaking will do it the world of good.

I like the iScot magazine (plug, plug) its a coffee table magazine that you can pick up and put down at leisure. In the June issue Vivien Martin a travel writer tells us about the Smugglers’ Trail

These smugglers from Ayrshire were no amateurs, this was serious, very profitable, and a highly organised business, run by David Dunlop – the loans smuggling company was the most successful in Scotland. I was intent on a trip myself down to Ayrshire, to the Martine Museum there. Now I have a second reason to visit, The Smuggles’ Trail.

It is strange, I was reading Lesley Riddoch ‘Huts’ and in her book, she shows how the lack of land ownership in Scotland kept the people in poverty and servitude and we are not talking about the dark ages here, we are talking recent history, my grandparents time or even my parents time. Poverty in which farm labours, in particular, living and working the land in Scotland, bordered on desperation. Tied housing, near starvation, many left the land and headed for the big cities where they swapped the land for a job in industry, poor wages and dangerous working conditions, overcrowded living, where many died early, of disease and in squaller.

Then low and behold I was in my local charity shop looking over its bookshelves when the book ‘The Black Ship’ almost leapt from the shelf. It was not about pirates but the quest to recover an English pirate ship and its lost treasure – the story of Captain ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy, and a watery grave off the coast of Cape Cod in the great storm of 1717.

Before we even get close to the discovery and salvage of the “Whydah” we hear the story told to Barry Clifford, of the demise of the pirate ship and its treasure, and the story of Captain Bellamy and his lover Maria Hallett – a dark version of the Romeo and Juliet story. This tale told to him as a boy by his uncle, Bill, fires the imagination of Clifford, pirate ships, gold coins, buried treasure, all on the very doorstep, what could be more appealing to a young lad, equal to anything in ‘Boy’s Own’. This story stayed with him all the way into maturity. It would not be until 1981 that all the pieces fell into place for Barry Clifford to make a serious attempt to find the 265-year-old wreck, possibly buried under 20 feet of sand, somewhere along the Cape Cod shoreline.

The “Whydah” was lost in the great Cape Cod storm of 1717. going bad, becoming a pirate, would have been an easy choice for anyone who had served their apprenticeship on a Royal Naval or on Merchant Navy ship at that time. A pirate ship was the only true democracy at the time, for it was the crew who chose their captain, and the crew would vote, to a man, over decision making on board. A far better life than the harsh life of a Royal or Merchant Navy seaman at that time.

So in a way all three books clash, for it was out of sheer desperation that the islanders and highlanders (those that were not tied hand and foot and thrown onto ships) chose to be shipped off to the new lands of America and Canada. And possibly for the same reasons that smugglers, highway robbers and buccaneers came into being. Die in grinding poverty, emigrate, or possibly die at the end of a rope, your choice.

300 years on, are the people of Scotland, really that much better off? You would have to say yes, but no quantum leap.

Redistributing wealth

The economic growth of high-income countries is making the rich richer, but having very little effect on the working classes. Economist Thomas Piketty had spoken about the idea of an “inheritance for all”.

Speaking at the London School of Economics in 2020, he said: “If you look at today’s situation, the average wealth in France or Britain is about 200,000 euros per adult and the median wealth will be closer to 100,000 euros per adult, but the bottom 50% owns virtually nothing.

Around 5% of total wealth is owned by the bottom 50%, which means that they have on average, one-tenth of the average wealth – about 20,000 euros instead of 200,000 euros. They own very little and this is true within all age groups. It’s not that the young are poor and are about to become rich. Some of them are about to become rich, but on average, the concentration of wealth is just as large within each age group.”

So once more I will climb back on my old soapbox and say – ‘universal basic income’ could help to balance this inequality. The amount of data we now have on UBI proves beyond all doubt that it works, to end poverty and re address the wealth balance.

In 2010 Iran ran a scheme giving citizens transfers of 29% of the median income each month. Poverty and inequality were reduced, and there was no sign of large amounts of people leaving the labour market. In fact, people used it to invest in their businesses, encouraging the growth of small enterprises. (so paid for itself)

And in Canada, in the 1970s, a UBI trial took place in Manitoba showed a modest reduction in workers, along with fewer hospitalisations and mental health diagnoses. (so it pays for itself)

From Finland we have the biggest trial, and not surprisingly the best results. Their success has seen poverty eliminated for those within the trial, crime levels fell dramatically, and doctors waiting rooms emptied (it pays for itself)

Ending poverty

Advocates for UBI say that it could help bring everyone’s income above the poverty line. I read Annie Lowry’s book ‘Give People Money’ in it she tells us

“We have just tons of experimental data from the US, from other countries, from Iran, from all around the world that shows that if you give people money, it reduces poverty. Just really straightforward.

UBI is not of course the only way to put money in peoples pockets a living wage linked to inflation would also work. How do we know this – there was a time in the UK when disputes over pay got so bad that there were strikes almost daily. When Tory leader Edward Heath became Prime Minister, he came up with an idea that he hoped would put pay too costly disputes between workers and management. At the end of every month, the figures would be published and if the cost of living increased so our wages were automatically increased by the same percentage. Of course, management and businessmen did not like it and it was soon scrapped.

Discouraging low wages

UBI would give employees enough security to have bargaining power. Lowrey has said: “Why take a crummy job for 7.25 an hour when you have a guaranteed 1,000 dollars a month to fall back on?”

In Finland there is no strings attached to the money, no clawback if you find a part-time or seasonal job for a few months, that’s fine, for it is all about giving people better life chances. UC (universal credits) here in the UK – once in the UC system, you would not wish to take any part time job or seasonal work to improve your lot, simply because you lose your UC money, once the part-time or seasonal work comes to an end you have to go back on UC and a five-week waiting time to receive any payment. This is self-defeating.

There is a downside for business, they would not be able to find people to do menial work for starvation wages. But on the plus side, better wages would lead to a healthier, happier and prosperous society. Begging the question – why are the Scottish governments not introducing, some form of UBI or a minimum wage with built-in automatic pay rises linked to increased cost of living?

Where will the money come from I hear you cry, most of these schemes are self-funding from saving on the NHS, police and prison services, social work? Local people with money in their pocket will spend that locally, so good for the local economy, win, wind.

And don’t get me started on Land Tax – do you know it costs you more in taxation for a pub in Aberdeen that for the Queen’s whole estate of Balmoral.

Don’t start me on Land Reform, the cost of a worthless quarter acre of ground, on which to build a home, in the highland of Scotland, that once only was good for a sheep to graze on will set you back £20,000, where is the land to come from for affordable housing if there is no land reform in Scotland?

Eliminating poverty, homelessness, food banks, are all within the competence and devolved powers of the SNP lead Scottish Government at Holyrood, and have been for since the SNP came to power. SO WHY HAVE THEY NOT, WHY? – because we keep voting them into power, no strings attached.

Stay safe.  

 By the time I arrived back from my run, I was over to Cupar, the wind was rising so I was pleased to be home. Showered, changed, I switched on the television as I make my way into the kitchen to put on the kettle, what would we do without our tea?

Sky News was on the television, Prim Minister Questions, I muted the sound. At the same time ‘Breaking’ news, the screen was split to show the arrival of President Putin in Geneva in Switzerland, he was there for a face to face meeting with the American President, Joe Biden.

On the split-screen, we saw PMQ on one side, and the arrival of one limousine at the place where the talks would be held, some grand house on the outskirts of Geneva. Putin alights from the car, no fuss no fan-fair, stops at the door for the official press photograph and enters the building.

Later we had the circus arriving in town, I could not count the number of black vehicles in the wagon train, but there looked to be around 50 at least. The Americans had arrived. Thank god they were not here to talk about Air Pollution or Global Warming.

It was also notable that as soon as Ian Blackford (SNP MP and leader of his party at Westminster) stood up in the Commons to ask his questions to Boris Johnston the television screen went from split to full screen – and yes it was the Biden cavalcade arrival at the venue.

Talking of arrivals, my iScot magazine had arrived behind the door. This always provokes thought. The article by Dr Steve McCabe was on air pollution and

“Nowadays, whilst things have undoubtedly improved, air pollution remains a major killer. Specifically, there are concerns around the levels of fine partials, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. These are the most harmful and most concerning. PM2.5 pollution produces multiple adverse effects on the human body – heart attacks, strokes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression and dementia. At present more than one-third of all UK local authority areas are recording PM2.5 levels above the WHO recommended safe upper limit.”

I think I will be keeping my mask on well after coronavirus has passed.

What surprised me in this article was that wood-burning stoves account for over half the health cost of all man-made air pollution. In the UK PM2.5 air pollution from stoves is thought to be responsible for 38% of lethal air pollution. And wood smoke contains a similar toxic and carcinogenic chemical cocktail to tobacco smoke and it is estimated that a wood-burning stove will increase internal air pollution in the home by as much as three times.

I wonder if St Andrews knew about this when they built their bio plant (heat from wood chips) at Guardbridge, or the EU who put up the money for its construction?

Isn’t it great when all government bodies follow the scientific advice, like on coronavirus, air pollution, and global warming?

Still, you should cheer up – If you die tomorrow, at least you will die happy.     

Stay safe

nest boxes, (ready for a coat of paint) made from to sides of a discarded flat pack gents rob

Today St Andrews lies under a cloud, in more ways than one. It has for many been a torrid year, illness, deaths, funerals, all devoid of any contact, at a time when a hug would have been the most natural thing in the world to do. But as more and more people in the country are vaccinated, life for a wee while looked as if we might just return to some resemblance of normality, now we learn the truth of the WHO wise words at the beginning of this pandemic,

“No one is safe until everyone is safe”.

Vaccinating the world would be a logistic challenge that should have been tackled at the G-whatever summit. Oh, Boris and Biden trumpeted thousands of vaccines free to the third word, (why do they use that expression, there is only one world, Numpty) Big-hearted Arthur, both, it is like a gull peeing in the ocean and saying

“That’ll make a difference”

Then the stooshie over Northern Ireland. We are told that Biden scolded the petulant Johnston over this, will this make any difference to Johnston’s thinking, ‘Not a jot’. Johnston has no intention of honouring the agreement made between the UK government and the EU, for to do so he would have to stick to the high food standards that do not apply in the countries he wishes to do traded deals with. Chlorine washed chicken, steroid injected beef, and GM crops anyone? When that happens the EU will have to put up border posts on the island of Ireland, to stop such foodstuffs from entering the EU via the back door. Boris of course will say

“We did not put them up, it is all the fault of those pesky EU bureaucrats, they need to be more flexible.”

Parts of the UK went into lockdown to host the G7 summit, millions spent on security, accommodation, hoards of newspaper reporters, television presenters, descended on the small village disrupting the lives of its inhabitants. 24/7 news coverage on all the media channels, and when the President of the US, lifted off from the grounds of Windsor, ‘we all went home.’

Nothing was settled about the coronavirus vaccination programme for the rest of the world – ’ We’re all right Jack’.

Nothing was settled over Global Warming,

So where does this leave Scotland,

“Well f***ed and poorly clad’

We are kept in check by poverty, for England intends to hold on tight to the purse strings. The Scottish election was a disaster for the Scottish people, ‘Both Votes SNP’ ensured nothing will change. Boris will be pleased. He has Scots just where he wants them, sitting in the SNP benches at Westminster. There they have no voice, the butt of his jokes, for had they been sitting in Labour benches – then they would have been a threat to his power. As Baroness Fox said on the Alex Salmond Show.

“The Labour party is finished at Westminster.”

An Alba vote on the 6th May 2021 should have been worth its weight in Tyndrum’s gold, for it, would have converted a modest SNP majority into an Independence orientated super-majority, and with that would have come superpowers to demand talks on our country’s independence and if desired a plebiscite.

What we have is the prospect of a Green Minister in the Scottish Government – that’s the Green party who don’t know the definition of ‘Woman’ and who conflate sex with gender.

Where now for Scotland?

Like it was said about the IRA “Alba have not gone away”

Parties only disappear when the will is no longer there to keep them going – that’s what happened to Change UK, for example, which saw many of the key founding members defect to the Liberal Democrats within a matter of months. Ironically, Alba could have suffered the same fate if the SNP had shown more humility in values,

“We take no pleasure in your defeat, our door remains open to you”,

That way there may have been a trickle of defections back to the larger party, and eventually, Alba might no longer have looked viable. Instead of the SNP have treated a moderate, social democratic, pro-independent party as vermin that must be totally exterminated. That strategic (and moral) misstep looks set to produce a response it so richly deserves.

Our membership is growing daily, and as Brexit inflicts more damage on Scotland’s fragile economy, as its hill farmers leave their land, the fishing boats are sold off to pay the debts, and the fishermen join the dole queue. As Boris continues his ‘One – Britannia’ enterprise, how will the people of Old Scotia, react?

“Fight and you may die – run and you may live, at least for a while, and from this day until then, would you trade that time for just one chance, just one chance, to regain ‘Our Freedom”

Form ‘Braveheart’.     

Keep safe.

 It was settling in for one fine day as I set out for Guardbridge, I was to return to the book shop today so I did not intend straying too far from home. The morning still carried the cool night air, but as quiet as a dormouse in hibernation, the only wind, relevant, by the speed of my bike, you could not ask for a more perfect cycling morning. I passed a field I had seen planted with potatoes only weeks ago, seemed like only yesterday, today, green shoots from the tops of the drills.

The little woods had wild roses in abundance, I remember these bushes being sold as rose hedges back in the 1980s.

The hay field, filled with willow the wisps running through it’s sanitised tall grasses, totally devoid of any poppies red, cornflower blue, and no home for insect or bird.

Days of my childhood – where are they now?

Returning into St Andrews the book shop was closed, not everyone, it would seem, enjoys the early morning air. Feeling good I cycled on.

St Andrews Bay shone like a new silver sixpence, spread out before me, as I submitted Brownhill. The hill seemed effortless today, the rest day had done its work.

By Kingsbarns, the wind was picking up but I was still pedalling strongly, I stopped off a Crail to look down on the little harbour from Castle Terrace, the words of an old Scottish poem popped into my head

I smile at them as at the old Crail lady,

Who used to man,

Her garden gate each morning

Just to see me smile,

‘A special smile,’ she said.

David Kinloch

I smiled as I remembered the words, or maybe they were not exactly the words, it did not matter.

I cut across the country over onto the B9131 for home and a second visit to the book shop, sold one book for a good price so I am H-A-P-P-Y

“Summer time and the living is easy……….”

Stay safe.

(Saturday)

I had cycled over to Tayport on Friday and spend the day with my brother, bar lunch and a good blether always works for me. A recent stay in hospital and six weeks of convalescence had reminded him (as it does us all when we get on in years) that he is mortal, he had decided to downsize, and wanted me to take photographs of stuff he wished to sell so I could post it on e-Bay.

My brother’s line of work was the conservation of old buildings, I must go over to Stirling Castle and see the new hammer-beam roof, the second biggest after Westminster, that he had a hand in, and is very proud of that fact, and rightly so. For some of his books, I do not know where he will be able to sell them they are so specialised – some more than 100 years old giving detailed drawings and instruction on how some of the work has to be carried out on building going back to old King Henry 8th time. He was telling me that some of these books cost him well over £100.00 when he bought them – and that wasn’t yesterday. There is a second-hand book shop in St Andrews, I will seek advice there, but they may end up in some university library.

Campbell was a keen fisherman so has a fair collection of rods and reels, all top of the range, conservation of old buildings must pay well, then again when it is Lottery money… I better not tell you the story of the costly pantomime, when they wanted to drill a 13 mm hole through a single brick wall at the Palace of Westminster, English Heritage are the people to turn to if you want to spend big money fast, their only equal the House of Lords.

Anyway to cut a long story short (too late), I ended up with a lot of stuff myself, so had to return on Saturday by bus to bring it home. This included books, DVD and a whole load of fishing gear for me to try my hand a fly fishing.

I have rods, reel, flies, fishing jacket, (you know the ones with all the pockets), landing net and to top it all off, a fisherman’s cap with S.W.A.T. embroidered across the front, so with the Halo effect in place, at least I will look like the real thing. All I need now is a frying pan big enough to take my catch. Actually, I have fished with my brother in the past but not for a long time, maybe now would be as good a time as any to return to the rivers.

(Sunday)

I liked to be out early in the morning before the sun rises too high, I did not go far today I was already whacked before I even left home since I had never been off the stot all week. Still, once the wheels started turning some of the old enthusiasm returns. On reaching Anstruther there was a natural breeze off the water so I spent a pleasant hour or so wandering the harbour and just sitting watching the world go by, which is fast becoming my favourite pastime. The wind was a big help to push me up the hill and back out of Anstruther for home.

(Monday)

View from my window.

Laundry day, now there is always someone moving in or out of sheltered housing such as City Park, you only find out when you go down to the bin area and the bins are full to overflowing and not only the bins, the area around the bins, which of course the bin men have no responsibility for so it will not be moved. Today it was two sides of a flat pack gents robe. Instantly I was alert. Out with the tarpaulin, the bench, saws and my piece of paper with sizes on it. A lot of head scratching later and I had the materials to manufacture another half dozen nest boxes, they always sell well at our charity coffee mornings. In the afternoon I will spend some time dressing the wood and gluing and nailing the pieces together should make a nice change.

The book I am reading now is another by Lesley Riddoch, ‘Huts’. Not surprisingly it is about huts and cabins, they mostly grow up after the First World War, I certainly remember school friends who’s patient’s had holiday huts, where the family would spend weekends and holidays. Huts thrived across Canada, North America the Scandinavian countries and Russia but in Scotland, the hutters were evicted, from their traditional sites – the way land is owned and managed in Scotland is still feudal, and the demise of the hut can be traced back to this, strange as it may seem, I had just finished reading Andy Wightman’s Scotland: land and power, and as I read Lesley’s book echoes of Andy’s book came flooding back.

Lesley started her interest in Norwegian hut culture as part of her PhD so this book has been 10 years in the making. I had given it a wide berth when if first come out thinking, wrongly as it turns out, that it would be very academic, you know facts, figures and graphs. And yes there is a bit of that but of course, unlike Andy Wightman, Lesley is a story teller, (which I’m sure short hand for working your arse off to make your writing appears as if it is natural conversational). I am really enjoying her journey of discovery, it is funny, hilariously in place, mostly because I can associate with it, the language, the joy she feels just being out in the wilds of Scotland. I have known that isolation and joy when I was a keen hill walker, and yes sleeping under the shelter stones and in barns or an old bothy, washing in a trough in a field, that you had to share it with the cattle, we both had those unforgeable moments. Thinking back on those times, I feel sorry for the youngsters today that have their computers, their smartphones, who spend so much of their time texting each other with such dexterity, playing computer games, but alas, missing out on real life. From biblical times we have gone out into the wilderness to find ourselves, maybe it is not too late, for the children of Scotland to rediscover huts.

Another change in the weather with the wind picking up once more a good day to spend indoors, and unwind after a full filled week.

Stay safe.         

 I cycled over to see my big brothers yesterday, he lives in Tayport, he had booked a table at the local pub for us so we sat out in the beer garden reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ which mostly weren’t. Our meals arrived, my steak pie in a jam jar, with a piece of the traditional Scottish puff pastry sticking out the top, my brother’s Haddock and chips arrived on a piece of Welsh slate, at least I had a plate. We both looked at the food then at each other and almost simultaneously said

“It’s different”. Many things were spoken off.

On my return home I sat up until 2 in the morning finishing, Andy Wightman’s book Scotland: Land and Power. In the book, Andy said this,

Reforming the system may involve going beyond the measures outlined in this book. The way in which land is traded, used, abused, financed, subsidised and developed has reached levels which no civilised society should tolerate. The following advertisement recently appeared in the Financial Times:

For the price of a flat in Fulham you can create your own wooded estate paid for by government grants – Net income for 10 – 15 years with inheritance tax/Capital Gains Tax advantages, protect the environment and establish new wildlife habitats, sporting and family enjoyment.

This scheme, the ‘Farm Woodland Scheme’, is intended to assist farmers to diversify into forestry – a commendable and worthwhile endeavour – but is being promoted as a get rich quick scheme for wealthy investors who can buy a farm, be paid to plant trees on it, enjoy a government-financed net annual income of 7-12 per cent of capital invested, and capital asset which again is tax-free!

There should not be much bothered finding takers. As the trouble farmers leave the hills, the ‘Caledonian Initiative’ hit the road visiting Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to drum up interest in Scottish land. The solicitors, Tods Murray and land agent John Clegg have created a travelling one-stop-shop where rich businessmen will be shown the range of land for sale in Scotland.

Nowhere else in Europe could such an unregulated market have sway over so much land. What is really scandalous is that so much public money can get thrown at Scottish farms, not for the Scottish farmers, but for people already seriously rich retreat on the back of British taxpayers money and tax breaks.

The first thing that came to mind on reading this was what happened when land, that had once been allotments and council homes in London, that were swept away for the Olympic Games to be held there. The People of course we’re told that the homes would be replaced and yes ‘some’ would be affordable housing. After the Olympics were over houses were built on the land, but only advertised and promoted as buy-to-let investments in Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

I certainly remember Economic Forestry promoted a similar scheme to the one being promoted above. High earning snooker players in 1980 were the target then, they were told they could invest in land in Scotland, plant trees on that land with grants from the British government and of course it was a tax break at the benevolence of the British taxpayer.

Back to blethers in Tay Port. My brother told me how his son had been working in Vietnam for a charitable company that we’re building homes for the homeless people of Vietnam, the building were prefabricated in NZ and shipped out, my nephew’s job was to oversee the work and under him, he had 33 natives of Vietnam. For reasons unknown to me, the work was to stop for six months, whereupon all the man would all be paid off.

After a discussion with his boss back home he found that his wages were such that by reducing his wage by only 50 per cent, over the six month period, he could safe the jobs and livelihoods, of the 33 men under him, and since they all had families to support suggested this to his boss.

Now apart from why and how this happened, if half the wage of one man is equal to that of 33 Vietnamese, what hope is there that industry will ever move back to the UK from overseas, and what hope is there that these workers overseas will ever be able to have decent wages and life chances and standards of the western world?

We know that Brexit has changed the face of Scotland. We know that the deal that Boris has done with NZ will make Scottish lamb more expensive and that Scottish hill farms will no longer be sustainable, more so when the EU subsidies, that Boris promised will remain after Brexit are withdrawn, land, that may have been farmed for generations by the same family will be sold off to inverters from Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, who will plant trees on it, (and not hardwoods but conifers that will have little commercial worth in 15 years time). Is this really what Scottish farmers (among the biggest section of people in Scotland to vote for Brexit) really voted for.

Come on Nicola extract your head from your arse and let’s have land reform in Scotland, and as I see it, the only route open to the radical change that will bring that about is Independence, the people of Scotland are waiting and they will not forgive you, for continually kicking this into the long grass.

Stay safe

There has not been a lot of excitement in my life over the past few days, more routine, but with the National Trust for Scotland starting to open up their attractions (the main attractions only by booking ahead) may give me more opportunities (and incentive) for me to get out and about more.

Still turning pedals but never more than 20 miles, mostly taking the bus to the start and cycling back ahead of the wind.

Update on the garden, still not a lot to show for our efforts but this is only our first year of trying.

The roses have put up more green growth than flowers but a big improvement on the condition they were in before I cut them hardback.

T

The Lupin, (grown from seed) are already showing flowers and the biggest success – then again they are as close to weeds as you will find in the wilds. When I was in

Canada they were literally growing wild almost everywhere.

Sweet Peas are taking off, at last, then again they did have a bad start with overnight frost.

Some of the climbing roses are doing well, others not so, one has black spot, and all the roses suffered greenfly, (I gave them a liberal dose of soapy water, seems to have done the trick) one I think has reverted back to briar, (possibly cut too low and below the graft) but has a beautiful little white flower that has a very strong sweet scent.

For me the biggest success has been the Hawthorn that I rescued from a skip, it looked dead when I planted it in the winter, it has thrived and has even blessed us with flowers, this year.

I would like to try and propagate some cuttings from the roses, to replace the straggly ones that are not doing well. God willing, I will introduce more vegetables next year, I think French beans are not only beautiful when in flower but make great eating. Rhubarb, I love custard, and there is no better tasting peas than eaten straight from the plant. I love them flat just as the seeds start to form you eat the pod and all and of course fully grown, but still ‘young at heart. Beetroot is messy to boil and pickle but boy is it good. Cabbage and cauliflower, the old stables of my youth, all can be dispersed throughout the garden and amongst the flower beds, so you will get the best of both worlds.

Patience is a virtue, they say, certainly when it comes to gardening, once some of the perennials are established, the garden will not look so bare at the beginning of the year as it has in the past. But on the whole, I think the residents are pleased with the results so far. Certainly, they feel more involved in the garden now.

Talking about earth I have been reading Andy Wightman’s ‘Scotland Land and Power’

“in a country of 19 million acres and 5 million people 0.025 per cent of the population owners two-thirds of the privately-owned rural land.”

The book argues that the power lies in the land and that power can only be resiled back by land reform. His research and references are extensive. On the section entitled

The Environment Discourse, he gives us Aldo Leopold the American human ecologist.

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”

Ownership of the land confers rights on individuals in society. Environmental stewardship demands that those rights should be accompanied by responsibilities to the rest of society and, ultimately, to the planet. This reciprocal relationship has yet to be acknowledged legally in land tenure systems.

Land reform has been talked about since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened, but although there has been lots of rhetoric from Labour and the Liberal Democrats when they held power as a coalition at Holyrood, and the SNP when they took power at Holyrood, all have tended to promote political philosophy which shies away from contentious political issues.

Personally, I think it will take a revolution to shift anything on land reform or independence, for that matter, in Scotland, pitchforks and guillotines are the answer.

Keep safe.    

Monday once more and of course laundry day – so my time of deep contemplation, – my euthanisem for daydreaming my time away.

One of the thing that I regret in my life it is not asking questions of my father and mother before they passed, now that that time has passed.

The words of a Gaelic Proverb say,

Itheam (let me eat),

O’lam (let me drink),

Caidileam (let me sleep).

Dad would have simply said, “Live and let live”. Dad was like that, if he had an opinion on anything he would say his piece and that was an end to it. Many times he said his piece to me over the years, it is only now that I have come to understand the meaning of many of those pieces. So many lessons taught that went unlearned.

Dad was very much a Darwinian, he had read his works of course but his life in the RN during the First World War, the Merchant Navy between and after the wars, the depression, the hardships the whaling, the countries visited had taught him, in real-time Darwin’s theories of the “Survival of the Fittest”.

“It is not about the hard times” he once told me, “but the way in which you deal with them, that’s what counts”.

Living with mum as her carer, although she would sometimes ask, who is caring for who? I heard many a story about her childhood after she lost her father to the Great War, the war to end all wars.

My grandfather was wounded, shot by a sniper as he carried out his duties as a stretcher-bearer during the second battle of Yepess. Treated in a field hospital he was then passed down the line to Boulogne-Sur-Mer. From here he would have been expected to be shipped home to dear old Blighty, Sadly he died of his wounds, (most likely from infection) and is buried in the War Grave there.

My mother filled in the story for me in the last years of her life. Her mother would now be the breadwinner in the family, and since the land fit for heroes never happened, what did happen was depression and high unemployment after the war. Gran, with no real skills other than domestic, could only find work at the ‘big house’, gran literally became an ‘old scrubber’.

Mum, the oldest of the three Campbell children, she would be no more than 8 years of age at the time, was obliged to take on the responsibility of getting herself and her siblings, up and out to school each morning, and when sickens hit any one of them she became their nurse, chief, cook and bottle washer. She even told me that when her mother was poorly she would be sent out to take over the step scrubbing and dishwashing duties, so that her mother could keep her job.

Such poverty that she sustained in her early years clearly had a detrimental effect on her life chances, with little education she followed her mother into domestic service. The years of depression dragged on, and almost inevitably lead to a second world war, which was really a conclusion of the first war. Rather than shake hands and all go home, the British aristocracy used the German defeat as a way to expand their empire, and extract their pound of flesh.

The Hebrideans will tell you, that when the Vikings sailed west across the North Sea, they put ashore all the sick and seasick on the Shetland and Orcadian islands. They then sailed on to the Hebrides – and that is why the fishermen of the Hebrides are the finest fishermen.

In her book on the Outer Hebrides, Lesley Riddoch asked why there were no fishing fleets on the Islands of the Outer Hebrides? However, it was not until much later in her book, that stopping at the War Memorial at East Loch Roag, at the suggestion from a Donald John MacLeod, was incensed by a radio programme she had presented years ago which suggested The outer Hebrides were the poor relations of Scotland’s larger islands, that she may have found some answers.

The taunts of the east coast fishermen, about how the Hebrideans’ fishermen’s were afraid of losing sight of land.

“Hundreds of them were evicted during the Clearances – take my native parish of Uig on Lewis. In 1795 the reverent Hugh Munro stated there were 275 net makers. I doubt if there are 275 people in the entire parish today.

But, he went on, the heavy loss of life in the two wars left the greatest void. Skippers took their fishing knowledge with them to the bottom of the sea, so their experience was not passed on to the island youngsters keen to enter the fishing industry. It only takes one generation to lose local skills….. Many Western Isles villages are now derelict. In Uig there were five schools when I was young – today there is one. In 1891 the population of the Western Isles was 44,987 and that of Iceland 70,927. Today the population of the Western Isles is around 25,000 and declining fast, while Iceland had increased to nearly 280,000. the Icelanders have not suffered losses in two World wars and their government has fought to preserve their fishing industry. Today Lewis would be better off it was under Norwegian jurisdiction, as it was hundreds of years ago. (that’s you telt). He does go on at length about the losses and why the decline in the fishing industry, including the illegal fishing by trawlers from Grimsby and Spain well within the limit and not a fishing protection vessel in sight. The breeding grounds destroyed and every fish in the sea, big small and indifferent dredged from the sea bed. (was this the ‘sea of opportunity’ being offered to the east coast fishermen by Boris Johnston?)

It is only when you start to come to terms with the destructive power of war and its aftermath that you will understand why I wear a white poppy and not a red, why I march against any intended involvement by the UK government in America’s foreign wars, indeed why I am a pacifist.

Remembering all victims of war

White poppies commemorate all victims of all wars, including wars that are still being fought. This includes people of all nationalities. It includes both civilians and members of armed forces. Today over 90% of people killed in warfare are civilians.

Opponents of the white poppy claim that those who wear it are insulting the soldiers that gave their lives in First World War and in conflicts since. They also criticise it for undermining the significance of the red poppy…. During that time, some women even lost their jobs for wearing the white poppy.

Bairns not Bombs.

Stay safe.

Another find day awheel. Cycled out on my normal little circuit to Pitscottie and back via Cupar. At Knock Hill, I found we had once more been invaded by the English, they had set up camp there.

“What’s that I hear, is that someone wheesling on the Sabbath?”

On the Pairc Peninsula, you will not find a B&B that will accept guests over the Sabbath, and not because everyone is a member of the Free Kirk but happy to adhere to the rule. For me, the worst thing that could have happened in Scotland was the Sunday opening. I use to look forward to my weekend’s off and if we did have to go in on a Sunday (for an emergency) you were paid double time. (so my conspiracy theory is that it was all a Tory trick to stop paying us double time).

Climbing out of Pitscottie the wind was now on my back and I happily clicked up a couple of gears. At the top it was all the way up through the gears and onto the big ring for home, singing along to Tina – Rivers Deep and Mountains High, Mario Lanza eat your heart out.

All this pedalling has knocked spots off my spare tyre, I will have to buy some braces to hold my breeks up, ho-hum.

Did you see Tina at the 50th-anniversary concert from Arnhem, what a survivor that girl is? It is well documented the life of hell she endured with Ike Turner. But what is less know was that she suffered a stroke and had a kidney transplant.

What was she then in her 60s, yet there she was bouncing around on a stage for two hours singing her heart out. And the antics on that gantry that went out over the audience, the catwalk out to the end could not have been more than a meter wide but there she was dancing back and forth, along it in high heels, no hand rails or safety net, I don’t know what she was on, but can I have some? Had it been the UK the Health and Safety man would have had a field day, and tried to close her down, good luck with that, did you see her audience, singing along to every song, he would have been hung drawn and quartered if he had tried.

At the moment I am reading Riddoch – on the Outer Hebrides. It is a journey up the chain of islands known as the Outer Hebrides talking to people that you could never cox into a TV or radio studio if their life depended on it. She is taking her life into her hands asking why…… On fishing, with some of the richest fishing seas in the world, the Outer Hebrides has no fishing fleet or proper harbours – Why? On language, the Gaelic language in the Outer Hebrides is where it was in Wales 40 years ago – Why? It is a fascinating book, for all the answers come from the people who live there, and their answers will often not be what you would expect to hear. It is written of course in Lesley’s own inevitable way, tongue in cheek – or sometimes just pure cheek.

“With a gargantuan cycle ahead, I am absolutely appalled at the offer of a lift across the Uig by Kenny Mackay. ‘How could you think I’d give up a three-hour cycle for a lift….will the bike fit in the back?”

I can not get enough of her work.

Some amazing facts came from this book, the one that blows me away was the wind revolution at Eishken.

“Using a cautionary example of development further north, a local trust bargained with Oppenheim for a share of ownership – not just the usual one per cent income from the turbines he owned. After pondering the prospect of grinding local opposition, the landowner agreed and raised the total number of turbines from 100 to 133 t give ownership of thirty-three to the Muaithabhal Trust (named after a local mountain).

That gives an eye-watering projected income of £10 million a year for the communities of Kinloch, Pairc and ‘Loch Seaforth’ villages of North Harris………….. Are you sure you have not got the decimal point wrong?

Nope’

He went on to tell Lesley

“Even after the council takes its 30 per cent for the wider community we’ll still have about £7 million a year. We want to build a causeway across Loch Erisort and tidal energy turbines to take forty minutes of the round trip to Stornoway. That would encourage more people to work in Stornoway to live on Pairc. We’ll build a state of the art, community-owned old folks’ home, so elderly people don’t need to leave the area to get care as they do now. We’ll support existing businesses, and pay off loans for students who come home and start up new enterprises.

It’s as well I’m not driving – by now I’d be off the road, ‘this is as near perfect as any community project I’ve ever come across.

Tell me there’s a catch’.

‘There’s a catch. it’s not going to happen.

What blew my mind, was this was just one small scheme in the Outer Hebrides. The potential for Scotland is well mind-blowing. We are one of the sixth richest nations in the world, with the potential to be the first or second in the world. Begging the question, Why is no one spelling it out to the Scottish people? (To wee, too poor, too stupid to run our own affairs, aye right) Followed by what is the SNP lead government at Holyrood waiting for, foreign companies and private enterprise to come in and steal it all from us?  

I listened to a Labour Baroness (I think she was Baroness Fox) on the Alex Salmond Show a couple of weeks ago. The good lady said that Labour is finished at Westminster, wit? If Labour is finished at Westminster, what is Labour in Scotland thinking about, are they simply going to go down with the sinking ship, or become a political force in Scotland once more by supporting independence?

Stay safe.

 I have been going out early in the mornings these past days, much cooler and empty roads. Today however it was after 9 am when I left for, well where ever. I cycled over to the car park at the Tay Bridge, I did not want to go into Dundee with this spike in coronavirus, so turned for home. The wind was freshening and like an old drunk man had no idea of direction, since it was coming from all quarters.

As I came out of the car park rather than take the A92 I headed back towards Tay Port then cut the corner by taking the back road from Cemy onto the B945 for St Michaels. I was mossing, along singing away to myself, when a lad on a road bike came alongside,

“Creeping Jesus”, I wish they would not do that, near give me a heart attack.

His bike was carbon fibre, a road racings bike, and looked brand new. He himself, I found out later was 73 and the colour of mahogany, he pedalled as if he had a few miles in his legs. I clicked up a gear and tailored my cadence to keep paces with his, and as the miles disappeared below our wheels, we blethered non-stop, and yes he had been around the block a few times. I had forgotten just how pleasurable it is riding in company. All too soon we would part company, Guardbridge, the parting of the ways, he to Cupar me to St Andrews, I hope we meet up again.

I had been touring down around Galloway when one evening, I got in tow with an Irish farmer in a bar in Kirkcudbright, the live music had attracted him and his wife as it had me into the place. They like me were on a touring holiday. His wife was still not convinced it would be all holiday. In a jovial manner, he told me that he was a Turfallagist, the first to turn his fields over for the growing of turf for gardens. My farmer friend’s thought I was mad, but who is laughing now? he asked, it really has taken off.

As I travelled along the cycle track I saw where they had been adding topsoil to a field that had been used for turf, It looks as if they had added around a meter to its height. Alongside was a mound of fertilizer. Instantly I could hear the deep Irish brogue of the Turfallagist in the bar in Kirkcudbright,

“Whose shout is it anyway?”

The hawthorn and broom is in fine fettle today and the sent from the hawthorn assaults the senses as you pass.

Another find day awheel.

Stay safe

The sea fog is clinging along the coast today as it has been for the past day or two, so I will be headed west on my trusty tricycle today, in search of the sun. Later possibly a bit of pottering in the garden, it is so good to get out after the prolonged spell of in-climate weather. Have been neglecting my blog these past days, trouble is all that I have been doing over those days is more or less routine, short trips on my bike in the morning then frittering away the day from there.

I have been doing a bit of research on boats, trains and buses to Europe. I really wanted to go from Portsmouth to St-Malo or Cherbourg £35.00 happy with that, the bus to Portsmouth was another £45.00 a long journey on its own, but would get me to where I want to start from (my grandfather war grave, I always say hello when in Europe). However……

When I started putting figures together it was all starting to add up to around £1,000 which is pretty much what I would have expected in expenditure for such a trip, what with B&B, ferries, buses and trains. So I have scrapped my trip to Holland.

One, I have been there many times.

Two, this may be my last chance at a long cycle tour in Europe so I am going to do something I have wanted to do for years ride the Danube cycleway EV6 (Euro Velo 6).

Travelling from the Black Forest (Germany) into Austria, where I hope to stay with, and possibly go sailing, with my old friend in Vienna. Slovakia and finally, Budapest in Hungary, total distance 296Km and dependent on how much sightseeing I do, three to four weeks duration. When I had my old Folk boat I had intended to move to France and stay on the canal system, and one of the trips I had wanted to do in my boat travelling the canal and river Danube, out to the Black Sea. That never happened – life got in the way.

I have cycled a few rivers from source to mouth over the years, and one thing I have found out is that they all flow downhill. And the bonus with the Danube (unlike the Loire) it flows west to east, and therefore with the prevailing winds. My friend in Austria tells me it gets very hot there in summer (my Achilles heel), I find cycling in the heat a real challenge – On the Compostela, I suffered in the hills from the blistering heat, and found myself pushing on in the cool morning air, packing in at around midday, then if short on mileage a few miles late in the afternoon.

Checking with my friend (he is English, married to a German lass, moving to Wien from Canada, that is where we met, and where he was living at that time). Peter tells me that April-May can still be cold (the average, temperature in April, 10 degrees but can drop to 1 degree – May 16 but again can drop to 6 degrees). But better that than during the height of summer when it can get unbearable, (23 degrees and as high as 27 degrees). I am much more likely to have rain during the early part of the journey the Black Forest is notorious for rain. The start of the journey is not the soars of the river Danube, but the Baar Plateau 1094m, and it is not uncommon to find snow at this height in April, it is only later that the rivers Breg and Brigach rivers merge into the Danube, so it is a compromise.

One of the big advantages of going in April-May is that it will be much quieter and easier to get into the Youth Hostels (the schoolchildren and students are still hard at work) and travel much cheaper too if booked up early.

The other big draw for me, I can time it so I will be in Wien for the May Day holiday (1st of May) the old Labour holiday here at home is still big in Europe and more so in Austria, with lots of beer drinking and Jazz bands a real national party.

Preparation, keep turning pedals over the summer months to keep some sort of fitness. Travel very light, (stay in YH and B&B) if it is cold and wet I will need a shower, washing facilities, and a dry bed for the night. And finally, keep dodging the undertaker.

I enjoyed the company of my first real visitor in over a year. I probably blethered on and on, like Stanly meeting up with his old pal Livingston, so much to say after long isolation.

I show off our garden, still not a lot to show as yet, for it has been an uphill battle, first with the plants having to stay indoors for too long therefore they became leggy. Then when we did eventually get them out into the cold frame and finally planted out in their permanent positions in the garden, they suffered overnight frost, which claimed a few. Those plants that survived all of that, succumbed, first to the birds, pulling them out by the roots, then when the young rabbits came along they found them to their liking, nibbling them right down to ground level. Who said gardening was easy?

Keep safe.

Many will know that I have been a supporter of the above, trying to seek clarification on Section 30 and our rights to hold a referendum. And anyone who has been paying attention will know that the SNP have thwarted us at every opportunity.

When Nicola became the leader of the SNP I was still a member, but seeing how she has high-jacked the party and the Yes moment, tried to stop AUOB’s activities, tried to get an innocent man jailed, Spent our money (ring-fenced for indiref2 that they no longer have) abused her powers over the police, the courts, then lied to the public and SNP members, all to remain in power as First Minister. I have no love for the woman, that much is plain, and I now believe she is no friend of Scotland in fact quite the opposit. If there is any justice left in Scotland then Nicola Sturgeon will get her comeuppance. As far as I’m concerned “Hanging is too good for her”. The rest I leave to Martin to explain.

So, the election is over. Immediately after which the Tories began saying exactly what we thought they would with regards to section 30. The SNP said exactly what we thought they would say with regards to section 30, none of it comes close to the reality of the situation and the SNP’s bill is definitely going to be challenged by the UK Government.

What comes next in this little saga, is that the UK Government are going to use the time challenging the SNP’s bill (if they ever get around to actually putting it to Holyrood because they’re already starting to do what they did at the last election – namely quoting longer and longer timescales) to modify legislation at Westminster and remove certain aspects of that bill from the competency of Holyrood. At which point the court will have no choice but to rule on the law as it stands at that time, declaring the bill to be incompetent. 

If that sounds familiar, it should be, because it is exactly the trap the SNP walked into with the continuity bill.

Conversations with counsel are such that we see no reason to appeal to the UK supreme court in this case and on that front you only have the Scottish National Party to blame. The constitutionality of the Scottish Parliament legislating for indyref 2 and the constitutionality of the SNP’s own bill being ruled competent have been scuttled by the SNP themselves. They could have had both confirmed if they’d merely joined this case and fought for the powers of the Scottish Parliament – but because the paperwork didn’t have an SNP logo on the top, instead the same fight will have to be had again at a cost of millions to the taxpayer. 

Make no mistake, this case has not been a wasted, arguments have been crafted and researched, which I am sure that the Scottish Government will be able to use when they have the same fight again and Westminster cuts their knees out from under them.

With respect to the current status of this case, what happens next is quite simple. The funds raised will go to pay all of the legal counsel we hired. The UK and Scottish Government will seek expenses over and above that, and for daring to ask a very simple legal question which politicians have failed to answer for 22 years, I am now likely to be sequestered (made bankrupt). But not to worry, because with nothing to lose, I’m now free to stop walking on eggshells and say exactly what I would like to say.

Be under no illusion. The UK Government was not the stumbling block in this case. The Scottish Government (that’s the SNP to ensure no mistake) first tried to have the case struck out saying it was filed under the wrong process. When that didn’t work, they tried to have it moved to a different process so it could be struck out, which counsel classified as an abuse of process. They deliberately filed a motion which we had to prepare for and draft a response, only for them to drop it at the last minute.

Every request they made came with the same request that “both sides should assume their own expenses”. Simply put, the Scottish Government used your tax money to deliberately delay and deliberately undermine this case.

If this were not bad enough – when it was leaked (we presume by the UK Government) that the Scottish Government had said exactly what it thought about all of you supporting this claim, namely “it is not for the pursuer to stand in the shoes of parliamentarians” (bearing in mind the pursuers are you 10,000). They withdrew from the case, knowing that all of their arguments would take a month to remove from the record, adding further cost and further delay to proceedings. But those arguments did not disappear. Instead, the Lord Advocate (who I see resigned yesterday, and I hope the door hits him in the ass on the way out), who was called to represent the Scottish Parliament (and who is a member of the Scottish Government) adopted those same pretentious and arrogant arguments of the Scottish Government. The fact that it was the Scottish Government Legal Directorate who was arguing on his behalf tells you all you need to know. The Lord Advocate was arguing for the Scottish Government, not the Scottish Parliament.

Indeed, we repeatedly called on him to state who exactly he was representing. We only ever got one response in one hearing which never actually answered the question. That response was “the Lord Advocate is not a member of the SNP”. This was a political spin because we did not ask him if he was a member of the SNP, we called on him to say who he was representing, the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Government. They made out it was the Scottish Parliament, but having adopted all of the arguments of the Scottish Government, and the fact that the legal counsel was the Scottish Government Legal Directorate, well, you can wrap a turd in coconut but you still can’t call it a snowball.

What it boils down to is that it’s not for we mere plebs to ask questions of Government.

Of course, before the election we warned that the SNP’s bill was not, in fact, a bill, and I am now free to say this quite publicly – they’re using that bill and promising to pass it was a lie – it was a fraud perpetrated on the electorate. The SNP don’t know if they can pass that bill or not, because they have never tested whether it would be legitimate or not. How do we know this? Because it’s literally the point of the people’s action.

The Scottish National Party has lied to the movement. They have presented a “draft” bill and claimed that they can pass it. The irony is that because it was a draft bill and not a bill, this is the reason the court has refused to opine. 

On the day we filed the court summons, Nicola Sturgeon was on TV making the statement “if the court says it is lawful, it is lawful”. On the day that the details of the Scottish Governments view of the ordinary electorate were published “not for the pursuer to stand in the shoes of parliamentarians”, miraculously an announcement of a “draft bill” was made. What you did not see was the panicked emails popping up all over the place just before it. It was no coincidence that the “draft bill” coming “before the end of the parliamentary term” popped up on the day it did.

Let’s be clear. The SNP could have easily tested the question in our case and passed that bill through parliament with a clause talking about the circumstances it would be used/activated. A clause stating a majority vote of parliament for instance. It did not need to be a draft bill, it did not need to stay a draft bill; and the electorate did not need to be lied to in the run up to an election being told that the Scottish Government could pass it, when they know damn well they might not be able to.

When they do attempt to pass it (if they ever do), and the UK Government challenges it, removing competencies from the Scottish Parliament and preventing that bill from becoming law, I have no doubt that the new Yes Men in Nicola’s cabinet will stomp their feet and shake their fists – but remember one simply inescapable fact – they had the opportunity to confirm their own bill and that the Scottish Parliament had the power to pass it. Only now, another legal battle will be required, it will likely cost millions between the UK Government and the Scottish Government dooking it out, and in the long run, the Scottish Government will likely lose because they will get hit in the face with the same metaphorical 2×4 that they did with the continuity bill.

The question for the people’s action is – is it finished? The answer to that is no. There is a plan B, but it will not be implemented for quite a while. However, we will not be proceeding to the supreme court. Had the Scottish National Party, the supposed party of independence, actually stood shoulder to shoulder with the grassroots on this, we’d know that the bill was likely to pass, all that would have been required is the SNP to pass it in short order. They could have then said to Westminster, mutually agree the terms of indyref2 or we’ll do it ourselves. But no, the SNP putting their party before the movement, choice to torpedo a case and blow their own toes off in the process – the blame for what comes next lies squarely on their shoulders, and while I am sure that their media team will have 20 meme’s and one line quotes for their elected representatives by tomorrow, no political spin is going to wash the stain that they actively blocked the electorate from asking a reasonable question about their own constitutional future, blew their own toes off, laid the groundwork for their own bill to fail and the UK Government to screw all of us.

On another note, and this one goes out to all the organisers of events around the country – there’s nothing more offensive than the SNP leadership consistently saying on one hand that we need to convince the other side to vote yes, but yet their own records show that absolutely zero resources have been allocated to that task for years. The other thing that should be called out is the constant comment about being out and campaigning. Apart from the pandemic, the movement has been consistently campaigning since 2014. AUOB, SIM, Forward as One and others around the country holding rallies on a regular basis. What was absent was support from the upper echelons of the SNP. 

We’re fast approaching a situation that is going to become intolerable for most of us in the movement. We’ve desperately tried to stop it, but for the arrogance of a select few in the upper echelons of Government, the worst-case scenario is unfolding before our eyes. 

Mark my words, the people’s action on Section 30 is not over. It merely has to morph into something different and change direction. Pressure now needs to be applied to the SNP and as for legal matters, I will not disclose what happens next until the time is right (I hope you understand), suffice to say, if the SNP are annoyed take issue at the minute, just wait for what comes next.

Martin Keatings | Convener – Forward as One via Crowd Justice

Many a true word was said in jest.

 A fellow blogger set me thinking about woodlands, up until now I saw trees as planks of wood, and woodlands less of a living organism. I was told that there are many out there that care about our woodlands and their maintenance. I thought I would start to pay more attention as I cycled around Fife.

In the not too distant past, large estates depended on their woodlands. Go around any old estate and it is still possible to find traces of a sawmill, some of the oldest driven by a waterwheel. The forest supplied fuel for the hundreds of open fires, that would have been in every room of a castle or country home. Local wood was used in the repair and construction of new buildings. Fencing and furnisher would have been made right there in the woods, along with charcoal burning, required in the manufacture of gunpowder, keeping an army of people employed.

As the use of woodlands for food and timber declined so did the forest’s usefulness, and the forests went into decline or were cleared for farming. There was a time when a great forest of Scotland stretched all the way across the border country, from Jedburgh to near Girvan, some of it still remained as the Galloway Forest Park, but many of the native trees that would have stood there have long since gone. We knew that Bruce took one thousand men with him on a hunting trip to the Ettrick valley. By the mid-1800s, this great forest had been cleared and its hillsides used for the grazing of sheep.

Interesting that during the clearances in Scotland, crofters were forbidden to take their roof timbers with them and were forbidden to cut down trees on the new land given to them, which rendered them homeless, many did not survive the first winter’s snows. After Culloden, Scotland was under martial law in all but name. Thousands of forts were established across the land, all men were forbidden to wear any form of national dress, or carry a sword, the New Town of Edinburgh was built – which said it all – “We Won”.

So with all these thoughts burling around in my head, I set out on a wee run. First, stop the little woods alongside the cycle path out of St Andrews.

This is a well-managed piece of ground, limbs cut back and trees thinned out to stop overcrowding since many of the trees seemed to be small self-seeded trees I presume this was started in recent years, but by whom? For there are nest boxes,

Bug hotels, and the grass has been kept down and the woods are not suffering from ivy or other forms of ground cover such as brambles that can take over when left to their own devices.

Even in this small patch of land the effort that must have gone into getting it in this, good state of management, would have been extensive, and not to say, expensive.

Under threat

I turned at the end of the little woods and headed back into town and down to Ayton Wood and cycled along the path that runs through it and alongside the Kinness Burn, the contrast is stark.

The trees here are being chocked out with ivy, brambles, nettles and rhododendrons. Sad really for there are some very mature hardwood trees here like this Popular, with self-seeded sycamore sapling growing up around it and ivy all the way up to the uppermost canopy.

The whole half mile or so of wood is like this.
Out of control undergrowth

Where there is a clearing there is a little oasis of wildflowers.

What we need in Scotland is some form of Doomsday Book. All the land in Scotland recorded and assessed for taxation. If someone owns the land and that land is hitting them in their pocket, they will either – use it, to pay the cost of holding on to it, (no more land banks by big building contractors). Sell it. Or hand it back to the government, off-load it, they in turn can offer it to anyone wishing to buy it and make use of it. In this way all land in Scotland will be properly managed and accounted for rather than just owned, and since it is not eating a piece (a Scottish sandwich), who cares if it is badly maintained?

Stay safe.

Now, normally time spent in my workshop is curtailed in summer when outdoor persecutes take over. However today the weather is making a good impression of a dreich winters day.

I think I first became interested in drawing through an art programme on children’s television, the artist would do some simple but clever line drawing and there was also this plasticine character called Morph, I just loved the simplicity of it all. Today my Morph like sculpture started off with me scribbling away on a piece of scrap wood, then onto the band saw to make a rough model in wood. Happy with that, I used a piece of Perspex and scroll saw, hey presto,

Still needs a bit of work

Now more Stour collectors for my windowsill.

 The Great Train Robbery.

Do you remember a time when the Scottish government, under the SNP, were going to allow biding by local authorities for the rail franchise in Scotland, when they came up for renewal? Scottish Labour and the rail unions were cock a hoot, the start of renationalisation of the rail network in Scotland.

Scotland’s fate was sealed the day Brexit happened and The Scottish government did nothing in response. Oh, Blackford did a lot of shouting in the Commons and Oor Nicol screamed about Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will. But no independence referendum. Like, frighten rabbits caught in the headlight they just sat there and hoped the car crash that was Brexit would somehow miss them altogether.

The inshore fisherman were the first to suffer from a loss of their only market, the EU. Still no alarm bells, certainly not indiref2. Now the white fish market is suffering, why even the bold skipper Buchan, who could not wait to get out of the EU and take Boris up on his offer of a ‘Sea of Opportunity’ is now having to sit in the Irish sea a ‘Guard Boat’, to a company installing wind turbines, why catch fish, if you have no market for them. Maybe he would be better off registering his boat in Ireland and back in the EU?

Boris and his wee gang of Brexiteers are now signed up to a new trade deal with Australia and New Zealand, there will be no import charges for Australian and New Zealand produce (like lamb) coming into the UK.

With no EU market for their product and cheap imports into the UK from abroad, where will the Scottish hill farmers sell their Top Quality meat now? Then will come the killer blow, the removal of subsidies to farmers. We had the fine words for Boris, that the government will keep subsidies going even after Brexit. Do you believe Boris? The Tories, just as they did under Maggie Thatcher, will close down the Scottish hill farms,

“The taxpayer can not go on subsidising uneconomical industries” she told the Commons.

And the pits, the heavy industry, along with the shipbuilding, the steel making plants all closed, and the end of a working life for many who worked in those industries, certainly anyone over the age of 50. Years of short term policies and lack of proper investment and programmes of modernisation had left British industry uneconomic, and on its knees – outsourcing was the new buzzword. Privatization lost the joined-up links between railways, pits and heavy industry such as steel and the separation of the grid from power stations was the final straw. Scotland was sold down the river to the highest bidder, and the job centres filled up.

I watch in disbelieve as history repeats itself. Now we have Universal Credits, and food banks the new growth industry. Whilst G4S run our prison services, Spain and the Netherlands run our trains, the big four have cut up the energy market between them, well you know the rest.

When you are 55 years old,

And you’re looking for some work,

Nobody wants to know your name.

No one gives you a start,

So I watched him growing older and more bitter every day,

As his pride and self-respect was slowly stripped away,

There was nothing I could say,

They had no use for him.

What hurts most, is, seeing all of this the people of Scotland still refused to stand up and be counted when they went to the polls on the 6th of May. Both Votes SNP, aye right.

Keep safe.

 Margaret Lear, tells me that the plant that I could not name was if fact wild Comfrey, (check out her gardening and countryside blogs, I’m sure you will find it very interesting.) I have heard of Comfrey but I never knew just how valuable a plant it was in the garden. But after a bit of research on the internet, I discovered that Comfrey is a bit of a superhero.

The leaves of the comfrey plant it would seem are full of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, many gardeners I am told make up a liquid feed from water and the leaves of the Comfrey plant, so you will never need to buy expensive fertiliser ever again.

Herbs have played a part in man’s life down through the centuries, in love, religion, health and superstitions. I do not know much about herbs only what I learned from my mother, who had a herb garden, her herbs mostly grown in old chimney pots or clay drainage pipes set into her small garden so that the herbs would not take over the place and appropriately enough, for drainage. Mum learned from her mother, a woman dad (I’m sure without malice) called the old ‘spey wife’.

In grans days of course there was no NHS, and even in my mother’s time she once had to save up for an operation that she needed, you had to pay upfront it those days, practicality I suppose, well you might die on the operating table and who would pay then? Hard to believe now but true. So herbs were widely used in herbal medicines. I was too young to remember mum’s herb garden by she told me that Comfrey was the best medicine for migraine, I am not sure how or why it came into our conversation, then again in later life mums conversations would wander from one totally unrelated subject to another in the same sentence.

In the film “The Great Caruso” the late, great Mario Lanza, playing the part of Caruso comes off stage and wishes to go and see Dorothy. You can’t, he was told, you promised to sing at midnight mass.

“It is a funny thing a voice,” he said “A man believes he has a voice, but in truth, the voice has the man, when I want to be someplace the voice needs to be someplace else, funny thing a voice,” he tells us.

Life for all of us is like that, we may plan ahead but life has a different path for us. As I neared my retirement, the plan was to take off in my old folk boat, sail over the horizon. It was at this time that my mother went into the hospital with extremely high blood pressure. She spent the next five weeks strapped to a machine that thinned her blood. Now due for discharge, she could not leave unless she had somewhere to take care of her until she got back on her feet. I, at that time, was the only one with a spare room and no real commitments, mum came to stay with me for what would be a few months until well enough to go home. A few weeks later mum suffered one of many, small stroke over the next ten years of her life. Mum lived until only a few months off her 100th birthday. I by default became my mother’s carer over those 10 years.

Carers are the unsung heroes of this country, for me, the hardest job I have ever taken on, both physically and mentally, yet paradoxically one of the most rewarding. During those quality times with mum, she would tell me of her young life, getting married to a man who spent most of his life at sea. The hardships of single-handedly raising her ever-growing family in times of war, and depression.

Maggie gave up her life for Jimmy and the kids,

There were times, I know,

She was sorry that she did.

Quickly I came to understand, I needed a sanctuary, somewhere I could go and be free from the cares of this world, even if it were only for a few hours each day. I needed a safety valve too, for mum could be contrary when she wished and I at first felt that I had lost all control over my life. Even when mum went into rest care each and every Wednesday, the job never left me. My sanctuary arrived when I joined a local allotment society.

Allotments are not only gardens, they are a laboratory where you get to experiment and never stop learning new skills and never stop being amazed either at new birth and growth. I built a small tool shed, bought a second had a greenhouse and erected that on sight. I grew all the usual everyday vegetables, then came fruit bushes, black and red currant, a couple of rows of raspberry canes. And since mum liked flowers in the house, I had a flower bed, Chrysanthemums were always my favourite. I even won a small cup at the local show for my Chrysanthemums, (it was a very small local show).

You learn to utilise if you have an allotment – re-cycling has been the way of gardeners since the days of Adam. A new manhole was being built, not far from my home, the men were using concrete rings in its construction. A small ring had been surplus to requirement, so I persuaded, by the crossing of palms with silver, for the ring to be delivered up to my allotment. This was the start of shared interest between mum and I, our herb bed.

Growing up in the 1950 mum was always at home, looking after the families needs, not until later did she go out to work herself, this was the normal, women did not have the choice of being a career mum. Mum used herbs for seasoning in her cooking, she would always garnish with a few sprigs of parsley or mint over the potatoes in the big terrine. Sage with pork and a few leaves of basil would be found in the bottom of the stew pot.

Some of the plants she used I would recognise today, many still grown in gardens, not so much as a herb but purely as decoration such as catnip. The underside of its leaves grey in colour whilst the tops were green, with a very pretty purple flower.

Caraway seed,  had a strong aromatic odour and used a lot in mum’s dishes, they looked a lot like carrots until the flat white flowers appear.

Chives mum would use in almost everything she made, you pick up an onion, mum picked up a handful of chives.

Coriander seeds went into the baking – very perfumed taste and again a strong odour.

Fennel with the vegetables and some of their seeds would find their way into mum’s cheese.

Open any one of my sisters draws and the smell of lavender, escaped into the atmosphere. Little handmade bags stuffed with lavender went into every drawer and hung in every wardrobe.

I’m sure there are hundreds of herbs out there in our hedgerows, that I have never heard of and would not recognise even if I tripped over them. Maybe it is time to introduce a few pots of herbs around the patio here at City Park.

Stay safe.                

You know what it’s like, you carry an umbrella with you all day and the rain forecast for that day never arrives. Would the same work with a cycling cape I wondered? The skies were clear when I set out, but heavy showers were forecast for any time during the day. As protection against any future rain, I stuffed my magic cycling cape in my pannier.

By the time I reached Knock Hill, the dodgy inside crank, was still firmly in its place.

Nice job, tell that engineering chappy.

So the decision was made to carry on, ‘over the top lads’, I plunge down to the River Eden, from here I would follow its tributary, the Ceres Burn into Pitscottie. Today I stopped off at the little woods near Blebo House to take a photograph of the wild Garlic, (mentioned in an earlier blog) now in flower and with a strong pungent smell.

Also along the roadside are wildflowers of every kind but these are by far the most numerous, I have no idea what you called them, they have little yellow bells hanging in clusters from their stems. Whatever they are called they sure are prolific, along this stretch of road.

I stopped at the crossroads in Pitscottie and had a long drink from my bottle, and was about to search out my banana from the pannier bag when I felt the first spots of rain. Black clouds had come in from nowhere at a great rate of knots, time for Hamilton to pull on his magic cycling cape, it did not deter the rain one little bit.

At Pitscottie I thought it might rain,

So as not to disappoint,

Down it came,

It rained and rained and then it rained,

A downpour well maintained,

My road now became a waterlogged bog,

Then it started raining,

Cats, dogs, hail and,

A plague of frogs.

The rain was coming down stair rods as I splashed my way back along the B939 for home. Surprisingly I was enjoying myself, spray arching off the front wheel, rain puddling in my cape until I had to lift it from below, whereupon the water would cascade like a waterfall, mostly onto my lower legs, but I was wet to the point of past caring.

As any mother will tell you, small boys will always arrive home dirty and wet, no matter the weather, it’s in their nature to do so.

“Look at the state o’ yi, you’ve been doon that burn again, what have I telt yi aboot that burn, git them wet things Aff, and under the shower, before you catch yir death.”

“Bit mum, I have had a shower the day already”

Of course the rain immediately stopped as soon as I entered the outskirts of St Andrews, sod’s law.

I have the television on with the sound down and an advertisement has just come on in support of Christian Aid, water for Kenya. You see a woman walking with her plastic drum to fetch water. You see women digging in the fields and planting their crop. You see another woman with a donkey with four plastic drums, tied onto its back – presumably to water the crop. Then finally the crop harvested. I only have one question – what are all the men doing whilst their women work?

Aid to Africa only pushes people deeper into poverty, refuge camps are a disaster for the people forced to live in them, receiving their daily hand out, kept in servitude by wester aid. Like food banks in this country and food stamps in America, they only aggravate the situation. Fix the disease not the symptoms of the disease. Help people to help themselves, out of poverty. Stop the west from interference in other peoples affairs, regime change, and endless wars to sustain an arms manufacturing industry at home.

Daydreaming, well not if the will was there to change. We have seen how here in Scotland the Green Party has grown up almost overnight on the back of some notion that they have an answer to global warming, and the problems of the world. They have as much chance of stopping global warming as I have of doing 20 on a bike again. But they have managed to persuade enough people to dream their dream too.

The audio wallpaper today is Verdi’s Aida and possibly the best of the arias from Aida ‘Celeste Aida’, playing now. Although I use my CD as audio wallpaper when I am typing away – subconsciously they stick, for later in the day I will find one particular arias I have heard earlier floating around in my head. Although we may believe we are doing nothing or thinking nothing, the grey matter is still active in the background.  

 We had our fair share of rain last night and there is a dankness still hanging around the toon. But the cloud is high so I should be able to put in a couple of hours cycling without having to dig out my rain cape.

Don’t whatever you do turn on the news today, you will only become more depressed than you already are. The new variant of coronavirus is cutting a swath throughout the country, just as the pubs are opening up for business once more. The two question on everyone’s lips

Can vaccinations be rolled out quickly enough around the world to make us all (relatively) safe once more?

And will Boris allow bodies to pile up in the streets before he orders another lockdown?

I actually do believe it is the sort of daft thing that Boris would say, an off the cuff remark, one of his throwaway lines, a bit like dying in a ditch, or sitting in front of bulldozers, that is all it was, a silly quip. The problem I have with this is, hard to believe I know, but Boris is running our country.

As soon as I heard another expert being introduced to give his pennyworth on coronavirus, I quickly clicked onto channel 11 – Sky Art. What a treat a re-run of Celtic Women: songs from the heart, the Powerscourt House and gardens in Ireland.

We have such a wealth of musical and dance talent in our countries, why O’ why are we watching such rubbish on our televisions day after day. Celebrity game shows, celebrity quiz shows, celebrity annalists singing their same old songs. As for afternoon television – this is the best cure for insomnia known to man.

Have to go places to go, people to see.

Keep safe.

I did wake at around 7 O’clock, but bleary-eyed, I turned over and went back to sleep, it was 9.20 when I next woke. Either the hot weather was to blame or I may have taken more out of my body yesterday than I thought I had. We (near 80-year-old) young lads, just do not bounce back like we once did, which of course was the reason for buying an e-bike, prolong the inevitable.

I know now the wee bike goes well on, relatively speaking, flat and good quality roads but what about hilly ‘B’ class roads where it will be spending much of its life.

Time to take to the hills, and being Friday Kelly Castle would be open to visitors, certainly worthy of another visit, even if fully booked and I can not enter the house, the gardens are always worth a visit. I did try to press my Edge Explore into service, plotting a route, superfluous really since I know the Fife roads like the back of my hand, however, I do need to learn to programme it if it is to be of any use to me when I take off for Europe next spring. Nope, despite my best endeavours, I was getting nowhere, clearly, I will have to go onto the internet and watch a few U-Tube videos to understand the process. However I will attach it to the bike and it may give some idea of distance, altitude climbed, and average time over the ground, all will help when plotting new adventures.

The day was again overcast but warm, to the point of being muggy. Taking the back roads out of St Andrews I climbed all the way up to Drumcarrow Craig then on to Peat Inn. A slight climb up onto Bowhill, and the entrance to Hawkswood Country Estate,

What do you do with your Micra when it fails its MOT?

You are now at the summit of the ridge, it is all downhill from here. Largoward, Arncroach then a hop, skip and jump to Kelly Castle.

Entrance booking only and you can not book online, so I skipped that.

Watch where you park your bike, Housemartins in residence, and can make a fine mess on your saddle.

I just went for a walk around the gardens supping at my coffee from the chuck wagon.

My return journey would be via the B9131into St Andrews.

Between yesterday (over to Dundee and back 30 miles) and today Kelly Castle (20.3 miles and 794.9 ft of climbing). And although I thought I have saved the return journey from Kelly Castle, I could not find it on the computer, but somewhere around 13 miles, and a fair bit of climbing. This all added up to a lot of gear changes and bedding in of new cables, so by my return today the gears were making all sorts of horrible noises and if I was not very, very careful when changing up into the higher gears, the chain was pulled off the front ring gear, drat and double drat. I dropped the bike off at Spokes bike shop, in South Street to have it tuned, should have it back on Monday.

Apart from teething troubles, it is all I wanted and more. It has five settings of assistance but I have never used more than the first 2 settings, I find them adequate in this terrane, for the granny gears are altar low. How can I best put it, it is a bit like having young legs once more.

Today I was mossing along at about 30k per hour when a young lad overtook me on a mountain bike, pedalling hard to overtake me. I could not resist, at the next clime as I saw he was flagging, I pressed the button, up from number 1 to number 2 and shot up past him not unlike Lance Armstrong, after a blood transfusion. That’s you telt.

Keep safe.