I always bring up the newspaper headlines of a morning to see what is going on in the world. One headline intrigued me. Alongside a photograph of a fruit and vedgetables stall, was the headline telling us that the UK was going back to using the old imperial measures.
Reading deeper we find that this is not a change in the law but a concession, if merchants wished, they can in future sell goods in imperial measurement, cwt, stones, lbs, and ounces. There was the usual padding of the story from the straight banana brigade. This change, on the face of it, would seem ‘No big deal’ and would not affect British companies whose packaging lines were all set up in metric. But what is behind the headlines I wondered.
I have always been skeptical about Johnston’s unwillingness to have anything to do with the EU, and his unwillingness to consider shared food standards. This was one of the big stumbling blocks during the negotiations over Ireland. There was a lot of talk about lowering food standards so that trade deals would be fore-coming with American companies. Chlorine-washed chicken, GM food feed to animals, steroid injected beef…..
Thinks – most fruit and vegetables come in pre-pack sealed bags and printed on such packaging is the weight of the contents, which at present in the UK is in metric. How much more convenient would it be for American supermarket chains to set up in the UK if they did not have to repackage in metric weights for the UK market alone. These American companies already had their packaging lines in place and it would be very costly to run a separate line just for one customer (the UK).
Now I am ever fearful of anything the Tories do by sleight of hand. Remember Thatcher planed years ahead, stockpiling coal at power stations and changed the law on secondary picketing, no miner could then picket outside any power stations, so that no power station could be closed by pickets. Stockpiling would ensure that no power station would ever run out of coal so the lights would stay on. All this was planned long before she took on the miners. Thatcher then went to war with the people of this country, civil war by any other name.
If I am right, and I’m sure I am, a deal with America has already been struck. This is the thin edge of a wedge, what about elderly care, we hear so much about it. Not that the councils will be given more money to pay of elderly care, it will be privately run elderly care, American companies perhaps, running the new proposed care for the elderly, and not out of the government’s coffers, but raising taxes to pay for such care. The propaganda has already been started, ‘if you want elderly care, it will have to be paid for” not out of taxes already collected for the purpose, but by muggings once more, the gullible taxpayer.
And why stop at elderly care, the NHS is in trouble too, American-style healthcare anyone? Trump told us that if an American trade deal was to be done, “nothing was off the table” I think a trade deal has already being thrashed out, but stealth was needed to put it into place.
So Boris is to spend, spend, spend on new nuclear submarines and their ancillary armaments, never a problem finding money to buy such toys, (always guaranteed to increase erections around the cabinet table at number 10 downing street.) and we will not be asking people to chose ‘Defence but at a cost, so taxes will have to rise.
The writing is on the wall – it could not be plainer – we need out of this so-called ‘Union of Equals’ – we need independence, and we need it now.
My brother came to my door yesterday, he was going off on holiday and wanted to do some last-minute shopping in St Andrews. I had just returned from my bike ride and told him to give me five minutes to shower and change and I would take him for coffee and a scone. I have a favorite little cafe, where they make homemade scones, just like mother used to make, and big enough to satisfy the biggest eye and belly.
Settled in at a table and out of the blue, my brother said,
“That Nicola Sturgeon is one stubborn bugger”
Now this was something new, my brother hardly ever mentions politics, and since we are poles apart, he a Tory and me, well, I’m not sure exactly, but always a socialist. I think it is an age thing, Campbell remembers the war and the British Empire days, Queen and Country, and all that, we were all very British coming out of the war. I, on the other hand, was one of the rebellious teenagers that came along in the late 1950 and early1960.
He said, Sturgeon needs to forget this independence rubbish and get on with putting the country back on its feet, get a economic recovery sorted out, not independence.
Red rag to a bull time.
“And how do you believe economic recovery for Scotland can happen without independence?” I asked.
Does Scotland control, anything. The waters around our coast, the fish within those waters, the oil under those waters, no, Scotland’s waters are in the hands of American hedge-fund manager based in London, Boris Johnston, could not give a shit about, Scotland, her people, or her problems. And I suspect, he cares with just as much enthusiasm about the problems of people in all the other parts of the United Kingdom.
“The UK government are spending millions to upgrade the dock at Dundee for decommissioning North Sea oil rigs” he told me.
So millions to get work, for how many years? And is it really the UK government that is putting up the money or the American oil companies that, by law, have to decommission the rigs? And when the old rigs have been decommissioned – what then, back on the dole queue? This is not a plan for the future this is lurching from hand out to hand out.
The buzzword at present is wind, wave, and tidal technology. We just saw the lunch of a huge tidal machine from the dock in Dundee, it goes on trials off the Shetlands, most of the development money came from the Scottish government. When trials are complete, how many of these machines do you expect to be built in Scotland?
“None” he agreed.
Everyone is talking about wind farms in the North Sea, yet Bifab at Methil, a fabrication yard that made jackets for wind turbines could not even get to weld two pieces of metal together for one of the large wind farms being installed in Scottish waters, and within sight of their front door. No, if there are to be wind farms in Scottish waters, they will be managed by hedge fund managers, and contracts for their manufacture and installation give out by them, and it is they that will set the cost of the electricity they generate to you the customer, Scotland will control nothing of it and certainly will not benefit financially from any of windfall.
He mentioned his son, (recently deceased) who worked for a company in Vietnam, his son’s weekly wage, he told me, could pay the wages of 30 of the Vietnamese workers under him. You can not compete with such cheap labour, he told me
You see to me this has nothing to do with the bottom line, it is about the welfare of our people. I lived through the 1980s when Scotland (like many industrial societies at the time) was faced with those twin evils, unemployment and inflation. I knew the anger and despair of many working families – men who, after working all their lives to give their kids a good start in life, now find that most of their work has been in vain, for many of their kids now could not find jobs and face an uncertain futures on the dole. The 1980s hangover is still prevalent today.
My names Dan, I’m a working man,
A tarnished badge they tell me,
But one I ware with pride,
A fair day’s work, for a fair day’s pay,
I’ve always lived my life that way,
Now I can’t help thinking,
I’ve been taken for a ride.
And those cast onto the dole queues in middle age.
When you’re 55 years old and looking for some work,
No one 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 is the real cost to a country from unemployment? The mental health problems it brings are a big cost to the NHS. Broken marriages, children into care, social welfare, housing benefit, our prisons filling up with youngsters, and if there is no working class there is no income from taxation, all this lie at the doorstep of number 10 Downing Street. For these are government inflicted wounds
Yes, Campbell, the wages may be 30 times lower for people working in the far eastern factories and shipyards, but what of the standard and cost of living in Vietnam? If you continue to outsource all your work to the far eastern companies at the detriment of your own then, you must face up to the responsibility of those decisions, as our dad would have been quick to tell us,
“You make your bed, then it is you that must lie in it”.
What will be better for Scotland and her people, an independent nation making her own decisions and way in the world, or a few more billionaires, under the Boris Johnston system, with the devil taking the hindmost?
And of course, we always part as friends and always still brothers. The scones were the berries too.
Today’s ride, same as yesterday.
Average speed 11.52 miles per hour
Time taken 1.13 hours
Max speed 24.63
Altitude climbed 640 feet
Calories burned off 557
So with 28.4 Miles in the tank, we can once more press on with our journey towards Nice.
Vitre to Craon 25 miles. This is a very relaxing part of our journey, you will leave the Breton flag as you cross over into the department of Mayenne, (although when I did this stretch it was in the opposite direction and into a headwind all the way to catch my ferry home.) the roads are tranquil back lanes well surfaced, carrying you mile after mile past fertile fields and into Craon, famous for its château and chariot racers. (Mary Queen of Scots, sleep here too.)
July is a time to be here if you wish to become embroiled in horse racing. Caron’s hippodrome hosts nine national and international races attracting over 70,000 racegoers during the season. Sulky racing is big, and no matter the time, of year that you pass through, you will see, jockeys sitting on a light two-wheeled cart pulled by a briskly trotting horse. The locals of Craon love a flutter and outside, just about every small cafe and pub, you will see the PMU green sign with a picture of two horses. Inside they will be drinking their coffee, beer, or cider, clinging desperately to their betting slips. These betting stations are found in even the smallest cafe and bars and are a key part of the culture in the region.
Château de Craon, built out of the white limestone from the banks of the Loire, is well worthy of your time. Dating from the 18th-century is a more stately home than a castle proper. The château is open to the public and prides itself on wholesome cooking. The vegetables are all sourced from their own gardens. Take time to explore the forty hectares of grounds, its parks, and French-style garden by following the melancholy River Oudon, past grazing cattle, ducks and geese on a 6 km stroll.
You can see that although I did the mileage required in two days, it was only just over an hour on both occasions, so would be easy to accomplish in one long summer day, an hour before lunch, and an hour in the late afternoon of early evening. This will leave plenty of time to sightsee and that is really the reason for going. If you only want a bicycle ride, well you can do that at home. No this is about the ambiance, the culture……….. May the wind always be on your back.
The cloud was down to zero in the slack air almost like a sea fog. By nine it had not lifted much but I had to get back out on my bike once more. I did an almost carbon copy of last Fridays run but somehow managed to add almost two more miles, taking me to 19.7 miles. And raised my average speed to just under 12 mph, the lay off certainly did not do me any harm.
My computer finally gave up the ghost, the battery would not charge, if its not flees it midges. So I bought another small laptop A4 size. I have been spending time this afternoon installing software for the printer and the internet and trying to remember all the passwords. Computers are like women, hard to live with and just as difficult to live without.
The planning department are busy with preparations for a sale of work and because of restrictions here at City Park, with coronavirus, they are holding it outwith City Park. They have asked me to contribute, no rest for the wicked, I haven’t even finished the wooden toys promised for Christmas. Still, like all these thing, getting off ones bum and starting is always the difficult part, and all those distractions, I have a lot of them in my life, its a disceas of old age.
Today I was thinking of a ‘thank you’ card for the girls looking after me at the dental hospital. Normally this would be biscuits or sweets, but I did not think that would be appropriates at a dental hospital. I made a cartoon character card, just a bit of fun really. where dose all the time go?
Back to our virtual ride in France
Fougeres to Vitre 19 miles and one of the fastest stretches
This you could say is a CTC run, for it is from medieval Château (castle) to medieval Château, the beautiful Château do Fougeres to the well-preserved Château de Vitre, and like most medieval castles perched high above the town.
When abroad, and people asks me,
“Are you English?” I am quick to reply,
Here in Brittany they too have that same strong sense of their independence and culture. If you asks, they will be quick to point this out to you – Brittany not French.
Today Brittany is classed as a rather poor region, of Franc. However this was not always the case, in the middle-ages Brittany had a thriving bustling economy, with a merchant fleet trading in Stain, Portugal and Northern Europe, this included here in Fife, in coal and fish. Now like London (here in the UK), all the wealth of France has gravitated into Paris, both centres, sucking their nations wealth to themselves, like some enormous black hole.
Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany all have their own language, and in many way similar in origin, all from the same Celtic roots. And it is no coincidence that the flag of Brittany just happens to be very similar to the Cornish flag too.
This being a short flat stage, you will have all the time you need to explore and take in this beautiful part of France, but best keep that bottle of wine for the campsite at night. On lazy days like this it is too easy to go native.
It had rained throughout the night and as I waited for clearing skies, I watched (well, listened to) La Boheme on the Sydney Harbour, from Sky Art. I have too much to do when I rise off a morning to be sitting around watching television, so I buzz around with my earphones firmly in place, “Music While You Work”. This opera was a very modern production, with young artists performing, they even had a hooker shooting off a gun, and there was me thinking that Paris would be nice at this time of year. Then again, like policemen getting younger as we grow older, I suspect the same goes for performers.
Out on the road by 9 am up over knock Hill, down and over the Eden and onto the main road into Cupar. That is when it all went pear-shaped.
I had just navigated the big roundabout at the industrial estate, and of course looking everywhere but where I was going. As I turned my attention back to the road I was just about to go crashing onto the high kerb and cried out.
Or something to that effect, and in panic, yanked on the right handlebar with the inevitable result. The little 20-inch wheel skidded under the frame of the bike, leaving me lying on my side in the road, bike, pannier bag, hat, cast to the four winds.
You do not think in this sort of situation you just react. I gathered the bike and put it safely on the pavement, collected up hat and bag. Already folks were stopping to ask if I were all right.
“Yes, Thanks anyway” the only thing that seemed to be bruised was my ego.
Suddenly I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach so lay down by my bike and closed my eyes, hoping it would all be over soon.
An old age pensioner, lying on the pavement, help ma boab, heart attack, stroke, he may even dead, I may as well have hung a sign around my neck ‘STOP-HELP”.
Most just drew up and asked from the safety of their car, “are you OK.”
However Florence Nightingale, wanted me checked out by a paramedic, and was reluctant to accept that, yes, I really was fine, and, no, you do not need my telephone number to call me and see that I made it home in one piece, I am just a bit shaken up, that’s all.
“Where are you from?” asked her husband, “We could drive you home”.
“St Andrews, but honestly, there is no need, I’m fine now” – in disbelieve,
“He has come all the way from St Andrews” he told his wife. Well, possibly the last the time he was on a bike, it had stabilizers.
By this time I was up on my feet and guzzling, greedily at my water bottle, and with my thanks ringing in their ears, I pedalled off before I was forcefully restrained and carried off to see a doctor.
(I know I have made light of it but they were genuinely worried for my safety. Thank you, whoever you were).
Today’s bike ride – 18 miles
At an average of – 10.63 mph
Time taken – 1: 41: 25 (minus injury time.)
Max speed – 26.80 mph
Calorie burned – 708
Home now and under the shower, ‘nothing to write home to mummy about’, all the sticky out bits down my left side, thumb, elbow, knee, ankle, had all lost a bit of skin.
“That will learn you ma lad”
Refugees have never been out of the news for decades, and once more they take centre stage in the media. The Tory lead government have totally lost all control over immigration. They are now calling for boats, to be forcefully returned to whence they came. Rubber craft loaded to the waterline, with desperate people, try to escape, war and poverty, inflicted upon them as a consequence of UK foreign policy’s. Risking all to cross the English Channel, (Manche) in the hope of a better life, if not for themselves, certainly their children. This smacks of, not only desperation, by Johnston’s government, but Trump calling out
“Build The Wall”
Polices, to appeal to bigoted, stupid people, and keep the Tory government in power. Like Trump’s wall, this too is doomed to failure. All it will take is a British patrol vessel forcing, what is bacillary a rubber blow-up boat, already unstable and overloaded, to do a 180-degree change, of course, to be caught by a wave, or strong tides, and capsize. God forbid, with loss of life. Should such a scenario play out at sea, within minutes it will go viral around the world, you can see the banner headlines now,
“The Uk’s Immigration Policy” …………… played over and over, on social media.
Do not look for an immigration policy in the Channel, but at the beginning of the journey that these desperate people have made. The refugee camps, where they have first sought sanctuary from a war-torn country. (Wars feed by the weapons supplied by the UK and American arms companies.) Here they find themselves in a living hell, facing a lifelong future of grinding poverty, famine and disease. Why would they not wish to escape, to hopefully, a better future?
Boris, get your Foreign Minister’s, shiny arse off that chair in Whitehall, get her on a plane, to meet up with, and around the table with her other G8 pals, and the leaders of the countries that this problem emanates from. Time to roll up your sleeves girl, and earn some of that extravagant, salary and perks on the Westminster gravy train, and go to work on a workable solution. A solution that will give such desperate people’s of this world, the life chances, that like all of the children of the world, deserve, living in their own homes, in their own countries. A life, at least as fulfilling, as they would hope to find here in ours.
‘It is said of one experience that it is one of the most agonising possible . . . that of leaving the soil of your native country forever, of turning your back on your heritage, being torn away by the roots from your familiar land. I have not suffered that experience. But I know of an experience equally agonising, and more irreversible (for you could return to your home) and that is the experience of knowing, not that you are leaving your country, but that your country is leaving you, is ceasing to exist under your very feet, being sucked away from you as it were by a consuming, swallowing wind, into the hands and the possession of another country and civilisation.’
(Welsh philosopher J.R. Jones, as quoted in Billy Kay’s The Mither Tongue)
“There are no problems in this world, only solutions”John Lennon.
Pontorson to Fougeres – 23 miles.
Light again Hamilton, but Fougeres is where I would have stopped. This is a beautiful part of France, little country roads and rural villages, and the natives are very friendly. Market Day was Saturday, when I visited, but may have changed and there is a large supermarket that will supply all your need before turning into camp for the night. If you have not travelled in France before you may like to check out the fish stall, with live lobsters and crab, (however, difficult to cook on a picnic stove.)
Fougeres has a great history for cyclists. In 2013 it was the ville de depart for Stage 12 of the 100th Tour de France, and you may remember this is the year that Chris Froome wore his Yellow Jersey, on this Stage from Fougeres to Tours. This is a particularly flat stage, which suited the sprinters. It was also the stage where, like me today, many came a cropper in one of the many crashes. Mark Cavendish was pipped on the line in Tour by the German rider Marcel Kittel, in a nail-biting finish.
Anyone into Audax riding will know of the Paris-Brest-Paris ride. This is a ride of 600Km from Paris to Brest and 600 Km back into Paris, and the ultimate test of mental and physical endurance. Why do I mention this, well if you do take it on, you will pass through Fougeres, twice, but will have no time for sightseeing.
Footnote, my cycling shorts/trousers, since they have a zip on leg extensions, got rather dirty today so I popped them in the laundry basket when I showered. I pulled from the airing cupboard an old pair of trousers that only six months ago were straining to go around my waist. Today I could gather up around four inches, or pull them over my hips fastened. I have to admit I was surprised at the loss of inches around my middle. But that is what lockdown does to you, sitting at home for a year with only light exercise, and a cupboard full of goodies at the disposal and an eye that is bigger than your belly.
Arriving home yesterday to find my onion sets and garlic cloves had been delivered, I only ordered them yesterday, shoosh. No rest for the wicked, I suppose, out with the fork and spade. And since most, of the garden around the front of the building, has matured over the years with huge trees shade pretty much all of it, it is a case of finding a space where you can find it and making a little bed.
I have always planted my onion sets in autumn, the soil is still warm from the summer sun, which gives the sets the time to put down roots over winter and by spring they are ready to burst forth. If we do have late spring frost, after they have popped up out of the ground, I will throw a piece of protective fleece over them. This material is everywhere these days, so has become cheap enough to buy.
This ground has not been turned over in aeons, so I raided the paper recycling bin and forked in some old newspapers, right down to the full depth of the fork, this was over an area big enough for my bed. Not one worm did I find, all down to the garden maintenance men spraying with weedkiller, quicker and easier than hoeing. Although newspaper takes a long time to break down, it should help bring life back into the soil, as nature does its work. (much of what is written on these pages is pretty well manure already.) My other gripe, their very powerful, commercial leaf blowers, scaring away all the mulch off the surface, although I have noticed they are a bit more selective and stay away from the borders now. My wee letter to the manager must have had some success. The heat of the day did not let up, in fact, I am sure it was getting warmer as the day progressed, we could have rain. The shirt was sticking to my back, by the end of my labours, time to put away the working grath.
Anyway, that’s them in. Of course, my work did not go unnoticed (even although I never saw one sole, security cameras, what a waste of money there turned out to be.) when I came back in one lady asked what I had just planted? When I said onions and garlic, I got the strangest of looks.
“Don’t you like onions?” I asked.
Later a neighbour came into the common room, as I sat reading my e-mails, (the Chinese whispers had gone around).
“Will you be going around St Andrew, with strings of onion around your neck?” laughingly she asked.
“Of course,” I said, “and draped over the bars of my bike, too”. I am just waiting for them to give me the nickname, ‘Onion Johnny’.
The last of the roses, along with the Jersey Lilies, are putting up a fine showing. I split up the Jersey Lilies, early in the spring, and planted them around the garden to fill up holes. They are looking much happier in their new homes and more flowers than before they were split. What we had before was lots of foliage and very little in the way of flowers. That is the great thing about gardens, things multiply, so you can split them up and give them away to neighbours and friends.
Today, the skies over St Andrews are leaden and the wind has risen from yesterday, looks like rain. I see that the poppies have all gone to seed and looking rather untidy, everywhere I look now there is a job to be done. I thought a splash of colour for the spring, bright yellow daffodils and narcissi, so the job today is to prepare the ground, ready for the imminent arrival of the bag of 100 bulbs. I will dig in the poppies as green manure some poppy seeds may even germinate and pop up next spring. (They tell us that poppies love the newly disturbed ground and why they flowered in such perfusion, over the cratered fields of France, during the First World War) along with more waste paper, then plant the daffodil and narcissi, for a wee show in spring, we travel hopefully. Although my day had not gone as planned, that is no bad thing. Off up to Aldi now to stock Mrs Hubbard’s Cupboard, before the hard work, and the rain begins.
Message from members of the Yes Hub, Lasswade Road.
We are looking to make a show of the Yes Movement down Lasswade Road around the Hub and along the road. Therefore we are after as many people as possible with flags and banners to line both sides of the street. So it is clear we are Yessers and not just supporting the Scottish cyclists (not that we can’t do both) we suggest the flags and banners should be clearly Yes/Scottish independence ones. The race (Tour of Britain) is being shown live on ITV4 and as they will only take a few minutes to pass we need to be as visible as possible. If you want to bring musical instruments feel free.
I should stop say that now, for words that I used a few decades ago may have changed their definition, so it can all get a bit confusing.
Do you remember the days if you said that you were Gay,
It meant with joy you would leap and shout,
When a fairy was enchanting and dressing up and camping,
Was something we did with the Scouts,
Oh those carefree days when an urgent case of AID,
Was something we sent to the Sahara,
A fruit was something nice to eat,
A poof something for your feet,
And a queen, some old tart in a tiara.
However, it has been a stotter of a day, I set off just after 9 O’clock, once the traffic had calmed down. With no clear destination in mind, and on the clear understanding that if you do not know where you are going, all roads lead you there, I pressed on into Dairsie. Wham, I was struck in the lip by a large flying object, possibly a bee, boy did it hurt, leaving me with a fat lip to prove it.
I had been perusing, the OS map the other day looking for little second class roads that I have not been down before. I found one that went down the side of Dairsie School let’s try that today. The road soon led me onto a farm track, steep with a loose surface, so much for following the OS map. After the farm the road, if you can call it that, petered out and became a grassy lane, the track just about visible. With grass now the height of my handlebars, I trundled on. The lane ended at a farmer’s newly cut hayfield, and by the time I reach that gate, my feet and trouser legs, all the way up to my bum, were wet through, (help ma boab, folks will think I’ve peed m’sel’.)
What to do now? I saw a farm about a mile away across three fields, there must be a road beyond the farm, so I set out first across the newly cut grass, then newly harvested barley, and finally another grass field, and there it was a road covered in lovely tar Macadam, O’ joy of joys. I had not gone far when I found my gears would not index, stopping to check the chain and gears had been trying hard to impersonate a grass cutting machine, ho-hum.
(checking the map when I returned home I now see where I went wrong and the path I cycled today was simply that a footpath.)
The road took me into Logie then Kilmany where I joined the A92 the main road from Dundee to Edinburgh. To get off the main road I turned off at Rathillet for Cupar. I did not fancy going all the way into Cupar and home on the A91 so when I saw the sign ‘Leuchars 10 miles’ I turned off east once more, leading me back into Kilmany, by some very rural road, with grass in the middle.
Now I knew that Jim Clark was born here, but have never approached from this direction before so was amazed to see a statue to the great man by the side of the road, I stopped to take a picture.
Back onto the A 92 for the short hop to the roundabout and the back road into St Michaels – Leuchars and home.
Distance 28.9 miles,
Time 2: 49:30
Average speed 10.25 mph Not bad considering the bad start (grass tracking).
Max speed 29.66
Ascent 997 Feet
Calories burned 1058 so I had a banana sandwich on my return.
Do you remember the days, when only eggs got laid,
And only the Rhinovirus was horny,
When only kangaroos jumped,
And only camels humped,
When getting stuffed, was a little taxidermy,
Now it has all become quite obscene,
With a heavy ugly screen,
Any movie, staring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
For decades now we have had a demographic disaster building (although our First Minister did help out when she put bed-blocking old folks out of the hospital into care homes, knowing full well they had Coronavirus.) Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer is having difficulty getting the sums to add up. Our Prime Minister want to raise taxes to pay for ‘Social Care’ for the elderly which has not gone down well in the country – and with local elections coming up, who could blame the MPs for getting a bit skittish, more so when one of the manifesto pledges was “We will not raise taxes, like that other lot”, Oh dear o’ dear, poor Boris.
Good government is all about choices, and what to spend money on. Well here is a starter for 10, where to find the money for the NHS, Schools, care for the elderly and much, much more.
Trident renewal: would £205bn be a price worth paying?
The cost has become more of an issue at a time of budget pressures, but MoD has been coy about giving an overall estimate. Still, £205 billion would go a long way to helping you out of your difficulties, Mr Johnston. But what about all the highly paid jobs that come with Trident? Who do you think looks after us in hospitals, schools and social care, Robots?
The government announced its commitment to an order of 138 F-35 aircraft, with 24 available for carrier duties by 2023. How much will it cost? The overall programme is the most expensive weapons system in military history. An estimated cost from 2015 put the price at £78m per jet, without engine or electronics. For everything included, the Lightning jets come in at a grand total of £190m. And that is before we factor in the cost of armaments.
And what will we do with all this hardware, put it on the new Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and let the Americans use it in the Pacific, to frighten the Chinese into surrendering their territorial waters? With about as much success as their little farce sending a gunboat into the Black Sea to scare off the Russians, who are minnows compared with China.
The two Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (only one commissioned the other already mothballed) cost billions to build and billions to maintain, mothball them both or put them on e-bay and claw back some of the cost to the UK treasury. No one knows what the final bill and running costs will be but I would think it would be enough to provide a very healthy budget for the NHS and social care for young and old alike. Bairns not bombs.
Yesterday we did not have enough mileage to reach Pontorson, today with 28.9 we have more than enough for the journey.
One thing I should mention, you will have to get used to long straight roads for mile after mile and those annoying markers every kilometre, laughing at you as the kilometres ever so slowly tick down.
So, with these extra miles in the bank today, why not a detour to Mont St-Michel, just up the river from Pontorson. If you get the opportunity to go – then go, but go early or late in the evening, for the tourists are heavy on the ground during the day. Sadly bicycles are no longer allowed to cycle out over the causeway, so you have to leave your bike at the free bike park near the Palace du Barrage, and either walk or take the shuttle bus. Oh, the cobbled streets are not cycle shoe friendly either. Give yourself plenty of time for this journey since you will be walking, a lot.
Alex Salmond’s Alba Party welcomes 6,000th member as 65-year SNP loyal quits
Alex Salmond’s Alba Party has welcomed its 6,000th member, as registration opens for its party conference in September.
Longstanding SNP member Moira Brown became the 6,000th person to sign up for Alba – saying she wanted faster progress to Scottish independence.
Mr Salmond presented Mrs Brown with a Scotland football strip numbered 6,000 as he made a surprise visit to her home to welcome her to the party.
Alba’s inaugural party conference will be held at Greenock town hall on September 11 and 12.
The former first minister launched the party earlier this year, with Alba candidates running for list seats in the Scottish Parliament elections.
Despite claims it could help build an independence “supermajority”, the party failed to win any MSPs and secured just 1.7 per cent of the regional vote.
However, it has two MPs and a number of councillors around Scotland who left the SNP in order to join.
Mr Salmond said: “Moira Brown, with her 65 years of experience in the SNP, will be a great asset to the burgeoning ranks of Alba.
“We are proud to welcome her as member number 6,000.
“People like Moira are the heart and soul of the independence movement.
“She has seen it grow from a tiny acorn to a mighty oak and now wants to see the realisation of her lifelong political dream.”
Ms Brown, who turns 89 this year, said: “One of the things I liked about the SNP is that it was a party that came from the bottom up, but I can’t say that now. I have had my doubts the past few years and it cumulated in me talking and listening to other people and soul-searching about leaving (the SNP).
“Sixty-five years is a long time to belong to a party.”
Here at St Andrews, we are experiencing an Indian Summer, the winds soft the air warm, such a change from a cold August. However, no matter the warmth of September, the shortened days have put pay to any roses now coming to full flower. Time to think about cutting them back, protection against the winter gales to come. The Gladioli are making quite a show, no matter if late they are they will always put on a show.
I made my way out to Cupar, then Pitscottie, and because of road repairs back into St Andrews via Claremont. The Garmin computer tells me I covered 18.47 miles, in a time of 01.36 and ascent of 558 feet at an average speed of 11.5 mph, and burned up 670 calories. Give that man a coconut – sorry no coconuts, by will have to take a Bounty. Hey, you bounty like that.
Just for a bit of fun, I thought I would use my daily mileage (although small) to make the journey from St-Malo to Nice, (going to take a while). St-Malo is almost exactly on the finish line of the St-Malo stage of the 2013 Tour de France.
Stage one: St-Malo to Pontorson, 38 miles – this would have been an average day for me, so I thought I would mark the distances in that way. Today I am about 20 miles short of my target. This first stage, as I remember it, you will be hugging the coastline, giving you a true taste of Brittany. I remember some brilliant local dishes, mostly seafood, from the little restaurants down this coast, always go with the locals, if they are eating it then you should too. And for that first taste of Oysters, then there is no better place to go than Cancale. Even now memories flood back of cycling and camping in Brittany. I remember the wind, but I can not remember even one day of rain, although there must have been some.
With more than 300 sites of historical importance, from Edinburgh Castle to the Neolithic settlement at Skara Brae in Orkney. Research has shown that almost 90% of them are at risk of damage due to the effects of global warming, How do we protect our historic landmarks from climate change? Asked Historic Environment Scotland.
“If climate change carries on the way it’s going a lot of these sites will be lost, with their tangible and intangible heritage, and for future generations, they just won’t be there to enjoy” Bonnie Burton a PhD student researching the effects of rising seas and storm surges.
Researchers have identified 28 sites with “very high” levels of risk from hazards of climate change. These include Inchcolm Abbey, situated in the Firth of Forth, which is vulnerable to coastal erosion and flooding. Stanley Mills on the River Tay, again vulnerable to flooding. Likewise Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace. Skara Brae is at risk from stormy seas.
Duff House, vulnerable to flooding from the River Deveron. Much work has already been completed to protect Fort George against rising sea levels.
What will be the real cost of global warming? Are politicians really taking this seriously, I have my doubts, when we see how little has been done since the Paris Accord.
We all have things we would like to do, even want to do in our lives, but getting started can be the first big hurdle. You first have to learn how to do whatever it is you are trying to achieve, or at least how to go about it, to start with.
In the musical ‘Sweet Charity the girls have a dead-end job as dance hall hostesses, in the Fandango Ballroom. Charity is a lovelorn NY girl who dreams of old-fashioned romance, her friend tells her,
“No point flapping your wings girl, you are stuck on the flypaper of life”
“Not me,” said another – the girls go into the number ‘ There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.
however when Charity decided to change her life for the better and goes off to an employment agency and asked the interviewer to give her a nice job, he tells her,
“But you can’t do anything”
So we start by – reading about it – “Climbing Everest in, 10 easy steps” Once you have convinced yourself that is really what you want to do, you will either join a club or do it the hard way, learn on the job.
Joining a club this will give you all the expertise you require in one place, but beware of stories from fair-weather sailors. Once you have the rudiments, then the rest practises, practise and more practice. This is when you find that mental strength is much more important than physical strength. This is where you have to get off your bum and do the hard work.
At one point in my life, I did 100 miles a week commuting back and forward to work. Went out with the club on a Tuesday evening, and we would pull the legs off one another. Wednesday (my day off) I would captain a tandem, for a blind lad, most Wednesdays we would cover 50 miles or so. Most weekends a 200k Audax ride. However I did not decide to do all this, then simply go out and do it, this was two years in the making. I was so fit at that time, I felt like superman, everything I did was a challenge, at work and at play.
Getting started was hard, I had not been on a bike for years, once I had my bum on a motorcycle saddle, the bike was used less and less until it took pride of place in the back of a dusty shed. A change of job, and no longer having a motorcycle at the door, I used the bus to commute in the rush hour traffic too and from work, it was a misery.
“Why?” I asked myself “do I not use my old bike, to commute to work?”
The bike was dragged out services, new tires fitted and I was off, soon I was scoot in and out of the queues of stationary traffic, “shit, this is hard work”, I thought on that first day. But as the days rolled on, I found I was looking forward to my daily commute, I just loved flashing past rows and rows of stationary cars,
“Fools” I would silently cry, “get a bike”. That was the motivation to pull the bike out of the shed, each and every morning, no matter the weather, and head out into the maelstrom.
I watched the interview of Mohamed Ali, on the Parkinson show. He was asked what he might have done if he had not been a boxer? He replied
“No matter what I did, I would have been the best. If I was a bin collector, I would tip more bins than anyone else” That was the motivation, he just had to be the best.
As my fitness grew I joined a local cycle club and went out with the touring section and the CTC (cycle touring club) or to the club riders – the ‘cafe to cafe’ club, “Shit, this is hard work,” I thought on those first few club runs, for these cyclists could happily trundle along at an average 10 mph all day, or at least that is how it seemed, uphill down dale. However cycling in a group, you find is much easier than solo, for you, can shelter in behind the stronger riders, and get a bit of encouragement when you are starting to flag. But don’t expect an easy ride forever, eyes will be on you, you will be asked to take your turn at the front, when they feel you are malingering. It is this sort of motivation that makes it easier to put miles into your legs.
As the years ticked by I wanted to tour, throwing up all sorts of new challenges. Being on your own mile after mile, it is difficult to stay focused, more so on long straight stretched, with the road stretching way out before you, out of sight somewhere over the horizon. Where to stay, camping or youth hostel will determine what your carry, so what distance you will make in a day, more days spend on the road, more hostel or campsite bills you will rack up. I found I had to set goals for myself, with a reward at the end, as a prize.
I still do this today on my daily trundle. Now like most people, I love chocolate, cakes, ready salted potato crisps, but I also know that if I sat in my big chair all day reading and stuffing my face with any of the above, well, I would not be doing much cycling, or much or anything else for that matter, so I never buy them – except, to use them as motivators. I set myself little challenges.
Cycle 10 miles without letting your average speed fall below 10mph and you can have that treat, (one of the above). Strange the crisps always tasty better, however, I have stopped buying cakes and chocolate, they would take far too many miles to achieve, so no motivation there.
“Old age does not come alone” all the miles you put into your legs over the years, will help you to keep cycling on, but the muscles will start to shrink,
“Yes, I had noticed”, said the maid to the gardener
Motivations therefore become even more important, you have to find what works for you. There is an old lady, a neighbour of mine, she is now in her 90s, I see her out and about St Andrews pushing her wheeled walking frame in front of her. She is out in all weathers, head down, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other. I hope I can find that kind of motivation if I ever reach my 90s. Then again, having been born between the wars, she will have lived through the great depression and the Second World War so will be a tough old bird. Seeing her always gives me the motivation to keep going.
Motivation, for us, wrinkles an opportunity to “Go downhill slowly”.
My Historic Scotland magazine arrived today and I found in ‘Time Trip’, as the name suggests these articles are from the past, this month we had Halloween.
As we near the end of the old Celtic calendar, Halloween, originally known as the festival of Samhain, marked the end of summer when the dead were believed to return to walk amount the living.
In Scotland Halloween has its own traditions and customs, Scotland is famous for spooks history of gusing, as the shortened word for ‘disguising’. children would dress up in home-made costumes and tell a joke, recite a poem or perform songs to their neighbours in exchange for sweets, they would also make tumshie lanterns out of swedes to ward off evil spirits.
(I did read once that traditionally gushing was originally started by beggars, who would dress up and go to ‘The Big Houses’ and perform for them in exchange for food.)
I remember well those days in the 1950s, sadly it is all too commercial now, bought or hired costumes, trick or treat rather than having to perform for your apple or sweets. And for the grown-ups – well the Halloween party. So big has Halloween become in America that it is now more popular (and rewarding for the shopkeepers) than Christmas. So much for God Bless America.
Yesterday the skies were again overcast, the air cold and autumnal. It is always a difficult choice, when it comes to cycling clothing, too much and you sweat, too little and your freeze, so much of your clothing tends to be layering. I did not go far again yesterday Leuchars and home. Today, however, the skies are leaden and weeping profusely, so I will stay home today.
They have been working in the flats over the road from me for some weeks now – I’m sure the flats belong to the university, like most every other building in St Andrews. New kitchens have been installed in what was the sitting room, so I take it that the old kitchen has now become another bedroom. New students visited yesterday to look around the place, they look so young. They tell us we are getting old when policemen start to look young. Why I’m so old I can remember when girls in the “Wet T-shirt” competition, on the Isle of Man at TT week, actually kept their T-shirts on.
Off to Dundee Dental Hospital this afternoon. I applied to be a guinea pig for the students to (cut their teeth on) practice on. I want to be sure all is well when I go off to Europe in the spring. Those stupid English people voted to leave the EU (so no reciprocal health care arrangements now) and those stupid Scottish people let them, what does one do? You will find it easier to locate a Unicorn in Fife than find an NHS dentist willing to take you on their list of patients.
I did a bit of tidying up in the garden, moving some plants, that had been grown in pots, to the garden proper. Tying up the late Gladioli. They have not done much this year but again we look forward to better things next year, gardeners – always the optimist.
I have read many self help books, for budding writing over the years and most tell us, you have to read a lot, ‘to find your voice’. Listen to your voice by re-reading what you have written, in a critical manner, and try to improve on what you have written, something I should take more seriously, I am very lazy at re-reading and correcting.
At school, I can not remember us being taught much in the way of literature, and less so at college, but I can remember the teacher telling us that we should read as many different literary genres as possible, even if you do not particularly like, science fiction, for instance, read some. Problem I found was, that no matter the genre the story remand the same only told in a different voice or setting.
My cycling mate, when I lived in England, was a teacher at the local grammar school. I was scribbling a bit for my local cycling club magazine at the time, well, I had a lot more to scribble about then. I told him that I often woke up with ideas in my head but by the time I had washed and shaved they had vanished like ‘snaw aff a dike’ in spring.
“Keep a notebook by the side of your bed and jot down your thought when they are clear in your head,” he told me.
I preferred to jump out of bed and sit naked in front of my computer, regardless of the hour, and chap away at the keys, touch typing is very good for this sort of thing, you simply sit tell yourself stories, and the words appear on the screen as if by magic. You can do that when you live on your own, and no I do not wear pyjamas in bed. (Too much information there Walter.)
To be good at anything be it music, athletics, drawing…….you will have to practice the good books will also advise.
This is something I try to do every day, but when you are riding the same roads day in day out, it is hard to find inspiration there. Today I started writing about a ride I did in the summer. The chosen ride would take me over some hilly country. Taking my conventional bike would require a lot of honking up hills, but that was the point of the exercise. As I started writing, I got a bit carried away and started drifting into fantasy land. I started to inject a storyline within the storyline, sort of parallel storylines running side by side, intersecting from time to time, weaving themselves into a patterned cloth, as they went.
Sorry it can not publish my musings here for it must be delivered from under the counter – or read-only after the 9 o’clock watershed – or delivered in an e-mail that is delivered, inside a brown, plain, envelope.
I have never attempted an erotic sex story before and found it a lot of fun.
It must be Thursday for I have just watched the Alex Salmond Show.
Alex guest today was none other than Lawrence B Wilkerson.
Wilkerson is a retired United States Army colonel (now Professor Wilkerson) and former chief of staff to the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson a veteran of the war in Vietnam, (he was an OH-6A Cayuse observation helicopter pilot, logging over 1100 combat hours over a year.) Since the end of his military carer, Wilkerson has criticized many aspects of the Iraq War including his own preparation of Powell’s presentation to the UN, as well as other aspects of American policy in the Middle East.
Alex asked him about the decision to go to war in Iraq – without any ambiguity he told it as it was, Bush was coming up for a second term in office, and Colin Powell could easily have stolen his thunder, the decision to go to war was more about home politics more than foreign policy in the Middle East, it would seem, we were all taken for a ride. (what does every president want – a second term.)
About Iran – pulling out of the treaty was a big mistake.
On Afghanistan, a failed policy from the start. Had we gone in on security grounds fine, but trying to turn what was, and still is, a collection of warlords, not a state, into a democratic country, was never an achievable goal, doomed to failure from the start. Was it right to get out – yes, or we would be there for another 20 years with the same result.
What of Afghanistan now, its fate lies with its neighbours – Pakistan, Russia and China.
Has it weekend Biden – no, 55 per cent of Americans believe it was the right decision, although they disagree with the way the exit was handled.
I will be watching this programme again throughout the day – trying to take it all in. If you have not already seen this show, please, tune in later in the day, and get yourself educated, for they do it in your name.
Is when you keep repeating the same mistakes and expect a different answer.
I was in the supermarket today buying bread and milk. I always peruse the newspaper stand and read over the headlines.
In the days before the internet and sending e-mails and texting home when on holiday, we sent postcards. some would be of local scenes, (to your mum and dad) but often saucy one to your mates at work.
humorous postcards, we were less thin-skinned and liberal then.
When is Scotland there would be all the terrible stereotypes about Scotsmen – kilts – sheep – and of course the atrocious weather, lashing rain, sou’wester clad tourists braving the elements,
Today I read a headline,
‘Scotland should be trying to preserve water’ whit.
Once upon a time water buts by cottages and on allotments were common place. Well as the population of England expands, and long dry summers become more of a reality in the UK due to global warming, England, will once more need Scotland, or at least Scotland’s water. It is claimed that in the South East of England there is less water available per person than in many Mediterranean countries.
Thanks to Alex Salmond, (when First Minister of Scotland) who saw the folly of Scotland’s water being sold off, saying at the time,
“It would be like selling off your oil wells just when the motor cars were first invented.”
which of course is exactly what England did under Maggie Thatcher’s government.
Rainwater harvesting, (the collecting of rainwater rather than allowing it to runoff), comes in many guises. From roofs and roof-like surfaces, such as solar PV panels, we see fields of them now in many parts of the country. This water will then be redirected into tanks, cisterns, deep pits. Water can also be stored in an underground natural reservoir, simply the water seeps into the ground as groundwater. However as more and more gardens are covered over with slab, concrete, or other hard surfaces it becomes run-off into road drains and not collected for recycling. This can cause problems during heavy rain, (much more common, under global warming) drains back up small burns turn into fast-flowing rivers, and can cause landslides, that destroy everything in their path. still we keep repeating the same mistakes.
Global warming does not only cause heavy rain problems, as temperatures rise people suffer. A combination of urban ‘green’ rooftops with rainwater catchments are known to reduce building temperatures by more than 1.3 Celsius.
Rainwater harvesting in conjunction with urban agriculture would give sustainable food and water security – the technology is still in its infancy, but it is a well-tried and test method in countries like Holland and the Fends of England where it has been progressed over centuries.
Kenya is already successful in harvesting rainwater for toilets, (something we really need to get into in the UK, litres of water flushed down the loo after having a pee, and with a young family in the home – well you probably all been there.)
in Caribbean countries capture and storage of rainwater run-off is well established, reducing the risk of losing some or all of the year’s harvest. It also helps reduce soil erosion during high rainfall.
One of the biggest commercial rainwater harvesting systems is in Germany. The water collected from the 26,800 squee meters of roofs over the new airport building at Frankfurt Airport, is stored in tanks in the basement, with approximately 1 million cubic meters of water per year. The water is used for toilet flushing, cleaning, air conditioning system, and oh yes, watering the plants. However at a cost of 1.5 million dm ($63,000 US dollars) in 1993, such scenes are unlikely to be copied in England unless they can be shown to be commercially profitable to the private companies.
Rainwater harvesting was adopted at The Velodrome – The London Olympic Park – in order to increase the sustainability of the facility. A 73 per cent decrease in potable water demand by the park was estimated. Despite this, it was deemed that rainwater harvesting was a less efficient use of financial resources to increase sustainability than the park’s blackwater recycling program.
When it is a commercial enterprise the bottom line will always trump the environmental impact.
UK homeowners using some form of rainwater harvesting system can reduce their mains water usage by 50 per cent or more. And dependent on your water company, (where you live in England) the delivery of wastewater and sewerage processing cost about £2 per cubic meter. Reducing mains water metered volumes of water also reduce sewerage disposal costs in the same proportions, (water companies assumes that all water is taken into the house will end up as sewerage, and bill accordingly.)
There was a time in Scotland when rainwater harvesting tanks had to be fitted to all new builds, I can not remember when this was changed (possibly by lobbing by housebuilders) or what they estimated the extra cost to be on a new home. However, it is schemes such as this that will only turn around the water shortage in England. But as I have said before and make no bones about saying it again, if the countries water boards are in the hands of private investment companies, it will never happen.
We all depend on utility companies for our everyday existence, be that water, electricity, waste disposal…. They must be held in government hands so that our environment is not placed at the mercy and dependence of the profitability at the bottom line.
In our new world of 24/7 rolling news and the decline in newspapers readership any story will be buried almost as soon as it hits the street. In 1984 Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, collaborated on anti-famine efforts for Ethiopia, by releasing that bloody awful song – “Do they know it’s Christmas” was recorded in the UK in November of that year, and became Christmas number one. Bob was on our television every day,
“Give me your money” he demanded and we did.
At the time, believing we could really make a difference, as the trucks hired by Bob trundled their way from the docks to the villages with their loads of food, emblazoned on the side the logo for Band-Aid.
Oh well, it made good television anyway.
In 1989 three recordings of the song to raise further money for charity also topped the charts – The first was Band Aid 11. Then came Band-Aid 20 a version released in 2004. finally Ban Aid 30 in 2014. I think you know where this is going.
We are told that the reason that the people were dying of starvation was that the crop had failure that year. But is this really the truth?
Parts of Africa have know famine and years when crops failed ever since the dawn of man’s understanding. Remember your Sunday school stories. Jacob, and his coat of many colours. How he forecast the future in dreams. how he saw the seven fat cows and seven thin cows. So the Egyptians built grain stores in the city and the grain was brought there to be distributed in the years of the thin cows. Must have been growing ears by then, but the point of the story is that good governments save their people by planning for the future, not the fast buck. Failed crops were not the problem.
Although the graphics said “Feed The World” only Africa is coloured in, does that tell us anything? The British Empire, pulled out of Africa when it was becoming too costly, and the commonwealth troops had done their bit in the Second World War. Now Britain was on its uppers, so like today, in Afghanistan, they made a chaotic exit, leaving the people of Africa in the hands of warlords and dictators.
We see the same mistakes repeated over and over, take refugees for instance.
Today, there are more refugees and internally displaced people than at any point since World War II. Driven from their homes by conflict, persecution, environmental calamity, or dire economic straits, these refugees—more than half of whom are children—have been deprived of their statehood, material possessions, and in many cases, their loved ones. They seek solace in refugee camps and unplanned settlements, where they wait out their displacement or attempt to begin life anew. UNHCR
Most of the world’s refugee camps were designed as temporary facilities. However, many have grown and developed into full-fledged cities, complete with their own economies, systems of governance, and civic institutions, but are a far cry from resettlement back home. Refugee camps are monuments to human suffering, and the sheer size of these settlements testifies to the severity of forced displacement around the world.
And at the heart of this humanitarian crisis, lack of forward planning by the governments (in the pockets of The One Per Cent, of this worlds riches.) It was these governments that cause such miser, it is they that are now walking away.
We know from past experience in World War 11 that people will try to escape the hell of war and travel to a place of relative safety if they can, we call them refugees. Despite this, neither the US nor her alias ever gave a though to how they would cope with the problem of refugees fleeing the conflicts these countries were engaged in.
Kakuma refugee camp, in north-western Kenya, is the largest refugee camp in the world. Established in 1992, (almost three decades ago) this camp is jointly managed by the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs and UNHCR. Today, Kakuma is home to some 100,000 South Sudanese and 55,000 Somali refugees, most of whom were driven from their homelands by civil war. But the camp also hosts refugees from nearly 20 other countries. Conditions in Kakuma are grave, as donor support has waned in recent years. The camp’s resources and infrastructure are overtaxed, and occupants have scant opportunities for gainful employment or education. Malnutrition is rampant throughout the camp—especially among younger occupants—and overcrowding has accelerated the spread of infectious diseases.
This is just one of the top 10 refugee camps in Africa that “YOU” are complicit in creating and sponsoring. For remember, the MPs that you elected into Westminster, do it in your name.
Suffer the children to come unto me,
The man that said that died on an old wooden tree,
And as we rejoice at the time of his birth,
The children still suffer all over the earth.
From the African jungles to the hills of Afghanistan,
Their thin, hungry face, black, yellow and brown,
They are starving to death on their millet and rice,
They don’t know, Santa Claus of Jesus Christ.
So as you sit round the table at this Christmas time,
And stuff the roast ham and the turkey inside,
Don’t think of the children in lands far away,
Where 200 children – will die today.
1. Kakuma (Kenya)Population (2015): 184,550 Established or recognized in: 1992
Occupants primarily from: South Sudan, Somalia
2. Hagadera (Kenya)
Population (2015): 105,998
Established or recognized in: 1992
Occupants primarily from: Somalia
3. Dagahaley (Kenya)
Population (2015): 87,223
Established or recognized in: 1992 Occupants primarily from: Somalia
5. Zaatari (Jordan)
Population (2015): 77,781 Established or recognized in: 2012 Occupants primarily from: Syria
7. Katumba (Tanzania)
Population (2015): 66,416
Established or recognized in: 1972 Occupants primarily from: Burundi
8. Pugnido (Ethiopia) Where Bob and Midge save them from starving with Ban Aid.
Established or recognized in: 1993 Occupants primarily from: South Sudan
9. Panian (Pakistan)
Population: 62,264 Established or recognized in: 2008
Occupants primarily from: Afghanistan
These are real people whose life’s have been taken from them by we in the west and I have not even mentioned Yemen or Palestine.
The UN and its humanitarian partners currently provide aid to eight million Yemenis each month. three-quarters of the Yemeni population is estimated to be in need of humanitarian support.
And the longer the conflict continues, the worse the situation is becoming.
That is despite very large sums pledged in aid for Yemen.
The UN appealed for close to $3bn (£2.4bn) to fund the humanitarian response in 2018. It will ask for $4bn (£3.16bn) next year.
The current conditions on the ground are seriously hindering the delivery and distribution of aid – far too little is reaching those desperately in need.
On the one hand, the Saudi-led coalition (including the US and UK governments, by their cooperation with Saudi Arabia) is enforcing a commercial blockade on the sea and air routes into the country, and placing restrictions on relief supplies.
A total of 90% of imports are food, fuel, and drugs, and the blockade is effectively choking a country heavily reliant on these goods. Aid is also subject to long inspection delays as well as in some cases being rejected altogether.
Coalition forces (the UK) have also bombed bridges linking Yemen’s main port at Hudaydah with Sanaa, the capital city, which has meant trucks loaded with vital supplies are having to take other routes, adding many hours to journey times, increasing the price of delivery and, in some cases, making it impossible to deliver supplies at all to areas in desperate need.
On the other hand, local groups and warlords are also at work, hindering the delivery of aid, and at times there is outright looting and selling on the black market.
Houthi rebels (why rebels? Oh sorry I remember it was a BBC report) have blocked access to besieged cities such as Taiz and set up checkpoints into the capital, charging extra fees to aid agencies, who in turn have less available to spend on humanitarian aid.
Profiteers on both sides of the conflict are also intentionally creating shortages and spiking prices of certain items such as fuel and gas. (in other words lots of taxpayers money, given to lots of relief agencies (with big offices and highly paid staff) getting nowhere, when the real solution lies in stopping the war, bringing the two sides around a table at the UN to settle their differences not sell them more armaments and, that only increases the suffering.
On May 20, 2017, the US President Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the US totalling $110 billion US. And $350 billion US over the next 10 years.
US contributions to Yemen relief – a little over 400 million, less than Donald Trump will get in commission from the arms sale.
The unplanned migration of refugees making their way to Europe to escape the trauma of war and starvation.
Turkey and countries (although within the EU, and against EU policies) are building fences to stave off the influx of uncontrolled migration into their countries. They see the writing on the wall, and no one is taking reasonability, so they have gone into a self-preservation mode, and who could blame them?
The European Union has paid the final instalment of a €6 billion fund to Turkey as part of a deal on hosting refugees. The 2016 agreement has led to standoffs, as Turkey claimed that it had not received all the money promised.
The UK government has paid £114 million to the French government in order to stop illegal immigration originating from that country since 2015 (Parliamentary Answer, 16 June 2020)
“How many years must a cannonball fly before it reaches the …………….. the answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind”
The weather in St Andrews today has been somewhere between autumnal and early winter, I am pleased I was well wrapped up in my cycle run this morning. This was a big change to Saturday when out in ‘shirt sleeve order.
They say that everyone has a book inside them, search as I may, I have not found that book yet. Oh, I have tried believe me. A book on my childhood growing up in a mining village. My cycling adventures, my sailing adventures, days spent hills walking in the Scottish mountains, from the most northerly Monroe to the most southerly, Ben Hope to Ben Lomond. No good.
Then a novel maybe, well my teacher always said that I was the most creative amongst her pupil’s, sadly for me, she was my maths teacher.
Sex, now I have your attention, we were told at college that any book with sex in the title will sell well. But what I know about sex or the emotions of women well, it would be a very short book.
Maybe I should just let it happen, like Gavin Maxwell’s book,
Depicted in the film ‘Ring of Bright Water’. We are told he bought an otter in a pet shop in London (actually, I believe he brought it back with him for the Middle East, Iraq, if memory serves.) It was then he decided to decamp back to his native Scotland and write a book on, I can’t remember what. He would end up writing about his Outer. However, having been brought upon a large farm so would have known a lot about animals and nature, and educated at the best public schools, so knew what ‘Grammar are’ he had a head start on me.
In the film, Breakfast at Tiffin’s,
The struggling writer, played by George Peppard, finds inspiration for his book from his eccentric neighbours, played by Audrey Hepburn, sadly I do not have an eccentric Audrey Hepburn here at City park, to inspire me, boohoo.
I have written many layouts for books over the years and have become very involved in their research, the one that springs to mind,
The main character is a beautiful young woman lawyer, (modelled on Audrey Hepburn, my screen goddess at the time.) she is highly intelligent, straight out of Stanford, now working in a pro-bono office in NY. Invited to shares a flat, in a very expensive part of town, by a newfound girlfriend – that she just happened on. Then came the swanky parties, even given free-range of her new girlfriends wardrobe, which strangely enough, all the cloths fit as if made for her, (more like a film script.) At the party she is approached by, someone akin to Valentino, she can not believe her luck. He is gorgeously attentive, flattering, and in the bedroom …..
The next day her dream lover vanished from her life as if he never existed, she later finds herself pregnant. She can not believe it they took all the precaution, (and in fact, her Valentino could not have made her pregnant, he had the snip) – it was all planned.
He friend supports her stops her from having an abortion, money is no object, from the friends sugar daddy, but of course, that was all staged too.
After the birth, when the child was to be spirited away from the hospital and into the arms of her new rich parents, who could not have a child of their own,
Well, I will not spoil it for you by revealing the ending, you never know I may write it someday.
And to end my daily blether’s
STATEMENT FROM ALEX SALMOND 30th August 2021
SALMOND REFERS BOOK EXTRACTS TO CROWN OFFICE FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
I am delighted to see Alex finally hit back at those who have been consistently smearing him since the criminal trial. He must have had the patience of a saint to have lasted this long. At last, the gloves are off. Let’s see where it takes us?
Then again – playing devils advocate – the timing could not be better, Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party, is about to hold it’s Introductory party conference next month. ‘There is no bad publicity.’
As for that book, – I am still staring at a blank screen.
I have watched over the years how the tentacles of the US empire has spread across the world to its decrement. Unlike other invaders and empire building nations of the past, America attacked from within the countries it wished influence over.
In March 1951 Arbenz succeeded to the presidency of Guatemala, supported by the army and the left-wing political parties, which included the Guatemalan Communist Party.
Reform quickly followed this lead t clashes with the largest landowner in the country, the US based United Fruit Company, when he tried to expropriate idle land and raise taxes, on some of the largest landowners.
The more he pushed reform, the more concerned the US government became. Fearing over the threat to sizeable American banana investment and the US bank loans to the Guatemalan government, along with concerns that the Guatemalan government were to close to the communist bloc, they took action.
The CIA (central intelligence agency) opened its play book. First the US media painted Arbenz a friend of communists (how’s support he undoubtedly had) however, the stories told by the CIA the US media that Arbenz has close connections with the Soviet bloc, (although unsubstantiated) was enough to convince the US public that this man had to go.
Working in Honduras and El Salvador, the CIA helped to organize a counterrevolutionary army of exiles led by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas. Exaggerations of the size of the invading force panicked the capital; the Guatemalan army refused to fight for Arbenz, and he was forced to resign in June 27th 1954. Jacobo Arbenz went into exile. America was back in control – their man in office.
Around the same time another revolution was taking place in Cuba. on 26th July 1953 and the Fidel Castro and his fellow revolutionaries of the 26th July Movement took up arms against the dictatorshi of Cuban President Fulgencio Balista. On the 31 December 1958 Castro finally ousted the dictatorship and formed a new government in Cuba. This was not a bloodless revolution over 3,000 lost their lives on both sides.
The revolution had strong domestic and international repercussions, in particular it transformed the relationship between Cuba and the United States. Up until the time of the revolution Cuba had become a safe haven for American drug barons and corruption. Under Castro, its economy was turned around, he also heralded an era of Cuban medical internationalism, sending doctors around the world to war torn areas and third world countries where people had no doctor. It is worth mentioning that after the aftermath of 9/11 many firemen and policemen that suffered injury in the attack, when their medical insurance (through their ex-employer) ran out went off to Cuban where medical aid was free. Still America continued to try to oust Castro and has since the time of the revolution placed economic sanctions on the Cuban government.
In Chile over a period from September 11, 1973 and March 11, 1990 the dictatorship was established after the overthrown of the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in the US backed coup d’état. It was widely reported at the time that the CIA was directly involved in orchestrating the carrying out the coup. The military headed by General Augusto Pinochet utilized the breakdown of democracy and the economic crisis to take control
The government was a regime of military dictatorship, it suppressed all political parties and the persecution of dissidents to the extent unprecedented in the history of Chile. Overall, the regime left over 3,000 dead or missing, tortured tens of thousands of prisoners and drove an estimated 200,000 Chileans into exile, (I knew one personally). The country moved away from lefty politics to a free-market economy on the advice of economists educated in the US universities know as the Chicago Boys. Later, in 1980 the regime replaced the Chilean Constitution of 1925 with a new constitution. This established a series of provisions that would eventually lead to the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite on October 5th 1988. The military dictatorship ended in1990 with the election of Christian Democrat candidate Patrico Aylwin, However, the military remained out of civilian control for several years after the junta itself had lost power.
Which brings us nicely to the US involvement in UK politics. A big pal of General Augusto Pinochet was the now duly elected (dictatorship) of Margaret Thatcher, she was also, a big pal of the American President Ronald Regan and together they cooked up a system that moved us off the gold standard to there open house and the free marketeers.
At the end of the Falklands war, thatcher warped herself in bunting and when to the country, and won a landslide victory, now she had the power to put her privatisation plans into practice, using every dirty trick from the CIA play book.
During the Battle of Orgreave on 18th June 1984 at the Orgreave Coking Plant near Rotherham, striking miners attempted a blockade. There was around 5,000 miners and the same number of police, it all went badly when the police on horseback charged with truncheons drawn. Although it was the police that charged the pickets without provocation, the media (including the “Impartial” BBC) showed the pickets attacking the police lines, this was the constant lies and propaganda, that were broadcast during this period.
During the strike, 11,291 people were arrested, mostly for breach of the peace or obstructing roads whilst picketing, of whom 8,392 were charged and between 150 and 200 were imprisoned. At least 9,000 mineworkers were dismissed after being arrested whilst picketing even when no charges were brought. The good old CIA play book won the day.
Magie, sold off the family silver to the hedge fund managers of London and America. Sold off the council houses, and used the new found wealth of the oil found off the coast of Scotland to fund the unemployment bill that came in the wake of all the pit, rail, and steel industries closures, along with their associated companies. Outsourcing was the new buzz word. With the big companies now in private hands or closed down, the Union’s teeth were drawn. We are still living with the consistences of Thatcherite polices.
For a while I though we would never move away from American’s grip on the world’s finances, away from their disastrous foreign policy of regime changes when governments did not toe their line, then they would put their man in their place. You can have democracy so long as it is our brand of democracy, and Just so long as the buck stops here.
Then came, 2002 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt by the US. The situation began on 9th April when a general strike was called by the trade union organization National Federation of Trade Unions. The strike was in response to Chavez’s appointment to prominent posts in Venezuela’s national oil company. Two days later in Caracas, up to one million Venezuela’s marched in opposition to Chavez. At one point during the march, opposition leaders redirected the protestors to the presidential palace, Miraflores, where government supporters and Bolivarian Circles were holding their own rally. The two sides confronted each other. Shots were fired near the Miraflores Palace and by that evening 19 people were dead.
As a response to the protests they demanded he resign, President Chavez was subsequently arrested by the military. Chavez request for asylum in Cuba was denied, and he was ordered to be tried in a Venezuelan court. On the American news programmes, that evening all were showing how it was government supporters and Bolivarian Circles were responsible for the shooting, in fact they were hunkered down trying to avoid being shot by military types overhead and the street, into which they were supposed to be shooting into the crowd was completable clear of people, CIA play book once more in action.
The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce president Pedro Carmona was declared interim president. During the National Assembly and the Supreme Court were both dissolved and the country’s 1999 Constitution was declared void. The coup was on the verge of collapse, as Carmona’s attempts to entirely undo Chavez’s reforms, this angered much of the public and key sectors of the military.
When word leaked out that Chavez had not resigned, as was publicly claimed, Chavez supporters surrounded the presidential palace, seized the television stations and demanded his return. Carmona resined the same night. The Mirflores was taken without a shot been fired, leading to the removal of the Carmona government and the re-installation of Chavez as president.
Special police shot Kiev protesters, inquiry says, again a peaceful protest orchestrated by the CIA play book to gain power.
The internet, more than any other source of information has helped us to understand what is going on in the world. And how powerful people around the world are abusing their power for their own ends.
And the fight back has begun,
“We The People”
March for Independence – Edinburgh
Saturday 2 October 2021
1:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Gathering Early – Leave 1 pm sharp
Holyrood Park, Queens Drive, Horse Wynd, Canongate, High Street, Lawn market, George IV bridge, Forrest road, Middle Meadow walk, The Meadows.
It was a glorious morning here at St Andrews, and although my morning ride was short it was sweet. Now to tackle my slow running kitchen sink. The local hardware shop supplied me with a plunger and a bottle of Mr Muscle drain gel (Clears total blockages Guaranteed or your money back) first I poured the gel down the sink, now I had a sink full of gel to contend with, so I left it for a while and it did eventually go. Now read the instruction – wait for 5 minutes, for tougher clogs, leave longer. Run drain with hot water. I boiled a kettle of water and poured that down the drain, still clogged, ho-hum. Set to work with the plunger squelch, squelch, all sorts of gunge coming out of the overflow, then it was clear. I filled the sink to the brim then pulled the plug, the water disappeared at a great rate of knots, making a spectacular vortex as it went. A big, old age pensioners cheer went up Hip, Hip Replacement.
I had just settle down to a well-earned cup of tea and a banana sandwich, when the door went, on opening it, the site manager bad me come with her, saying
“I need you” best offer I’ve had all day.
She leads me into the toilet where one of my neighbours was trying to stop a full flow of water coming out of the water heater over the sink. I found the inspection hatch on the pipe box and managed to reach the stopcock but it was solid, had not been moved in a decade. Off to the workshop for a large screwdriver and claw-hammer, with these, I was able to prise the front from the pipe box and let the dog see the rabbit. I used the claw of the hammer on the handle of the stopcock and moved it back and forth until it became free enough to screw shut, phew, the water stopped gushing from the heater. For safety sake, I went back to the house for a small screwdriver and removed the fuse from the wall socket that feeds the heater. I was soaked to the skin, trousers shirt, oh well, I was contemplating a shower anyway. I feel quite exhilarated now.
To me foreign food aid, be it to war-torn countries or via food banks here at home is the wrong approach to helping people in need. Just as refugee camps are not the answer either, they are a sticking plaster on the symptoms but not a cure, and certainly the last thing such people need, driving them into a downward spiral of poverty.
Which leads me nicely onto migrating birds, migrating birds, whit? I watched a documentary on The Fens,
a part of the country I know well having cycled and camped there on occasion. Once drained over centuries by windmills, the Fens flood planes now have a cared-for drainage system of dike and dams with pumps capable of shifting tones of water per minute. With the water table lowered (but sometimes flooded again in winter) the Fens soil is rich, you can grow almost anything there. One of the new crops to be grown is Sunflowers, the company that grows them is the biggest Sunflower seed merchant in Briton. Much of the crop goes for birdseed.
Did you know, that an estimated 17 million households spend £250 million a year on more than 150,000 tonnes of bird feed? That is enough to fee the entire breeding population of the 10 most common feeder-using bird species year-round three times over? “Not many people know that” as Michael Cain would say.
Yes, it was those Victorians, that did it, “tuppence a bag” for seed to feed the Trafalgar Square pigeons have morphed into a national pastime. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, sung Audrey Hepburn, in My Fair Lady.
I know by the number of bird feeders that appear in our garden here at City Park that many of us have discovered the joy of attracting birds into our gardens, more so during the pandemic, with less opportunity to visit the wildlife in its natural habitat. So good for humans but what about the birds?
There is an average of 100 bird feeders per square kilometre across the UK so most birds will not have to travel far for food. It is estimated that we humans provide 75 percent of the daily intake of the diet of some species. Hardly surprising that the dominant ones have monopolised
resources and become habitual feeder-user, now relying on the unlimited year-long supply of food we provide. In the last 25 years, the UK has gained 700,000 additional pairs of great tits, a 40 per cent increase. Blue tits, nuthatches and great-spotted woodpeckers have never had it so good.
All good, I hear you cry, but is it? Well not if you are a migrating bird or one that you would normally find in the countryside. For woodland species, the situation is less rosy. Marsh and willow tits, lesser-spotted woodpeckers, several migrant flycatchers and warblers have been slowly disappearing from the British landscape since the1970s, begging the question why?
Many of the species in decline are “subordinate” – (please do not say, lower down the pecking order.) And as we know through Darwin’s studies, to survive you may have to diversify. As modern farm methods force change and the increase in bird population of dominant birds has the monopoly of the food and the monopoly of the nest sites. The willow tits now excavate their own nest holes so they do not have to wait for nature to do it for them – anyway, the dominant species would probably take them anyway. This means they can occupy new sites, like woodlands, which are unsuitable for their more imposing relatives. Marsh tits collect and catch food and store it for a rainy day. It is quick to find new food resources and had a strong bill capable of dealing with harder food items. However, when bird feeders provide food 24/7 and are gobbled up by the dominant species, sending their numbers soaring, the subordinates will still lose out.
Spare a thought, too, for the pied flycatcher, arriving back from Africa to ever-more unpredictable spring weather in the UK to compete with species such as great tits for food and nest. It is known for Great tits to kill flycatchers in scuffles over nest sites.
There is another problem with bird feeders apart from competition between species. More diverse species at the same place at the same time for years on end (no social distancing) provides conditions for the spread of diseases, within the species, and worse still, from one species to another. (think coronavirus). This happened in a spectacular way in 2005 when the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae, jumped from feeder-using wood pigeons to finches. Resulting in the greenfinch population declining by 66 per cent a year – 280,000 birds, between 2006 and 2016. the advice given at the time was to wash feeders more often, too little too late as it turned out for chaffinches, which are still on the decline.
For declining species of farmland birds such as tree sparrows that suffer badly on cold nights, they can lose a third of the bodyweight that must be replaced quickly, bird feeds are their lifeline. Likewise, house sparrows and starlings in some cities would fail if handouts ceased. But feeding blue and great tits may be the final nail in the coffin for their scarcer relatives.
In good faith we humans have tried to help wildlife, however, in doing so we may have inadvertently given a leg-up to generalists over the specialists.
We badly need a better understanding of the consequences of bird feeding. There is one clear lesson we must learn. If we are truly concerned with bird populations. Then possible, improving habitat and quality in our gardens is a vastly more important gift to nature than any birdseed handouts.
We can plant beneficial native plants and provide seasonal bursts of resources, from nuts to berries and caterpillars. We can dig a pond, swap fences for hedgerows, or choose rumbustious wildflower-covered lawns. Even rewild parts of our garden, nature has been running the show for millennium I think we can trust it to run the show for us now
Halfway through another week and for the first time in many days I can safely say, I am free of that dreadful head cold that has plagued me. OK, I am still a little weak from its effects but in much better spirits. So looking forward to extensive travelling on bike and bus once more.
Charlie Watts, drummer of the Rolling stones, died at the age of 80, he had a good inning but when I hear of the demise of people that I have lived with all my adult life, it is a reminder that we are not immortal.
One other that has been part of my life, Toyah Wilcox, seems she has produced a new album that will be released on Friday, this week. Do you remember those mad pop videos she made, if you do you are older than you think?
For all the talk about electric vehicles, there are some forms of transport, that will never successfully be electrified. Is hydrogen the answer?
Hydrogen-powered vehicles is now being hailed by The Hydrogen Council as a silver bullet, a group that includes the oil companies BP, Total and Shell in their numbers, (is that an alarm bell I hear?) They predict that “Blue” Hydrogen will account for 18% of all energy demands by 2050. Now hydrogen has been with us for some time in fact, I have been onboard hydrogen-powered buses in Dundee.
“Hydrogen is not a panacea or silver bullet but it could be necessary for decarbonization of hard-to-electrify, sectors such as long-haul heavy trucking, international marine shipping and some parts of heavy industry.” said Mike Fowler, director of advanced energy technology research at the Clean Air Task Force.
At the coal-fired power station at Longanet, now closed, they ran an experiment for Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS), the idea was to take the carbon from the flue gasses and pipe them out into the North Sea and down the old oil pipe lines to the sea bed, there they would be captured by the pressure at that depth. The experiment ran until the Westminster government pulled the plug on the funding. The biggest problem with the scheme was it used a lot of energy to run the system. So it did work, but who would pay for the clean air in a commercially-run power station?
But what has this got to do with hydrogen power, I hear you cry? Well, bear with me. Some time ago I wrote about a system, down at Leven (Fife) where they were producing hydrogen using electricity to crack water, the brilliant part, it using wind power to produce the electricity required. So successful has it been that they are now proceeding to put the system into practice, by offering it as an alternative to gas in and around Leven.
So what’s my grip with hydrogen?
A large $1 trillion, infrastructure bill passed by the US Senate and hailed by Joe Biden as a key tool to tackle the climate crisis. This bill includes $8 billions of dollars to support, a supposedly clean fuel, (“Blue” hydrogen) that has the potential to pollute even more than burning coal. Whit.
The problem with, so-called, “Blue” hydrogen, being pushed by the fossil fuel industry, and falls under the definition of clean hydrogen in the Senate bill, begs the question, is Blue hydrogen really that Green?
Blue hydrogen involves spitting gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and then capturing and storing the CO2, a global warming gas. However during the process, methane, a potent greenhouse gas is also produced, this method also uses a huge amount of energy to separate, then store the carbon dioxide, and some will escape anyway, (all this was understood at the CCS experiments at Longanet Fife.) The production of “Blue” hydrogen actually creates 20 per cent more greenhouse gases than coal, commonly regarded the most polluting fossil fuel. Furthermore it is 60 per cent more polluting than burning diesel, according to a new paper published in the Energy Science and Engineering journal. Help ma boab, is that right?
Robert Howarth, a scientist at Cornell University who authored the paper alongside Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University researcher, said “Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push, but it’s far from carbon-free. I don’t think we should be spending our funds this way, on these sort of false solutions.” Well, that’s you telt, president Biden.
Dozens of gas companies have jumped on the bandwagon, in the US and started producing hydrogen (fill your boots with free dollar handouts from the US Senate) – or at least testing its viability in existing gas pipelines. This is madness, according to climate campaigners, saying it is a step towards entrenching fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the world needs to rapidly move to net-zero emissions, outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC).
“Looking at this Biden bill, you can not fail to see a big giveaway to the fossil fuel infrastructure that is incompatible with serious climate action” according to Carroll Muffett, chief executive of the Center for International Environmental Law. “Congress went out of its way to not specify green hydrogen (hydrogen produced by renewable electricity, such as being produced at Leven Fife), and so this funding just helps prop up the fossil fuel industry. The potential of these technologies are being routinely overstated even as the impact are being understated.”
So why despite all the evidence does the US Senate still pass such a bill? For not only is it decremental to the US but the rest of the world too.
“He who pays the piper calls the tune.”
Now, do you hear those alarm bells more clearly?
As a footnote, the Scottish government in the past have put much funding into the research and development of new green technology, wind, wave, tide, CCS alongside this hydrogen. Scotland has done much to promote such development, but it is Westminster parties, funded by big companies such as oil companies BP, Total and Shell, it is they that call the shots. Scotland has the resources of wind a plenty, strong tides, and endless wave, to power and drive, not only the development of The green revolution, but also the hard-won, and paid for, by the Scottish taxpayers, development, technology and expertise in this new green renewable energy revolution. Sadly Scotland is being held back from becoming the riches, greenest country in the world, by being part of the UK, why can’t Nicol Sturgeon see this?
What do we want – Independence – when do we want it – NOW!
The film came on the television at 9 o’clock in the evening. I was having difficulty concentrating on it and was dropping off to sleep, so took myself off to my bed. It smelt of fresh sheets, pillowcases and duvet cover. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
Sunshine was flowing like a golden waterfall into the bedroom but it was the noise of scaffolds dismantling a chimney pack across the road that had wakened me. The hammering and clanging of steel did not keep me from turning over in my cosy cocoon and disappearing once more into slumber. It was after 10 am when I finally arrived back in the land of the living, feeling good, if a little wobbly. Must get myself out.
As a boy, I suppose I lived in my own little world, I was not really interested in what gown-ups were saying around the table, so my sessions with my older brother has been a real eye-opener.
When the long school holidays came along we, or at least we that were still at school, would be hived out to stay with aunts and uncles or in my case my grandmother, on my father’s side.
When first I was shipped off to gran’s she stayed in the ‘Happy-land’ a collection of miners rows that backed onto the old shunting yard. The rails and sleepers had been lifted but because it was mostly covered in hardcore it would have taken a great deal of effort and sweat to turn it into anything resembling an allotment.
My gran run a shop from her kitchen, it was not uncommon for a child to turn up at the door, sent there by their mother,
“Mum wants to know if she could have two Woodbine and a couple of slices of bread?”
Whoever had sent the child knew perfectly well that her man would not go down the pit the next day unless he had a Woodbine before he went down, and a Woodbine for when he surfaced again. His wife would make sure he had them or the wage packet would be light at the end of the week, and it would be her housekeeping money that would be short.
The two slices of bread was optional, the men would go down the pit without their peece (a Scottish sandwich that would be carried with you to work) but not without their Woodbine.
Gran would hand over the goods and enter them in her little black book.
My uncle John was a cripple and walked, rather awkwardly with two sticks, when a boy he had suffered an injury to his foot, it never healed and finally turned to gangrene, the leg would have to come off below the knee, granddad would not hear of it.
It was many years later when dad returned from a visit to see his father that he told me, with an almost shocked expression, that when he and the old man had been sitting opposite one another across the fire, his father suddenly burst out crying,
“I have never seen my father cry before” he told me, “I did not know what to do, I just sat in silence.
Granddad to my father was always the strong oak beam that held up the roof, he went down the pit at fourteen years of age. Came through the Great War without a scratch, and straight down the pit once more, never missing a day. He was seventy years old before the NCB (National Coal Board) discovered he should have been pensioned off five years earlier. Grandad took it badly when they said he would have to leave. The locals organised a retirement party for him, and there he would be presented with a trophy, from the Mayor, and the press would be there to record the occasion for prosperity. Grandad never turned up, the committee, the Mayor, and the press had to go round to Minto Street and present the trophy there, and get their story and pictures.
I remember reading in the local paper about Jimmy Hamilton, starting down the pit at 14 and working there until he was 70. Mum always said it was his stubbornness that brought him through the depression and Great War.
Dad went on, “Then in a quiet voice, choking back his tears, the old man said,”
“Why didn’t I not let them take John’s leg he would have had some sort of life, I committed him to a life of pain and misery?” Some mistakes we carry with us to the grave.
John served his time as a cobbler, a good trade to be in with all the pit boots needing mending. Not able to go gallivanting he would sit with his cobbler’s last over his thighs and mend boot by the fire.
Gran suggested that they rented the old shunting yard from the NCB and keep hens for eggs and food, John could still mend boots but it would be his job to look after the hens. Gran of course would find a road for the eggs and meat, well there was a war on.
By the time I was old enough to be hived out at grans during my school holiday, John had around 500 hens on the land. I would be set to work, cleaning out hen huts and coating them in coal tar, as protection against the weather and red spider. The coal tar I would carry the mile or so up from the gas works at the bottom of Station Road.
I loved it at grans, for not only was I away from “Bedlam Hall” you would not believe the constant noise there is in a house with five women in it. Not only that, I got a whole egg when I stayed with my gran.
There were two other uncles Uncle Alec, and Uncle Willie. They were seldom over at grans since they were both married, were pipers, in fact they were both Pipe Majors in their turn, in the Lochore and Glencraig Pipe band, so when not out with the band they were at work down the pit. I did not realise it at the time but Willie was a compulsive gambler.
My brother would tell how Willie worked harder than anyone down the pit and made good money. On his way home he would throw his unopened wage packet on the ground and on the toss of two old pennies, either waked home with a roll that would choke a horse or empty-handed. If he had won he would go to the dogs at Thornton. It matters little, whether the dog won or lost, he would show no emotion, money had no real value other than catalysis to gamble. Little wonder his wife left him.
Strange looking back how I was totally unaware of these things going on around me, then again, to me grown-up were alias, and sisters more so. I lived in my own little world, free from care and strife. Sadly it also made me a very poor student, if the teacher was boring me, I simply escaped into myself, I switched off. Hardly surprising therefore that when I left school, I was so poorly educated and had to start all over again in my own time.
Someone once asked me,
“What is the worst thing about growing old?”
I have no idea what answer I gave then, but I would say now,
Monday as ever is my allotted time in the laundry, I stuffed the washing in the machine. Breakfast was then followed by some less enthusiastic housework.
The maid was standing in front of the housekeeper, who had just drawn a finger across the top of the sideboard then proceeded to show a pristine white glove – now with one rather dusty finger, to the girl she proclaimed,
“I could write my name on the furnisher in this room”
To which the girl retorted,
“Isn’t education a wonderful thing?”
The bicycle had taken priority over anything close to serious housework, the day was still and overcast but I really needed to be out and about once more. Not a long run, down to the Eden, up to Dairsie, and home, but today if felt like 100 miles of cycling, recovery, from whatever alls me, will be slow.
Back home I started looking through some more of my old runs, that had been stored on CD, can’t remember if I mentioned the run Tim and I did down the Grand Union Canal, but If you have read it already stop now.
This was written when I was living down in Yorkshire so a while ago. I had just recently turned 65 and had all sorts of plans for myself, no longer a white slave from Monday through to Friday, free at last, free at last, thank you lord, free at last. Mum had other plans for me she suffered a stroke, not deliberately I’m sure, but it did put pay to my plans, I became, by default, my mother’s carer.
Although a thankless task most of the time and very tiring, as much mentally as physical, all of the time, and financially unrewarding, I never regretted one moment of that quality time spent with my mother.
Mum had gone into rest care so I could go off for a wee holiday, just get away from the seven-day routine. The position of carer for mum, also gave me custodianship of mum’s little Yorkshire terrier Tim. Wherever I went Tim would go too. With Youth Hostelling now ruled out, it would be a camping trip. I had bought a ‘new to me’ children’s bike trailer for Tim to travel in, but Tim was having none of it. I then purchased a basket, this was fixed to the rear carrier, allowing Tim to ride up at my back. Tim was in his glory, sitting high in his own little castle, anytime I left him to guard the bike and trail, that had now become a depository for our camping gear, outside shops or visitor centre. Tim was quick to exploit the situation, busking for attention from all who passed by.
Since much of the route chosen would involve off-road and since I would be pulling a two-wheeled trailer loaded with all our camping equipment, and Tim’s chunky meaty bites, I chose my off-road bike, with no rear carrier his basket was now strapped to the handlebars.
Tim and I journeyed overnight down to Thame,
which is just east of Oxford and found a safe spot to leave the van (a converted van that would take mum’s electric buggy) ideal for all our needs. I later found out that I had parked opposite the home of a member of the Bee-Gees, for all my younger readers, the Bee-gees was band big in the 1960s.
The melodic bell in the church tower had just chimed seven o’clock as we set out to stretch our legs after the long journey south. Tim introduced himself to a little Jack Russell and then to the dog’s owner, who then introduced himself as Tom. Tom, like his dog, turned out to be ever so friendly and offered to show me where I could join the disused railway track at the start of our cycling adventure. As we walked Tom kept up a running commentary on the village and from his enthusiasm clearly a village he dearly loved. History oozed from every building from its church, barn, and pub, named ‘The Bird Cage’, a timber-framed construction in the towns Corn Market. I was told it derived its name from having once been used to house French prisoners of war during Napoleonic times. Finally, we arrived at the cycle track, Thames best-kept secret since it is found by making one’s way through a modern housing estate on the outskirts of the village, out of sight and with no guiding signs.
Back at the van the trailer was loaded and attached to the bike then off we went on our ‘Big’ adventure a round trip that would take us through some of the most beautiful countrysides in England.
By midday, we had travelled via Princes Risborough, Owlswich, Kimblewick, Marsh Mill, and on to Ellesbourch. It was here as we sat eating ham sandwiches, or more correctly, I was eating bread, Tim was scoffing the ham from my sandwiches. We were approached by a lady delivering the parish newsletter, Tim had that magnetic charm. In answer to my inquiry about a distinctive hill, not too far off, I was told it was Beacon Hill, overlooking Chequers.
Tim’s eagerness to go when I lifted his lead soon turned into disillusionment after half an hour of climbing in grass a little long for his liking. However, the view from the top was magnificent since we were now able to see for miles in every direction and certainly well worth the effort to get up here.
Near the little village of Tring, we turned off for the Grand Union Canal, but not before vising the village and its magnificent church in the centre of town.
First recorded in The Doomsday Book as a church and belfry in 1089, the lovely church of St Peter and Paulon the high street is open every day. As a magnificent medieval church, of St Peter and Paul is the place to visit to learn about the church’s architecture, the medieval Tring Tiles and the Victorian Gore Memorial, and our George Washington connection.
Turned off onto a path that would lead us onto the Grand Union Canal towpath. On reaching the canal we found it a little short on ‘Grand’, more an overgrown ditch. The water was shallow and crystal clear with small islands of vegetation scattered at random along its length. The banks were covered with self-seeded hardwood in autumn profusion. The towpath, that we would now follow was deep in fallen leaves that dappled sunlight played upon. There was an abundance of water hens that scurried into their moat surrounded fortresses as we approached. The chunky shoulders of our tyres caused the dry leaves to spin up and dance unrehearsed alongside our wheels in an exhilarating manner, then billow in a kaleidoscope of streaming colour in our wake. One small boy, his faithful dog, and a bicycle all setting out on a great adventure, it does not get much better than this.
We joined the Grand Union Canal proper at Bulbourne
where we stopped for refreshment. Tim had a large bowl of water me a large pint of keg beer. The next part of the journey down the canal towpath was uninspiring when you’ve seen one canal you have seen them all, so when we reach Uxbridge, I had already made up my mind to throw caution to the wind and take to the minor roads.
As we pulled into camp that night, fellow campers must have thought they had sighted the Grey Man of Ben Macau. The limestone hardcore, which made up the path on which we had spent the day travelling had left us covered from head to toe in fine white dust. My first task, after establishing the camp was to head for the toilet and shower room. Picking up a towel and soap bag from the back of the trailer sent Tim hot-footing it into the tent, where he hid inside my sleeping bag. Like all small boys, he has an allergy to soap and water. I had most everything I owned tumbling and spinning in the washing machine so it was now time to set about washing down the bike and trailer at the same time checking them over for any signs of breakage of problem tyres. Sitting now with only the light of the campsite to see by we ate supper and I downed numerous cups of tea. It had been a long day, still, I felt very fresh and if light permitted could easily have pressed on, Tim, however, was more than content to curl up in the tent, one eye open less I go off without him.
By daybreak we were packed and ready for the road, in Slough I found a greasy spoon café and sat down to a full breakfast, the first for some days and certainly a tribute to ‘hunger’s good kitchen’. From Slough to Windsor Great Park then into Windsor itself where the Tourist Information gave us directions to a campsite. It was early yet but we were in no hurry so booked in, did the chores, then off we headed for the town and a few pints, just to clear the dust from one’s throat, you understand.
By sun up we were once more on our road, heading this time for Wantage,
in the vale of the White Horse, for a land that is so flat all around, the road down the valley to the hill on which you find this incredible sculpture is anything but. We parked the bike and started the long climb to the hill fort. a group of lads were flying stunt kites, they looked impressive. a fair distance to the top of what would have been a Bronze Age fort. Yet again, well worth the effort. It was dark O’clock by the time we reached our campsite at West End near Stanton Harcourt. Batteries recharged we were off next day into Oxford, not a dog-friendly town, no dogs allowed signs at every park and riverbank. In fact, the only dogs I saw belonged to the Big Issue vendor.
All to soon the sands of time had run out on our holiday, so on back to Thame and our transport home. It had been a great trip, the weather warm, sunny, and windless. We had only two punctures, both in the trailer, which had no puncture protection in the tyres. The first was on the Grand Union Canal. With the new tube fitted and the tyre reinstated I was searching in the trailer for a pump. When we set out everything had its place and a place for everything, now it resembled a midshipman’s sea kist, everything on top, and nothing to hand. Just then a chap pulled up on his bike, it had two large panniers front and rear. The halo effect said cycle tourist but as it turned out he worked at a cafe in the nearby park and presumably his panniers were full of goodies for the cafe. Anyway, he whipped the pump from his bike and started attacking the wheel before I had a chance to retrieve ours. Off he went again, at a great rate of knots, with my thanks ringing in his ears. The hand drying machine in the campsite was used to help in the repair of the tube which would be required the following day. Once back on the roads however no further problems were encountered.
I became mum’s carer by default. It was a time when most people were getting their heads around paying the weekly bills by Direct Debit and buying with plastic. Mum however was old school and like to go to the post office of a Monday and collect her pension, she like real money in her purse.
The routine was well established. My car had been traded in against a van conversion that would take a wheelchair, so Monday morning I would load up the van with mum’s mobility scooter, shopping bags and Tim the dog, although Tim knew the score and would be perched up in the driver seat as soon as the doors were open.
Then came mum, once installed and her seat belt in place, Tim would leap over onto her lap, we were off to the post office. Purse bulging with pound notes I would drive up to the big Morrison’s store at Idle. Equipped with a large trolley it was time for me to buzz around the store, collecting the weekly shop. Mum spent her time search out gullible, boys or girls asking them where she could find…..and have them running around the store at her beck and call. Shopping can be so much fun, in your 90s.
As you entered the store the first display you would come to was fruit and vegetables. On that particular day there was a large display of strawberries, and alongside that was a pallet piled high with small cartons of long life cream.
“Look at that” mum had noticed the pallet “That milk should be in the fridge”.
“No mum, it’s a complimentary product” and as soon as the words were out of my mouth I know I was in trouble.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
Climbing onto my soapbox I explained that it was not milk but long-life cream in the cartons. And they were placed beside the strawberries, so by association people, who wanted to buy strawberries, would automagically think strawberries and cream, so buy both. Had the store placed the cream down by the dairy products the association would have been lost and less long-life cream would have been sold. Mum was not convinced, it should be in the fridge.
As I turned to go I noticed that my presentation had attracted a crowd, and I could not help but notice that many were now buying strawberries but ignoring the long life cream. Better to skedaddle before the manager comes.
Cares, like mothers with toddlers, will know that every job takes twice as long as normal, and the morning would be over by the time we returned home. It was time for mum’s we nap and me to escape up to my allotment for a time, weeds never stopped growing just because I was away, quite the opposite, mice like, they will play.
A young American girl, when asked why she had done what she had done, answered,
“I don’t like Mondays”
Our trips to Morrison’s would end with lunch in Morrison’s cafeteria, followed by coffee and cake, (but not strawberries, they bring me out in blotches) so
And with it you are tethered to the foam, And I wouldn’t trade your life for one hour of home. (Lock-Keeper Stan Rogers)
When looking back at our lives we only see the good bits, and it was always sunny, but of course it never was like that, there really were no ‘Good Old Days’ that was your lot, and you just made the best of it.
My only brother is 10 years my senior, so we were never close growing up, I was still a schoolboy when he was doing National Service. And before I left school he was married and had by now start a family. We would see each other at Hatches, Matches and Dispatches – births, weddings and funerals. But I really did not know much of what he was up to growing up and then when I started work well I had wheels on.
This last year I have possibly seen more of my brother than any time during our lives, we will meet up regularly for a pub lunch and a blether.
Now if there is one thing I regret in my life it was not asking my parents more about their early life, and as my immediate family have thinned out, again many opportunities were missed, so when I meet up with my brother I tend to spear him about The Good Old Days between the wars, for I know it shaped the character of my siblings, especially one very close to me when she was alive.
Rita was frugal and need desperately to have a few pounds in the bank, her safety net. When her husband was made redundant from Rosyth Royal Dockyard he was given redundancy money and my sister insisted that the money was not squandered on a new car but that they purchased their council house, (Maggie Thatcher was selling them off at a knock-down price at the time). Rita needed that security, it seemed to be a craving with her, even in a time of relative affluence, after all her husband had a steady job and a wage coming in each and every week, almost guaranteed, so why was this, almost a fear of what tomorrow might bring so strong?
One lunchtime my brother was deep into his life growing up in the hungry 1930s,
Dad has some job down in Leven, he started. There were now two bairns in the house, dad had been reading his paper every, word, every syllabi, morning had turned into afternoon. Dad rose from the chair by the fireside and put on his jacket,
“Where are you off to?” Mum called to him,
“Out for a paper” he told her,
“A paper?” You have just read the paper,
“I know, but I will see if the evening papers are in yet,” and he was off out the door.
Mum never saw him again for fourteen months. As she suspected he had gone down to the seaman’s union and found a ship going somewhere, it did not really matter where.
Life at sea during those times was much like life ashore ‘White Slavery’ jobs were hard to come by, second engineers taking jobs as stokers just to have a berth. You put up with most anything or you starved. Serving as an AB (able-bodied seaman) the wages were poor, and only paid when at sea, as soon as the ship tied up the money stopped until you signed back on, that ship or another ship, so it might be days or even weeks between pay. The seaman’s mission would be home from home until you could sign-on once more
There small family had moved into a council house in William Street, East Wemyss, and known locally as Macduff Park. This was the address that dad had written on the letter containing a postal order at the end of that first week he was away. The letter did not come to East Wemyss but went all the way up to Macduff up on the east coast of Scotland near to Aberdeen. When the postman revived the letter, knowing that there was no William Street in Macduff, returned to sender.
The milkman, who also sold bread rolls, carried her to the end of the week but when he came for payment on Friday, and was told the story that she had not received any money from dad, but expected a letter any day, I’m sure he was sympathetic but he possibly heard as many tales of hardship and inability to pay for milk and rolls delivered that, mum was told that there would be no more deliveries until her book was cleared.
Over the next four weeks the family survived by mum putting the bairn in the pram and they would walk out into the country, when clear of prying eyes, she would send my brother into the field to gather a few potatoes of a turnip, anything to make a meal. When the gas meter run out they sat in the dark and cooked on the open fire, kept going by sea coal gathered from the shore.
Mr Rodgers lived above my parent’s house, four in a block, and was a member of the kirk, and on the Parish Council and had something to do with most things that went on in the village, he was soon aware of mums situation. Villages were much more close-knit at that time what with the doctor knowing everyone in his practice, almost intimately, mum was trying to save for an operation she needed. The district nurse, was literally in and out of your home on a regular basis, if you had young children, and the local bobby, did not miss a trick.
Mr Rodgers came to the door,
“Your boys in the Scouts I believe, have a camp coming up soon and I think he should go”, he went on.
“Yes he was telling me,” mum had answered, all the time knowing that he could not go to the Scout Camp for it cost 2/- two shillings, that she did not have.
Mr Rodgers made a point of catching my brother the next day and placing in his hand a florin, a two shilling piece, “give that to your Scout Master, you don’t need to tell him where it came from,” he added.
Mr Rodgers knew that at least one of the family would be feed for the duration of the camp.
Mr Rodgers, again approached mum and told her that he was on the Parish Council and if she was in difficulties, she could come before the committee and possibly get financial help. Mum was desperate, all pride had gone, she was now into survival mode, she took up the invitation to go before the Parish Council.
After hearing how she had been four weeks without any money, they awarded her a payment of a few shillings, she would receive the award the next day.
Mum had my brother washed and polished and the bairn in the pram, ready to walk into Methil and the shops to buy food for her family.
Mr Rodgers, appeared at the door, “Sorry” he told her, although the Parish Council awarded her the money the Minister would not authorise the payment.
Well, mum was at her wits end and marched off down to the manse, working on her wrath with every step. When the minster opened the door and before he could draw a breath he received an almighty straight right from mums fist, clean to the jaw, a punch Henry Cooper would have been proud of. It knocked the minster clear off his feet and landed him on his backside in the hallway. Mum stood over him demanding,
“You hypocrite” she called, “stopping my money, Its not even your money, its the Parish money, call yourself a Christian” she laid into him, with all the pent up anger and fear of the last four weeks.
Next morning early, and on his way to work, Mr Rodgers appeared at the door with her few pounds form the Parish Council funds, much more than she had been promised and in high spirits set off with pram and child, and my brother for Methil.
Mum had a visit from the local police sergeant, my brother did not hear what they talked about in the back kitchen, but no charges were ever brought.
When dad returned home, looking well, tanned and dapper, mum and dad had a long talk, although it was mum that did much of the talking, as my brother had remembered it. After that dad changed, he seemed to understand now that it was he that had brought these kids into the world and they where his responsibility.
I can better understand what shaped my older siblings, why they held such a strong bond with each other, and craved security throughout their lives, in never left them. And why I in my turn, voted Labour all my working life, joined a union, and became a Shop Steward.
I was a lad growing up spent much quality time with dad, following him around like a puppy dog. When the motorcycle was going anywhere I would be on the back of it, even from a very early age. During the fair fortnight (the area holiday fortnight) I would go off with dad, we would visit family down in England or go off camping together.
I remember saying to my sister one day that I was fortunate to have spent so much quality time with dad. To which she replied,
Mum would not let him out the door without you, for she knew him too well, he would sign on the first ship in the harbour, where ever it may take him, and mum would not know until the letter arrived with a postal order from some far-flung part of the world. No, you were the anchor chain that kept him tethered her home.
Sure I’m stuck here on the seaway, While you compensate for leeway through the trades; And you shoot the stars to see the miles you’ve made. And you laugh at hearts you’ve riven, But which of these has given us more love of life, You, your tropic maids, or me, my wife.
It has not been a good month for me healthwise, but getting better every day now, even managed a short run on my bike yesterday. My niece’s youngest daughter is having a baby later in the year so I thought I would spend some time in my workshop making s/he a couple of wooden toys, really enjoyable and very time-consuming.
has warned Yes supporters that they are up against a deeply unscrupulous regime under Boris Johnson.” The National.
Now I have always thought of Michael Russell as a decent chap, someone I could trust, but a little too soft when he was in negotiation with the Tories over the Brexit settlement for Scotland. He was telling us, the Westminster government did hold talks with the devolved governments of the UK. Then added that they did not heed one word that was said by the devolved parliaments. Saying, they had their own agenda. Under their “Taking back control” they would cut all ties with the EU. In the end, they had to make a deal over Northern Ireland, but for Scotland, there would be no deals, you are part of England (that’s what the people of Scotland voted for in 2014).
knowing all this we still hear nothing about a road map to independence, although they tell us that the union is not working for Scotland. Instead of the word that can not be spoken aloud, (the ‘I’ word) we hear the mealy moth words “Recovery Referendum” (expect to hear a lot about it at the SNP conference) and not Independence Referendum, well we would not wish to scare the horses.
Michael (at the roadshow) was asked about the missing £600,00 (money collected from people as a fighting fund for indiref2 and as they were told at the time Ring-fenced.
“The Money is not missing,” he said.
Then why is there not an entry for £600,000 in the SNP books? Oh, I forgot it is all woven through the accounts. Find Michael, so how much does the SNP have in the bank at present, nothing like £600,000. Now I am not saying that Michael is a liar, but what I am saying is that this lack of clarity makes for mistrust in the SNP.
The Greens are trying to form a working agreement with the SNP (much as the Green party have done in the Labour government in New Zealand) the attraction for Nicola Sturgeon, she will have a working majority at Holyrood, but what will she have to give up in return for their co-operation? Nicola is no one who will want to share a stage with anyone. And although Green may be in vogue and the colour of the month at this time, will this really appeal to the Yes moment, more soft politics.
It was a valiant effort Michael, your Referendum for Recovery speech, but we are well past that stage now. We want a roadmap to independence, we want Civil Servants working day and night, to bring that about, for we know that is the only path out of Covic recovery for Scotland.
You have to wonder when the SNP are going to stop telling us that “Now is not the time for an independence referendum” and start to tell us “Independence was never a good idea?”
And as a footnote, Yes L McGregor, Falkirk. The National. I do hope that Alba supports the resolution of getting rid of the monarchy. I would support their idea for a republic. Then when we are an independent nation once more, we tell Boris to move the nuclear submarines from the Clyde (like yesterday) and whilst you are at it the ones parked up at Rosyth. And also tell the British and Americans, that we intend to follow much closer in the footsteps of our European neighbours and say loud and clear.
“We will only fight in the protection of our lands and not as cannon fodder for America’s failed foreign policies”. Or as Rodger Whittaker, put it.
“I don’t believe in ‘IT’ anymore.” and if you had this album in your collection then it is later than you think.
Global warming is a fact of life today, and many column inches of newsprint have been written how we can become carbon neutral – Green. Sadly for the world, the new Green is in the hands of big business interests rather than the interests of the planet, and we who live here will have little input in that, well, a part that is, for the bill.
Electric cars are being promoted widely as our saviour Zero Emission, electric cars sales have now surpassed 2 million globally. There is plenty of choice for the buyer, Toyota, Chevy, Tesla,
BMW, VW ……. focusing on luxury, high performance, the marketing model for cars has not changed, and at the end of it all we are still buying cars, we are still buying status symbols. The words “Zero Emissions” may be a good selling point, but are electric cars any more environmentally friendly than the big American gas guzzlers, once the manufacturing process for the vehicles and their batteries are taken into account?
Electric cars rely on regular charging from the local electricity network, which in today’s world is a long way from being emission-free. The big polluters, China and America still depend heavily of generating electricity from coal-fired power stations, where the power from their electric cars come.
Greener power is on the way, solar and wind power will reduce the need for coal and gas fired generation, so will be Greener, right? Most people recharge their electric cars overnight, problem, the sun does not shine at night and winds do not always blow and we have not as yet the ability to store sufficient surplus electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing strongly.
The cheapest power is not the greenest power, the cheapest power at present is from hydro, and nuclear (although nuclear is a double-edged sword, when you factor in the cost of decommissioning). Hydrogen, generated by electricity generated by wind and tide and wave could in the future be a possibility, but as yet still in their infancy.
Are electric cars the answer or are we simply exchanging one problem for another, are we in fact looking down the wrong end of a telescope?
I read recently that America is to spend billions of dollars updating an ageing highway network (mostly concrete) that is past its sell-by date. All to run those new zero-emission cars on, how do they square that with zero-emission driving?
How Green is Green (Part Two).
I asked the question about electric cars in part 1 are electric cars really green when you take the manufacturing costs and costs of material exploration and extraction for their manufacture, especially the batteries?
“Greenland may have said “no” to oil and gas, but its vast mineral wealth is up for grabs as the world’s biggest billionaires invest to claim metal reserves needed in the manufacture batteries.”
August 10, 2021, the Guardian.
The reason given for Greenland suspending offshore oil exploration was the dangers of climate change, (although after 50 dry holes drilled you may say it was because no oil was ever found there). Now Greenland has opened itself up to mineral mining, mainly those minerals used in the manufacture of batteries and other components of electric vehicles.
Bluejay Mining and KoBold Metals have formed a joint venture backed by American billionaires (Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezon and Ray Dalio, founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates is the principal investor in the privately held KoBold) with an investment of $15 million to explore (and if found) exploit Greenland for nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum (Cobalt is essential in the manufacture of electric car batteries).
“Greenland’s Ministry of Mineral Resources announced on 15th July (2021) that Greenland remains committed to developing the vast mineral potential, but that it was in the process of drafting legislation to ban exploration and extraction of uranium, and that the country would also no longer issue licenses to explore for oil and gas”
Well that all right then, we get our electric cars, not gas guzzlers, so global warming fixed, really?
In December 2020, Greenland opened three new offshore areas for applications of oil and gas exploitation licenses: Buffin Bay, Disko West and Davis Strait.
However, in April 2021, Greenland’s current government, led by the Inuit Atagatigiit party, was elected on a pledge to mitigate climate change, (now where have I heard that line before? Em, oh yes, I remember, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, who still wishes to extract oil from the seas around Scotland). Greenland is the world’s largest island, home to a population of 57,000 and though semiautonomous, depends on Denmark for two-thirds of its state budget.
Now you can not blame a country that is dependent on another countries handouts to keep it afloat financially, to want to exploit any natural resources it may, or may not have, in helping close its financial black hole. But this is not about Greenland, it is about Global Warming and electric cars that are being promoted by manufacturing companies and governments as our saviour, Zero Emission cars. Is this really a step in the right direction?
So for the final time, I ask How Green is Green?
Now I have said something about forestry in the past but worth mentioning again – are we going in the right direction on Global Warming.
A quarter of Estonia’s forestland is at imminent risk from a major logging increase, aided by “flexibilities” in EU rules that the Baltic state championed. Climate Home News.
A decade ago you could not get a mortgage on a house that was built by anything other than them employing traditional methods of building, no-fine, timber frame, were two such construction methods that came under such definition. So builders built with bricks and mortar. There has been a big turnaround in that time, now the main form of housebuilding around the world is timber-frame, many built within a factory system and transported to site as a complete package, fully fitted out with first and second fixings.
The demand for construction timber has soared (as has the price) – where does this leave Global Warming?
The scars of clear-fell are plain to see across Estonia,
the demand for wood is already changing the landscape. Logging in Estonia’s has tripled in the past decade. The European Commission expects Estonia’s forests to become a net carbon source by 2030, rather than a sink, as they are today.
Before, when forests were managed, the pace of change was slow, trees were planted as trees were removed. But modern commercial forestry is different, you do not select trees to cut, or plant and cut on rotation, you send in a harvester, capable of cutting and stacking 1000 trees per day, seven days a week – 365 days a year. That is a lot of trees, this is clear-felling, on steroids.
20 per cent, or Estonia’s great forests have already been clear felled, regardless of thickness. They say they do re-plant as they go, but replanting will never keep up with the large volumes cut down. And regeneration will be counted in decades. Once the country bristled with pine. Aspen, spruce and birch, all flourished under Soviet rule. Something is changing in Estonia’s hinterland today. As small forest owners, (mostly elderly) are selling off their forests to the big companies for 50 to 60 euros a tree. Clear felling in this way it will take 80 years to get the forest back.
Estonia has the EU’s second-most intensively farmed forests (after Belgium), with logging making up 91% of forest activity. It is also the most carbon-intensive country – dependent heavily on shale oil for its electricity.
To meet EU green targets, the Baltic state burns biomass for the vast majority of renewable energy – 96% in 2012 – and more will be needed by 2030. A billion-euro “biorefinery” is due to open in 2022, it will be churning wood into pulp for applications including power generation.
This will cause a catastrophic spike in deforestation under the banner of Renewable Energy.
UN climate science reports that the EU’s plans would increase global warming for decades to centuries, even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas.
We have been here before and still, lessons go unlearned. By 1850 the uses of wood for bioenergy helped drive the deforestation of western Europe even at a time when Europeans consumed relatively little energy. (the great forests of Scotland all disappeared around that time, the wood used as fuel, pit props, the land cleared for sheep). Coal saved the forests of Europe, but is the solution to Global Warming to go back to wood burning? Hardly.
“Of course people have problems with clear-cutting”
Said, Marku Lamp, the deputy chancellor of Estonia’s environment minister.
“This is something that we must address more by (explaining) what is behind those forests management practices and why we need them…. We also have a really clear obligation for forest owners to reforest their clear-cut areas” lamp added.
Well, that’s all right then. When the forest has gone along with the present owners, cash in their pockets from the sale of the forest, what then minister?
We are so hypercritical, calling out the people of the Amazon Rain Forests for cutting down the worlds largest carbon sink, yet turning a blind eye to what is going on in our own backyard.
Woke up this morning feeling good, today I will wean myself off drugs, by going turkey, may even try some. The weather looks rough out, high winds and clouds whizzing past. No cycling today that’s for certain.
I sat up until 2 am finishing the history of Mary Queen of Scots, by Antonia Fraser. This book should be compulsory reading in every Scottish school, for this is, on only, an in-depth book about the life of Mary Queen of Scots. But European history, brought to life, at around the time that Mary was alive. And to a greater of lesser degree, shows how little has changed in the mindset of those who rule over us today.
On reaching France, Mary, ‘the little half-royal cuckoo well and truly in the royal nest’ was shielded from the world and for the next six years her life took on a dream-like quality.
In those times it was essential that a household the size of the royals’ should move every few months in order that the castle should be more of less spring-cleaned. So Mary would embark on a series of glamorous journeys.
Housed in Saint-Germain in January, April they would journey to Fontainebleau, May return to Saint-Germain. October Mantes-sur-Seine, and by the 24th of November, they found themselves housed in Bury in Touraine (to avoid the epidemic). By the following April they had moved to Meudon at the palace of Blois, Mary attended the court in June then back to Blois, and in January the King himself took the royal children to Sait-Germain.
If Mary did remember anything of the small dark castles of Scotland the French palaces must have seemed very grand, this was another world. James V’s palace at Falkland, originally built in the royal passion for hinting, is a far cry from the spender of Fontainebleau built as a hunting lodge. Mary growing up in such spender, how could she ever understand that this was not the reality, that she would face if she returned to claim the Scottish crown.
Why was Mary such a threat to England? When Mary Tudor, (queen of England) died leaving no children, her throne was inherited by her half-sister Elizabeth (an unmarried woman of twenty-five). Therefore, until such times as Elizabeth married and had a child of her own, Mary was thus the next heiress to the English throne, for she was descended from her great-grandfather Henry V11 of England. But the situation was more complicated for although Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry V111 and his second wife Anne Boleyn, his devoice from his first wife, Catharine of Aragon was never recognised by the Catholic Church, therefore making Elizabeth illegitimate, no crown for the illegitimate sons and daughters of kings or queens. So Mary not Elizabeth should have inherited the English throne. Well no, you see Henry in his will had stopped the throne from going to anyone who was deemed a foreigner – which by English standards also put the kibosh on Mary inheriting the crown. No good would come of this.
Mary had been brought up all her life as a queen in waiting, she had married the French King so was Queen of Scotland and now married to the King of France, and by right (as she saw it) the English throne, had the King not been so frail, and had been able to produce a child with Mary, her life could have been so different. But, is that not a tread running through the whole of Scottish history, much like the name through a stick of Blackpool rock, “If only”.
On the return of Mary to Scotland, Scotland was a country controlled by ruthless warlords that would stop at nothing to further their own position and wealth. Mary would have to quickly form alliances. She knew nothing of the politics of Scotland, did not have the wealth of the French crown behind her and religious reformation was taking place.
The reformation was still in its infancy, (still not adopted as the state religion) so the reformers were afraid that Mary becoming queen would turn the country against the new religion and back to Rome. She thought she had solved that problem by saying that her people could worship as they wished – but she herself would keep the faith. (in Egypt today, a Muslim country, they wear the veil lightly, this is what Mary hoped for Scotland). But tolerance was not to be, and Knox would not let up, putting all his energies into casting Mary as the Pope’s Whore.
Marriage for Mary was not about love or pleasure – but about politics. A strong husband, that was acceptable to Elizabeth and had the backing of the Lords, could give her an heir to the throne was what was wanted in a marriage. She set about making a list.
One such suitor was Darnley, she liked him but did not see him as a husband at first. That was until Darnley took ill, it was said at the time to be smallpox, but was in fact syphilis. Mary nursed him through those long dark nights, and in the process fell head over heels in love with the fellow. She married Darnley, against the wishes of her advisors and her marries
“Don’t do it ‘My Queen” they cried, “It will be a disaster” and so it proved.
Elizabeth was infuriated by the marriage. It was a disaster, for he was a weakling full of his own importance and gullible and easy prey, for ruthless lords to exploit.
The violent death of Riccio, dragged as he was from her petticoat and stabbed viciously to death, must have opened her eyes to the danger that she herself faced at the hands of such men that it seemed would stop at nothing to attain the power they craved.
The gunpowder plot to kill the king by “Bothwell and his gang” that turned out to be another disaster for the king escaped the explosion only to be caught and strangled to death, so did not look like an accident, explosions do not strangle people, leaving the evidence behind to be found.
The abduction and rape of the queen by Bothwell, and the hasty marriage that followed even although his first divorce was not fully lawful. Showed her in a very poor light and implicated her in the eyes of many that she was party to the murder of her husband.
(two things to remember, Bothwell had shown her a letter signed by the Lord that they had approved of the marriage, and he had their full support, she, therefore, must have looked on Bothwell as a man able to control the Lords in Scotland. If rape had taken place, then Mary would not wish her child to be a bastard.)
Then the abduction and imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle,
by the Lords that was the gang that was closely associated with the kings murder, needed her out of the way so that they could rule as a junta in Scotland.
Escaping from Loch Leven Castle into England was “out of the frying pan and into the fire” the junta in Scotland did not want her back, Elizabeth certainly did not want her in England.
The Casket Letters produced and doctored, said to show that Mary Stuart had an adulterous liaison with Bothwell before the death of Darnley and her guilty foreknowledge of the murder was the reason given for her imprisonment, although it was not so much imprisonment but held until all the facts about the matter were cleared up. A sort of trial was held and no one was found to be guilty, Mary was not guilty of having any prior knowledge, in the murder of her husband, the king. Moray was found not guilty of begin a rebel and abducting the queen for his own ends, to rule in her place as regent. Mary was never allowed to see the letters, or answer the allegation against her. So on the 31st January, the inquire ended what was one of the strangest judicial proceedings in the history of The British Isles. With a verdict of not proven given to both parties, yet one plaintiff allowed to return freely to Scotland (with £5,000.00 in his pocket) and rule in the place of the other plaintiff, who in the meantime continued to he held a prisoner.
So we have the long drawn out saga for Mary’s19 years in captivity in England, ended with the changing of the law to make it possible to try Mary for treason if anyone (known or unknown to Mary) plotted against their queen. There would be no escape for Mary, any plot (and there were many manufactured) that involved a threat to Elizabeth and the crown and Mary would be implicated and tried for treason and executed. And as soon as Mary answered the letter from Babington her fate was sealed, Walsingham had set a trap and Mary fell into it, he even draw a noose on the letter when he received it.
If Mary had participated in any treasonable activities in England, where she was in any case, a prisoner, held against her will, the remedy (although never considered) was to expel her from the country. The judicial proceedings for trying a sovereign presented enormous difficulties by English common law. In England it was the foundation-stone of justice that every man had the right to be tried by his peers; Mary being a queen had no peers in England, except Elizabeth herself. No one could be said to be the equal of an anointed queen.
But by the time that the parliament had all its ducks in a row to get rid of this tiresome wench, Mary was a middle-aged woman of forty (old for that time). She had been kept in harsh conditions and prone to long illnesses, and now suffered from rheumatism, which made her a partial cripple, the lack of exercise did not help in this.
We hear all along how Mary would take to her bed for long days and months. Become easily upset and melancholy. At first sight this is hardly surprising for a woman in her state of mind, and having to deal with circumstanced outwith her control on a day to day basis.
Antonia Fraser breathed new light on the subject.
“The exact medical causes of Mary’s undoubted ill-health have been a subject of several modern investigations. It used to be suggested that her symptoms corresponded most nearly with those suffering from a gastric ulcer. But recently Drs Ida Macalpine and Richard Haunter, working on a group of diseases known as porphyria, have identified the recurrent illness of George 11 as belonging to it. An important aspect of this disorder is that it is hereditary, being transmitted as a Mendelian dominant character, showing itself in varying degrees of severity, they have traced back similar symptoms to George 11’s ancestor and ancestress James V1 and Mary Queen of Scots.”
Mary probably inherited it from her father James V for he was known to become very melancholy, and after losing the battle he had taken to his bed in Falkland Palace and turned his face to the wall.
It would certainly make sense about her day to day life, and of course not only George 11 (depicted in the film “The madness of King George”) but we know that Princess Margaret, (sister of the present Queen Elizabeth 1st and 2nd.) suffered from porphyria.
What an eye-opener this book has been for me, it has taken a while to get through it, in dribbles and drabs, but well worth the effort, for it is a study rather than a good read.
Mary’s fate was sealed as soon as she crossed the Solway Firth and onto English soil, why did she choose this route? We are told she had second thought as the boatman brought her across asking him to take her instead to France. However it was too late for that, the tide was against them and carrying them ever onwards onto the English shore. She could have gone to France where she had the support of her extended family, money and property. But she truly believed that Elizabeth would send her home at the head of a great army and reinstate her on her throne in Scotland, her upbringing has prepared her from birth on how to be a queen, but had left her totally unprepared, for the power game, that was ruthlessly played out by Queens and Lords, in this foreign land.
Thursday and the weather is looking fine after overnight rain, as for my, well I’m much better but still a bit wobbly. Well wrapped up I spent an hour tiding up in the garden. Everything has been late or struggled to even survive. Was it the overnight frost in early spring, the hot dry summer months, or the poor soil condition, (you will be hard pressed to find a worm anywhere in the garden) possibly a combination of all three? Next year will be better, we travel hopefully.
And advert has just appeared on the television, (I have it on with the sound muted) Martian Bell, of UNICEF is doing the rounds of some refugee camp, we are entertained to poor children dying from disease and starvation in war torn Yemen, and how your donations could help save a child.
Why should they invade my paradise,
And stare at me with their dying eyes?
If not this one you will have seen many such appeals over the years form Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Palestine and tomorrow, who knows Afghanistan. And what do all these failed states have in common, they are all war torn.
The UK government claims it has one of the world’s most “rigorous and robust” arms export control regimes. If that were so then it would be easy to know the value of arms sales around the world each year by British companies, nothing could be further from the truth. We have SIEL (single individual export licences) which are easy to track. Then you have OIEL (open individual export licence) which are anything but open. OGEL (open general export licence) allows companies that register and fulfil certain conditions, to export an unlimited amount of wide categories of equipment, often to a long list of countries. OGELs are valid indefinitely. Open licenses contain no information on the quantity or financial value of equipment exported, so open they certainly are not.
The British taxpayer is complicit in the suffering of people in Yemen and other parts of the world through arms sales, war crimes are being commuted in their name, is this really how you wish your tax-pounds to be spent?
Former US defence Secretary, James Matthis, quoted on Millitary.com
“There are some people who think you have to hate them in order to shoot them. I don’t think you do. It’s just business”
Democrats in Congress are introducing legislation to transfer $1billion worth of funding from a controversial new ballistic missile programme to the development of of a universal Covid vaccine. The “ground-based strategic deterrent” missile system is expected to cost $264 billion. The Guardian, 25/03/2021.
A Microsoft deal to build customised HoloLens goggles for the U.S. Army is to go ahead. Last year the Senate considered freezing the sale. The deal is thought to be worth around $22 billion. Bloomberg, 31/03/2021.
This is just two examples of big bucks being spend by the US government on behalf of the American taxpayer, is this really how you wish your tax-dollars to be spent?
As for Scotland,
The Scottish Government is still providing funding and support for arms companies, including many that have profited from the brutal bombardment of Yemen.
In the last financial year the Scottish Government’s business promotion unit, Scottish Enterprise, gave £700,000 worth of funding to arms companies. The biggest beneficiary was Leonaredo, which accounted for £500,000 worth of grants. It is one of the biggest arms companies in the world and a partner in the Euro-fighter consortium which produces the Typhoon jets being used by Saudi forces in Yemen.
With a new minority SNP government taking office, we need to ensure that we keep up the pressure and call for Scotland to lead the way by ending support for war profiteers, and instead, support the children of Yemen.
Sorry, Martian (Bell,) but I will not be sending money in order to help alleviate the suffering of children in Yemen. If you really wish to safe the children of Yemen, you need to target your adverts at those responsible for bombing hell out of Yemen, and the people that are complicit by their support, and who make it possible to do so, by selling arms. The US Government, The British Government, and the SNP Government, in Scotland.
I had survived the coronavirus pandemic over the past 18 months, then I was felled by toothache, and just when I felt it was safe to go back in the water, I woke on Monday, unable to breathe through my nose. I had a head full of porridge and lugs full of cotton wool, help ma boab. My hearing was so bad I could not hear anything that anyone said to me, as for the television, everyone in the block, bar me, could hear it, hopeless.
I put the washing in the machine and headed over to Superdrug, and bought Sudafed and Lemsip. In my youth mum would make up a hot lemon drink with sugar, even the fumes of the cup would help comfort.
Once the clothes were out of the machine I doped myself up and went back to bed. It was afternoon by the time I rose. I tried reading, watching television but could not concentrate on anything so more dope and back into bed. This became the routine through Monday into Tuesday, Tuesday into Wednesday. It was almost dawn when I opened my eyes on Wednesday morning, and found I was breathing cold air in through my nose. I was back fighting once more, (with all the force and affect of a pink powder puff), After a shower and clean clothes I felt much better and made some scrambled egg and toast, and really enjoyed it, I suspect I was hungry after three days of fasting.
I was still very weak and lay on top of my bed for a while in the late morning, sitting at my computer this afternoon, with a toilet roll beside me, for I seemed to be blowing my brains out when suddenly my nose gushed with blood. Great, I thought, a good sign that this cold is on the wane.
Maybe I had been weakened more than I appreciated with my toothache, leaving myself wide open to the first bug that came along, I’m only thankful that was not coronavirus. Then again I have not stopped doing my impersonation of Doctor Kildare, am I giving my age away again? Not really people only have my mental age to go by.
The kind of month I’ve had, “It may as well rain until September”
I have not been watching much television, but I did watch a documentary from Inside Afghanistan, people are so poor there is a growing black market in organ donations. Men and women lined up to show large scares where kidneys had been removed to keep food on the table. One small boy of 10 showed his scar where they had removed his kidney. How can we the invaders justify this?
The US went to war in Afghanistan to – as they told us – protect us from terrorists, are we now protected from terrorists? America went into Afghanistan, on the pretence of bringing peace and prosperity to the people. 20 years on and after Trillions of dollars of American taxpayers money, Thousands killed, the people of Afghanistan so poor they are having to sell their children’s organs in order to survive. Then when it all became a to political back home in the good old US of A, like Vietnam, the US abandons these people.
Where are all the schools, hospitals, democracy they were promised, President Biden?
First the French tried to colonise Afghanistan and failed. Then the British, in 1842 they lost a whole army there. The Russians in 1979. then after 9/11 the Americans. Centuries of fighting, killing and dying, and now all these years on, the people of Afghanistan are having to sell their kidneys to survive. Shame on us.
You will never control Afghanistan for the Taliban have a saying –
“The invaders have the guns, but we have the time”.
Sadly at the time of the Afghan invasion, the media was controlled, there would be daily briefings, however if the army did not like the way you were reporting the news, you would not be invited back to any briefing. So the American people, as it was here in the UK, were really kept in the dark about what was going on.
They gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to America,
The armless, the legless, the blind and insane,
We brave wounded heroes of Afghanistan,
The Star-Spangled Banner played out loud and clear,
As they carried us down the gangway,
But nobody cheered, they just stood and they stared,
Then turned their faces away.
Afghanistan: After Trump’s ‘rotten’ deal, what incentive is there for the Taliban to negotiate?
As for the British. I was born during a war and there has never been a time in my life when there was not conflict somewhere around the world and the British right there in the thick of it all. Maybe, just maybe, the two great challenges in our world today, the pandemic and global warming will knock heads together and we as a world will start to come together as one collective people and start to work together for the good of all. That would be my hope, but don’t hold your breath.
The day was looking good but the forecast was rain, almost at any time during the day. I headed up over the hill and dropped all the way down to Elie, I really like this wee back road, even although it is a bit of a climb, you know you will be rewarded with a big weeeeeeeeeeeeee down the other side all the way to the sea.
When mum died I retired back to Scotland and this is where I settled, Elie. Tim and I loved it, long walks along the beach each and every morning. The winters were best, with the sun making an early morning call, peeking tentatively over the horizon, sending a red glow before us, that set the cottage windows, that lined the crescent bay, aflame, and picked out their stonework in all the colours and texture of an impressionists pallet. As we walked the sands, the sea would hissing up the beach, then quickly retreat once more. Tim would scamper off to chase crows that dined at natures table, digging with strong beaks into the seaweed discarded in a long black streak along, that day, high tide mark.
Tim spend the last years of his life in Elie, I would like to think they were happy ones.
I had sold my old folk boat by this time however when I first ventured down to the harbour, to look over the boats, safely ashore for the winter,
I spotted one with a For Sale sign on it – £150.00. No that can’t be right. I made enquiries and found, that yes, the price was correct, and for a reason, it leaked, (the only cargo a ship hates to carry, leeks). Water was coming in where the twin keels bolted onto the bilge. But the lad assured me it was not a problem, the little pump he had installed kept it afloat.
Yes, I thought, until one day the keel dropped off.
I bought the little leisure craft (much like the red one in the photograph)
and after removing the keels, one at a time, renewed the seals and bolts, and since it had been neglected over the years, a rub down and a fresh coat of paint was in order, sky blue. Then came the brightwork, new Perspex windows, oh, and a new mainsail. In all I spend around £600.00 + the initial cost of the boat. So very pleased with that, bought at the right price. Tim and I went down to the boat most days during the summer season and managed out most of them, but when we couldn’t get out it was a great place to go, there will always be something to do around a boat, and making pots of tea, and read a pleasant distraction. Tim spent most of the time snoozed, but always the one-eyed gunner, less I moved without him.
The euphoria ended when I broke my leg, I realised this was no place for old men, with no real shops or amenities, would I always be fit enough to jump on a bus into Leven, for food, shopping a haircut………? No better to move when I still can. Coming to St Andrews was a wise move.
The day was still very hot, even with the sea breeze, but black clouds were rushing in at an alarming rate, time to skedaddle. The wind coming over had been no friend and was having real trouble making up its mind as to the direction of travel. Leaving Elie for Anstruther it was almost on the nose, ho-hum.
I did not dropdown into Anstruther, as would be the norm, but headed straight for home, the wind, at last, was more helpful and I arrived home just after 3 o’clock in the afternoon – I had been away over four hours. I felt fit to drop, I really mean that, I was pooped. I had not been drinking enough water, one bottle clearly is not enough in this weather – but when you are playing around the doors you do not realise the distance you have travelled or the time you have been on the bike, to you it is just a wee run, to your body it is Help! I will start carrying two bottles from now on and possibly an energy drink.
One of the pictures taken, was of a plaque down at the harbour,
that asks you to follow the Millennium Cycle Way ‘The Tom, The Earl and The Saint’ this was trail taken by the ‘Fish Cadgers’ (women) who carried their creels of fish from Elie all the way to Falkland to sell their wares. Far enough on a bike, far less carrying a large basket of fish on your back.
(Cycle Way is just a euthanise for putting up little numbered signs, alongside the road signs that tell you Falkland X miles, not a dedicated cycleway as you will find all over Europe.) and it’s your fault if you are killed by a car, lorry or god forbid a bus because you were not wearing a cycle helmet.
If you believe cycle helmets should be made compulsory, ask Google how many people, per year, are admitted to A&E suffering from head injuries sustained falling from a bicycle? Now try how many people, per year, are admitted to A&E with head injuries sustained whilst out walking. OK more people walk than cycle, but even so the percentage of people suffering head injuries falling from a bike are tiny in comparison. I am not saying cyclists should NOT wear a cycle helmet, what I am saying is if you make it compulsory to wear one, you will put the very people off cycling that you should be encouraged to take up cycling in the first place, for their health and that of the NHS. And yes I do wear a helmet (some of the time).
I woke to a day that was as dark, wet and dreich as any day in mid-winter, so no rushing out on a bike this morning.
Reading through my e-mails I came across a lad that is intent on going wild camping. Something I know a little about. I camped with my dad from an early age, old heavy canvas tents at that time, ridge or bell in construction. Our tend did not even have a fly sheet so when it rained water would seep in at the seams (or if you inadvertently touched the canvas walls of the tent, this also causing bridging). Dry canvas is like that, but when the canvas becomes saturated the fibres will swell making the whole thing much more water and windproof. until that happened I was sent out to rub a bar of soap up and down the seems, pretty much a useless exercise.
The story goes that when the weather was cold, the highlander in his kilt would go sit in the burn to wet the material of the kilt. I can see the sense in this for a dry kilt material would, like the canvas of our tent, swell with the water and make it much more windproof.
When I started hillwalking I found you did not get far if you were weighed down with a heavy pack, so over the month’s stuff would be discarded until only the minimum (for safety) would be carried.
When I walked from Ben Hope to Ben Lomond, I bivouacked on the side of the hill at night, no point in losing height if you did not need to, so carried a bivouac sack. If the weather was bad I would look for some shelter in a cave or overhanging rock. Then again, I was young and fit at that time.
Cycle touring, I have always loved, I learned very quickly that you can get by with the bare minimum. So when I started long-distance cycle touring I did not go down the road of overloading the bike with four greedy pannier bags, but travelled fast and light, using Youth Hostels, (or European equivalent). Over the years you quickly learn, that whatever you take with you, you will have to carry. So I adopted the same strategy I had when hillwalking, the least you can get away with.
The tent I chose was not really a tent in the traditional sense, the inner tent was made from a net material with a sewn-in groundsheet that came up the side about 2 inches all the way around to form a sort of waterproof box. Over this went a very lightweight nylon flysheet that reached all the way to the ground. It was only about 18 inches high, and although I could not sit up inside the tent, the flysheet did protrude out over the entrance to form a shelter for your boots and cooking equipment and lying in the tent with your head poking out the entrance you could happily rustle up a meal, even when it rained. The whole thing could be pushed into a stuff sack and tucked into my saddlebag. I only carried a Brooks, long flap, saddlebag, if I could not get it in the saddlebag then it did not go. The sleeping bag and the self-inflating mattress were much bulkier, and when everything was in the bag the long flap of the bag was unfolded and this is where the sleeping bag and mattress were tucked.
That is until I had Tim (my mother’s Yorkshire terrier) along with me on my trips, necessitating the use of a tent, Youth Hostels are not keen on dogs staying for the night. At first, Tim had a basket attached to the rear rack and above the two 20L bags.
I later bought a child trailer for the bike, but Tim was having none of it, so back on went the basket for our Lordship’s convenience and the trailer carried our camping equipment and Tim’s chunky meaty bites. This worked well, and Tim and I travelled extensively around the UK, mostly England for that is where we were living at the time.
The big problem with camping today is it has become very commercial, mostly catering for families, with all mod-cons, alas this all comes at a price. Unless you can find a basic campsite you will be just as well to book into a Youth or Backpacker hostel, for the cost will be at least comparative or sometimes less expensive, (wild camping is not allowed in France or Germany). A sign of the times.
The good weather is about to break, and the closeness seems to confirm this, so I will be up and out early before ‘Rain stopped play’ as they used to say on the old steam radio, a BBC cricket reports always followed the news.
I spotted a large piece of flat-pack timber in a skip over at Guardbridge, (they may even be more) so that will be my destination, mit trailer. Only 6 or 7 miles round trip so a shot day but hey we have done a bit this week and I really do need the timber.
Since I have been using my folding bike more than my grown-up bike, I decided to swap saddles, the one that came with the bike is OK but my Brooks is much more comfortable. Then the handlebars, I have never liked a straight bar, holding the bar in the same hand position is tolerable for a couple of hours, but even then it becomes uncomfortable, I like butterfly bars for touring.
Now it just so happens that the ones on my tricycle are the right diameter for the folding bike so that was my next job, swap bars. As luck would have it the bars from the tricycle are fairly flat so fold down neatly much as the straight bar did. Therefore not only do I have more area to put all the bits and bobs on, bar bag, GPS, and bell, I can now move my hand to different positions around the bars,
Isabelle, necessary on a bike? Well yes, in Europe it’s compulsory.
I am really pleased with the strawberries, I planted in the hanging pots, (one of three) they are covered in flowers and some of the strawberries have even set, so looking forward to a good crop. Next year I will put them into something bigger for keeping the soil moist has been a full time job.
I did grow a lot of strawberries on my allotment, well they propagate so easily, and mum loved them, (as did the birds, snails, slugs…..) so mum had strawberries most days when they were in season, in some form or other. She said they tasted much better than the ones from Morrisons. Well, I would hope so mum. Me, I’m allergic to strawberries, they bring me out in blotches.
Thursday 07.30 the Alex Salmond Show.
I watched the show and then it was into the old kitchens, and out with the tric and trailer. It has been a while since I rode the tricycle and it seems very strange indeed. As I neared my destination I spotted a skip lorry,
“Oh no, help ma boab.”
“It’s all your fault, Alex Salmond.”
“What did I do?”
Everybody’s picking on me, even that SNP Junta.
But Sturgeon’s time is coming, hee, hee, hee. He who laughs last – laughs longest.
At the autumn conference Sturgeon will try to talk about rebuilding Scotland after the pandemic, but the Scots are fed up living on dreams, they know the only way to prosperity is to be free of Westminster control. (Alba now has a membership of eight thousand, and is the fastest growing political party in Europe.)
Sadly for Sturgeon an independence referendum is not in her gift, and as the SNP membership continues to fall, the SNP MPs at Westminster will start to lose faith in a leader that can not keep handing out their meal tickets and free passage on the Westminster gravy train. No matter the popularity of Sturgeon at Holyrood, self-preservation is a very strong motivation for kick, even the most popular of leaders out, think Margaret Thatcher.
With the skies clear and as blue as a duck’s egg I set off for Leuchars, then St Michael before turning off on the road for Wormit. This is one of my favourite back roads, passing through wooded areas and open countryside. I stopped to take a picture of one of the many Rowan Trees have self-seeded themselves in great numbers along the roadside. Their branches hanging in a mass of berries,
“Is that the time already?”
Just before the village I turned left for Balmirino Abbey. It was two winters ago I last visited the Abbey for I remember that the Spanish Chestnut tree was devoid of leaves and looked rather neglected and forlorn.
The story goes that Queen Ermengarde planted the Spanish Chestnut at the time of the laying of the foundations for the abbey. Sadly the National Trust spoiled the story by having it dated and the tree is a mere 400-436 years old. Sounds old to me. Also,
I remember I had to climb over a padlocked gate. And since I did not fancy reverting to being a boy soprano, the exercise was carried out very carefully, since it had spikes all along the top.
The outline of the foundations are still prominent in the grass and a cross set where the alter would have once stood.
Little is left of the abbey walls, although I’m sure much of its stone will still be found in the dwelling around the area.
The little church at Balmirino is still in use and the smaller church hall behind the main building architecturally is much more pleasing to the eye.
Slow Down, Red Squirrels.
You do see a lot of Red Squirrels across a great swage of North East Fife. Red V Grey has been going on since the1930s when it dawned on some people that the grey squirrels were causing the demise of the red squirrels. There was even a scheme where if you handed in the tail of a grey squirrels at the police station, you would be rewarded with a shine new shilling.
In Cumbria, a former gymnast, Julie Bailey, got all hot under the collar about this interloper killing off all the red squirrels, and started shooting and eating the grey variety, (they tell me they taste just like chicken). The good folks of Cumbria got on board with this and it led to ‘Red Squirrels United’ supported by no other than Prince Charles. On Anglesey, 6,000 grey squirrels were culled and this led to the recovery of the red squirrel, now standing at 700, back from the brink. The culling of squirrels is highly controversial, invasive or not grey squirrels are loved by many and there has been a backlash at the culling of the greys. Grey squirrels were introduced into Britain 140 years ago, how many years do they have to live in the UK before they become, well British?
Now squirrels are great little acrobats, so I suggest they get themselves organised, enter the Olympics and win a few gold medals, that will guarantee their future, and oh boy how the money will roll in, training camps, game show hosts and BBC presenters of sports programmes.……..
On my return I stopped to take a picture of a field of solar panels, not sure why, just seemed like a good idea at the time.
Onto the main road once more the traffic was nose to tail. In Leuchars the traffic was at a standstill, road works at Guardbridge, time to hit the cycle path and pavements.
Home once more. The wind today was around 9-10 mph so the headwind home made the heat of the morning appear much cooler than it really was, giving me a raging thirst, so two pots of tea today.
Craig Murray’s jailing is the latest move in a battle to snuff out independent journalism
30 July 2021
This came in my in-box this morning and I just had to post it – it is too important not to be exposed. Please Share.
Craig Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, the father of a new-born child, a man in very poor health and one who has no prior convictions, will have to hand himself over to the Scottish police on Sunday morning. He becomes the first person ever to be imprisoned on the obscure and vaguely defined charge of “jigsaw identification”.
Murray is also the first person to be jailed in Britain for contempt of court for their journalism in half a century – a period when such different legal and moral values prevailed that the British establishment had only just ended the prosecution of “homosexuals” and the jailing of women for having abortions.
Murray’s imprisonment for eight months by Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, is of course based entirely on a keen reading of Scottish law rather than evidence of the Scottish and London political establishments seeking revenge on the former diplomat. And the UK supreme court’s refusal on Thursday to hear Murray’s appeal despite many glaring legal anomalies in the case, thereby paving his path to jail, is equally rooted in a strict application of the law, and not influenced in any way by political considerations.
Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that he embarrassed the British state in the early 2000s by becoming that rarest of things: a whistleblowing diplomat. He exposed the British government’s collusion, along with the US, in Uzbekistan’s torture regime.
His jailing also has nothing to do with the fact that Murray has embarrassed the British state more recently by reporting the woeful and continuing legal abuses in a London courtroom as Washington seeks to extradite Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, and lock him away for life in a maximum security prison. The US wants to make an example of Assange for exposing its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and for publishing leaked diplomatic cables that pulled the mask off Washington’s ugly foreign policy.
Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with the fact that the contempt proceedings against him allowed the Scottish court to deprive him of his passport so that he could not travel to Spain and testify in a related Assange case that is severely embarrassing Britain and the US. The Spanish hearing has been presented with reams of evidence that the US illegally spied on Assange inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he sought political asylum to avoid extradition. Murray was due to testify that his own confidential conversations with Assange were filmed, as were Assange’s privileged meetings with his own lawyers. Such spying should have seen the case against Assange thrown out, had the judge in London actually been applying the law.
Similarly, Murray’s jailing has nothing to do with his embarrassing the Scottish political and legal establishments by reporting, almost single-handedly, the defence case in the trial of Scotland’s former First Minister, Alex Salmond. Unreported by the corporate media, the evidence submitted by Salmond’s lawyers led a jury dominated by women to acquit him of a raft of sexual assault charges. It is Murray’s reporting of Salmond’s defence that has been the source of his current troubles.
And most assuredly, Murray’s jailing has precisely nothing to do with his argument – one that might explain why the jury was so unconvinced by the prosecution case – that Salmond was actually the victim of a high-level plot by senior politicians at Holyrood to discredit him and prevent his return to the forefront of Scottish politics. The intention, says Murray, was to deny Salmond the chance to take on London and make a serious case for independence, and thereby expose the SNP’s increasing lip service to that cause.
Murray has been a thorn in the side of the British establishment for nearly two decades. Now they have found a way to lock him up just as they have Assange, as well as tie Murray up potentially for years in legal battles that risk bankrupting him as he seeks to clear his name.
And given his extremely precarious health – documented in detail to the court – his imprisonment further risks turning eight months into a life sentence. Murray nearly died from a pulmonary embolism 17 years ago when he was last under such relentless attack from the British establishment. His health has not improved since.
At that time, in the early 2000s, in the run-up to and early stages of the invasion of Iraq, Murray effectively exposed the complicity of fellow British diplomats – their preference to turn a blind eye to the abuses sanctioned by their own government and its corrupt and corrupting alliance with the US.
Later, when Washington’s “extraordinary rendition” – state-sponsored kidnapping – programme came to light, as well as its torture regime at places like Abu Ghraib, the spotlight should have turned to the failure of diplomats to speak out. Unlike Murray, they refused to turn whistleblower. They provided cover to the illegality and barbarism.
For his pains, Murray was smeared by Tony Blair’s government as, among other things, a sexual predator – charges a Foreign Office investigation eventually cleared him of. But the damage was done, with Murray forced out. A commitment to moral and legal probity was clearly incompatible with British foreign policy objectives.
Murray had to reinvent his career, and he did so through a popular blog. He has applied the same dedication to truth-telling and commitment to the protection of human rights in his journalism – and has again run up against equally fierce opposition from the British establishment.
The most glaring, and disturbing, legal innovation in Lady Dorrian’s ruling against Murray – and the main reason he is heading to prison – is her decision to divide journalists into two classes: those who work for approved corporate media outlets, and those like Murray who are independent, often funded by readers rather than paid big salaries by billionaires or the state.
According to Lady Dorrian, licensed, corporate journalists are entitled to legal protections she denied to unofficial and independent journalists like Murray – the very journalists who are most likely to take on governments, criticise the legal system, and expose the hypocrisy and lies of the corporate media.
In finding Murray guilty of so-called “jigsaw identification”, Lady Dorrian did not make a distinction between what Murray wrote about the Salmond case and what approved, corporate journalists wrote.
That is for good reason. Two surveys have shown that most of those following the Salmond trial who believe they identified one or more of his accusers did so from the coverage of the corporate media, especially the BBC. Murray’s writings appear to have had very little impact on the identification of any of the accusers. Among named individual journalists, Dani Garavelli, who wrote about the trial for Scotland on Sunday and the London Review of Books, was cited 15 times more often by respondents than Murray as helping them to identify Salmond’s accusers.
Rather, Lady Dorrian’s distinction was about who is awarded protection when identification occurs. Write for the Times or the Guardian, or broadcast on the BBC, where the audience reach is enormous, and the courts will protect you from prosecution. Write about the same issues for a blog, and you risk being hounded into prison.
In fact, the legal basis of “jigsaw identification” – one could argue the whole point of it – is that it accrues dangerous powers to the state. It gives permission for the legal establishment to arbitrarily decide which piece of the supposed jigsaw is to be counted as identification. If the BBC’s Kirsty Wark includes a piece of the jigsaw, it does not count as identification in the eyes of the court. If Murray or another independent journalist offers a different piece of the jigsaw, it does count. The obvious ease with which this principle can be abused by the establishment to oppress and silence dissident journalists should not need underscoring.
And yet this is no longer Lady Dorrian’s ruling alone. In refusing to hear Murray’s appeal, the UK supreme court has offered its blessing to this same dangerous, two-tiered classification.
Credentialed by the state
What Lady Dorrian has done is to overturn traditional views of what constitutes journalism: that it is a practice that at its very best is designed to hold the powerful to account, and that anyone who engages in such work is doing journalism, whether or not they are typically thought of as a journalist.
That idea was obvious until quite recently. When social media took off, one of the gains trumpeted even by the corporate media was the emergence of a new kind of “citizen journalist”. At that stage, corporate media believed that these citizen journalists would become cheap fodder, providing on-the-ground, local stories they alone would have access to and that only the establishment media would be in a position to monetise. This was precisely the impetus for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section, which in its early incarnation allowed a varied selection of people with specialist knowledge or information to provide the paper with articles for free to increase the paper’s sales and advertising rates.
The establishment’s attitude to citizen journalists, and the Guardian’s to the Comment is Free model, only changed when these new journalists started to prove hard to control, and their work often highlighted inadvertently or otherwise the inadequacies, deceptions and double standards of the corporate media.
Now, Lady Dorrian has put the final nail in the coffin of citizen journalism. She has declared through her ruling that she and other judges will be the ones to decide who is considered a journalist and thereby who receives legal protections for their work. This is a barely concealed way for the state to license or “credentialise” journalists. It turns journalism into a professional guild with only official, corporate journalists safe from legal retribution by the state.
If you are an unapproved, uncredentialed journalist, you can be jailed, as Murray is being, on a similar legal basis to the imprisonment of someone who carries out a surgical operation without the necessary qualifications. But whereas the law against charlatan surgeons is there to protect the public, to stop unnecessary harm being inflicted on the sick, Lady Dorrian’s ruling will serve a very different purpose: to protect the state from the harm caused by the exposure of its secret or most malign practices by trouble-making, sceptical – and now largely independent – journalists.
Journalism is being corralled back into the exclusive control of the state and billionaire-owned corporations. It may not be surprising that corporate journalists, keen to hold on to their jobs, are consenting through their silence to this all-out assault on journalism and free speech. After all, this is a kind of protectionism – additional job security – for journalists employed by a corporate media that has no real intention to challenge the powerful.
But what is genuinely shocking is that this dangerous accretion of further power to the state and its allied corporate class is being backed implicitly by the British journalists’ union, the NUJ. It has kept quiet over the many months of attacks on Murray and the widespread efforts to discredit him for his reporting. The NUJ has made no significant noise about Lady Dorrian’s creation of two classes of journalists – state-approved and unapproved – or about her jailing of Murray on these grounds.
But the NUJ has gone further. Its leaders have publicly washed their hands of Murray by excluding him from membership of the union, even while its officials have conceded that he should qualify. The NUJ has become as complicit in the hounding of a journalist as Murray’s fellow diplomats once were for his hounding as an ambassador. This is a truly shameful episode in the NUJ’s history.
Free speech criminalised
But more dangerous still, Lady Dorrian’s ruling is part of a pattern in which the political, judicial and media establishments have colluded to narrow the definition of what counts as journalism, to exclude anything beyond the pap that usually passes for journalism in the corporate media.
Murray has been one of the few journalists to report in detail the arguments made by Assange’s legal team in his extradition hearings. Noticeably in both the Assange and Murray cases, the presiding judge has limited the free speech protections traditionally afforded to journalism and has done so by restricting who qualifies as a journalist. Both cases have been frontal assaults on the ability of certain kinds of journalists – those who are free from corporate or state pressure – to cover important political stories, effectively criminalising independent journalism. And all this has been achieved by sleight of hand.
In Assange’s case, Judge Vanessa Baraitser largely assented to US claims that what the Wikileaks founder had done was espionage rather than journalism. The Obama administration had held off prosecuting Assange because it could not find a distinction in law between his legal right to publish evidence of US war crimes and the New York Times and the Guardian’s right to publish the same evidence, provided to them by Wikileaks. If the US administration prosecuted Assange, it would also need to prosecute the editors of those papers.
Donald Trump’s officials bypassed that problem by creating a distinction between “proper” journalists, employed by corporate outlets that oversee and control what is published, and “bogus” journalists, those independents not subject to such oversight and pressures.
Trump’s officials denied Assange the status of journalist and publisher and instead treated him as a spy who colluded with and assisted whistleblowers. That supposedly voided the free speech protections he constitutionally enjoyed. But, of course, the US case against Assange was patent nonsense. It is central to the work of investigative journalists to “collude” with and assist whistleblowers. And spies squirrel away the information provided to them by such whistleblowers, they do not publicise it to the world, as Assange did.
Notice the parallels with Murray’s case.
Judge Baraitser’s approach to Assange echoed the US one: that only approved, credentialed journalists enjoy the protection of the law from prosecution; only approved, credentialed journalists have the right to free speech (should they choose to exercise it in newsrooms beholden to state or corporate interests). Free speech and the protection of the law, Baraitser implied, no longer chiefly relate to the legality of what is said, but to the legal status of who says it.
A similar methodology has been adopted by Lady Dorrian in Murray’s case. She has denied him the status of a journalist, and instead classified him as some kind of “improper” journalist, or blogger. As with Assange, there is an implication that “improper” or “bogus” journalists are such an exceptional threat to society that they must be stripped of the normal legal protections of free speech.
“Jigsaw identification” – especially when allied to sexual assault allegations, involving women’s rights and playing into the wider, current obsession with identity politics – is the perfect vehicle for winning widespread consent for the criminalisation of the free speech of critical journalists.
Corporate media shackles
There is an even bigger picture that should be hard to miss for any honest journalist, corporate or otherwise. What Lady Dorrian and Judge Baraitser – and the establishment behind them – are trying to do is put the genie back in the bottle. They are trying to reverse a trend that over more than a decade has seen a small but growing number of journalists use new technology and social media to liberate themselves from the shackles of the corporate media and tell truths audiences were never supposed to hear.
Don’t believe me? Consider the case of Guardian and Observer journalist Ed Vulliamy. In his book Flat Earth News, Vulliamy’s colleague at the Guardian Nick Davies tells the story of how Roger Alton, editor of the Observer at the time of the Iraq war, and a credentialed, licensed journalist if ever there was one, sat on one of the biggest stories in the paper’s history for months on end.
In late 2002, Vulliamy, a veteran and much trusted reporter, persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA official who still had security clearance at the agency, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq – the pretext for an imminent and illegal invasion of that country. As many suspected, the US and British governments had been telling lies to justify a coming war of aggression against Iraq, and Vulliamy had a key source to prove it.
But Alton spiked this earth-shattering story and then refused to publish another six versions written by an increasingly exasperated Vulliamy over the next few months, as war loomed. Alton was determined to keep the story out of the news. Back in 2002 it only took a handful of editors – all of whom had risen through the ranks for their discretion, nuance and careful “judgment” – to make sure some kinds of news never reached their readers.
Social media has changed such calculations. Vulliamy’s story could not be quashed so easily today. It would leak out, precisely through a high-profile independent journalist like Assange or Murray. Which is why such figures are so critically important to a healthy and informed society – and why they, and a few others like them, are gradually being disappeared. The cost of allowing independent journalists to operate freely, the establishment has understood, is far too high.
First, all independent, unlicensed journalism was lumped in as “fake news”. With that as the background, social media corporations were able to collude with so-called legacy media corporations to algorithm independent journalists into oblivion. And now independent journalists are being educated about what fate is likely to befall them should they try to emulate Assange or Murray.
Asleep at the wheel
In fact, while corporate journalists have been asleep at the wheel, the British establishment has been preparing to widen the net to criminalise all journalism that seeks to seriously hold power to account. A recent government consultation document calling for a more draconian crackdown on what is being deceptively termed “onward disclosure” – code for journalism – has won the backing of Home Secretary Priti Patel. The document implicitly categorises journalism as little different from espionage and whistleblowing.
In the wake of the consultation paper, the Home Office has called on parliament to consider “increased maximum sentences” for offenders – that is, journalists – and ending the distinction “between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures”. The government’s argument is that “onward disclosures” can create “far more serious damage” than espionage and so should be treated similarly. If accepted, any public interest defence – the traditional safeguard for journalists – will be muted.
Anyone who followed the Assange hearings last summer – which excludes most journalists in the corporate media – will notice strong echoes of the arguments made by the US for extraditing Assange, arguments conflating journalism with espionage that were largely accepted by Judge Baraitser.
None of this has come out of the blue. As the online technology publication The Register noted back in 2017, the Law Commission was at the time considering “proposals in the UK for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies”. It said such an act was being “developed in haste by legal advisers”.
It is quite extraordinary that two investigative journalists – one a long-term, former member of staff at the Guardian – managed to write an entire article in that paper this month on the government consultation paper and not mention Assange once. The warning signs have been there for the best part of a decade but corporate journalists have refused to notice them. Similarly, it is no coincidence that Murray’s plight has also not registered on the corporate media’s radar.
Assange and Murray are the canaries in the coal mine for the growing crackdown on investigative journalism and on efforts to hold executive power to account. There is, of course, ever less of that being done by the corporate media, which may explain why corporate outlets appear not only relaxed about the mounting political and legal climate against free speech and transparency but have been all but cheering it on.
In the Assange and Murray cases, the British state is carving out for itself a space to define what counts as legitimate, authorised journalism – and journalists are colluding in this dangerous development, if only through their silence. That collusion tells us a great deal about the mutual interests of the corporate political and legal establishments, on the one hand, and the corporate media establishment on the other.
Assange and Murray are not only telling us troubling truths we are not supposed to hear. The fact that they are being denied solidarity by those who are their colleagues, those who may be next in the firing line, tells us everything we need to know about the so-called mainstream media: that the role of corporate journalists is to serve establishment, not to challenge it. (Ends)
And for the last time, I sort of promise, allotments. Personally I believe they should be offered to everyone over the age of 65. The reasons are clear, and doctors should be able to hand out allotments on prescription. In a recent study in the Netherlands, measuring the health of in people holding allotments with their immediate neighbours, and after correcting for extraneous factors, young allotment holders were no healthier than their none allotment holder neighbours. However and this is the crucial part, those over the age of 62 scored better on every single measure of health and well-being. Gardening helps people to relax; half an hour of gardening has been found to lead to a significant drop in cortisol levels (a commonly used measure of stress). Regular, gentle exercise associated with gardening, or to the health-giving properties of the food grown, are sure to be beneficial.
I did not own an allotment until I had just passed my 60th birthday, I decided to have a go, not for the reasons one might thing, ‘digging for victory’ or saving the planet. I, by default, had become a carer and so never able to stray too far from home each day. However, caring is not a nine to five job, I needed somewhere, quiet, that I might escape to and just unwind, so I know first-hand the benefit of an allotment on all these levels. Then there is the benefit of being amongst like-minded people, allotments are like a small community and all potential friends.
At the last count ninety thousand people had their name on a waiting list for an allotment (and they are not alone in wishing to have a place of their own to escape to, read Lesley Riddoch ‘Huts’.) we have discuses land reform in the past, and how the feudal system that exists in Scotland today make obtaining land almost impossible for potential hutters, and likewise allotment holders, yet the council and governments, can and dose, compulsory purchase land, why not for allotments and hutters.
Outrageous, I hear you cry.
The construction of the new HS2 mainline will require the compulsory purchase of a much larger area of land that would be required to satisfy hutters and allotment holders, including hundreds of people’s homes.
Where will the money come from, is always the rebuff when anything new is proposed, what about a small percentage of the £3 billion given in farming subsidy. You could start by using some of the money to host free training events, encourage the uptake of allotments and help off-put some of the start-up costs. Cultivating the land by farm machinery before the allotments are divided up would be a starter for ten.
When we first started our allotment it was a very overgrown weed patch of ground let from a local farmer. The bottom quarter was very wet so was used by people wishing to keep animals and birds. The land was first fenced off and pigs were introduces as piglets, by they time they went off for slaughter the land, was free from weeds, manured and cultivated, better than by any mechanical means, our starter for ten.
The benefits of allotments are so numerous that I don’t even have to list them, but just too close. Allotments will not solve the world’s problems but would be a step in the right direction. Every new allotment created on farmland would bring people back onto the land, increase food production, (and locally) capture carbon back into the soil, increase biodiversity, reduce pesticide use, and improve the health of ageing allotment owners, whilst at the same time reducing the burden on the NHS, what’s not to like? How much would the NHS save if people were healthier, happier and not suffering from problems caused by being grossly overweight, you will not see too many overweight people on an allotment, not even in the over 60s bracket, let us oldies go down the hill more slowly, free up land for allotments.
As John Lennon would have put it,
“There are no problems in this world, just solutions”.
0800 hours and the weather had not made up its mind, overcast but may clear, I headed south-east down the coast beating into a headwind. Climbing up onto Brownhills for Kingsbarns, the A917 was mostly free of traffic, I was surprised how many bicycles there were out and about. As I neared Crail the sun found a hole in the cloud and with alchemists magic turned the Forth estuary from grey to quicksilver. Like burnished shields in the Old Testimony story, the effect was blinding. But just as quickly the cloud obscured the sun’s glory and instantly the river turned once more, back to battleship grey.
Like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white,
Then melts forever.
The wind was still rising but now coming over my port bow for the run down the coast, from Crail to Anstruther. I dropped down off the main road and onto the harbour,
“Look mum, the shows are here”.
There was only a handful of stalls and rides, a sign of the times, I suppose. Diesel is not cheap, and tooting fairground rides around the country and the cost of running these old fashioned diesel engines, along with their upkeep…..
I had every bench along the pier to choose from and sat quietly staring out to sea as I finishing off what remained of my water and demolishing a banana.
What has become very noticeable over the past five years is how sailing boats have been replaced by small motorised boats in the marina, once the harbour was a Forrest of masts alas no more.
Humphrey Bogart was a keen sailor but his wife, Laura Bacall, suffered from nausea. although she always said that she did enjoy out, sailing with him. Strange how such pieces of useless information escape from our memory banks, triggered simply by sitting down by the harbour.
As I parked the bike outside the toilet a middle-aged couple passed and the man became very excited about my bike. As it turned out they were German and maybe there was some part of the bike that was manufactured in Germany. They were passed before I could get my linguistic scientist hat on and deciphered the message, proper.
The B9131 was my homeward choice, and with the wind now on my back, I was cruising along at a fair lick. I did take my Garmin with me and it did show me a pretty sort of Google map, with my progress, superimposed upon it, and when I arrived back at City Park I did press ‘Save Ride’ but when I tried to find said ‘saved ride’ it was nowhere to be found. I really must spend some time on U-Tube and see how to work the blood thing.
And yes, I forgot to take my camera,
“You would forget your head if it were not screwed on” as mum would often remind me.
I did go out on my bike and enjoyed every turn of the wheel. I have been travelling around all the back streets of every town and village I visit, in the search for skips, containing wood for toy making, for the days are drawing in and I need a stockpile of timber for the winter months. Flat-pack wardrobes are good, in fact, most furnisher so long as it is not made from chipboard of fibreboard, most toys are left out in the garden so have to be able to stand a bit of rain and abuse. In St Andrews, the best time to collect such material is when the students go off at the end of their courses, all the old fittings and fixtures end up out at the dust bins or awaiting collection by the council. Also, this is the time that contractors come into renovating before the new intake.
Now if there is one thing guaranteed to get my dander up it is crop spaying, especially in gardens. We actually had a policy on our allotment that no one would use a spray to control “pests”.
As you approached my mother front door, you passed a strip of land that ran alongside the path, it was crammed full of Wallflower. The multi-coloured display was a sight to behold. They did however attract earwigs, by the score. Even shaken, to within an inch of their life, before bringing them into the house, you would still see, from time to time, the odd earwig scurrying across the sideboard where a vase of Wallflowers would sit when in season.
Now take the humble Earwig, no matter how long and hard you search the internet, you will be hard-pressed to find an Earwig Preservation Society, however, I would like to try and enlighten you and possibly ask you to make friends of the earwigs in your garden if I may.
Most of their bad press comes from lurid stories told by (mainly boys) in the playground, how earwigs climb into one’s ears and lay their eggs. The young earwigs, when they hatched would dance around in your ear drives you mad, even how the mother burrows into your brain to feed her young.
So let’s be clear earwigs do not climb into your ear, although I am not saying that one never ever climbed into a human ear. As for those fierce-looking pincers are actually quite feeble when you consider that humans, lbs for lbs, are about 750,000, the size of an earwig.
Did you know that female earwigs have straight punchers
and males curved?
The males use their pincers, not only to fight off beetles that may like to eat them but also to pinch the females bum to get her in the mood, (foreplay for earwigs) the male also has two penises, although he only uses one at a time.
Earwigs have only one generation per year, they will mate in autumn, then the female earwig will lay her creamy, oval eggs in a burrow in the ground as winter approaches. She will tend her eggs constantly until they hatch into nymphs, by rolling them in her forelegs and removing any traces of fungus and generally keeping them clean. When they hatch, she will mother hen them until they are able to make their own way in the world.
But why am I singing the praises of the earwig? I hear you cry. Well because they are a good friend to the gardener and in particular orchard owners. Earwigs have been estimated to eat as many aphids each year in apple orchards as could be killed by three rounds of spraying with insecticides. They are also voracious predators of almost all other insect pests found in apple orchards and in our allotments and gardens.
Given that each spray might cost £60 per hectare, and that there are 14.5 thousand hectares of commercial apple orchards in the UK, that makes the humble earwig potentially worth about £2.6 million to the economy each year. And of course not only in apple orchards. Here at City Park, our roses this year were covered in aphid, but alas there is little hope of any earwig surviving in our garden when the topsoil is scared with hurricane-force leaf blowers every other week.
It is difficult to get any kind of data on pesticide use in the UK, (possibly because it would scare the shit out of the customers of apples and many other fruits and vegetables). But in 2004 the DEFRA (Department for the environment, food and rural affairs), did publish some data, on pesticide use on Cox apple orchards in the UK. The average orchard received thirteen fungicide sprays, five plant growth regulator sprays, five sprays of insecticides, two herbicide sprays, and one spray with urea.
The main insecticide used was chlorpyrifos, a compound that belongs to a chemical family known as the organophosphates that are known to damage the nerves irreversibly and impair brain development in foetuses and young children even at very tiny doses and globally are currently estimated to cause acute poisoning symptoms in about three million people per year.
Thankfully non-organic UK apple orchards were taking measures to encourage biological control agents such as earwigs or ladybirds as an alternative to chemicals. Spraying crops becomes a vicious circle, you spray and kill off the earwigs and all the other pests, but the pest populations quickly recover, and before long the pest problem is worse than it would have been if the farmer had not sprayed (technically this is known as “Pest resurgence”). Red spider mite, for example, is rarely a pest in unsprayed, organic orchards, but its population explodes when you decimate the predictor of the red spider mite, by spaying. If a farmer wipes out the earwig, lacewings, hoverflies and beetles that might otherwise have been disposing of the pests for him, for free, he is locking himself into a cycle of spraying, that is difficult to escape from. Aphid,s for instance, do not lay eggs but produce young, so they are active from day one and will multiply far quicker than an earwig with only one generation per year.
So, folks, let’s hear it for earwigs, they do not deserve such bad press.
Today the skies over St Andrews are overcast once more, but I am determined to get out on the bike at least for a couple of hours, withdrawal symptoms, are setting in.
If you have not been excited about all the twists and turns at the Olympicts, then you will possibly have had your television switched off, really, that is all there is on the box apart from game shows and re-runs of re-runs.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Olympics, It has become far too political, and the cost to a country, some of these training camps for athletes cost millions to run, just to get that coveted gold medal. When you see, a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, you have to ask yourself is it good value for money?
well, I did sit down and compose a letter to my landlord, (see below), I am thinking of doing some study into the subject and composing a general letter and sending it out to all Councils in Scotland, You never know, some may take up the challenge.
Viewpoint HQ 4 S Oswald Rd, Edinburgh EH9 2HG
I grew up in a different world from the one we know today. My parents were still being asked to “Dig for Victory” – whilst I was playing in muddy puddles. And just because the war ended, gardening for many continued, for we still had rationing and no supermarkets. As the council house building programme took off the houses were designed, with large drying greens, (no automatic washing machines then) and room to grow vegetables. Many towns and villages still retained their allotments. At school, we were taught gardening, how to remove the seeds from tomatoes and dry them between sheets of blotting paper before planting. Councils still employed gardeners, had their own nurseries and planted out and maintained parks and gardens within the towns and cities.
I had my own allotment for 10 years and it had been my intention, on my retirement, to move to France and buy a piece of land that lay alongside a canal. I would live on board my 30-foot folk boat and work the land into a market garden and sell the product to people moving up and down the canal and at the local markets, mostly held every week in France. Sadly life got in my way.
Now the gardens at City Park are petty bland, we have tried to grow and plant out some flowers to brighten the place up a bit, but when you have an over zealous use of leaf blowers, and the spraying of weed killer along the borders and paths t
hat will inevitably be blown by the wind over the garden, inhibiting any possibility of good growing conditions for newly planted seedlings.
Still, there is one part of the garden that could be changed, (or at least you could) change for the better.
In 2014 Peterborough Council initiated a scheme in which several areas of the park were to be left a windflower meadow, to be cut once per year, and some other areas were designated for cutting three times per year. They found that this gave them an annual saving of £24,000 in deduced labour and petrol, (and helped to save the planet). The e-mails flooded in as did ‘Letters to the Editor’ in the local press, people do not like change. I’m with Peterborough Council on this one, and I wish others would follow suit.
You see, we humans, in general, do not like change. For many people, the grass is supposed to be short, anything other is untidy, and the result of laziness or council cutbacks. In fact, in many cities in the US, lawns have to be mown regularly. Local ordinances dictate a maximum lawn height, and low betide the delinquent that thinks otherwise you will be fined.
There are three large patches of grass at City Park, they have not real value as (what we would normally call lawn). The strip along the front of the building is anything but beautiful, or useful.
The small strip in front of the communal boiler house is unsightly.
And the large square of grass out the rear of the building is, mostly moss and never used for anything – then you might argue that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
There is a wonderful little group of volunteers in Stirling (central Scotland), calling themselves ‘On The Verge’, who spend their weekends turning grass areas into wildflower meadows. They badger anyone that owns or manages any kind of amenity grasslands and persuade them to let the group create wildflower meadows and sow wildflower seeds. At the last count, there were fifty-two patches of wildflower dotted around Stirling, on roads verges, roundabouts, public parks, primary-school grounds and rugby club land.
Growing up in Scotland there was an abundance of wildflower meadows, in fact in The 1930s we had seven million acres of them in lowland Britain, now we have only two per cent of that amount. This vast loss of flower-rich habitat is one of the main drivers in the decline of diverse creatures from great yellow bumblebees to corncrakes, but there is now huge interest in restoring and recreating these meadows, and we can all help by creating mini-meadows in our gardens.
Grass has managed to survive for millions of years without our help. In a healthy garden there should be a diverse community of insects, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, worms, not to mention the countless microbes, living in the soil beneath the turf.
These soil insects are an important part of the food chain. Leatherjackets (Leatherjackets hatch into crane flies, daddy-long-legs), are one of the favourite foods of Starlings, a species that has undergone alarming declines in recent years. The population of Starling, has fallen by two-thirds since the mid-1970s – when it comes to lawns and their maintenance, less is definitely more.
I am not suggesting that all the grass at City Park is turned into a wildflower meadow, but a long strip or square is a start and if you occasionally mow around your meadow area it can actually look remarkably neat; the contrast between short and long grass makes the area look managed rather than abandoned. If you go to Falkland Palace you will see how this has been used to good effect.
If we are truly interested in saving the planet from global warming, and in trying to halt the loss of insects and microorganisms that ground-feeding birds depend on, then a good start would be in our own gardens. Stop the use of leaf blowers along the borders, washing away all the top soil and habitat for such insects. And stop the use of weedkillers.
It was rather dreich when I got up, rain drizzling away merrily. On the internet at around 11 am I had an e-mail to say that there would be an AUOB (all under one banner) gathering in Caird Hall Square in Dundee today at one o’clock. Better get my skates on. I always go to these events, for there is little point in sitting in the house, moaning about the world on social media if you are not willing to get off your bazooka and do something about it.
By the time the bus made it over to Dundee, the clouds had lifted and the sun was out, the sun will always shine on the righteous.
There was not what you would call a big crowd,
then I was early, and by the time I left the square was filling up. The live music was very good and the speakers a breath of fresh air, for like all of these gatherings, they really are AUOB and from an array of causes. I particularly enjoyed the speaker on Freeing Julian Assange. The injustices of Julian Assange is plain for all to see, and the longer the English government keep him locked up, at the bequest of the US government, the more they show their contempt for the law, journalists, free speech and civil liberties.
The show was still going strong when I left an hour or so later, and I’m sure he said the first march AUOB, this year will be Stirling in September. Awkward place to get to from here, although I do hear that there is a direct bus from Dundee – will check that out nearer the time.
I bought myself three new (to me) short-sleeved shirts from the charity shop, it is so hot in the building you need to be dressed for summer all the year-round. Anyway it is about time I started looking a bit tidier, when you are indoors so much you tend not to bother about your appearance. But as my mum was tired of telling me,
“It, doesn’t matter what I put on you, you still manage to look like nobodies bairn.”
I grew up in a different world to the one we know now. My parents were still being asked to “Dig for Victory” – whilst I was still playing in muddy puddles. And even after the war ended the gardening for many continued, for we still had rationing and no supermarkets. As the council house building programme took off the houses were designed, with large drying greens, (no automatic washing machines then) and room to grow vegetables. Many towns and villages still retained their allotments. At school, we were taught gardening, and all sorts of useful stuff like, how to remove the seeds from tomato and dry them between sheets of blotting paper before planting. Councils still, employed gardeners, had their own nurseries and planted out and maintained parks and gardens within the towns and cities, not as they do today, contract out grass cutting, and hand out money to charitable organisations to plant flowers in the streets.
A quick search on the internet and you will find an entire industry based on lawn care, something that had up until now escaped me. These fully trained operatives will scarify, hollow time aeration, pest eradication, top dressing, lichen removal, overseeding and even a complete lawn renovation programme. They will, at the drop of a hat, or at least the crossing of palms with silver, swiftly and expertly sort out a nasty case of thatch, chafer grub infestation, red thread, leather jackets, moles, or any of the myriad of other threats to the creation and maintenance of that perfect lawn.
You see, we humans, in general, do not like change. For many people, the grass is supposed to be short, anything other is untidy, and the result of laziness or council cutbacks. In fact, in many cities in the US, lawns have to be mown regularly. Local ordinances dictate a maximum lawn height, and low betide the delinquent that thinks otherwise you will be fined.
In 2014 Peterborough Council initiated a scheme in which several areas of the park were to be left a windflower meadow, to be cut once per year, and some other areas were designated for cutting three times per year. They found that this gave them an annual saving of £24,000 in deduced labour and petrol, (and helped to save the planet). The e-mails flooded in as did ‘Letters to the Editor’ in the local press, people do not like change. I’m with Peterborough Council on this one, and I wish others would follow suit.
Grass has managed to survive for millions of years without our help. In a healthy garden there should be a diverse community of insects, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, worms, not to mention the countless microbes, living in the soil beneath the turf.
These soil insects are an important part of the food chain. Leatherjackets (Leatherjackets hatch into crane flies, daddy-long-legs), are one of the favourite foods of Starlings, a species that has undergone alarming declines in recent years. The population of Starling has fallen by two-thirds since the mid-1970s – when it comes to lawns and their maintenance, less is definitely more.
The rain has come at last to St Andrews, and the garden is looking the better for it. Sadly most of the flowers have passed, they did not last long in the prolonged heat and rainless days of summer, next year, maybe, will be better.
No ground feeding birds come to our garden now that the grass cutting contractors are back, they have managed to remove all the mulish, I carted and spread, with their leaf blower and although they say they are only spraying the edges of the grass with weedkiller, the wind carries it over the whole garden. I intend to take photographs next time they come into the garden and send them to the landlord along with a letter, singing the praises of insects in our gardens, and the damage that these people are doing to the garden with chemicals and leaf blowers.
Time for them is money, I understand that, but they should not have taken on the contract if they can not look after the garden without spying everything with weedkiller, to save them edging the grass or hoeing around the plants.
The big boy’s toys such as leaf blowers, an endless supply of insecticides, and herbicides, on the market today, is killing off all the insects in gardens around the UK, soon there will be no safe haven for insects and bees. Insects and bees have been pollinating our food for millions of years, and they are pretty good at it. It is time governments woke up to the fact that if you kill off insects it spreads all the way up the food chain, birds, animals and yes humans too, will suffer, in the long run.
What a week I have had. Laid low with toothache last weekend, which managed to pull me right down, so it was a week of fasting, catnapping, reading, and more sleeping. I did not feel like food at all but I was suffering from taking tablets on an empty stomach, so had to start eating, mashed potatoes and porridge, with lots of milk poured over it. Today Friday I am much better, still weak but taking solids, I was getting withdrawal symptoms for toast, but still have no real appetite for food.
Have managed to read a bit more into Mary Queen of Scots (Antonia Fraser) finding it fascinating, those Scottish lords made her life hell from the day she set foot in Scotland. She tried to bend over backsword to accommodate them, but they wanted to rule the roost and she would do as she was told or….. I am now at the point where Darnley is sick in Glasgow (suffering from Syphilis) and Mary sets out to bring him back to Edinburgh. Darnley was a bit of a loose cannon, and Mary was afraid he would try to make her son illegitimate. Then the rumour that he would abduct the baby, have him crowned and use him to rule Scotland. Mary rightly wanted him where she could keep tabs on him, ‘Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, however, he seemed to come willingly back with her to Edinburgh.
Darnley was a bad choice as a husband for Mary, all advised her against it, even her Marries. He had been on the list of possible but well down the list, Antonia puts it down to Mary falling head over heels in love with him when he first became ill, (said to be smallpox, but now it is believed even then he was suffering from syphilis.) Mary nursed him back to health and from that day forward her ears were closed to anything said against him, there was not a telling in the lass, as dad would have said.
Darnley is now installed at St Mary, Kirk o’Field, and the end is near for him. Nothing remains of Kirk o’Field it is now under the University buildings. There was a trial and it also came up at Mary’s trial in London, but the statements that were given were so wildly conflicting, it was impossible then and even more so now to find a lead, far less a smocking gun.
The youngest daughter of my niece is having a baby, and since I have been, more or less, stuck in the house, I thought I would build her something as a birthday (or is it arrival) gift. A sit-in rocking horse would work, keep s/he amused for hours, even for years, better make it strong then.
I did not have enough wood in my scrap box to make much progress, but did manage some of the highlight parts that give it more of a three dimensional look. Yes, I know it doesn’t look like much but there was a fair bit of work in this little bundle.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.)
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 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.
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.
Today the murk was still clinging to the coast as I set off on my morning ride. Not far today, only out to Pitscottie and home.
Distance 14.2 miles
Time taken 1:18:01 (minus time spend blethering to neighbours on the way in)
Average speed 10.94 mph
Max speed 26.42
Calories burned 550
Ascent 794 feet.
It is fair to say that one of the main reasons I love to travel is not only for the new and interesting sights but to meet and converse with people. I love to hear their stories and tell mine. Now retires and with time on my hands (whit, Hamilton, time on your hands?) The next logical step would be to write some of these stories down so that others might enjoy these whimsical tales too.
Alas, I was the lad in the English class, that the teacher would throw pieces of chalk at, or creep up on, and crack a rule over his knuckles. Caught once more staring out of the window, daydreaming. I, therefore, left school at 15 years of age, never understanding ‘what grammar are’ or much else about our written language. I have been playing catch up ever since.
A young girl visitor to New York asked a musician,
“How do I get to the Metropolitan?”
“Practice, practice, practice.”
To help me in my endeavors, I have read many self-help books, ‘Spellwell. Write right…..the latest in this long line, ‘The creative writing coursebook’. It is very much a study book so you have to read small portions then put it down and think about what you have learned (or reread the passage again).
From Esther Morgan – articles of faith: using objects in poetry. (this girl quotes from Sylvia Plath, so a lot of rereading here for me).
I bring to the class a selection of household objects, which might include, for instance, a candlestick, cheese grater, lightbulb, scarf, corkscrew, pepper grinder, etc.
She then goes on to say that she asks her student to close their eyes. Explore the object with their hands, (what about that cheese grater) to start the de-familiarization process. Open their eyes and make notes of what they experienced. Then use their other senses to explore the object further. Then they are asked to widen their writing to include any memories or other thoughts triggered by their objects.
What becomes evident as they read out their pieces is the extent to which this exercise helps them to re-imagine their object. In the same way that a word repeated over and over begins to sound bizarre, so an object scrutinized with such attention will start to shed its everyday invisibility. So pepper grinders become an armless women who scream when their heads are twisted and rain bitterness, a cheese grater becomes a steel wall of tears, or a light bulb the lost eye of a Cyclops.
You can tell she is a poet, who understands Sylvia Plath. By doing this we are told that we will never have writer’s block.
I read this in the dentists waiting room the other day, and sort of wondered if I would ever understand any of it.
Of course once such thoughts have been planted in your head, they work away in the background, a puzzle to be solved.
This morning, as I sat at breakfast and just before I set off on my morning ride, I looked over at the little chest of drawers. On top are three objects, a large vase made from Edinburgh Crystal, a crystal fruit bowl, and a small biscuit barrel.
And yes, each and everyone had a story to tell.
That little biscuit barrel had been in our family ever since I can remember. It sat on the sideboard, but as far as anyone knows, never contained biscuits. Biscuits were only seen in the home at Christmas time of possible some special occasion, a packet of biscuits would not last long in our house, with seven hungry mouths. Mum baked a lot in those days, she could rustle up a load of scones, or pancakes in no time at all. Or a tray of sponge, that would be covered in custard for after-dinner sweet, any leftover would go into the bottom of a trifle.
The little barrel was unsure of what it was supposed to be, art deco or art-newvue, for its handle is certainly the latter, and the finial on the lid most defiantly art deco. The little barrel has been a great survivor over the years. It has remained intact for many, many years and countless house moves. When mum died and I cleared her house, somehow I could not bring myself to part with the little barrel, even to give it away to the charity shop along with all her other nick-knacks.
The little barrel has no real value but still for me it holds a lifetime of memories so will remain on the little chest of drawers, the barrel may be empty of any worldly contents but full to the brim with days of my childhood.
The Edinburgh Crystal vase, I bought for my mother one Christmas, this whould have been the early 1970s. It came from Binns of Edinburgh a big posh shop at the time in Princess Street. I was spending Christmas with friends so went over to mum’s a day of two before Christmas and deliver her present. Mum has liked a small child when it came to presents, as soon as they came into her possession they had to be ripped open. Come Christmas Day, of course, she would tell, how she had this big family, yet here she sat with not one present to open.
I placed the big box by the side of her chair and waited to see how long it would take before she opened it, not long. As she removed the wrapping, her eyes lit up as bright and wide as any child’s,
“I wonder what this is?”
“Not an old vase, I hope”
She of course, then gushed over the (old) vase and said it was the most beautiful vase she had ever seen. All too late, once the words were out they could not be retracted. I had always known it would be a good present for mum, for mum, loved having cut flowers in the home, so the vase was seldom seen without a huge bunch of flowers exploding from it like a canon shot.
The crystal bowl, came from my sister’s house when she died. It had been given to her as a retirement present from her work and lived on a small shelf, near a window. In the early morning light, those deep cuts would catch the sun’s rays and send rainbows dancing around the room. It had always fascinated me, thankfully I was in the right place at the right time to rescue it, just before it was unceremoniously thrown into a skip. Few things have real value in this throw-away modern society.
The sticky, close weather was not conducive to sound sleep, this along with me throwing myself down the road, in such an undignified manner, in Cupar yesterday, has left me like a boxer who has just won second prize in their last contest. I don’t think I will be going too far on a bike today.
I had a disaster with my computer, I was receiving so many pop-ups adverts and e-mails, on my machine, many in Urdu, and even in Hebrew, so in my ham-fisted attempt to clean it up I manage to delete all the e-mail addresses of friends and family. I tried to get back into Chrome or g-mail but neither would let me in, I spent hours and still no luck, seems my password is wrong and when I tried ‘Try another method’ I did see a little bell ringing on the screen but alas not on my phone, so the number they have must be my old telephone number, ho-hum. So if you have not heard from me, or I have not returned your e-mail, it is because I no have anew e-mail address, and the old one no longer works, sorry.
Off up to Aldi first thing really needed bread and milk. After breakfast I started clearing away the old sweet pees and poppies, which had been planted in the spring, forking over the ground as I went. I found worms since the garden maintenance men could not spray their nasty chemicals all over the growing flowers, offering them a chance of a comeback. And our resident robin was quick to spot a potential meal so, following me around the garden, like a faithful dog.
I have ordered a bag of 100 daffodil bulbs to make a river of colour down this small bank at the front, a wee show as you come in the gate. With the ground newly prepared I wanted to stick in some bamboo poles, as markers to ward off anyone (but the garden maintenance staff in particular) that this area has been set aside for planted – “Keep Off” (Or I’ll get my big sister to get you.) and since I do not like bamboo sticking out of the ground without flags on top, people do get an eye pocked out when bending forward to work or admire, safety first. I cut some birds out of odd pieces of Perspex, and stuck them in the tops of the canes, they are looking good.
So no cycling over the weekend, however it did give me a chance to follow the inguinal conference of the Alba Party, held in Glasgow. In all, 300 delegates in attendance, (a lot since they never really knew up until the last minute if it could go ahead because of the corona virus restrictions.) This was “Back to the Future” more in keeping with the SNP conference of old. Proper debate, both sides of the augment listened too, not the stage managed pantomime we have come to expect at the SNP conferences since Sturgeon and her cohort came to power. When any consent, from any of the speakers on stage was uttered, the Sturgeon fan club would shout them down – Barabbas, Barabbas. The SNP don’t do conferences anymore they do stage shows, this is not good politics.
Then on to the stage came Alex Salmond, for the leader’s closing speech, he did not disappoint. This was the old war horse at his best. A clear message, delivered with humour and with perfect timing, he had the audience (800 SNP delegates, all to a man, that had come over to Alba in the past 6 months) Alex had them eating from the palm of his hand, and crying out – more, more. They had come to gather under one banner – “Independence for Scotland” and they were not disappointed.
“The Grand Old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men – He marched them up to the top of the hill – and he marched them down again. And he said the next line to that song is “Rule Britannia”.
The message could not be plainer.
As soon as Nicola Sturgeon, heard the date of the Alba conference announced she put on a virtual conference show, on the same day in the hope that this would draw fire away from the Alba conference. The intention was to keep Alba off the news and out of the limelight. She must have been a very disappointed lass, for not only did she see 800 Alba delegates, cheering to the rafter at the live conference, but on hearing that hundreds of thousands of people had tuned in on line to watch the Alba conference, and oh so few, even bother to listen in to what Sturgeon had to say in her keynote speech online, to her none existent audience.
The BBC and STV did there best to project her message of another independence referendum (if Boris allows, and after the pandemic, and after the road map to recovery, and after the Civil Servants have finished their work, (no numbers or time frame) but a hint that it will happen in three years time. Is it not strange that in three years time we will be in the lead up to the General Election?
Vote SNP for a strong mandate from the Scottish people demanding that Boris capitulates (stop laughing at the back there) and give her highness a section 30 order, Aye right.
One thing is for sure, the SNP will loose many, many council’s seats, they now hold, in the spring, council elections, the people of Scotland are tired of living on dreams and will vote with their feet. They will either, abstain, or possibly go back to Labour, (a perfect opportunity for Labour to regain a foothold, back in Scotland, but alas there is little sign that (Scottish) Labour will campaign on anything that will take Scotland forward, but the same old tired Westminster led policies of the Labour party, and if they do then they have learned nothing over the last two decade.)
I was over at the dental hospital all afternoon, had a full work out to diagnosis problems I may, or not, have. This is of course all in preparation for my European trip.
It seems that one tooth (the one that has been giving me bother of late) the threads that anchor it down to the gum have been attacked by bacteria and that is why the tooth is rocking. So off I went into the deep clean chamber to have all my teeth cleaned by blasting them with high pressure water jet and they now look very, very white.
After the student finished her work it was of course checked over by the dentist proper (The young girl passed her exam, with flying colours) and it was she who filled me in on what was the cause of my woes. I had asked if it was like an abscess under the tooth and she said NO, and then went on to explain.
The problematic tooth will be looked at again – they expect it to have sorted itself out by my return appointment, if not they will ex-ray the jaw and see if there is anything amiss. I found it all rather relaxing, (why would I not, with two pretty girls in attendance, how flattering) I have to go back to have my teeth polished. One more step on my journey down the length of the Danube.
The sticky, close weather was not conducive to sound sleep, this along with me throwing myself down the road, in such an undignified manner yesterday, has left me like a boxer who has just won second prize in their last contest. I don’t think I will be going too far on a bike today.
I am still waiting for the weather to make up its mind, overcast but with signs of better things to come, as the cloud starts to break.
I had a disaster with my computer, I was receiving so many pop-ups adverts on my machine, many in Urdu, so I decided to try and sort it out.
The instructions were simple enough. Select Chrome menu – Type pop in the search bar – click pop-up redirect – toggle the pop-ups and redirect, Delete. Now I do not have a problem with pop-ups, I also do not have any e-mails, or much of anything else for that matter. I tried to get back into Chrome or g-mail but neither would let me in, I was up until the early hours and still no luck, seems my password is wrong and when I tried ‘Try another method’ I did see a little bell ringing on the screen but alas not on my phone, so the number they have must be my old telephone number, ho-hum
Some light gardening to easy my aches and pains, first a bit of light hoeing, this will always lead to seeing something else that need your attention, cutting back the roses came next, followed by, may as well prepare the area for planting out with daffodils, and then prepare the bed for……did you say ‘light’ gardening. In this humidity, within two hours the clothes were sticking to my back.
Off up to Aldi first thing really needed bread and milk. After breakfast I started clearing away the old sweet pees and poppies, which had been planted in the spring, forking over the ground as I went. I found worms since the garden maintenance men could not spray their nasty chemicals all over the growing flowers, offering them a chance at a comeback. And our resident robin was quick to spot a potential meal following me around the garden, like a faithful dog.
I have worked away making up, small, notice boards to drive into the ground around the garden telling people (but the garden maintenance staff in particular) that this area has been planted with …. “Keep Off” (Or I’ll get my big sister to get you.)
With my neighbours taking a keen interest in what we have been doing in the garden, and their comments have not gone unheard by management, I feel more confident about planting vegetables in the out of the way part of the garden, this required some plants to be relocated so that is something I have been doing slowly, so no great change is noticed.
I have been listening and suggesting what vegetables people might like to see, next year, so far, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, French beans, and peas – I already have onions, garlic, rhubarb, and strawberries planted. Yes, I do love to see flowers in the garden, but you can eat vegetables and they can look just a good especially French beans with masses of big, colourful flowers. I already know that many in the building do use garlic, and onions never go wrong. I must learn how to tie them up into those long strings.
So no cycling over the weekend and a dental appointment in Dundee tomorrow, that journey to Nice, is taking a hit. I have enjoyed my weekend off, working the pain from my body with exercise in the garden, and you can see where you have been, which will always be a bonus.