The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

The weather today was not good, an extremely lively and ice-cold wind was off-putting, even although the rain has passed. Well, I needed a rest day anyway. I did wrap up well and with hammer nails, string and scissors headed out into the garden to tame the climbing roses. It was easy to drive nails into the cracks of the old random rubble wall, and tie the very thorny shoots back to the wall in a fan shape.

I am also pleased to report that new growth is now appearing at the base of many of the rose bushed that were cut back hard earlier.

‘In focus’ is a local magazine to St Andrews, when I got around to reading it I found an interesting article near the end ‘How to build your own “Munro”

Although relatively flat Fife does boast 7 Marilyns, hills of over 150 meters with a 50 + drop between it and the next one. All within its boundaries. Not as well known as the Munros, Corbetts, or even the Grahams, perhaps, still relative just the same.

West Lomond 522m Falkland,

East Lomond 424m Falkland

Benarty Hill (the sleeping giant) Ballingry

Largo Law 356m Upper Largo

Norman’s Law 285m Brunton

Cairnie Hill 228m Collessie

Mount Hill 221 Cupar

now anyone following my blog will know that I have covered many of these hills in the past but the writer of ‘How to build your own “Munro” climbed then all in one day chauffeured driven by her husband between each of the 7 Marilyns.

Total distanced walked = 14.6 miles

Total time taken 7 hours 54 minutes

Total ascent = 3856 feet

Total distance travelled by car 97 miles.

You may not think this worthy of a mention but the writer, Margaret Squires from St Andrews is 81 years ‘young’.

If an 81-year-old can do this, then surely there is hope for me yet, and I needed a fresh challenge. Now since I do not have a chauffeur-driven limousine, I will use my bike in my attempt to climb all 7 Marilyns, in sequence, but since the distance between then = 97 miles, not all in the one day. It will take a wee bit of planning to cut down on the distance travelled on the bike, (may even use the tricycle) but that will all be part of the fun.

Bairns Not Bombs.

The UK government is not only supplying the weapons, aircraft and military expertise to bomb people in Yemen if this wasn’t bad enough, the government is now slashing essential aid to Yemeni people in half.

After six years of a brutal war, it’s estimated that 24 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance – that’s nearly 80 per cent of the population.

Keep well.

Again like yesterday the skies were overcast with a light mist hanging over St Andrews as I set out on my morning run. The song that came into my head and I sang to the morning,

“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone…..” which lead me to sing on,

“Sometimes in my life, we all have pain,

We all have sorrow,

But if we are wise,

We know there’s always tomorrow.

Lean on me, when you’re not strong,

And I’ll be your friend,

I’ll help you carry on,

For it won’t be long ‘til I’m gonna need,

Somebody to lean on.

Yes, everyone needs someone to lean on, I have not played Withers for some time, must put that right when I return home.

I have heard and seen his daughter perform her father’s hits, beautiful voice, and like singers of old, she simply stands there and sings, no jumping around or pyrotechnics, or special lighting effects, just a beautiful voice, refreshing.

I did not go far today out to Pitscottie, turning left onto the B940 for Peat Inn then off left again for Strathkinness. At the crossroads right onto the B939 for St Andrews.

Loads of carrots were being transported along the B939 to the farm at Blebo, so lots of mud on the road some hard-packed, like riding on corrugated iron. On my return, I stopped at Burnside to take this photograph of ‘Clouds of (not golden daffodils) but snow-white snowdrops’, something we see a lot of when out riding at this time of the year.

The wind was picking up and not any warmer as I made my weary way home, for I had been pushing hard all morning, it happens from time to time when I still believe I’m 20 years younger.

I want to make a maypole to grow sweet peas and French climbing beans up the strings from the top of the pole. I have some three-meter lengths of 3X2 timber that will do the job, but as ever when you are working with the elderly (which doesn’t include me of course) you have to think ‘safety first’ and since the timber is rough sawn, I will take it out the sander and sand the surface so anyone coming into contact with it will not end up with skelves in the fingers. May even have enough paint left in the tin to give it a coat of protection.

Well it was sanded and painted, OK it’s not round and does not look much like a maypole, then again our garden is no village green – baby it’s cold outside, the wind has certainly picked up now and again it is what the Irish would call a lazy wind, that doesn’t bothering to go around you.

I did listen to a bit of Nicola Sturgeon’s ramble to the inquiry but I shall say no more, for to me it was all about ‘if you can’t get the ball, get the man’, and divert attention away from yourself at all cost, a big boy did it, then ran away. I will wait to hear what Jimmy Hamilton QC has to say, then we might get to the bottom of this saga. 

The morning was overcast and misty but warm enough out, I took off on my trusty stead for Cupar, then up the hill, I climbed before dropping down into Pitscottie then the B939. I was tooting along fine when the font tyre went instantly flat, I pulled the bike off the road and found it was not a puncture but a dodgy high-pressure valve, not having a cap it was always an accident waiting to happen. I had a spare tube I could have fitted but pumped the tyre up and it held most of the way home, another stop to inflate the tyre and this time a successfully completed journey. A fellow of the wheel did stop and ask if he could help – thanks but only a flat tyre and only two miles from home. Front-wheel, so an easy change, and it gave me the opportunity to check the bike over and do a bit of adjusting, cables do stretch.

Breakfast over I spent a couple of hours in the garden, turning over the borders and planting bulbs and corms. Gladioli (the only one I know), Brodiaea, Acidanthera, Liatris Spieata, Freesia (oh I know that one too), Allium Moly, Anemone Blanda. I’m sure they will all be lovely and bring joy and colour to the garden, all 300 of them.

Passing through the complex I picked up a copy of St Andrews in focus, from the hall table. What attracted me to it was the cover an illustration of ingin’ (onion) Johnnie.

I remember well in the 1950s and on into the1960s how the boat from Roscoff in Brittany, France would dock at Methil dock, the hold laden with golden onions, grown only in this part of France and the soil they grow in fertilised by seaweed from the shore, they were hard and firm and a cut above anything grown in our own garden, like Ayrshire potatoes, they had no equal.

Ingin Johnnie would live onboard the boat and tie the onions into garlands that hung and were sold from their bicycles. At that time trains had guard vans you could put a bike on so they were able to travel all over Fife, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire selling their special wares.

The bicycles themselves were built by the French equivalent of the Panzer Tank Company. An extra bar ran across the front of the bike under the handlebars, and this was draped with garlands of onions,

along with an extra crossbar and rear carrier. Not only was the bicycle festooned with strings of onions, but Ingin Johnnie himself, would have strings of onions hanging around his neck as he pushed his bike, from door to door selling his goods, although little selling was necessary, they sold themselves. The opening of supermarkets and motorways put pay to ingin’ Johnnie, on our streets.

When I cycled in Brittany in the late 1950s I saw the fields from where these onions were grown and I believe still are to this day, but I suspect in a much more commercial way. 

Days of my childhood, where are they now.

Keep well.      

Monday once more and the weather is looking good, the sun is rising above the horizon and there is scarce a breath of air to stir the trees, but since the skies are clear, there was a touch of chill in the air, so I have deliberately left the lid on the cold frame down for a little longer.

Monday my laundry day and as the clothes were washing I did a skellp across the carpets with the hoover. Now it is time to head for Aldi. Life’s constant but slow drum beat here at City Park.

Today I will attach my trailer to the tricycle and head for the riding stables for a load of manure for the garden, might even manage two trips in this fine weather.

I was a bit surprised to switch on the television yesterday and see a rally by Trump, well, not really, I’m only surprised that it happened this soon.

The Leppard can not change its spots. On Inauguration Day in America, the troops were already marching into Syria, a new American base is to be established there, and the gauntlet has already been thrown down to Iraq and Iran. We will keep you in poverty, not allow you to sell your oil if you continue to flaunt America’s wishes and bed down with Russia. The Obama years are here again, and why Trump had to be stopped.

What is happening in America is what is happening in the UK, you have a Republican party lead by the establishment, yet the grassroots are for Trump, all 35 million of them. The problem that the Republican party has is Trump. Trump has them scared shitless. He as said if you do not choose me as a presidential candidate then I will run as a third party. Now he has no chance of winning the presidency as a third party, but this will split the Republican vote, and they will be out of power for possibly a very long time.

So the media in America are out with pitchforks to take down Trump and anyone who is supporting him.

We had the same thing in the UK. The Labour party is very much establishment now, (after the Blair years) you only need to see who they chose as a leader, a man more establishment than any Tory. But who was Labour grassroots supporting, Corbyn? Corbyn had to be taken down, they accused him of being a Jew-hater and kicked him out of the party. That’s you telt.

In Scotland it is much the same the establishment is all the unionist patties, Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrats, they are all branch offices of their parties in Westminster, with a thistle in the corner of their letterhead. But the grass roots in Scotland, like in America want change and they have turned to the SNP in their droves. The British media are out with their pitch forks, and at every opportunity will attack the SNP and their party followers at every opportunity, and why this up and coming election in Scotland will be so crucial for the SNP and Scotland as a whole.

So the UK (the Westminster establishment) like in America, (the Republicans party), and Scotland (the SNP) have to show that they are willing to change, or fall. I don’t believe, Revolution, is too strong a word kto use at this time.

Yesterday was a good day, I went out for a two-hour cycle first thing, I wanted to be back for Alex Salmond’s appearance at the inquiry of the governments handling of the allegation against him. I am of course in the camp of Alex Salmond, so this was not to be missed.

The four-hour-long session ran for almost six hours, and it was clear for all to see that the man was, as expected on top of his brief. Not reading from notes, no dithering, total unambiguity, Alex could have gone on for another six-hour session without batting an eye. His words, tone and body language all radiated candour, and questions answered with the wisdom of Salomon. A performance to behold.

I was impressed by the Unionists seemed at least to be trying to get to the bottom of this unholy saga.

In truth Salmond never put a foot wrong throughout the session, not a misstep, stumble or misjudgement, he was a man in top form and no matter Nicola Surgeon comment after the even that he has no proof to back up his clams (Because the Scottish governments have put a gagging order on anything that may discredit Nicola Sturgeon if it came out) she has a hard act to follow.

Now we know how good Nicola Sturgeon is, she has a sharp brain and does her homework, but can she truly say “No smoking gun?” Alex Salmond’s evidence yesterday will make any whitewash by this committee very difficult to say the least.

I have always believed that this inquiry was just so much smoked filled, coffee-house crap, for I listened to the witness statements at the trial of Alex Salmond and it was clear that this trial should never have come to court, begging the question “What/who was behind it?”.

Then Alex in his final statement to the inquiry – throw in a hand grenade. My lawyers have the evidence that has been so far denied to you, if the committee were to write my lawyers asking for this evidence, you will have it by Monday. Can they afford not to ask for it?

If Salmond is right in believing that this would tie the case up, and show corruption at the heart of the SNP, poor leadership in the Civil Service, and Procurator fiscal office, then not so much a smoking gun as a whole a barrage of cannon.

However after all of this theatre the real meaningful stuff will come from James Hamilton QC in his own separate inquire.

Next Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon, well prepared and well-briefed will appear before the same committee,

Will the Sturgeon prove too difficult to hold?

Will the facts speak for themselves?

No matter the outcome of this inquiry, there will have to be changes within the SNP hierarchy, if Nicola is to survive as first Minister (and I thing that is now doubtful) then the membership has to take back control of the party. It was always an unsatisfactory situation for the First Minister along with her husband running the show and that must end.        

This was the title given to a film about a girl who turned her life around. Coronavirus has done much the same for many, in a way we have all had to change, look at ourselves in the mirror and reflect on our past lives, sometimes that change forced upon us, will have been for the better, it has given people the chance to pause and examine.

“Is this who I want to be?”

When I was my mothers carer, I was restricted to where I could go and when. during that time I joined an allotment club. The club was a group of like minded folks that came together and rented a field from a local farmer then split the field into plots. It worked well, we shared knowledge, thinning’s, loads of manure, and good conversation and community, and taking turns in the shop that sold surplas produce.

I would take mum up to the allotment from time to time. Mum loved the company, spent her time chatting to other members, there was always someone to blether to since mostly were retired and if she keept them back from their work, I do not thing they minded that much. When there was no one about, well, she simply pointed out all the jobs that I needed to do, and pointed to the weeds that needed rooted out, to me with her walking cane.

Now would it not be great if governments worked together in the same way?

You can not live in Scotland and be unaware of the stooshie that is Sturgeon V Salmond. It has spilt out into the wider community and now threatens to bring the SNP to its knees. There was a time when the SNP was seen as above all the corruption that is everyday politics at Westminster, people trusted the Scottish government and especially the SNP as being a party of truth and justness. Now we see the SNP party split into two camps, and deep phishers within the party have resulted in a (for a better word) coup, where party leaders have tried to grab control from the party membership. No voice of dissent will be tolerated at any cost.

It is all very troubling for the grass root, that saw the SNP as their ticket to ride the Independence train, now many are disheartened and disillusioned, alarm and dispondancy has spread within the voters, by what they are seeing.

I do believe the voters in Scotland will give the SNP one final chance in the up and coming Holyrood election (it would help if Nicola said now that she will not stand for re-election as First Minister in the new parliament) failing to deliver on independence and the grassroots of the party will vote with there feet, many may even be thiking of that already.

There is a lighter side to all this, and I had to laugh at Stuart Campbells post on 24th February 2021.

Hands up all you that have indulged in corruption.

Well, obviously you.

Okay, now smirk if you think you’re going to get away with it.

Yes, it would be funny it it were not happening this close to the Holyrood elections. as for those above, ‘The truth will find you out’, we will see.

Yesterday again the weather was conducive to cycling so I did a wee run out, to keep the pedals turning, well, a girl would never wish to lose her hourglass looks, or me my beer bottle figure.

On my return I swapped my cycling shoes for my pit-bits (pit boots) gathered up my graith (gardening tools) and headed out once more for the garden.

As we leave the common room by the French windows, on each side of the outside steps are some very overcrowded plants that no one seems to have a name for,

“But they are awful bonnie when they’re out”.

The task today was to divide them up into manageable clumps and spread them at random around the rest of the garden. Nay a problem to super-gardener.

Two hours on, and with sweat sticking to me, the plants were divided, well, at least to one side of the door and transferred to the front of the building.

The other side, well that can wait for another day, when the good Lord made time, he made plenty of it”.

The weather forecast for today was not good, but it was still early morning, the wind was light and the imminent rain had not arrived, an opportunity of an hour on the bike.

Out to Strathkinness dropped down to the bridge over the Eden and climb up to the village of Dairsie, then right, onto the A91 for home, the wind had picked up and then it rained relentlessly, the wind was not the best a broad-reach, so by the time I arrived home I looked like a waterlogged cat. Still, if this is the weather for the remainder of the week, well worth the effort.     

Sunday, what a day it had been, never off the stot. The morning was spend gardening, then out for a ride on the bike, what a joy, the weather was so spring like, a bit windy but not in the least cold. I popped over the hill to Elie, and spent time just daydreaming by the shore, the most natural place in the world for a Pisces. It was amazing just how many people had the same idea, not all on bikes of course.

Elie Beach (not taken by me)

With the sun shining and on such a pleasant day as this I could have cycled on for ever. Home by 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the planning department (the girls in residence) was in full swing. They had gathered out on the patio and as I arrived, greeted me with thanks for moving the Jersey Lilies. As I basked in glory, they gently hinted that I might try my hand a few other jobs around the garden. Oh! that was sneaky. I don’t mind of course, in fact I like gardening, possibly with the exception of weeding. I once saw a sign in a garden that read “Pick Your Own Weeds” which amused me at the time.

So it was out with the tools, cut a stick when you come to it, and repair a plant pot stand and remove the old foundation, that had once held a plastic greenhouse. The winter gales had put pay to the flimsy structure, leaving only the timber foundation that I had screwed down to the patio. I then moved the boat planter back to the its place at the door, now that the Christmas decorations had been taken down. Out with the soap and water and give it a good clean down, and generally tidy up, two hours later it was all looking very spick and span. That is the thing about cleaning, you can see the difference right away, very satisfying.

I made a Spanish omelet for tea, you are always guaranteed to get your moneys worth with onions, they constantly replete on you. However since I have not had time to go off to Aldi, my choice from Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, was very limited indeed.

I once more have that dull soreness that comes from a day of activity, its a nice felling, another pot of tea, and I may even get a chance to read the Sunday paper, another great cure for insomnia.

Monday, so it must be laundry day, with the bed stripped and sheets and the contents of the laundry basket gaily doing a fling on the other side of the glass window of the washing machine, much like the girls in an infamous street in Amsterdam, showing off their underwear, I took off on the bicycle to Aldi.

The Catkins are out on the tree that grows by the bridge over the Kinness Burn and the buds are swelling on the flowering cherry trees that line many of the streets around St Andrews. Although they do not last long they are the first to flower and certainly brighten the place up after a dreich winter.

Something to look forward to.

Aldi was very quite, it never takes me long to do the shopping, I know what I want and where to find it. Then off to the checkout, have you noticed how your bill has increase since you were last at the supermarket? Good old Boris and his oven ready Brexit deal that would see us all better off, and millions pouring into out NHS every week, Aye right.

We had rain during the night, still, it will help settle in the Jersey Lilies, and the skies are still very overcast but we travel hopefully for the forecast is good for today. Unfortunately the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, Is anything but. Heavy rain and gale force winds, I’m so pleased I had a good day on Sunday. Then again, if nothing else, Sunday has shown us that there will be a spring and it will be coming soon enough.

 First thing Sunday morning, I put on my Adam the gardener hat, I had promised to lift the clump of Jersey Lilies. Planted years ago, now as the garden had developed, in totally the wrong place, out of sight and forgotten.

I pressed the bicycle trailer into service,

and set about digging up the plant, surprisingly it was not deep-rooted and lifted without much trouble. It was too big and heavy to lift in one go so I split it in situ, then loaded it into the trailer. Fully loaded it was off to the border at the front of the building for replanting.

Now spaced out along the wall outside each of the flat’s living room windows. Lilly will be appreciated by all now come summer, and Lilly makes an appearance in her glorious new dress.    

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

Keep safe.

For some time now I have been at odds with the leadership of the SNP, believing like Scottish Labour before them, once their bums were firmly planted on the green benches they would be sucked into the system at Westminster and staying in power would become their one priority and independence simply kicked like a can down the road. With the Holyrood elections only weeks away now, it is difficult to see any real alternative to the status quo at Holyrood, if we are even to hold onto the dream of an independence referendum in Scotland then most of the people in Scotland will have to vote SNP, on the Constituency Vote, even, if that does mean holding ones nose. Sadly we see no real challenge emerging from the grass roots on the list vote either, however it is very difficult to get your messaged out during a pandemic and lockdown, and possibly that will be the SNP’s salvation.

Still the people of Scotland have educated themselves over the past few years, they have seen how Boris Johnston and his gang of Brexiteers, have systematic dismantled the powers of the Vichy government, that is the SNP lead government at Holyrood. You have heard it all from me before, and I’m sure many are already telling me “Get a Life, Hamilton”. So I will end by cutting and pasting this well crafted piece from Kenny MacAskill MP.

I don’t believe he will object or drag me into court for this, anyway why would he bother ‘You can’t take the breaks of a highlandman’.

The How and the why

Posted on February 19, 2021 by Kenny MacAskill MP

With selections ongoing and an election approaching, there’s an opportunity to reflect on how SNP M/SPs are elected and their role in those offices.

As the party’s grown the numbers in elected office have increased, but some aspects remain constant: it’s the party that puts you in and it’s independence that’s the cause.

There are individuals who carry a significant personal vote. The late Jimmy Reid was one of them but even his persona and an election in the aftermath of the UCS work-in was unable to see him win, with the Communist Party label attached to Jimmy being enough to see a comfortable victory for a Labour MP that few recall.

Margo McDonald and Jim Sillars’ personalities may have been the X-factor when it came to the SNP winning Govan by-elections, but even the former was unable to buck the trend in Hamilton when the party’s vote was falling.

So it’s not the individual but the party that matters. Many outstanding individuals have been unsuccessful SNP candidates. It wasn’t inability that saw them lose, but the party’s standing when they contested. When some arrogantly tell activists they’ve been once, twice or even six times elected they forget to add it was the party label that did it. From some a bit more humility would be appropriate.

That also explains the shenanigans ongoing in selection processes. Some now know that it’s the SNP ticket that gets you elected and have come on board. It’s the price of political success but it’s why internal democratic electoral processes become essential, and the party’s damaged by anything that detracts from that.

Zipping and allocated positions are perfectly acceptable but transparency in process and a democratic decision remain fundamental. It’s the absence of the latter that’s currently causing discord.

Likewise, whilst the party makes selections and is the core of activity, electoral success is founded on a far broader base. In every election support still extends far beyond activists, never mind the membership – nobody ever won a seat on party-member votes alone. So it’s not you but us, and not just the party but the whole movement, that puts you there. That should never be forgotten, by candidates or by the party.

But once you’re elected, what’s the role? There’s clearly a difference between being in opposition or in administration, as there is between Holyrood or Westminster. But in all situations the primary goal is to deliver independence.

In Holyrood an administration needs formed and governance performed. But political focus must still remain on somehow progressing the cause. In Westminster where an administration can never be formed circumstances can vary depending on numbers and leverage. In past years those elected were in many ways simply “flying the flag”. In more recent years electoral sway existed and SNP votes could have been crucial.

Since 2019, though, while numbers have increased the leverage and influence has gone as have the prospects of winning any votes in the Commons. So the SNP’s solely in opposition – but what should that be?

The SNP can never be the principal opposition party nor should it aspire to it. It’s not the job of the SNP to administer the British state. Yet that in some ways is what’s being done and there’s a danger of being sucked in and suckered by Westminster.

I can understand why grandiloquent titles such as Shadow Foreign Secretary or Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, which the SNP has recently started attaching to its spokespeople, may appeal to those individuals. But the SNP can never hold those positions nor does it aspire to even replicate the policies.

As for Wales and Northern Ireland, sending a fraternal delegate to the conference of a sister party is one thing, but announcing yourself the shadow minister for a British province is quite another. Should Scotland really have a Shadow Secretary of State for Wales? Is that any of our proper business?

It’s not just the positioning, but the involvement. An SNP MP sits on the Security and Intelligence Committee. Why? We already know through the BBC’s actions that the British state uses its resources against our cause. To think they won’t do so with the security services would be naïve. Actions in Northern Ireland give credence to it, as do events in our own country.

A senior police officer told me the security services who came north in 2014 for the Commonwealth Games remained in place during the referendum. Maybe they all went fishing or sightseeing, but I doubt it. As Justice Secretary I never got an explanation from Police Scotland about why they either had no intelligence of, or simply took no action against, the Loyalist thuggery in George Square on 19 September 2014.

Are SNP members on the Security Committee told about actions in Scotland? If they are and cannot tell us, whose side are they on? If they aren’t told, then that itself is an issue that demands answers, not legitimisation by participation. But either way SNP members have no proper role in such Westminster institutions.

It’s the party that wins the election but it’s the cause that must prevail. Those fortunate to be elected must always remember that.

Stay safe.

Opening the blinds this morning and the weather is crap, wet and windy, my mind travels back to all those wonderful day cycling across Europe, or alone on my old folk boat sailing until my hearts content. After weeks of lockdown you may be thinking of a wee boat trip yourself in the summer. after months of being house bound maybe be feeling you would like a little bit of excitement in your life, so just to wet your appetite.

I remember Billy Connelly once said about cruise liners, “It is a bit like being in prison with the possibility of drowning”,

Just a bit of fun folks, keep well.

 I want you to forget all you have heard from waffling politicians, from so-called experts being interviewed on the BBC and Sky about the coronavirus. All the rubbish about how soon we can come out of lockdown and lead a normal life once more. Forget it all, just tune into the Alex Salmond Show at 6.30 this afternoon on RT and listen to Dr. Hugh Montgomery, in only 30 minutes you will find out, how coronavirus originated, how it got into humans, why we were caught on the hop, (it is not like flu or any of the other viruses that have come and gone), and is there a cure?

Towards the end of his time, he told us that post coronavirus will have to be different from where we were before coronavirus, spend much more on welfare, tackling the big problems caused by being overweight, poverty, poor housing, cramming hundreds of people onto planes and flying them around the world. It would seem that we are our own worst enemy, we have to change.

Sharing experiences on social media has helped doctors understanding symptoms and he said anyone who is suffering the long term effects of having coronavirus, deserves your sympathy, it is a real illness.

I advise you all to listen in to this programme and learn about coronavirus, without all the media hype, the waffle of politicians, who have a foot in two camps, and to the media I say, stop speculating about when we come out of lockdown and start educing people to the real problems we face from this virus. Stop being a mouthpiece for the government and start being a mouthpiece for the people.         

The weather today is very overcast and blowing hard, I had hoped to get the cold frame outside and given a final coat of paint, setting the seedlings off on there journey from pot, to harden off, then planning out in the garden, I’m sure it will all be worth it in the end. Still with the weather now that is looks iffy. Halfway through another week, where does it all go?

Yesterday I was over to Leuchars, I wanted to go to the cycle shop, my wish to hire an e-bike for an hour as part of my research project I’m working on. Seems they no longer hire bikes, coronavirus they say, not allowed to hire them out. He told me they intend stopping the practice anyway, only sales now, more than they can cope with it seems. They have an awful lot of e-bikes if the two pallets of boxes outside their shop are anything to go by. Possibly sell them on the internet, I can’t see a large enough market for them here.

Their e-bikes are more in keeping with step-through mopeds than bicycles, and that will be the market they are pitched at, an alternative to a moped. Makes sense, no need for a licence, no need for a helmet, no need for road tax or insurance for that matter, what not to like? The problem will be if they become popular the government will find ways to squeeze some money from you, all in the name of safety, I’m sure.

The road out had been into a cross wind coming over the port bow and played havoc all the way into Guardbridge. I resisted the temptation to hit the throttle, and just pushed all the way there. At the roundabout the wind changed so an easy ride from here. Coming home I moved onto the cycle path. The low lying fields, of winter sown barley, that run between the road and the estuary, were flooded. Flocks of Geese, a couple of swans, a curlew and a very large flock of what to me looked like sand pipers, they were about the size of a waterhen light grey in colour and straight pointed beaks, and seemed to be always on the move. All happily helping themselves to the farmers crops, he will be pleased.

After my shower, I settled down for the afternoon, that is until the doorbell summonsed me to the main door, my piece of perspex had arrived, no rest for the wicked. I set about making the lid for the cold frame, it has been a while since I started this project, but when you are waiting for the right timber to turn up in a skip, it always will.

Clyde Built

So that has been my day, never a dull moment. If I was pleasantly aching after yesterday ride, I’m doubly so today. I wonder if there is anything of any worth on the television tonight? I could do with a night in.

Keep well.

Yesterday was fine once more, a bit windy but that is to be expected in February, I headed out on the old B939 turning off at the Strathkinness crossroads for Crossgates, and the long climb up to Drumcarrow Graig then went whizzing off on the B941 for Peat Inn and Largoward. The roads were free of traffic and I just love coming over the top Bowhill to see for the first time the Forth valley spread out before me, it is quite a view. I continued on the B941 turning off for Arncroach to make my way back over to the B9131 for St Andrews. The wind was now driving me forward, encouraging me to push harder for home, even keeping the pedals driving down off Balmungo and Brownhills, weeeeeeeeeeeee. Not sure if the new-found pain in my belly is a cramp or some re-found muscles, but I feel good this morning.

I read yesterday that Julian Assange may be returning home to Australia, soon. There has been a lot of diplomatic traffic between the Australian government and the US to have the case against him dropped. Both sides are playing it down, in Australia, the minister is saying, Julian can come home when he leaves prison, but that he cannot be seen to be interfering in the law of another country. The American government still have 14 days in which to lunch an appeal, but the thinking now seems to be, It may be better if the whole thing just went away.

And strictly on the QT

I heard some news yesterday – imminent changes at the heart of the SNP, following a serious incident – rumours of “blood on the carpet” abound. You heard it here first.

Keep well.

On opening the blinds first thing this morning I found that the snow had been given a fright and the weather was looking very favourable, sky clearing and the sun may even ‘come out and play’.

First washing in the machine, then out with the hoover and a quick dicht over the carpets. Time to dust off my bicycle that had been languishing rather too long in the living room and fast becoming a clothes horse. The snow, black ice and generally bad roads had turned me into a couch potato over the last weeks, I really needed to be out on my bike again.

I struck out for Guardbridge, nothing strenuous, and as I pedalled my way towards the cycle track, I was stopped in my wheel tracks by road repairs. Taking to the pavement I reached the cycle path only to find it still under a covering of patchy snow and ice, so it would be the A91 to Guardbridge. The road was surprisingly busy with lorries and vans, and the obligatory empty bus. I wonder if the drivers will take it ill out when they have to stop and pick up passengers once more?

As I whizzed along at 20 kph my mind wandered over the past days of inactivity. Or possibly that was a bad choice of words since I had journeyed twice around the world over that period.

Once with the good Captain Joshua Slocum, a brilliant well-written book that everyone should read at least once in their life. Although I believe the good captain stretched the truth, just a little sometimes, still, it was a great adventure, and you will meet some fascinating people along the way.

Then ‘The long way’, by Bernard Moitessier, much more about a man searching within himself, and possibly finding some inner peace in the solitude of his self imposed little world, his boat Joshua. We travel with him not only around the world but back into his past growing up in Indochina, and the eastern cultures that seemed to have had a profound influence on him as a young lad, even although he had not been back there for some 20 years, it still bubbled to the surface.

Sailing around the world, is that possible? I mean if the world is round, there can be no end, you may reach a destination along the line of travel but there will always be something further ahead, so can you ever really sail around the world? Clearly, I have not made the transformation back into the real world yet.

As I neared Guardbridge I had a look up the road to Strathkinness, the road was black and therefore free of snow and ice, so I headed up the hill for the little village. Dropping down the other side where I saw a crocodile of children in high visibility jackets coming up the hill toward me, it was a long line so the kindergartens are still going strong.

At the B939 I turned left, popped it into my high front ring and pushed hard all the way into St Andrews. It was not a long run today but I was out on the road once more turning pedals and that is all that mattered. Home and sitting with my pot of tea, it felt good to feel the dull pain in my legs once more. The good news the weather will stay mild for the remainder of the week, hip-hip- replacement.

The finishing joiners are in at the old Backpackers building, so the skip had to be raked, I found enough dressed timber, (I think it is obeche, for it had that cat pee smell when I cut into it) still it made good shelves, down each side of the cold frame, and enough 2 inches by 1-inch timber for the frame’s lid. I cut and planed up the wood for the shelves and fitted them, somewhere to put tools or plant pots. all that is needed now is the piece of perspex I ordered on the internet, something you just can’t find in skips.

The disappearance of the snow has the birds once more finding their natural food in the shrubbery and borders, so I have stopped putting out feed for them. If the cold nights return I will continue to feed, for I’m told a small bird can lose up to 10% of its bodyweight simply keeping warm overnight.

There is nothing on the television to interest me these day, if I ever see Dominic Raab again it will be too soon, don’t you just get the boak, every time that man appears to tell you how great Boris is doing with the vaccination programme, all those that died because of their incompetence, oh that’s yesterdays news, move on.

I think I will have a night in with Bogart, what shall I watch first The Maltese Falcon,

(Mary Astor and Peter Lorre).

Or what about The Big Sleep, (Bogart/Bacall).

They would later marry

Then there is Key Largo (again with Bacall and who can forget the great Edward G Robinson).

“Is that a dagger I see before me?”

Or as a special treat, I could watch Casablanca, (with Paul Henreid and the unforgettable Ingrid Bergman). He was to say in an interview that he hated Bergman, and yes he used that word.

“Why did you come to Casablanca?” Rick, was asked by the Principal of Police.

“I came here for my health, to take the waters”.

“But there is no water in Casablanca, this is a desert”,

“I was misinformed”,

They just don’t write them like that any more,

“Here’s looking at you kid”.

Stay safe.

 

All Cut From The Same Cloth

I don’t believe I am racist, but thinking back to my youth, I’m sure I told jokes in the pub that may, or may not, have offensive, say, the Irish, “did you hear the one about the Irishman………” for if it is true that only an Irish person can say if s/he is offended by your remark, and if so, then I suppose I may well have been a racist.

Now back in the 1980s a German came to work with us, I found out he had studied engineering at a German University, and at the end of his studies moved to South Africa where he had secured a job in management. He was in charge of laying water pipes to outlying townships, however, he never really had to leave his office since he had under-manages and foremen to look after the actual every day laying of the pipes.

“What kind of pipes were they, concrete, clay?” I asked.

“No, asbestos” he replied.

“Asbestos! I’m really surprised, you must have had strict safety in place working with such material, and was the water passing through the pipes not contaminated? (asbestos was disbanded in the UK).

“No, none” he assured me.

“But the danger to health would have been enormous, asbestos is a killer” I said.

His answer was even more shocking, it was not a problem,

“Black men have big families”.

Later when he returned to South Africa to bring his wife and son to the UK he landed at Heathrow where they would have to pass through immigration control, when he found out the person that would be interviewing his wife (she and her son were white South African) he immediately boarded a plane for Germany with his family and brought them through customs there, now officially in the EU they could fly to Edinburgh unimpeded. He asked me why we allow black people to run our country?

There were two French lads on the television the other day talking about ballet, one black, he was saying how black dancers were under-represented on stage and how changes should be made to correct this. The other took the opposite view that the only criteria to be on stage at all, should be their talent no matter their colour. Difficult since both views had merit. The system in France, of course, could be pitted against anyone other than ‘male and pale’ and there might be all sorts of reasons for those theatres to favour white dancers, Theatres make their money by selling their product to an audience, so will cater to that audience, not an excuse, and possibly wrong, but a reality just the same.

I personally think for instance that the BBC should bring more black people on as presenters and newsreaders on television, especially black women newsreaders. My reasons for saying this may be biased. You see I’m hard of hearing, and I find English women, like children, their voices are high pitch and to me sound squeaky, very difficult to follow. On the other hand, black women newsreaders normally have deeper voices and their diction is flawless. So I suppose I am on the side of, who is best for the job, regardless of colour, creed or favour.

Which brings me to the stooshie that is taking place in Scotland at present. Should we have all women candidates lists at elections to have a better balance in the parliament? And the latest has to be the SNPs ham-fisted and corruptly-motivated attempt to increase BAME and disabled representation at this years Holyrood elections, that is now threatening to split the party and the parties membership asunder.

It is very easy to make the case against any form of discrimination, and if you talk of having all-female lists, whatever the thinking behind it, well is smacks of discrimination or even cronyism, so you change the wording to, “Quotas” much more neutral sounding, who could object to that? But people did. So those pushing for change did just that they changed the name again to “Diversity and Inclusion”.

Now object to diversity and inclusion, clearly a good things, and we will hound you to hell and back on Twitter. Suddenly now all debate has gone from the argument.

I am against any system that overrides raw democracy so as to increase the representation of a selected group at the expense of another group, for whatever reason, sex, gender, or colour, the choice should only be made on ability. If there is a problem in the system that discriminates against any of the above gettings to the top spot, then that is a different question.

I remember when Union Congress was a sea of white male faces, and during my father’s generation, women did not even have the vote. Tossing statues into the harbour will not change history, the values then are not the values now, and that is a good thing, but they were the values then and you cannot change that.

The First Minister of Scotland, since taking office has brought more women into her cabinet, and from what I see, she has picked well, and when she didn’t, she was quick to through them under a bus. What I object to is this 50:50 cross-party group which enjoys the enthusiastic patronage of the First Minister. The proponents of these systems that are being imposed argue that the only groups being disadvantaged are ‘male and pale’ and nobody likes straight white men and anyone standing up for them can be quickly dealt with on Twitter.

The banner behind the First Minister as she took to the podium of the 50:50 group read

“At Least 50:50 Representation in our Parliament and out Councils”

So at least 50:50 – at present only 35% of Scotland’s MSP are female – the group see this as unacceptable and what would be acceptable? Would 65% or even 75% or why not 100% since no upper limit is set, would this be acceptable? I doubt that we ‘pale and male’ would think so and would simply vote with our feet.

When it comes to ethnic it is even more complicated. Scotland is, and always has been, a white country. In fact, 95 % of the population is white. Asian 2.6% around 140,000 souls, and relatively speaking, new to this country. Only 0.6% of our citizens a mere 32,400 are classed as African, Caribbean or black, growing up in Fife I only knew of one black man.

So when you talk about proportional representation for BAME at Holyrood that would be 4% of the 129 MSP, which is five. We already have two, Hamza Yousaf, and Anas Sarwar, electing three more, you would think, not impossible. But is that all from the same party, for if not, what? And then do we move to subdivide BAME or simply lump them all together into a neat (Brown) group? – and what about BAME women must we have 50:50 BAME? And all this before you come to cultural identity – something that can not be overlooked in Scotland if you have attended an old firm game in either capital. So then do we have a shortlist for religious followers of Allah, Mohammed, Buddha, Obi-Wan Kenobi, this list would be endless. You can already see the problem, by proportional representation, to have even only one Jewish MSP in Holyrood there would have to be 769 MSPs, so should we forbid a Jewish MSP from standing for the Holyrood elections, so as not to upset the balance?

Why, oh why, did the SNP open this can of worms, and how can they put the lid back on the tin?

Hours of bickering and squabbling, over this silliness, whilst the real problems of Scotland go undebated, is a recipe for disaster.

Since my retirement I have found the time to read books, I pick up most of my paperback fiction in charity shops and when read will put them in our library here, for someone else to read. Others, however, I pick up in book shops, usually, these are books that I hold on to. For on their first ready, you get the story, but on the second or even the third time of reading you get the message too. I have been working my way through a big box of books that comes under the category of worthy of a second reading. Today’s book is East of Eden, by John Steinbecks.

Lee the Chinese and old Samuel discuss a Bible verse where a word is translated differently in the American Standard Version and the King James versions. The word was so important that Lee consulted his Chinese community. The Chinese got so interested in the exact meaning of the verse at issue that they learned Hebrew to try to part the veil. At the end of two years, they were ready. One of the accepted translations said, ‘Thou shalt rule over sin’ (a Promise). The other equally accepted translation said ‘Do thou rule over sin’ (an order). And the Chinese had found that it read ‘Thou mayest’ (a choice). And they knew their two years spent working and meditating on it had not been wasted.

Samuel said, it’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?

Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. ‘Don’t you see?’ he cried. ‘The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in “Thou shalt”, meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel – “Thou mayest” – that gives a choice. This says the way is open. That throws it right back on man. For if “Thou mayest”, it is also true that “Thou mayest not”. don’t you see?

What a beautiful way of put it, to conquer ignorance or remain ignorant. You can educate but you can not legislate against racism or prejudice (ignorance) and quotas will change nothing. The Hebrew word – timshel, “Thou mayest, it is an individual choice, that we all must make.

Stay safe.

This morning the snow is still with us, the promised rain has not yet arrived to wash it away. Making the coming spring all the sweeter.

The old adage states – feed a cold, starve a fever.

Yesterday I had an e-mail from one of my nurse nieces, who never seems to take off her nurses cap, she told me that I should take it easy for two or three days, and to eat well.

Yesterday I starved a fever, I fasted. Today I will take my nurse’s advice and feed a cold, even if I do not have one.

I made myself a thick sandwich on ham and settled back to watch two episodes of Jesse Stone. Jesse, as he likes to be called, is an acquired taste, my sister did not like him, calling him an old drunkard. I guess she simply did not get the flawed hero thing, her taste was more Miss Marple, or Murder She Wrote, which of course I could not stand.

What I liked apart from the clever staccato dialogue, was the intertwining relationships, and of course the storyline. Then again “Everyone to their own ways”.

About a year ago in the Scottish parliament the First Minister was asked about money given to Leonardo for what she called “aid diversification efforts”. We know now that the money from Scottish Enterprise had been used by Leonardo to fund the development of military radars.

Leonardo

Now Scottish Enterprise is being used to facilitate high-level meeting between Senior Scottish Ministers and arms industry “clients” (much as we see at Westminster). MSPs wined and dinned by arms companies in the Scottish Parliament itself. But I’m sure they were only discussing the horrific death and destruction reaped by the arms trade and how Scottish taxpayers money could be used to “aid diversification efforts”.

Scottish taxpayers may like to ponder the fact that Scottish Enterprise money is begin paid to companies such as Raytheon, the 4th biggest global arms company, and its Glenrothes factory is among the biggest in terms of its weapons production line outside the U.S.

Raytheon Glenrothes

It would seem that the Scottish government is slowly but surely becoming a branch office of the corrupt Westminster government, begging the question, where really does the First Minister stand on this? Find the answer to that question and you may unlock the reason why the SNP are dragging their feet on independence.

Follow the Money.

We have all heard and seen the storming of the Capitol building by supporters of Donald Trump on our televisions. Many, like me, have wondered why the Democrats are making such a big thing of it? The answer may lie very close to a lot of congressmen’s pocketbooks rather than their moral standing on democracy.

Boeing, BAE Systems, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are amongst the companies that have announced they are pausing political donations in the US. This follows the storming of the Capital by supporters of Donald Trump. If you are looking for answers, follow the money. I’m sure that as soon as the congressman fall back into line with the arms traders wishes, the money tap will once more flow their way.

The Long Way.

Just finished re-reading Bernard Moitessier’s book The Long Way, (Translation by William Rodarmor). I’m not sure this is a book that will interest too many people outside those who have a history of sailing. There is lots of nautical language in the book, and since unlike Slocum’s wee adventure around the world, stopping off as he went, telling tales of people and their customs. Moitessier, never leaves his boat. Still, he managed to keep readers happy and experiencing the highs and lows of his voyage.

The idea came about when Bill King and Joshua were preparing for the long way. Before leaving Toulon for Plymouth, Moitessier was, as he put it, incensed by the Sunday Times, which decided to organize a solo non-stop race around the world, with two prizes: a golden globe for the first to finish, and £5000 Sterling for the fastest voyage. There was no need to be officially entered, and the rules were simple: all you had to do was to leave from any English port between June 1st and October 31st then return to it after rounding the three capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn.

There were other in the race, but Moitessier of all of them had many, many more sailing sea miles under his keel than any other. By the Cape of Good Hope, only Knox-Johnston, who had left much earlier and Moitessier was in with a chance of finishing. Knox-Johnston’s lead would surely see him finish first, but Moitessier had the faster boat. He himself helped built Joshua and had input into her design. Knox-Johnston had a secondhand boat that had non of the attributes of Moitessier’s little ship, and many faults, if memory serves, from reading his book on that voyage. With all Moitessier’s sea knowledge built into Joshua It was not really a fair contest in that respect.

You will possibly know the ending, and if not I will not spoil it for you. Only to finish with Moitessier’s words at the end of part 3 of the book.

“I wonder. Plymouth so close, barely 10,000 miles to the north ….but leaving from Plymouth and returning to Plymouth now seems like leaving from nowhere to go nowhere.”  

Keep safe.

The snow is receding in the garden but still clinging on, it will need a good spell of rain to shift it. Still, the days are stretching, so we will be back on our bike soon enough.

PG (parental guidance)

When in the common room yesterday Ken, one of only a handful of men in City Park, popped his head around the door. He asked if I had my jab yet. Yes, yesterday and I went into how I had suffered some side-effects. Ken took off his mask and showed me his face, swollen down one side and what looked like a cold sore on his lip. Everyone it seems has suffered some sort of effect of the vaccine.

Most of yesterday I was under the weather, sore all over and very sleepy. At around 1 o’clock I lay on my bed with the duvet over me and slept for two hours. Later around 6 pm I repeated the possess, which worried me a bit that I might not be able to sleep during the night. I need not have worried.

This morning I woke in a bright, light, room, I was feeling well and real cosy under my duvet, and as an extra treat, my prostrate had been massaged by my bladder during the night, the nearest thing an old man get to full-blown sex, so I lay back in the afterglow. Today would be a good day.

When the SNP was under the leadership of Alex Salmond, they talked about Scotland as the ‘New Eldorado’ of rentable energy, Wind farms and Wave power.

Today we read,

The Dutch oil and gas major Shell has agreed to take a majority stake in a 1 GW floating wind project offshore in the Irish sea.

Shell New Energies, renewable energy trading, generation, and supply arm of Shell has signed an agreement with Simply Blue Energy to acquire 51 per cent in Simply Blue Energy’s venture. Kinsale was set up to develop the Emerald floating wind project, a floating wind farm in the Celtic Sea, off the coast of Ireland.

Energy giant BP is entering the UK offshore wind for the first time by linking up with a German company to build wind farms in the Irish Sea. BP’s first move into renewable power in the home nation comes after its pledge last year that it would become a “net-zero business by 2050.

So the Dutch and the Germans are coming to UK waters to float their wind turbines, and since these are UK waters and since it will affect NI, Scotland and Wales I take it the devolved parliaments had a say in the decision and able to negotiate good terms to have the jackets and blades manufactured in the devolved nations. Aye Right!

Boris will make that choice for us, and will we get a share of the work, well after the decision to site a wind farm off the River Forth and give the contract for building them to a company on the other side of the world, not a hope.

So the Dutch and the Germans will keep their high standards of living and top up their pension pot for the future, Scotland will get the electric bill for emery used.

If this is going to be the new world of Scottish independence, foreign companies stealing our natural resources, and leaving us just as poor, whilst the SNP sit with their thumb up their bum, asking again for a mandate for independence, and even if granted will fail because the SNP have done nothing to resolve the problem associated with independence, since 2014.

Come on Hamilton that’s a bit unfair, we have had a pandemic to contend with and a couple of controversial bills to pass, (but don’t mention the Alex Salmond fiasco) and what about all the money that will be spent in Perth (Oh Aye) another bloody museum, and not forgetting we gave Scotland the baby box.

In fact, if I were Johnston I would say go ahead have your indiref2, you are so unprepared after 7 years that you will fail even more spectacularly. Where are men like Bruce when they are needed?

Friday and I woke at around 4 o’clock in the morning chittering with cold, and I had a splitting headache. I rose and went to the kitchen and found some paracetamol swallowed a couple and headed back to bed, once the tablets took effect I was able to drop off, and back to sleep. On waking at around 8 o’clock I felt much better.

It is too much of a coincidence to blame anything other than my vaccination yesterday, but just to be on the safe side I will fill a basin with water and a big dose of bleach and give the kitchen and fridge a good scrub, just in case it was a mild food poisoning.

……….perhaps the food you’ve given Gerty,

Was chopped up when your hands were dirty,

Upon ma-ma was proper hurt,

she said, in my home, there ant no dirt,

The doctor said, In general terms,

Upon your hands, there are lots of germs,

Before preparing food you otta,

Wash your hands in hot soapy wata………….

This was part of a government information campaign from the 1950s, read by Cyril Smith. My mind is a receptacle for all sorts of rubbish, the important things I forget instantly.

Adrian Dunbar continued his journey around the coast of Ireland this time he was in the north and NI. We start that journey at Malin Head County Donegal.

The most motherly part of the mainland the island of Inishtrahull is further north, located about 10 km northeast of Malin Head and further north still is the most northerly landfall of Ireland Tor Beg rock. Ireland. A wild place indeed.

I know NI well for I travelled there many times in the mid-1960s for work, and a rather attractive colline, kept me going back. She was from Belfast and lived in the Falls Road part of the city.

Two girls travelling in the bus down the Falls Road.

“What are you going to call the babbie then”(emphasis on the ‘a’ as in act)

“Nath’n” the other girl replied,

“a sure, you’ll have to call the babbie somethin”.

From here we moved to Ballymoney and the home of a motorcycle racing family, the Dunlop’s. Their we met Robert Dunlop, where the talk was all about his family’s career in M/C racing. The North West 200.

This is one of the fifteen events run on public roads between April and October throughout Northern Ireland and one that became almost a pilgrimage for me during my M/C days. It is the largest annual sporting event in Northern Ireland, with the race weekend attracting over 150,000 visitors from all over the world. For me it was not just about the racing but meeting up with old and new friends for a weekend of shared interest, the added bonus was the trip over there.

The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, this is a rope bridge near Balintoy in County Antrim. The bridge is a link between the mainland and a basalt plug of an island called Carrickarede. It spans 20 meters and is 30 meters above the rocky inlet below, and not for the faint-hearted.

The Carrick a Rede Bridge and the Giant Causeway

It was built for the local salmon fishermen who trapped the salmon in nets as they entered the River Bann and River Bush to spawn. The salmon season ran from late June until September but now few salmon arrive there today. In the 1960s, almost 300 fish were caught each day. By 2002, only 300 were caught over the whole season. Now the bridge is only used as a tourist attraction and cared for by the National Trust.

The Giant Causeway was another stop on the way. This is an area of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption and located northeast of the town of Bushmills. You will see such formations all over Scotland too, there is one at the Chain Walk at Elie and of course Fingal’s Caves, on Staffa, and possibly part of the same ancient lava flow as that in NI. However, the Giant Causeway is a bit special and much easier to get too.

Of course, it would not be Ireland without a legend. The causeway was built by an Irish giant by the name of Fionn mac Cumhaill, (Finn MacCool) who built it to cross over to Scotland where he was challenged to a fight by the giant Benandonner. On reaching Scotland however, Finn found his adversary the Scotsman really was a giant and skedaddles back across to Ireland, chased by Benadonner. At the home of Finn, his wife disguises him as a baby and lays him in a cot. When Benadonner, through the window, saw the size of the baby, he takes cold feet, if this is the size of the baby, he thought, what will Finn be like? He who fights and runs away will live to fight another day. Benadonner hotfoots it back to Scotland smashing the causeway as he goes so that Finn can’t follow.

I, like Adrian, have travelled down the antrum coast and like Adrian I was awestruck at the beauty of the place. Adrian ended his journey at the Mourn Mountains and the lyrics of the song tell it all, how the Mountains of Mourn run down t the sea.

In the Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Glades told the assembled dignitaries, there are many beautiful places in the world, but I could not see them until I come to China.

The Irish have a saying “The longest way out is the shortest way home”. And both are true you have to travel to other countries and meet with other cultures to appreciate your own homeland the better.

The thing that saddens me most about Brexit is that we have lost Freedom of Movement for it is so important for the world that our children can experience cultures outwith their own circle, for it is through such contact that understanding will flower and peace will blossom.

 The snow that fell over the past few days lies deep in the garden, this has been followed by a sharp drop in temperature, given the snow a crispness to its surface, and making paths and pavements difficult underfoot. So cold has it been that stalactites hanging like a crystal chandelier from a leaking downpipe on the building opposite?

The ground-feeding birds, that now frequent the garden, scarring amongst the shrubs, they are having difficulty finding food in these conditions. The tits and sparrows less so since they found the hanging feeder. For the ground feeding birds, I have been putting seed out for them, under hedges, where no snow has penetrated or in my homemade feeders. I am amazed at the variety of birds that now come to feed. Until a month or so ago I would not have given them a second thought or even been aware that they were even there at all. Now I find myself going onto the internet to find out more about their habits, for although many are common to our gardens, I have not taken the time or trouble to find out their proper names, feeding or nesting habits.

We have a small community hospital here in St Andrews and it was to here I was summonsed today for my Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca jag. All the time I have lived in St Andrews I had only visited the doctor’s surgery there once, so I was totally amazed on following the arrows to the vaccination section that it was a route march along endless corridors. It’s much bigger than it looks.

The walk there and back was most pleasant in the still and crisp air, I believe it is getting warmer, or maybe that is only because we have lost that east wind. All went well quick and painless, and of course, I met many from City Park there too, all begin within the same age group.

I did go over to Tesco this morning to buy a paper, but the selves were bare of any newsprint, I’m sure I have missed nothing of any importance. Oor Nicola is a bit miffed with Ruth Davidson, who told her that Alex Salmond enquiry stunk to high heaven (which of course it does), a woman’s scorn and all that. But Nicola only has herself to blame for the mess she now finds herself in. It was she who signed the directive that started the whole chain of events off, maybe she did not understand the implications of her action, fair enough, but to compound her actions by the decisions she made later in this botched attempt to stitch up Alex Salmond and then try to cover her arse, well that was sheer stupidity for someone of her intelligence. However, like Paddie’s shirt, it will all come out in the wash.

Being Thursday we had the Alex Salmond Show, today’s guess was Professor Wade Davis, an American anthropologist.

I have to admit to not having heard of the man or read any of his books, but I am determined to amend that after hearing him today. The theme today was the divided nation of America, and whether the new president and his sidekick, can heal the festering sore?

Davis was in no doubt that Trump incited the mob that stormed the congress building, and said it was the first time that the Southern flag was displayed inside the building, (not of any significance to me but he seemed to put importance in that). He said, to him looking at it unfold on television, it was more like the crowd at a rock concert storming the stage and the guards more like bouncers at a rock concert trying to hold them back, even stopping for selfies, he believed it could have easily have ended very badly, even in serious bloodshed.

What to do about Trump, rather than impeachment, he believed they should have invoked article 14 of the constitution that was put there so that powerful men from the south (after the civil war) could not return to or have any influence at Congress. Had they done so Trump could never have returned to office.

And the answer to a divided nation like America, he said that the system was flawed from conception, and that turmoil will always be there, sort of as American as Apple Pie.

Finally he said we are genetically all cut from the same cloth, (when man walked out of Africa), and how it may have been the North that won the Civil War, but it was the South that won the peace. For he went on to tell us about a man called Fraz Boas, and how he changed society. It is governments that make the laws that make the changes, but it is the people who make the governments change. I found the man absolutely fascinating to listen to.

Stay Safe.

 The morning snow was off the big flake variety and the garden soon had a good covering of the white stuff, everyone will now have a beautiful garden. By 1 o’clock in the afternoon, the cloud had lifted and blue skies appeared along with the sunshine, so for a while at least we had a beautiful Victorian, Christmas card scene.

After many adventures Captain Slocum reached Terra Del Fuego and the Strait of Magellan, battling endless gales and running the gauntlet of the native Indians, intent onboarding and steeling his boat, or at least whatever they could carry away from her. He made it out past Cape Pillar and into the Pacific Ocean, only to be caught in a fears storm, which he ran before, on bare pole, all the way south, finally, he was able to re-enter the Magellan Straits via the Cockburn Channel guarded as it is by the Milky Way. Once more he made his way up the Magellan Straits and this time made it clear into the Pacific Ocean and set sail for Juan Fernandez (Robinson Crusoe’s Island), which he sighted 15 days out from Cape Pillar.

His description of the inhabitants he found there was fascinating.

“The people live without the use of rum or beer of any sort. There was no police officer or a lawyer amounts them. The domestic economy of the island was simplicity itself. The fashions of Paris did not affect the inhabitants; each dressed according to his own taste. Although there was no doctor, the people were all healthy, and the children were all beautiful. There were about forty-five souls on the island all told. The adults were mostly from the mainland of South America. One lady there, from Chile, who made a flying-jib for the Spray, taking her pay in tallow, would be called a bell at Newport. Blessed island of Juan Fernandez! Why Alexander Selkirk ever left you was more than I could make out.”

If such a place existed today, I would like to apply for citizenship right away.

 Slocum now sailed on to the Marquesas Islands the Samoa and Austria before crossing the channel to as he put it ‘give me chance to put foot on the shores of Tasmania, around which I had sailed years before’.

“in the snug place I left her in charge of three children, while I made journeys among the hills and rested my bones, for the coming voyage………….. My vessel was well taken care of. I never returned without finding that the decks had been washed and that one of the children, my nearest neighbour’s little girl from across the road was at the gangway attending to visitors, while the others, a brother and sister, sold marine curios such as were in the cargo, on “ship’s account.” They were a bright, cheerful crew, and people came a long way to hear them tell the story of the voyage, and of the monster of the deep “the captain had slain.” I had only to keep myself away to be a hero of the first water, and it suited me very well to do so and rusticate in the forests and among the streams.”

What comes over very well in this book is that old Slocum was a very resourceful man, he had been a sea captain in command of many ships, he came from a generation that if they did not have it or could not afford it, you made it, it matters not that it did not have the right label, it did the job and that is what mattered, that generation turning their hand to most anything. He was sailing at a time towards the end of Victoria’s reign, people would not travel much outside there own local community so were curious to see this strange American who was sailing around the world single-handed, how was that possible – when did he sleep? As word of his adventure spread before him, he was greeted wherever he went and people could not have done more for him. Ships at that time carried carpenters and sailmaker and his home-made patchwork sails, that he likened to Jacobs coat, was replaced by the generosity of a naval ship or on one occasion by an Australian yacht club. This is a rip-roaring tale of a different time in history. The bluewater sailors of today have sat-nav and autopilots, to aid them, Slocum had only his vast knowledge and sea time that served him well in fair and foul weather. I read this book many, many years ago and of course, hoped to emulate the great man, but as Joni Mitchell put it ‘Life got in my way’, I never left coastal waters in my boat and the only port outside the UK was France, but I have no regrets I am happy with my lot.

Stay safe

This morning the snow is in much better fettle here in St Andrews. We were talking (although more in jest that real seriousness) of having a snow ball fight on the lawn, here at City Park.

I took the opportunity, yesterday afternoon, between flurries of snow, to take the cold frame outside and sand it down, the power sander, made quick work of it.

Inside once more and time to break open the paint, why, oh why, did you let that daft laddie anywhere near paint. Thankfully he had enough sense to put a tarpaulin down on the floor before he started.

I knew it would look much better in a uniform colour, but alas the paint did nothing for my re-patterned shirt, but the white spats too my working boots, I don’t mind.

Just the lid to make, alas the straps of timber I need are screwed down to the patio (they were the base of the once glasshouse) and that is under snow at present.

Paint is like God, it transforms everything it comes into contact with.

I am re-reading ‘Sailing Alone Around the World’ by Captain Joshua Slocum. He was, in fact, the first man to circumnavigate the world single-handed. I just love the prose, from this truly great story teller.

“in the afternoon the ‘Spray’ came upon a large turtle asleep on the sea. He awoke with my harpoon through his neck if he woke at all. I had much difficulty in landing him on deck, which I finally accomplished by hooking the throat-halyard to one of his flippers, for he was about as heavy as my boat. I saw more turtles, and I rigged a barton ready with which to hoist them in; for I was obliged to lower the mainsail whenever the halyards were used for such purposes, and it was no small matter to hoist the large sail again. But the turtle steak was good. I found no fault with the cook, and it was the rule of the voyage that the cook, found no fault with me.”

Keep well.

There was a light covering of snow on the roof and garden when I opened the blinds first thing this morning. The skies were clear and we even had a brief spell of sunshine before the cloud rolled in.

It is Monday, and for Hamilton, that means laundry duties, then a quick dicht over the carpets with the Hover, before going off to Aldi. A bit of a trail in this weather but buying the same goods in Market Street, would cost me twice as much so when I need a big shop I make the journey, normally on my bike but not today, today it would shanks pony.

I wore my woolie poolie, under my anorak, it is hand knitted in double wool, blue in colour with a cable pattern, Irene, even in death, is still looking after me, keeping me warm in these cold days of winter.

20 years on.

2021 is an anniversary that few in the media will mark and the UK government will certainly not wish to celebrate or even acknowledge.

2021 – twenty years on and the death rate in Afghanistan still hovers around 10,000 per year. Once the sworn enemies of the West, the Taliban are now in negotiation with the government, yet the war drags on. Thousands of Afghan refugees from the conflict suffer abuse and humiliation all over the world.

20 years ago Jon Simpson (BBC foreign correspondent)

Rolled into Kabau on a tank, and the Taliban and its supporters fled. Yet 20 years on the Taliban controls large sections of the country and is involved in peace negotiations, Islamic State has grown as a force in Afghanistan, the US maintains a military presence there despite repeated promises that it will withdraw and most importantly the population lives in one of the most dangerous and poorest countries in the world, where many can only secure a living by cultivating heroin for sale in the West.

It is impossible to list here the balance sheet of the wars and occupation. But it is worth noting that over a million Iraquis are estimated to have died, millions have been displaced internally and externally as refugees. Islamic State was incubated in US and UK occupied Iraq and controlled parts of the country. Civil society was destroyed and Iraqis live in constant danger. According to Amnesty International, 1.55 million people remain internally displaced, and there are widespread human rights abuses.

The Chilcot report of 2021 found that Blair had lied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, yet I still see him doing the rounds of television studios, and chat shows, playing the part of a voice of authority on foreign policy matters, there is no accountability for his actions.

Both here and in the US regarding the crimes committed during the action in Iraq, are contestable to say the least. One of Donald Trump’s last acts as president was to pardon four Blackwater security guards who killed Iraqi civilians in a 2007 Baghdad massacre.

Here the British government has introduced legislation (the Overseas Operations Act) to limit prosecution for alleged war crimes.

The International Criminal court has said it will not continue to scrutinise cases of Alleged British war crimes in Iraq despite concerns and preliminary finding that they had taken place.

In reality, recent wars were not noble crusades against ‘fascism’ but brutal attempts at regime change. The superior firepower of both the US and the UK simply outgunned, and succeed in overthrowing existing governments. Alas, their imperialistic wars and occupation proved totally incapable of building the better societies they had promised. The opposite is true.

Endless continuing conflict, widespread displacement, human rights abuses and often very large nimbers of civilian casualties as well as refugees. Many societies will not recover from the consequences of being “SAVED” by the West for generations, if ever.

Sorry Sir, Not in my Name.

Stay safe.

Sunday did not improve, weather wise, still no point mopping around feeling sorry for ones self, find something useful to do Hamilton.

The young Lupin seedling are coming along fine, possibly too fine, they are already starting to look leggy. What we need is a cold frame to harden the little blighters off.

In, what was once the old kitchen, now a glory hole for bikes, trike, Christmas decorations …….. I found an old wooden box with a broken lid and a few other issues, but we are talking cold frame here not a piece of quality furnisher.

Now, since olden oldies are not all the great at working at ground level, it would be much better to have it at a workable height, and it just so happened that I had four legs left from the tables I retrieved from the brewery skip, I knew they would come in handy someday.

Here is the cobbled together cold frame, it will look better once sanded back and has a uniform coat of paint, and of course a wooden frame and perspex lid, and I may even have a pair of wheels I can screw onto the front pair of legs to make it easier to wheel around when full of plants and to wheel it into the old kitchen when not required.

I’m H-A-P-P-Y I’m H-A-P-P-Y……….

Stay safe.

No matter what you think of Andrew Neil, he is good at his job,

And if you are being interviewed by Neil (and his team of researchers) you better know your stuff, if you have any weakness Andrew Neil will exploit such weaknesses to the full, and use them against you. This was the case when Andrew Wilson was in the hot seat. As Matthew Wilson (ISP member) describes in a well-crafted piece in the i Scot magazine this month.

“Wilson’s defence of contradicting policies was a rotten wooden door and all Neil had to do was keep kicking before it collapsed”.

What was he talking about? Well, ‘The currency that Scotland intends to use after independence’ Andrew Wilson stuck to, and tried to defend the SNP’s line that they would use the pound in the interim until such times as Scotland set up its own currency.

Andrew Neil pounced, if you use the (English) pound then you can not join the EU after independent, which is true.

Going into this years elections saying vote for us, we promise you a referendum on Independence “inside the EU”. All this in the hope of scooping up disillusioned ‘no voters’ last time around, who wanted to remain in the EU.

This will be catastrophic for our chances of a majority vote for independence, unless of course, you can persuade people like Andrew Neil to sit this one out.

Just a thought Joanna (Cherry) the ISP could do with some really big hitters, why don’t you stand in North East Fife under the ISP banner in May, the only competition you will face, Wee Wullie Rennie, no contest, there. I for one would like to see you in the Holyrood parliament holding the SNP to promises made then kicked down the road, and you may like to sort out the (laughingly called) Alex Salmond inquiry, which is no inquiry at all, since it is not allowed to see crucial evidence, so a white wash, to save the arse of Nicola Sturgeon and her inner sanctum.

Matthew 23:26

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of impurity.…

I had an e-mail yesterday informing me that my nephew had died in a car accident.

It is difficult, I feel my brothers pain, but I have no words to ease that pain, time is the only healer they tell us, but that only dulls such pain, his pain will lasts a lifetime.

 Sunday.

It is still dark outside my window, yet it is after 8 am, the skies are laden and resting on top of rooftops that are themselves covered with a purring of snow, likewise the garden. I went out into the garden and patio to replenish the bird feeders and the wind although strong was, surprisingly not all that cold, or at least not as cold as I had expected it to be.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke.

I look around the world today and think of how true his words were then, as they are today. We as a species appear to be so selfish and self-centred that we are happy to see the world ‘self destruct’ so long as our end is served.

Wild fires rage, flooding on a scale never seen before, and I even read a report, the other day, that we could seen drought is Scotland this year, and it’s not even the first of April. What I find most worrying about all of this, is the platitudes that pours from world leaders.

Wars and famine go on in the background like media wallpaper, madmen straddle the world, free to rape and pillaging with impunity. Refugees in constant plight, seeking shelter, food and some respite from such evil men, and constant proxy wars perpetrated by the west as bad foreign policy, yet hardly command a column inch of ink or a by-line in the media. We prefer to put out blind eye to the telescope and pull up the drawbridge at the fist sign or a boat carrying a refugee to our shores.

Has the UN simply become just another. (very expensive) paper tiger, a talking shop, much like its predecessor The League of Nations, in its time. Where are the white helmeted warriors, that once would keep the peace around the world?

Never at anytime in the history of humanity have we amassed such armed forces around the world, we are told they are for our DEFENCE.

Maybe it is time for them to start defending us from, Mad warlords, from the ever-growing plastic pollution in our seas, I’m sure there is enough naval ships around the world to get the job done at sea, and enough boots on the ground to clean up the shores.

We see wild fires in Australia and America raging out of control, and watch on our televisions screens as exhausted fire fighters struggle in their task to contain the fires, why are they reluctant to send in the armed forces to defend their lands from such fires and floods. And rather than gas-guzzling army trucks, spend the money at home on hydrogen and electric powered transport.

Is it not before time that the DEFENSIVE forces became just that, or can patriotism only manifest itself a through bigger and better war machinery. Lets end this farce, stop spending the worlds natural wealth, on bigger and better weapons to defeat the bogeymen that the propaganda merchants conger up in order to perpetuate their evil war machine factories, and fill the pockets of the weapons traders, with taxpayers dollars. Wake up wake up time to spend our wealth on a vast army of peace keeping eco-warriors that will cleanse the world of such evil and such evil men.

Right on Q

I had stopped my scribbling to make myself a pot of tea, and when I returned from the kitchen the Andrew Marr Show had just ended and the ‘new’ Scotland Sunday Show that has replaced Scotland’s Sunday Politics was about to start, so I turned on the sound. I half-listened as Scotland’s Health Secretary, answered questions that should have been obvious to all by now.

Then came a waffling Defence Secretary (English, Westminster) that was asked about Scottish Independence. He of course gave us the same old chestnuts that they spilled out in the run-up to the 2014 referendum. Like the last independence referendum, when it comes down to the brass tacks of debate (lies and propaganda) it will all fall apart and the people of Scotland will again realise that their future lies with the broad shoulders of the Union. Patronising fool.

As for his views on the UK nuclear deterrent on the Clyde, yes it is OK to spend millions and millions of pounds on this obscene and obsolete weapon system, (well he is the defence secretary and possibly has lots and lots of shares in the companies at Barrow in Furness).

And what about all those benefit to Scotland, they are imminence, two hundred jobs dependent on the Trident base in Scotland, (although only around 80 jobs on the Clyde are directly dependent on the submarines being there), and the savings of billions, could they not create many more jobs in Scotland, that this Defence Secretaries wet dreams. Every time he opened his mouth and spouted the virtues off his nuclear submarines, I’m sure his erection grow ever bigger.

The line that when the facts come out in the run-up to a second referendum, (so we will be having one, is that what you are saying?) No of course not, it was heavily caveated by, we are in the middle of a pandemic so there should not be one.

And they wonder why Scotland in the last 20 poles have repeated “We want the right to chose how we are governed”. The lies of 2014 will not sway the people of Scotland this time around, we have educated ourselves to their dirty tricks, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

It rained and rained and then it rained, our weather is coming out of the east all the way from Russia, but alas without much love.

I do not believe that anyone can be in any doubt by now that the coronavirus pandemic could have been handled better, both here at home and worldwide. Now that we do have a vaccine programme up and running things may soon get better – but better for who?

Many have lost jobs, jobs that will never come back. Many now have mounting debt because they have not been able to go to work or have been working reduced hours from home, or self employed, or on zero hours contracts. Many (over one million) now find themselves in arrears with their fuel bills, according to the energy companies. They are responding by increasing (from the 1st of April) the coast of fuel to recoup their losses, an increase they say that is necessary, costumers will be asked for a further, £90.00 to 1,200.00 per annum.

As the vaccine roll-out picks up pace, already the Tory MPs are demanding that restrictions are lifted, and we all want that, but not at any cost.

I am not sure that this is not that ‘different way’ of doing government, that change that would have to happen, after this crisis was over. What happened to all the talk of a New Jerusalem?

Amos 8:5

…Hear this, you who trample the needy, who do away with the poor of the land, asking, “when will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? When will the Sabbath end, that we may market wheat? Let us reduce the ephah and increase the shekel; let us cheat with dishonest scales, Let us buy the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the chaff with the wheat!”…

With the Tories in charge at Westminster, nothing will ever change in Scotland and why Scotland needs independence now.

Today Friday 5th February 2021

Update on Peoples Action on Section 30

The Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood.

As we expected in this first round, the ruling of Lady Carmichael did not go in our favour. But neither was it a silver spike through the heart. It is a highly appealable judgement.

While she may have dismissed the case on the hypothetical, academic, premature, it is clearly done on a neutral basis, and indeed in keeping with other cases of this nature.

As I have said many times before – it is very unusual in this type of litigation to get an opinion in the outer house and it almost always ends up in the inner house.

I note that she rejected pleas 3, 6 and 7 of the Lord Advocate. Pleas 3 and 7 was the contention of the Lord Advocate that this case should have been brought by Judicial Review, and even if it had been brought by Judicial review, it would then have been incompetent. She repelled both of those suggestions. Meaning that our methodology in this case is the correct one.

The 6th plea in law was also repelled, namely that granting the declarators we asked for would have been “inconsistent with the constitutional structures established by the Scotland Act 1998. Again, thumbs up for the procedure.

So the Lord Advocates arguments have taken a serious bruising as well. So not all bad news.

It is interesting to note that in no less than two places in her opinion she mentions allegations of “unlawfulness” (141) and “unlawfulness or abuse of power” (25/2).

It is also interesting to note that there is no mention of the announcement of the 11 point plan from the SNP the day after the hearing, which for all intents and purposes rendered all of the pleas in law for the defenders, meaningless.

This means, that as a matter of course, it appears she believed she had no choice but to dismiss because she didn’t have all of the necessary information to move it from one column (hypothetical, premature, academic) to the other column (not hypothetical, not premature, not academic). This is purely a technical issue, which would not have been an issue if the Scottish Ministers had been more forthcoming in terms of the 11 point plan, lending weight to the fact that its release less than 24 hours was not done under the purest of intentions.

But Lady Carmichael cannot be held responsible for something which was not divulged to her. She can only opine on what she sees in front of her, and you will all recall that I have already raised the issue of the 11 point plan released a day after the hearings and whether the Lord Advocate of SGLD already knew about that plan before arguing at the hearings during the two previous days.

All-round one has done, is to show the public that the uncodified constitution of the UK is a bit like waving your open hand in front of your face. You can blur things in the short term, but eventually, you realise that there are still gaping holes that you can see daylight through it.

The Advocate General and Lord Advocate have done everything they can to blur the lines in this case but the gaping holes in the constitution are there for everyone to see, and now they are on public display.

The institutions of parliament which are supposed to represent the people are in fact deeply flawed when the electorate is deliberately blocked from trying to ask a reasonable question about their own constitutional future.

It was, for all intents and purposes a neutral ruling because she did not have available to her, all the information she required to rule, and from first glance the ruling is highly appealable, especially considering the release of the 11 point plan, conveniently delivered to the public after the hearings.

What we need now is a referral to a higher authority and that comes in the form of the inner house of the court of session, and as I told you before this was the expected next step – we’re in better shape than we thought we would be.

So, I’ve (Keatings) already instructed that process to commence and it’s off to the inner house, we go.

This is the reply to this ruling from Wings Over Scotland.

Keatings was opposed by an alliance of the Advocate General for Scotland (despite his title, a representative of the UK government) and the Lord Advocate OF Scotland, who is a minister in Nicola Sturgeon’s government.

It was, therefore, the Scottish Government, alongside the one in Westminster, who were opposing the court even attempting to establish whether Scotland has the right to determine its own constitutional future.

We don’t believe that’s what a million people voted SNP for in 2016, nor 1.2 million in the UK election just over a year ago. We believe the Scottish Government’s actions in the case have been a shameful dereliction of their promises to pursue Scotland’s right to choose. Indeed, worse than a mere dereliction – an active betrayal.

This is a matter that should have been an urgent priority for the First Minister from the day after the Brexit vote. It being clearly in the interests of the Scottish people – on both sides of the constitutional divide – to determine the legal position with clarity and certainty, it should have been a task undertaken with the full resources of government, not left to a member of the public funded by the grassroots Yes movement.

Instead, the supposed party of Scottish independence threw obstacle after obstacle (and no small amount of abuse) in Keatings’ path, gobbling up time and money that could have been better spent. Its courtroom alliance with the UK government against the independence movement is no less shaming than that of Labour and the Tories in the 2014 referendum.

Today’s decision was widely anticipated, and it’s unlikely to be the end of the matter. There will, we’re sure, be an appeal, and the whole argument will continue to consume both time and money long into the future, whereas if it had been started years ago by a government which had a crystal-clear electoral mandate to do so – as this site urged – it would have been long settled by now. Instead of which, the prospects of a second independence referendum have once more receded into the distance, almost certainly for a significant number of years. The Scottish Government have stabbed the people of Scotland in the back.

The man did not mince his words, but many that flocked to the SNP banner following the 2014 referendum must now be wondering – is Nicola Sturgeon taking the piss?

There are many within the SNP (including MPs and MSP) that are unhappy with the way the SNP party is run. This all seems to be happening at a bad time, the run-up to the May elections. Maybe it is not too late for those dissident to join with the SIP for it would only take a few big hitters to come over and a million or more voters I’m sure would rally to their flag and guarantee a pro-independence, majority at Holyrood after the May elections. Looks to me like the Yes campaigners have put too much trust in Nicola Sturgeon, who, if allowed to do so, will continue to kick the can down the road, Only when the SNP membership starts to desert the party will she resign. At this point, I would not rule out Boris giving her a Knighthood for services to the Union.   

Keep safe

Join Today

Thursday once more an outside my window it continues to rain although thankfully the wind has abated, and begin Thursday I have the fastest half-hour of my, day watching the Alex Salmon Show. Today was no exception we heard from Doctor Luke O’Neil of Dublin, and Dr Sir Harry Burns, he needs no introduction. Both men are plain speakers, they talk in plain language that even the layman has no problem understanding and with no axe to grind, no waffle.

Later that evening I watched a documentary, ‘Adrian Dunbar’s Ireland’. Adrian Dunbar had grown up in Ireland and like many at that time when old enough to leave, headed for London, where the streets were reputed to be paved with gold, I lived in Kilburn, where most of them ended up, and I can assure you the streets there are not paved with gold. In the documentary Adrian would show us his native lands, we started our journey at Mizen Head.

“If the wind does not take your breath away” he said “the views will”, I had to agree with him there.

The peninsula is almost an island cut off by a deep chasm and in order to service the signal station, The Mizen Bridge, was constructed

across the gap. We heard a lot about how the original bridge, built by the Victorians, who else, had suffered badly over the years from the saltwater that had corroded the steel reinforcing making the bridge unsafe, (I think it is called concrete cancer). The bridge was replaced by a new bridge, on much the same design, however in order to build the new bridge, they had to build a bridge over the top of the old bridge, so in reality, there were three bridges.

Being at one of the extreme points of the island of Ireland and situated on the transatlantic shipping lane this would have been the last, many Irishmen men women would have seen of their homeland as they sailed for the New World and they hoped a new and better life.

We then sailed off to the rocky outcrop and the monetary of Skellig Michael,

Where we visited the ruins of the old settlement, built in this most inhospitable rock. The monks lived in a series of cells constructed in drystone wall fashion, and beehive shape,

So well built are they that although they are no more than stones placed on top of stones, they are self-supporting and totally waterproof.

Access is via a steep path and steps, there are three sets of steps to their monastery so that it could be reached in all weathers, known as the East, South and North Steps, today only the South Steps are accessible by the public. (on the rare day that you will be able to land on the rocky outcrop).

The tree flights of steps start as rock-cut steps and are then constructed of dry-stone once they are out of reach of rough seas. The South and North Steps meet at what is called Christ’s Saddle, the only reasonably flat part of the island.

A ferry was required for our next destination the Aran Islands a small group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay on the west coast of Ireland. Here like many west coast islands in Scotland they use a native language of Irish but all 1.200 of the islanders are bilingual in both Irish and English. On first sight, it looked as if it was the place where the television series Father Ted was filmed, must look that up.

Little is known about the first people to inhabit the islands but it is believed they would have come in search of a safe haven. The islands are made up of Carboniferous Limestone, and do not have natural topsoil. Early settlers used the seaweed and sand from the shore and built drystone walls to protect the soil from the constant winds, that blow here.

Severn prehistoric stone forts are on the islands, Dun Aonghasa, on Inshore, is believed to date back to 1100 BC.

Enda of Aran founded the Killeany monastery in Inishmore, AD 490 that became the centre of learning. There to on Inishmore is a fifth-century church of Saint Brecan. And on Inisheer is the castle of Dun Formna built by O’Brien’s around the 14th century. The castle was destroyed by Cromwell’s soldiers and all but two of the churches established by Brecan.

Life on Aran would have been hard for the islanders. Gathering flotsam wood for fuel and building. Harvesting kelp was an important sideline, that would have raised money for the land rents. And if you have a knitter in the family then you will know that Aran is synonymous with the knitting skills of the womenfolk of the island, and the intricate decorative patterns of their sweaters.

Our final stop was Table Mountain, Benbulben, County Sligo.

A hangover from the ice age, it is a spectacular sight, rising from out of the flat land the surrounds it. I can not wait until we continue out travels next week, following the coastline of Ireland.

Begging the question, have we become blind to such beauty that is our green and blue home, that we seek to concrete, over it. Fill its seas with plastic and pollute the very atmosphere that sustains it?

Keep safe.

Thursday once more an outside my window it continues to rain although thankfully the wind has abated,

You can not live in Scotland, even in the isolation of lockdown, and fail to understand that big changes are taking place here. The way the pandemic has been handled in the Scottish NHS, so different from that of England NHS. Here we have a much more joined-up system of care literally from cradle too grave.

The pandemic has shone a bright light on the real problems in the Union of the kingdoms of the UK. Coronavirus has also shown that poverty and inadequate housing is still a big factor in trying to containing the spread of the virus, living cheek and jewel, makes it impossible to self isolate in any meaningful way. Poverty and low wages are making it harder, sometimes impossible, for people to obey the rule ‘go home and self isolate’. If two people take on a mortgage, based on two wages coming into the household, what does one, (or even both), do when told to self-isolate, fall behind with their payments possibly putting their home at risk, or stay schtum and risk going to work? Children at home make this a much more difficult decision. Although now clear for everyone to see, the poorest parts of the country having the highest and stubbornly high outbreaks of coronavirus. Years and years of Tory austerity, has now come home to haunt us.

And begin Thursday I have the fastest half-hour of my, day watching the Alex Salmon Show. Today was no exception we heard from Doctor Luke O’Neil of Dublin, and Dr Sir Harry Burns, who needs no introduction. Both men are plain speakers, they talk in plain language that even the layman has no problem understanding and with no axe to grind, no waffle. Listen in to hear clear clinical thinking on the coronavirus pandemic.

And just as clinical is the sharp mined and clear thinking of Lesley Riddoch in her Thursday’s column in The National. Her thinking, as ever, cut through all the crap we see and hear about Scottish Independence and cut right to the core of the problem,

“We urgently need a vision to hold beside the pessimistic pictures of indy that will roll in regularly between now and indyref2”

the last part of her input said it all for me and something I was very much in tune with, (speaking about the SNP government, she said),

“Forward motion is the solution. So, get on with it. Indy-supporting Scots will not forgive the leaders of the SNP – any of them – for failing to get their priorities right at the start of the momentous year, (Holyrood elections in May 2021). The answer doesn’t lie in the yet another take on the vexed gender identity row – it lies in doing what has not been done these long years.

Vigorous leadership on independence and active daily rebuttal of the stories knocking independence by the amply funded SNP”.

Then to me, she cut to the quick,

“If that is too hard, the management of the party needs an urgent refresh”. (at lot of us have been saying that for years now).

Personally, I believe that many Scots will hold their nose and vote SNP one more time, for they would appear to be, at this point in time, the only party capable of winning a majority (or at least being the biggest party at Holyrood) therefore the only party capable of offering the Scottish people something they have been crying out for, ever since the Brexit referendum, a referendum on independence. However, if this is the outcome of the next Holyrood elections then the SNP better put the plans for a second independence referendum into practice toot-sweet, for from that day forward they will be on borrowed time if Nicola tries to kick that can down the road, the SNP will be finished in Scotland.

Brexit has not only put the Westminster parliament on all the UK mainstream media it has attracted much more interest abroad, suddenly the EU matters. We heard little from the European media over Scottish Independence in 2014, certainly no one was taking Scotland part. That has all changed more so with the problems over the Irish border, and that Scotland once independent would wish to rejoin the EU (if not as a full member possibly EEA a halfway house). Professor Sit Tom Devine put it this way,

“Brexit was a ‘gift from the gods’ for the First Minister and the SNP”.

Christina Boyle of the L.A. Times reported on the widespread handling of the pandemic and told its readers that, of Brexit leading to Scottish Independence”.

And Michael Sturrock, the founder of ‘NoToYes’ website and has been a strong supporter of the Union, now tells us that,

“Brexit has been the fundamental turning point for me and for so many people”,

You are not wrong there Michael.

Sorry to be so political, but these are the time in which we now live.

Stay safe.

When I woke up this morning I was surprised at how much light was coming in through my bedroom window must have overslept, I thought. I padded off along the lobby and into the bathroom shaved, shower then padded on into the living room airing cupboard to find some clean clothes to wear. Looking up at the clock I was surprised to find it was still only 8.30 am the days are starting to draw out. On opening the blinds however it was still February. The weather outside my window was atrocious, high winds buffeting the trees and popping out for a paper, the rain driving along by the wind was cold as ice, another day off the bike. The weather has been so bad over the past days that I have hardly moved from the house, not even bothering to go along to the common room and onto the internet.

When I lived in Elie my sister lived next door, very handy, we would look after one another, go shopping together, to conferences and day or weekend trips together but still have our own space.

My sister was a knitter, I mean that seriously, you hardly ever seen her without a pair of knitting needles in her hand, along with a book, which she would read as she knitted. Our taste in books was quite similar, so if either read a book they thought the other would like we passed it on, normally it would be from Irene to me, she ate books at a phenomenal rate, I plodded.

I remember her coming in with Larsson’s book, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” this would have been around the late 1990s, I think you will like this she told me. I could not put it down.

Stieg Larsson

Two other Stieg Larsson books were to follow, “The Girl that Played with Fire” and “The Girl that Kicked the Hornets Nest” (Larsson died without seeing his work in print, he died in November 2004, after handing in his manuscripts).

At the weekend I had the mad urge to spring clean and started in the bedroom cupboard, there I found a large box and dragged it out. It was an odd collection of stuff I had put there when I cleared out my sister flat on her demise. Looking at it now, I wondered why I had kept such stuff, there was nothing of any value but must have meant something to me at the time. Amongst the odds and sods were the Larsson trilogy of books and three DVDs made later of the books.

That is as far as the spring cleaning went.

Like their fist reading I could not put them down, only stopping when my belly started to cry out,

“When are we going to eat?”

Or my eyes could no longer focus on the words. The clock has no meaning for me, I ate when I had to and went to bed when I could no longer concentrate on my reading. Now will come the withdrawal symptoms, no matter what I pick up it will seem dull and uninteresting after such a rip-roaring journey.

My ‘I Scot’ magazine dropped behind the door

I read the Dinwookie Interview of Aly Bain, of Shetland fiddling fame. I was surprised to hear that he never learned to read music. Back in the early days of Folk clubs around the UK, there was a twosome called the Corries,

T

They were very popular but never seemed to be seen on television until much later in their career. The reason for this was that they did not read music, so we’re unable to get into the Music Union, no union card no work on the BBC, unions were strong at that time. I wondered how many great artists were in this position in the 1950s and1860s? Strang how such thoughts are triggered.

I don’t intend to go back to my spring cleaning, as the Irish would say “The humour is off me now”.

Take care, you all.  

Woke up to a purring of snow in the garden and along the top of the wall but I think it has been too cold for real snow, I think I would rather have the cold weather.

When I went into the common room this morning, curiosity tempted me to have a wee peek at the seeds planted last week, and there were two or three wee shoots showing. No matter how often I see this I am always amazed when it happened. I look forward to planting-out in march, not far off now.

I was interesting that the English nationalistic rhetoric, over the past few days,

Note the flag is not the Union Jack but the St Georges Cross.

However, vaccine contracts have been toned down somewhat, Liz Truss the international trade sec. Was on Sky this morning and was back peddling good time, lots of talk about working together and no one is safe until everyone is safe, was it fullish for the EU to threaten to stop all exports from the EU if this trade war continued? OK the EU has been condemned by many and has taken a bit of flack, but it did have the desired effect, it had Boris hot-footing it to the phone and phone his opposite number in the EU trying to pour oil on troubled waters. And what came over very clearly was – the EU Philadelphia lawyers did a good job when they drafted the withdrawal agreement, don’t play hardball with us, we have a big bat.

I am not a big fan of Tony Blair, but he does talk some sense sometimes and this morning was one of those times. This virus is a big problem for the world and we have to learn from our mistakes. When the Test, Trace and Isolate, part of the programme failed the only solution to get the UK out of this mess was vaccination and that had to be done as quickly as possible. The UK as Blair pointed out, got their contactor signed around 10 to 12 weeks before the EU, (this came about because Germany did not wish to hog all of their vaccines but share it with all the countries of the EU). For the UK it was all about serving their end first, and the devil takes the hindmost.

Another point that Blair made was that we will see variants of this virus (mutations) so we will have to be much smarter (aware) when these viruses appear and have in place the labs to deal with that and the production in place to ramp up any new vaccine that may be required.

The problem I have in all of this is –

The UK government has poured billions of pounds into the development of COVID-19 vaccine, but no matter the money that was given to such companies to produce the vaccine, at warp speed, the patent for the vaccine still remains with the company producing the vaccine, they still hold control over, who gets it, how it is supplied and when (and why the big stushie the EU is having with the developers in the UK).

I find it much easier to get data from America than the UK, what the federal government has spent,

The fed has pledged $9 billion to fund the development and production of the vaccines with Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Novavax and AstraZeneca.

Moderna received nearly $1 billion and will receive an additional $1.5 billion to produce 100 million doses.

Johnson and Johnson received $456 million for vaccine research and development and will be paid $1 billion for 100 million doses.

Novavax will get $1,6 billion in federal funding for research, development, and 100 million doses.

AstraZeneca is set to receive $1.2 billion that will cover 300 million doses along with certain costs pertaining to phase 3 clinical trials and manufacturing.

The cost per dose ranges from $3 to $37 depending on the vaccine. Moderna, a two-dose vaccine, recently announced each dose will go for around $32 to $37.

Pfizer vaccine, also given in two doses, is expected to cast $19.50 a dose.

Johnson and Johnson’s two-dose vaccine will cost an estimated $10, and AstraZeneca’s two-dose vaccine could be the cheapest at just $3 to $4 a dose.

Novavax’s two-dose vaccine is estimated to be $16 a dose.

In America, they say no person will have to pay out of their own pocket for the vaccine, vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost.

So you still pay on the back-end, (taxes) but not upfront, as for the initial cost of development and production, sorry folks that will have to come from the taxpayer too.

The pharmaceutical companies will charge for the vaccine when they’re released, and we have seen how some companies (mainly the American companies) have a mark up of 80 per cent on the product. So how long before any poor third world country will be catered for, especially if we need to vaccinate every year, much like the flu vaccine?

Will we see a divided world, some countries band from travelling to others because they are too poor to buy the drugs needed to suppress the virus?

We have seen a rise in potentially deadly viruses across the world, but none has been so widespread as this pandemic is it not time therefore for a worldwide programme where the money is put in to develop the vaccine but the world then holds the patent rights, and the vaccine can quickly be reproduced by any country as and when required, rather than have the world held to ransom by half a dozen greedy pharmaceutical company?

Pre Brexit

It was interesting that during the negotiation between the UK and the EU over future trading after Brexit that the big stumbling block was standards. The EU wanted the UK to sign up to the same trading standards as the EU, they did not wish to have poor quality meat, Chlorine washed chicken, beef shot full of steroids ……….. to flood into the EU via the back door. Such meat was linked to cancer, was one reason, the other was a price war between high-quality meat, homegrown, and poor quality imports, a race to the bottom.

The UK said no. They were leaving the EU and wanted the right to trade in the world marketplace without restrictions, or at least that is how they were selling it here at home. A compromise was reached, any breach or EU rules and the UK would be dragged into court.

Post-Brexit

Since the UK left the EU, Scottish companies have found it difficult to import their goods into the EU, fish, for example, surprise, surprise. Making up only one per cent of the UK’s GDP, Scotland’s fishermen were always going to be sacrificed for the greater good of London.

I read the other day that the Department for International Trade was advising companies in the UK that are experiencing such difficulties to register their company in the EU. In other words a Flag of Convenience.

Flag of convenience is a business practise whereby a ship’s owner will register a merchant ship in a ship’s register of a country other than that of the ship’s owners, and the ship will fly the civil ensign of that country, (flag state).

Why would they do that? A ship registered in a forging country comes under the laws of the country of registration, so avoiding Admiralty Law and regulations that would apply in the owner’s own country, an example would be, stricter safety standards in the UK, than say Libya. The crew’s wages would be paid at the standard of the country of registration and not those negotiated by the Union in the UK, (cheap labour, a race to the bottom).

The term “flag of convenience” has been around since the 1950s and applies to a ship that does not have the nationality of residency requirement for ships registration is often described as an “Open Registry” Panama for example, giving the ship’s owner easier registration, (often online) and the ability to employ cheaper foreign labour, and the biggest bonus of all, the foreign owners pay no income taxes. Sadly, for Boris, that will only work with ships.

We now know that many of the City of London banks have opened branches in the EU, and how £6 billion worth of shares have now been transferred from the City banks to the EU, and Boris advising UK companies to do likewise to avoid any unnecessary red tape and tariffs. Is this the great Boris plan to “Make Britain Great Again”, or simply shooting yourself in the foot.

Scotland will suffer baldly from Brexit, their hard-won reputation for high-quality meat and fish will be no longer, when deals are done with America and cheep food starts to flood onto Asda shelves from Walmart (one and the same), Scottish beef, lamb and sea food will suffer no longer command top dollar in Europe and since most Scottish produce is traded through English companies, they will have to pay tariffs on goods into Europe, sales will disappear like mist from the hills, (the spin has always been that Scotland sells more into England than into the EU has been shown for what it was, more lies). The farming industries will go (lack of EU subsidies will be their demise). Fishermen will land in the EU countries (Ireland) not the UK harbours, so the loss of harbour landing duties and possessing work will follow the fishing boats to the EU harbours. Then will go the manufacturing industries, whose main market is Europe, they will not open a shop with a plaque on the door saying Reg. Co. they will simply move lock stock and barrel to the EU. Scotland will once more become a playground for rich foreign tourists, who will cart home their tartan shortbread tins and if Boris gets his way, stamped on the bottom with a Union Jack and the words “Made in the British Empire 2”. Knowing all this, why oh why are we going ‘cap in hand’ to England for permission to become an independent nation once more?

My mother had a saying

“The devil looks after his own”

I have no idea what guardian angel looks after Boris Johnston, but he certainly has one. Call it God’s will, call it lady luck, call it fate, or the devil looking after his own, it matters not but they are working hard on Boris Johnston’s behalf.

In one 24 hour period he has gone from the clown who presided over Brexit, the incompetent that presided over the pandemic, and the one who looks as if he would wear the accolade of the Prime Minister who presided over the break up of the United Kingdom.

Without any intervention on the part of Boris and purely decisions taken by others, he has gone for zero to hero, and to the victor the spoils.

When the pandemic finally made it all way to the UK we were ill-prepared, Boris was making it up on the hoof, throwing money at any number on the wheel in the hope of a win. As the death toll increased it looked as if his handling of the situation would be his demise, then lady luck took a hand.

Boris had thrown lots and lots of money at any company that might have been able to produce a vaccine, his gamble paid off, a UK company, although not the first, that did not matter, what mattered was Boris had paid upfront for the goods so controlled the supply, he had first shout.

But what really sealed his fate and handed him a ‘get out of jail free card’, was Germany. Germany had a vaccine but Germany was part of the EU, they could not hog all the vaccine for themselves, the bureaucratic machinery of the EU clunked into gear, and put the EU three months behind the rollout of the immunisation programme here in the UK. Oh the EU will catch up, but suddenly, hey we are all Brexiteers now, a nimble UK is better than a bureaucratic EU after all.

As for the pandemic, by the time of the next UK general elections, all will be forgiven, the death toll, could be as high as 150 thousand deaths, by then, it will matter not, after all, there was a global pandemic, outwith our control and could not have been predicted. Cygnus that was a lifetime ago, different times. No, the Tories saved us all from a fate worse than death, three cheers for Boris.

How will this play out in Scotland, I hear you cry. Well badly. The SNP have been wrong-footed once more. They pushed independence within Europe, seemed to make sense then since 60 per cent of people in Scotland voted to stay inside the EU, OK the fishermen voted to leave, but they have been sold down the river, changed days. We will go into the next Holyrood elections on a platform of,

Independence within the EU – oops.

We could have handled the pandemic better if we had been an independent nation – just look at such small independent country such as New Zeeland, oops.

Brexit will be a disaster for Scotland, oops.

One thing for sure, the May elections may not turn out the landslide expected for the SNP after all. They may still be the largest party at Holyrood but the Tories are not going to be wiped out as many predicted, possibly do much better than anyone forecast only a month or so back. Nicol as First Minister, no longer a foregone conclusion.

And even if the SNP, along with pro-independent parties, do win a majority, what can they really do? Aske Boris for section 30 to be transferred – not a hope, “now is not the time” we are in the middle of a pandemic and after that has passed, “now is not the time” high unemployment and a big debt for pay off, we need the broad shoulders of the UK.

The SNP along with their pro-independent palls pass legislation at Holyrood to hold a referendum anyway. Can that possibly work, they will only find themselves in court, and by the time the courts drag it out, Scotland will be run through the Scottish Office and not through the Holyrood parliament and we will be into the next general election and no one is predicting anything other than another five years of Tory government after that.

‘The parties over, the candles flicker and dim’…………….. the parties over, my friend.

(Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green Music by Jule Styne)

 So Boris came on a flying visit to Scotland today, the First Minister advised, it was inappropriate since we are in lockdown and should only travel if it is essential to do so. (but the law has never applied to Boris, even international law, that he was willing to ignore in his pursuit of Brexit).

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and the Shetlands, (a unionist) was less cordial, warning Boris to axe the trip unless he had “some real work to do”. Ouch!

I am not signed up to tweeter, but I’m told that Boris tweeted on the 25th Burns Birthday,

“Burns suppers are one of the highlights of the year and I’m sad that millions of Scots across the world won’t be able to come together to toast one of our finest poets. We will do so again but this Burns Night, please stay at home”.

Got that Boris, but have you?.

And Burns would have a message for Oor Boris,

Ah Boris thou art but a skellum,

a blethering, blustering drunken blellum.

Or mebbe

Ah, gentle dames it gars me greet,

To think how mony lengthen’d sage advice,

Boris frae Oor Nicola despise.

Or a verse almost penned with de Pfeffel Johnson in mind

Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,

Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that,

Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,

He’s but a coof for a’ that.

I say come up to Scotland as often as you like Boris, for you are about as welcome as a bad smell in a lift, and the best ‘Recruiting Sergeant’, we could wish for in the Scottish Independent Movement.

It was notable that he went nowhere near any Scottish fishing harbours, or stopped for a photo shoot with one of Rees-Moggs, ‘Happy British Fish’ this time around, Oor Boris is no that daft.

Jimmie Reid famously said

“The rat-race is for rats, not people”

Did you know that the 10 richest individuals could pay for enough Covid-19 vaccinations to immunise every person on the planet, yes, you read right, every person on this planet. And they could do it, not out of their total wealth but from the profits, they made during 2020 alone.

Jeff Bezos could have given every Amazon employee a $105,000 bonus with the money earned since March, according to Oxfam.

In December 2020, the total wealth of billionaires worldwide hit $11.95 trillion – equivalent to the recovery spending of all the G20 governments put together, according to the charity.

Is it not time to talk about a MAXIMUM wage and not a MINIMUM wage? For it is not about the cash but the power that cash welds.

My father was a great believer in cutting your suit to the cloth or living within ones mean’s something that has rubbed off on me. When I was still in my teens, I would droll after an Indian Chief, motorcycle, but when I came to buy my first motorcycle, it was a 350cc ex-WD Royal Enfield that cost me £7.10 shillings, I paid cash for my motorcycle, so cutting my suit to fit the cloth, meant I could afford to run it, making for a lot of happy motorcycling. Now retired I am on a fixed budget so back to living within my means, and I have to say very content with my lot.

When I lived in Edinburgh and worked at SAI in Leith docks, I worked a shift system and when on night shit, we would get a visit from our local police patrol officer, (good evening all), he would come in for a blether and a cup of tea at the canteen. Over the years we became friends.

You would be hard-pressed to meet a more generous honest man than Rick (Richard Mackay). One night he told me how, he and a fellow officer, were intending to make shampoo in their garage and sell it to, mostly commercial outlets, in large bottles. Shampoo at that time came in small ‘one wash’ sashes costing around 7 pence, not the big economy bottles we are accustomed to today. His friend would do the mixing in his garage and Rick would be the salesman. They purchased the chemicals and once the first batches were bottle up, Rick spent all his spare time building up a market for their product. Sadly when they seemed to be doing well and talking about quitting the police force, the partner ran off with every penny in the bank. Rick was just too trusting and honest.

I was heading along Princess Street one Saturday afternoon when I met Rick coming out of Binn’s,

“Boy do you look smart”

I commented on his dressed, he was wearing a well-tailored suit, when most men at that time wore casuals.

“I’m working”

he told me and over a coffee, at a nearby café he told me what had happened, and how he had become homesick for selling, so applied and secured a job with Bear Brand nylons.

“Sorry,” I told him “no sale, they are so uncomfortably when you have hairy legs like mine”

Once reacquainted the bonds of friendship continued, we would from time to time meet up with his wife for a meal. They say that behind every great man there is a great woman, she was the pushy one, although Rick was a hard worker.

One day he phoned and asked me to a party. It turned out it was a going-away party, he was leaving the Athens of the North for Gerrards Cross. It transpired that he had been Head Hunted by an Austrian company, that made high fashion clothes for the European market, (import tax made their goods to expensive to sell in the UK) here they wished to enter the leotard and tights market. The cloth would be produced in the UK, to their specification, and the garments manufactured by a company in Ireland. Rick was to be their Sales Manager for the whole of the UK.

We kept in touch and when his Christmas card arrived, a year or so later, not only did it have Christmas greetings but an invitation to coming down to Gerrards Cross for a holiday, we jumped at the opportunity and arranged to come down at the Fair Fortnight.

I had a tour of the warehouse at Slough and a dram from a bottle of 12-year-old malt, that came from a bottle in his well-stocked office bar. The man had moved up in the world, big time.

Even although he was clearly doing well, there were days when the Mercedes, would pull into the drive, Rick would enter, the door would slam shut, and wife and kids would scatter.

“Walter would you like to come into the den please?”.

Rick clearly had a bad day. Two large classes of 12-year-old malt would be pored and we would chow the fat until he unwound.

It was the middle Saturday of our stay, Rick said he was ferrying his son to a birthday party at the home of one of his school friends, did I want to come along for the ride? Yes, please, a sleek Mercedes was way above my pay grade, I was a Vauxhall man at the time. The house we ended up at belonged to a famous sports presenter at that time called Colman. The party was being held outside, and around a massive outdoor pool. After introducing me to the man himself, Rick made his excuses and went off to meet other he knew there, I suppose a businessman at that level are never off duty.

During my conversation with Colman, I found out that the pool was heated and that the weekly running cost was more than I paid each month for the rent on my two bed flat in Edinburgh.

I could never envy either of these men their wealth, for I would never want the lifestyle that went with it. The house on the right side of the track, (probable with a mortgage to match), the Mercedes and the heated swimming pool, whose running costs added up to more than an average month rent on an Edinburgh flat, in Gorgie. Everything comes at a price in this life, for that price is too high,

In the movie ‘High Society’, Frank Sinatra, sings the line,

“Who wants to be a millionaire?”

Liz Imbrie, replies

“I don’t”

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Today’s good news I have a date to go for my first coronavirus vaccination, Tuesday 11 Feb 2021, with a little luck I could be one of the survivors of this pandemic, a big OAP cheer – Hip, Hip, Replacement.

For a while, I stayed on ‘Gods Little Acre’ halfway up Stobo Hill in a house that had once been the barracks home of slate quarry workers during the period between 1660 until 1860. Homes roofed in Scottish slate are very distinctive, in their texture and random sizes, but more difficult to work with than good quality Welsh slate, therefore when the railways arrived in the 18 hundreds, the quarry’s producing such slate closed.

When the barracks was in service it was three-story in height, later reduced to two when the dilapidated building was taken over and converted into two dwellings. Living high up on Stobo Hill your were privileged to a commanding view of the valley below,

The old quarry, when I lived there, we had a pair of Praguian Falcons in residence. Looking down the valley, Tinto (a Donald), In the far distance.

a view to behold, and why I called it Gods Little Acre. Running along that valley floor was, what would have been the main road from Edinburgh to Carlisle and the south in those days.

Not only the stagecoach, but migrant labour would travel this road, as the season followed season, working their way up from the hop fields of Kent to the potato fields of Ayr and Aberdeenshire. Any large house they came across they would visit and ask for work, and if no work was forthcoming, then maybe you could spare a crust.

At a distance from the road Alter Stane quarry barracks must have looked like a good place to try one’s luck. However, having climbed all the way up to the quarry they would have been disappointed to find that the quarry workers, far from being able to offer a meal would have been in need of one themselves. And for this reason the house became known as ‘Cheat the Beggars’.

The track leading from the ‘B’ class road up to Cheats was just that, a track, so one thing you could be assured of, anyone venturing up there would be a good friend, not just passing. There was, of course, the exception to the rule, we did have a visit from the Jehovah Witnesses.

The house was so remote it was not uncommon for Brandy, (my young and very athletic Irish Setter), and I to return home from a day in the hills and find a full-blown party going on in my home, (I never locked the door, I can not even remember if the house had a key) first the noise of loud music assaulted your lugs then the smell of Whacky Baccy assaulted your nostrils, as soon as the door was opened, the isolation of Cheats and your ability to see the Polis coming up the track (not that they ever did), lent itself to some wild parties, (a very long time ago).

At the bottom of the track was a massive stone, carried there by a glazier, then deposited, when the ice melted at the end of the ice age.

During the Reformation in Scotland, Roman Catholicism, was outlawed, still, pockets of worshippers continued to practise the old faith. Priests would travel the length and breadth of the country conducting services and taking communion in secret. The places chosen would normally be in woods or isolated places. One such place was at this large stone left there by the melting ice, and to this day it is known as the Altar Stone or Stane and has given the adjacent farm its name.

Brandy, and I spent meanies a weekend walking the hills around the borders (the highest know as Donald’s), a typical day would be to travel down to Manor Head and climb over Dollar Law (817m) then on to Broad Law (840m) with its mast and beacon on top, then down the track, for refreshment at the Crook Inn, where a lift could normally be arrange, (sometimes it was best to drive the owner home, rather than the other way round) if not it would be a case of waving a naked leg at passing motorists, in the country, most people would stop for you.

I have not been down that way for many years but it is top of my list for when this pandemic is under control and restrictions are lifted. The Crook Inn

Licensed in 1604 the Crook Inn would have been a busy place in the days when the A701 was the main road from Edinburgh down to Moffat, first as a staging post for the stagecoach later the tour buses. What is amazing about this building, it escaped the renovation vandals of the 1960s, when great swathes of our architectural heritage were torn down and replaces with concrete monstrosities, that, thankfully, are themselves being torn down. Entering the door of the Crook Inn was just like entering the 1920s. You would not have been surprised to see Bogart, or Jean Harlow, having a cocktail or two in the lounge. However the men’s toilets was the place to visit, this was art deco personified, (I have not visited the female toilet so I can’t comment).

One other claim to fame that the Crook Inn held was when the Talla Reservoir, was being considered by the Edinburgh and District Water Trust the valley of the Talla Waters near to Tweedsmuir was a contender. The area has a high rainfall and if the land could be purchased from Sir Graham Graham-Montgomery it would be built there. A deal was done for £20,425, the water from the reservoir would be piped from here to Edinburgh.

Victoria House was the Headquarters at the time of the dams construction.

Being remote, moving large quantities of construction materials and men too and from the reservoir would be a problem. The Trust decided to construct a private railway for this purpose. The Peebles branch of the Caledonian Railway, ran west to East of Broughton and the Trust negotiated with the Caledonian Railway over a private branch line connection, this was agreed to in April 1895. the private railway runs along the valley for about eight miles from Broughton station. Broughton was where the puddle clay would be extracted for sealing the dam, but was later changed and imported from elsewhere, (I have no knowledge or why Broughton clay was not used).

You can still find parts of the old railway to walk and marvel at the solid construction of the railway bridges for a line that was only supposed to be temporary and look as good today as when they were first built.

The main contractor for the reservoir was James Young and Sons of Edinburgh and work on the railway was started on the 28th September 1895. Crafty old James Young bought a 50 per cent share in the Crook Inn and built a halt there. It was reputed that he paid his men on Friday and had it all back by Monday.

The area around Upper Tweeddale is brilliant for cycling and walking, and if you care to do the study, you will find many old drove roads that will get you across the hills without too much of an effort. A very light folding bike that could be strapped onto your hill sack would add to the pleasure of exploring this beautiful part of the country.

Must-Visit Places

Peebles,

The Crook Inn, Via Dawyck Botanic Gardens,

Talla Reservoir,

Megget Reservoir,

Tabbie Shiels Inn,

St Mary’s Loch,

Traquair House Innerleithen, St Ronan’s Well

Then back into Peebles to complete the circuit. Apart from the steep hill from Talla Linnfoots to Meggethead, there is nothing very serious to climb. Although the 8.5 miles (B709) from Mountbenger to Innerleithen is a bit of a pull. You could of course do it in reverse.

Keep safe and those pedals turning.

The BBC ran a piece on television, asking young students how they were coping with lockdown and how being out of schools and colleges was affecting their schoolwork and mental well-being.

The first to speak, more or less, summed up the attitude of the others, questioning why the coronavirus vaccine was being given to the elderly first,

“They have had their life” she told us, “it is our turn now”.

Looks as if the Tory party will never be short of recruits going forward. ‘I’m all right Jack’ – ‘do unto others, before they do unto you’ – ‘so long as the buck stops here’………….. Selfish and self-centred, is this the attitude we are installing in our children?   

But we old farts will soldier on, always traveling hopefully. 

I had to ask myself – “Does the SNP really want another independence referendum?”

The SNP are saying that they intend to put a “Draft” bill forward in March. They will then campaign on a promise to put that bill to the chamber of Holyrood if they are elected.

Did they learn nothing from the continuity “Draft” bill fiasco? This will leave the bill on public display, and within minutes of it being made public, the UK Governments legal teams will set to work finding ways to undermine the bill through laws passed at Westminster.

Or they could of course simply wait until the SNP put the bill to the floor after the 2021 elections, then put down their challenge in court to the bill competency. Whilst it is in dispute, it can not gain royal assent.

So now we have the Scottish government and Westminster government slugging it out in court, (at taxpayers expense), and all this time what do you think the Tories will be doing, at Westminster, sitting with their thumb up their bum?

NO of course not, they will pass legislation, or modify existing legislation to take provisions of the indyref bill out of the competence of Holyrood. That is a no brainer.

How do we know this? Well! This is exactly what happened with the continuity bill. While the Scottish Government was fighting the UK Government in court, Westminster modified an act of parliament to make certain provisions of the continuity bill out of the hands of Holyrood, the court was then forced to rule against the continuity bill because of the law changes at Westminster gaining royal assent.

Now Nicola Sturgeon is no mug, so why is she action now as if stupidity was a virtue? Begging the question “Do the SNP really want another independence referendum”, or are they simply hoping to get themselves into office for a further 5 years by trying to hoodwink us all into believing they have a watertight “Plan B”.

Sorry hen, I’m no buying it.

Rome around the streets of St Andrews. The morning air was cold but the sun was out and the wind light.

As I passed the bus station the shuttle bus for Dundee was coming out of the station, these buses, as the name implies, run on a 10 minute circuit. The X buses, all three, ready to roll out for Glasgow and Edinburgh – begging the question WHY?

We are in lockdown, told not to leave our homes (unless necessary) key workers, shopping, exercise, and diffidently not joy riding on buses.

Coronavirus is a respirator virus and that is why it is so lethal, but so is breathing in diesel and petrol fumes, and why it cost the NHS millions every year trying to treat the damage, mostly to young lungs. Therefore you would thing a sensible thing to do, if given the opportunity, would to stop all public transport, at least, during lockdown.

I am sure that Stagecoach is not a charity running these buses at their own expense, they will be getting big handouts form the government. I would have thought a better use of that money would have been to use it to decommission these old, and not very un-green, buses and buy Hydrogen or Electric buses. Or is it me?

SNP unveils plan to hold indyref2 – even if Boris Johnson refuses a referendum. This was the headlines on the newsstand in supermarket on Saturday.

For some time now, here in Scotland, we have seen the pressure building for a referendum on Scotland future within the grassroots movement. Today it would seem the lid has truly blown off the pressure cooker and at last, the SNP have come to understand that Nicola Sturgeon, strapping on her size 10 boots and kicking the can down the road for a further 5 years can only be likened to that which she accusing Boris off, not sustainable.

I urge all voters to think very carefully about the up and coming May election and how they will cast their votes, and I believe the List Vote is crucial to our success, or failure, in gaining independence. Voting SNP – SNP did not stop the Tories and Unionists parties from taking their well worn seats at Holyrood, their guaranteed seat, even if the voters reject them at the ballot box. I am also concerned that should the SNP win an outright majority we will get another dictatorship, as we have at Westminster. The SNP have brought forward many controversial polices that will come into force simply because they are the largest party and has a majority. We have never had a proper opposition, Opposing for the sake of it (it’s an SNP policy) is no opposition, all MSP at Holyrood needs to be work for the people of Scotland, not the Kindergarten politics we see at First Minister’s Questions, neither do we want the rubber stamping of Westminster policies, that would come with a Unionist majority.

So I say, yes, vote SNP on your constituency vote, (even if you have to hold your nose to do so) to be assured of a pro-independence parliament. But vote for a pro-independence party in opposition on your list vote. Holyrood needs a strong opposition to hold the SNP to account, and I for one would prefer that to be pro-independent.

Think – Independence for Scotland Party (ISP) or Green. Ultimately it’s your choice, but you better make it wisely this time around. For our time has run out, Boris is coming to get you if you get it wrong.

PS

After my blog, giving my assessment of the way the government has handled the pandemic, I was told in no uncertain manner that the government had a difficult balancing job to do, trying to deal with the pandemic and keep the economy afloat – Sorry no, what the government was trying to do was ride two horses at the same time.

During the Second World War, you were told (not advised) to put up blackouts, and the air raid warden had the authority to enforce that rule, (not, it is up to you to follow out advice, or). Gas masks were issued to ever one in the country, again you were told, keep them with you at all time, and the rules were again enforced.

When you are fighting a deadly threat, there is only one course of action you should take in destroying that enemy, use every weapon in your arsenal, a war is fought regardless of the collateral damage to the economy. And the shorter you can make that war, the less collateral damage you will do to your economy, its that simple.

I bought myself a Brook saddle,

Because Brook they are the best,

I was told this by a lad with Retro emblazon on vest,

He said if I oil it and beat it,

With a rolling pin,

It will feel soft as velvet,

Much like a babies skin,

So I oiled it and beat it,

With a rolling pin,

Sadly the saddled still feels more like tin,

And why I swamped it for the rolling pin.

Just a bit of fun, keep well.

.

I don’t believe anyone can look back over, this last year, living with coronavirus, and the way in which the UK government has handled it and say anything other than, it has been an unmitigated disaster. Sadly the other nations of the Union were talked into a centralised (from Westminster) the approach so they ended up making all the same mistakes too.

This Boris Johnston government has presided over 100 thousand deaths in this country from coronavirus, yet this morning the national media are only interested in turning him into some sort of hero, because he was one of the first that Biden telephoned.

Without going into great detail we have ended up with thousands dead, hundreds in intensive care, a virus out of control and our economy trashed, I don’t think anyone could have done worse than Boris, if they tried.

The virus was being successfully suppressed, until they started ‘Two meals for One meals’, pubs being alowed to open and reducing the two-meter rule to accommodate their opening, allowed people to fly off to Spain on holiday and return to spread the virus amounts the ones that stayed home. Not surprisingly the numbers soured

Back in lockdown, and the numbers again started to flatten, so they lifted the restrictions again at Christmas, against all medical and scientific advice, I hasten to add. Guess What? A second, or is it the third wave of the virus spreading. Now the silver bullet seems to be, get everyone at least one jab of the vaccine and suppress the virus down to where they had it last summer. But, and there is always a but.

The first batches to arrive had to be kept at very low temperatures, once opened they could not be put back in the deep freeze so you had to have at least 150 people, standing in line, ready to go when you opened the package. So no good for care homes or doctors surgeries.

The next vaccine was approved and it is more flexible however like everything connected with the governments handling of this pandemic, they had months to get themselves ready for mass vaccination but, not surprisingly, are only now making preparations, for mass immunisation.

Why, oh, why, did they leave it to an already overstretched NHS when they have one of the biggest armed forces in the world with, doctors, medical staff and all their logistics to hand. If they had handed it over to the combined armed forces, not only would it have cost the country not one penny more, but they could have set up mass immunisation centres, toot sweet. A tent, in the local park will do me so long as I get my jab.

So we will all have a jab by, well sometime towards the end of this year, however will that make such a big difference, going back to life as we once knew it?

The government is saying, 12 weeks between the two jabs, to get more people at least some sort of immunity, the doctors and scientists are saying 6 weeks.

This is still a new vaccine and scientists are now asking what degree of immunity will it give us? Some are telling us it could mean an annual jab, some say that we could still catch the virus in the upper airways, so show no systems, but could pass it on, will we have to wear face masks as the norm for some time to come?

What will be the new normal?

Our high streets certainly will never look the same again, people have found online shopping convenient and often cheaper than the High Street stores with their high rates and taxes, What will that do to the Council coffers?

What will happen to all the shop assistants, shopfitters, window dressers……… Universal Credits, anyone.

Flying off on package holidays to Europe, will this still be possible? Well as the EU told May, –

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”

There will be no immunity to any pandemic until there is full immunity when every corner of the world is immunised, a big ask.

So what will happen to all those aircraft that are now parked up at airports across the world and the people who serviced them flew then and looked after their passengers? Universal Credits, anyone?

They tell us that people will return to taking their holidays at home, I remember the 1960 the miles and miles of traffic to get to the seaside, do we really want to return to that? (although there is a Bill before the Westminster parliament, that will end a right to statutory holidays, well, at least Boris is planning for the future)  

And lots and lots of cars on our roads will mean lots and lots of exhaust pollution, global warming will take a big hit if the 1960s were ever to return, and of course it was cardboard and paper bags that littered the roadside then now we have plastic.

Working from home, people like it and bosses too, they do not have to pay for expensive office space, the good news there will be plenty of space for squatters in the empty high rise office blocks.

The governments are talking about ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ I don’t see it, and I’m a born optimist. Maybe I have my telescope to the wrong eye?

Although still early (and dark) the day is shaping up to be another day on my bike. Although it is very cold out, I do have a cupboard full of clothing to combat the cold. Clear skies and little wind, and when it decides to rise we should get the sunshine. All these great gifts along with clear roads, because of the lockdown, with only empty buses to contend with. What’s not to like.

Have we gone completely mad?

They’re a cultural trope that have been used to symbolise the proverbial ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’. But it appears the three wise monkeys have been cancelled after academics at the University of York decided they are an oppressive racial stereotype

How stupid has all this become, they are ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ for goodness sake.

The two-day hearing before Lady Carmichael, People’s Action on Section 30, ended yesterday, the good Lady has indicated that she will issue her written judgment within days not weeks. However, if the judgment goes against the People, Martin Keatings, promises to Appeal to the Supreme Court.

However If the UK lose they will be obliged to Appeal to the Supreme Court. They will do so, not as an appeal, no they will appeal to give them time to send a little note along to their Unelected Friends in the other place, asking them to change the law that will fill in any loop-hole to stop the action in its tracks.

We in Scotland already know the score. When the Scottish government challenged, the UK government and won, Westminster dirty tricks department went into overdrive, they used the time to pass legislation through the Lords to kill the challenge. This is what happened when you do not have a written constitution, Westminster simply invokes its’ Henry eight powers.

In The Bourne Identity, Mat Damon (Jason Bourne) whilst sitting in a mini in Paris and just before the white knuckle ride through the city, tells Franka Potent (his accomplice, on this rip-roaring adventure, by that master of such adventures Robert Ludlum),

You think I’m trying to burn you here – I’m only trying to do the right thing.

She, with a degree from the University of Hard Knocks, answers – No one does the right thing,

You got that right hen.

“To your bicycles”

“I can’t my mum won’t let me”

“How old is your mum?”

“21”

“Bring your mum too – to your bicycles”

Hamilton’s in one of his daft moods again, keep well and those pedals turning.

Today was a better day for cycling and I really needed to be out. I travelled down the B9131 to Anstruther, there was an early sign of springtime in the morning air as I made my way along the coast and up the A917 from Crail. It was a little cold but we (the royal we) were well wrapped up. Today I enjoyed immensely, I only wish I could have done this run on my tricycle, but I think those days have passed.

Oh, and yes the empty buses are still running to a regular time table.

I have always loved movies, and would normally be scouring the charity shops of DVD. Although many of the films I like to watch are now shown on television, but I prefer to watch movies without adverts.

I now have a fair collection of DVDs and I am happy to watch the same ones over and over again, for good moves will always be good movies.

Selecting DVDs is easy you just pick your favourite actors or actresses, no matter the genera. There are some actors and actresses that just command the screen, they dominate the movie no matter their part, In the early, nineteen sixties, the one that stands out for me was,

Sidney Poitier

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Poitier family lived in the Bahamas, when still a British colony, however, Sidney was born in Miami on February 20, 1927, while the family were there for a weekend giving him American citizenship, returning to America, from his childhood home in the Bahamas aged 15 and then New York a year later.

When Poitier first came to America he joined the American Negro Theater, but was not a hit with audiences, he did not act as a Negro actor was supposed to act. His tone-deafness made him unable to sing but he was determined to be an actor and spend many hours casting off his Bahamian accent and months refining his acting skills. This gave him the opportunity to play in the Broadway production Lysistrata, although the play itself was a flop, from his performance he received an invitation to understudy for Anna Lucasta. His big break into films came in 1955 in the Blackboard Jungle.

I was first attracted to Poitier, in A Raisin in the Sun, (1961) then came Lilies of the Field (1963), and Patch of Blue (1965). The following year was for me his best year, To Sir, with Love, (in that we would see and hear Lulu for the first time) and who could ever forget, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, even playing alongside two of the top stars of their day, he shone. And in The Heat of the Night, all brilliant performances, and all helping to turn him into a box- office star. The rest, as they say, is history.

In more recent times another actor has filled my library of DVDs, he would be Denzel Washington.

He burst onto the screen in 1980. I missed all his early acting career and it was not until 1989 when he played Steve Biko, and anti-apartheid activist in the Richard Attenborough – directed drama Cry Freedom, I was hooked. Then followed the slave-turned-soldier in the Civil War movie Glory in 1989, a chain of successes followed in that decade and in 1992 he played the civil rights character in Malcolm X. and the list goes on. I watched again Man on Fire the other night, when he played the tough as hell, burnt-out ex CIA operative John Creasy, as a thriller, they don’t come much better than this, brilliant cast, brilliant acting, and brilliant story-line.

And last but not least, Morgan Freeman.

Acting alongside Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption

Born June 1st 1939, in Memphis, Tennessee, Freeman has played in a range of film genres and his distinguishable deep voice lends itself well in his many narrator rolls.

Freeman from a young age acted in school plays, then went on to study theatre art in Los Angeles and appeared in stage productions in his early career. His break came in 1970 in children’s television The Electric Company, and in movies in the film Street Smart 1987, playing a hustler that earned him a best supporting actor. For me, the movies that stand out are Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. The western Unforgiving in 1992 starring alongside Clint Eastwood. And again starring with a Clint Eastwood’s sports drama Million Dollar Baby in 2004. then Nelson Mandela in Eastwood’s Invictus in 2009.

However, for me, the greatest screen moment came acting alongside Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption. He is before the parole board for the third time in the film, having served 30 years of a life sentence. He is asked if he believes he has been ‘Rehabilitated’ his answer is possibly the best acting you are likely to see.

Now let me see, rehabilitated, I’m not sure I know what that means …………. Oh, I know what you believe it means, but to me, it’s just a made-up word so that a young man like yourself can wear a suit and have a job……………… to me it’s just a bullshit word. What do you really want to know, I’m I sorry for what I’ve done? (well are you?) Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could go back and speak to that stupid kid and tell him the truth, but I can’t, that kid is long gone all that is left is this old man – so go on stamping your cards sonny and stop waiting my time for, to tell the truth, I don’t give a shit.

Maybe not the exact words, but for me an unforgettable delivery by any actor before or since.

Keep well and keep those pedals turning.

 The only way to explain the weather today is shitty, I don’t think the bike will be going anywhere today.

The hopes of many around the world fall on these slim shoulders, but I believe they will carry that weight, history in the making.

The inauguration, all the pomp and ceremony are over, not so much about welcoming a new president, but telling Trump “You lost”. Biden is much more of a diplomat than Trump so he will choose words more carefully, but behind the scenes it will be business as usual, nothing really changes,

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

And as Trump leaves office, we hear of more pardons for crooks, however Julian Assange, remains in Belmarsh Prison, so what’s new?

We can only hope for quieter times ahead, and of course see if Boris gets that big (oven ready) trade deal with America, Pitel is trying to make all the right noises and they have handed over $10 billion for aircraft, that always helps grease the wheels of commerce and focus minds on the Hill, anyway, it is a distraction from the coronavirus and Brexit fiasco, (no it has not gone away ask the Scottish fishermen) still as Lord Snooty told them in the Commons,

“The fish are happier now that they are English” (Sorry that should have been British, but since Rees Mogg, does not distinguish one from the other it matters not).

Sorry I should not start writing before I have my first cup of tea, Aaaaahhhhh, that’s better.

I was up too late to catch the early edition of the Alex Salmond Show, but it is good new for today we go to the Court of Session for the first day of a two-day hearing, the People’s Action on Section 30.

It would take a brave person to predict the outcome, but that is of little consequence, this is all about the people of Scotland telling the Westminster establishment, that this action is all about, all countries have a right to self-determination without exception.

Martin Keatings, who brought the action on behalf of the Scottish people, paid for through crowdfunding, from 10,000 supporters giving a total of £230.000 to the coffers. Crowdfunding is still open, by the way, for more maybe needed if we have to go to the UK Supreme Court.

Keatings is already the darling of the independent moment, a win will see him carried shoulder high into the Scottish Parliament as an MSP in May. I also think it will send a strong message to Oor Nicola that we need a commitment in the SNP manifesto to holding a second independent referendum (regardless) of Boris Johnson, refusal to give his consent. I understand her wishing to secure an agreement that can not be challenged either here at home or internationally, but the time has passed for expecting a velvet divorce. Make the wrong choice Nicola and all those independent-minded people that keep you in power will march on to independence without you.

The Greens I’m sure will not have missed an open goal, they will pick up many voters from people now disillusioned with Nicola’s stance, and the Greens unwavering commitment for independence.

Labours new leader would be wise to at least agree to hold a referendum, even if they would support, “No” to Scotland becoming independent. If they do not, then they will see their party wiped out in the Holyrood parliament as we have seen them wiped out at Westminster if they think the list vote will keep them in Holyrood after May, that could be a big mistake. With ISP in the frame, Labour die-hard voters (that will never vote SNP) may just be prepared to give their second vote to the ISP.

The New ISP (hoping to Hover up the List votes, if they can get their message out in time) this could change the dynamics in the new Scottish parliament, a staunch pro-independence party holding the balance of power.

Sadly coronavirus has stopped supporters coming out onto the streets. Stopped door knocking stopped the street stalls, so getting any kind of message out will be difficult, more so with something as complicated as the List voting system and how voting for the SNP on both papers hands votes to the Tory Party in Scotland, as it was set up to do.

May is just around the corner, and Scotland is in flux, the excitement is already building, we even see the BBC excepting they have to say something on the subject since 19 polls in a row have shown support for a referendum on independence.

As for the Tories, Osborne tells Boris, “Just keep saying No!” if you want to save the Union. Aye right.

Oh! for all those that can travel by bus (under the coronavirus restrictions) there are plenty of empty buses on the roads today.

They’re only words – and words are what we use – when we have sod all to say.  

Keep well.  

 It was a dreich drizzly morning so it was a ‘caped up’ ride out. I chose my tricycle since I would not be going far, over to Leuchars and back, very little traffic, the odd builder’s van, and I never saw one bus, maybe they have finally got the message. Home shower breakfast then Aldi for shopping, that was my morning.

Yesterday, I finished the book Crimes and Arnold, in the past I have read books about their cycling feats, and much about their End to End marathon, but it is quite a record and I really did enjoy re-reading about the end to end.

I loved many or the humorous stories and cuttings from the pages of a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! This was an American franchise, founded by Robert Ripley. It would tell stories of strange and wonderful claims, that were had to believe. Like the Dalmatian, owned by the South Portland (Mane) Fire Department, that travelled alone to market each day and selected his own dog food. Or the Mangue tribe that lived in the Belgian Congo that did not build their own homes but hollowed out huge ant hills. Then we had John F Arnold rode 457.33 miles in 24 hours on a tricycle in 1953, and Albert Crimes rod from Lands End, (England) to John O’ Groats, (Scotland) a distance of 872 miles in 2 days, 12 hours, and 37 minutes on a tricycle. Na’ a don’t believe that.

Between its pages, names would pop up of cyclist that I had rod alongside when out on my Wednesday (my day off) runs in the Dales of Yorkshire. One name, in particular, triggered some great memories from that time, Brian Robinson.

Brian was eight years old when the Second World War broke out, they had moved to Mirfield from Ravensthorpe in 1943. Both his parents now worked for the war effort making parts for Halifax bombers, his mother Milly by day his father Henry on nights. Like most families at that time, they grew what they could in their gardens to supplement the wartime rationing, some like the Robinson’s had a small allotment.

Bikes were the everyday transport for many at that time cycling too and from work, young Brian at the age of 13 joined the Huddersfield Road Club and a year later (the minimum age) became a member. He was following in the wheel tracks of his father and older brother Des, who were already members.

Although a keen cyclist and showed talent for cycling from an early age, his father would not allow Brian to race until he reached the age of 18 years. Brian trained early morning, before the start of the working day, and in the evening after work. Sutton Park in Birmingham was a frequent venue for races, however they had to end by 9.30 allowing the public to use the park.

In 1948 Brian went to Windsor Great Park to watch the Olympic Games road race that was held in the part that year, such was his talent as a rider he himself would ride in the Olympic Games in Helsinki four years later.

His talents had not gone unnoticed back home either, 5th in the National Cyclists’ Union massed-start. 3rd in the Road Time Trials Council hill- climb championships in 1950. equal 7th in the Isle of Man International, 10th in the NCU massed-start Championship and second in the RTC Hill-climb. By 1952 he was fourth in the NCU race, won the hill-climb championship, and was 5th in the Isle of Man International.

1952 National Service (Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry)

Brian rode the Route de France, an amateur version of the Tour de Frances, in a joint NCU/Army team. He rode well and was lying 5th with three days to go, a poor showing in the Pyrenees saw him slip to 40th. In the August of that year, he represented GB in the Helsinki Olympic Games road race and finished 27th to Andre’ Noyelle of Belgium and a future Tour winner Jacques Anquetil. Brian would race against Jacques Anquetil again in the World Cycling Championship in Italy in September 1952 where they tied for eighth place. He was now riding in lustres company and gaining international experience and notoriety.

On leaving the forces in 1952, he joined Ellis Briggs (a cycle shop in Shipley Yorkshire, and the same shop that Ken Russell was a salesman with and winner of the 1952 Tour of Britain, you can read my blow by blow account elsewhere on my site). Brian finished 4th that year, and the following year 1954 finished in 2nd place.

Most of this I already knew before meeting Brian formally, from the extensive library, in the Otley cycle club, of which I was a member.

However it was on those Wednesday runs in the Dales when we would meet up at cafes or on the road and ride together that I really got to know the man, and his tales about the Tour de France.

Their small team raced in Franc, the Netherlands and Belgium in preparation for the big event. Brian was 8th in Paris Nice, 4th in La Fleche, Wallonne and led the tour of the Six Provinces to the Sixth state. The final team was a mixed bag of Hercules riders and those from other sponsors. The Tour de France proved to be a tough race and only Robinson and Tony Hoar finished, Robinson 29th Hoar Lantern Rouge. However they were the first Britons to finish the Tour, 18 years after Charles Holland and Bill Burl were the first Britons in the race in 1938.

it was 1958 before Brian make history again by winning stage seven of the Tour de France, to Brest. It was Arigo Padovan who crossed the line first, but was relegated to second for his tactics in the hot sprint. Brian recalled that race and told me, when he rod the Tour in 1958 he was determined to win a stage outright without any dispute over the result. As soon as the days racing was over he was straight into massage room, fed and watered then rested for the following days race, no hanging around chatting, he was taking this very seriously indeed. Brian won the 20th stage of the Tour de France from Annecy to Chalon-sur-Saone by a full 20 minute, no dispute this time.

He had given his all to win the coveted prize and paid the price the following day. He and his Irish teammate Seamus Elliott, found themselves trailing far behind the field, outside the time limit. It looked as if both men would be sent home but the team manager, Sauveur Ducazeaux, insisted the judges apply a rule that no rider in the first ten could be eliminated, Brian had started the day in 9th it was Seamus Elliott only who was sent home. Brian finished the 1958 Tour de France in 19th place having at one time been in 9th place. Still a great achievement.

Louise (Brian’s daughter) became a cyclo-cross rider, taking a silver medal at the 2000 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. Two of Brian’s grandchildren are also competitive racing cyclists: Jake Womersley competing in cyclo-cross and road racing, Becky Womersley in road racing.

I heard in 2014 (long after I had left Yorkshire and returned home to Scotland) that Brian was knocked off his bike in a collision with a car in Thornhill Lees, it was a pretty serious accident. And in the 2017 New Years Honours he was awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to cycling and his charity work.

The circles I have moved in, you wouldn’t believe.

Stay safe.

Seems I sometimes open my mouth and let my belly rumble, fact-checking it would seem is not one of my strong points, (laziness is no good unless it is encouraged). I said in one of my blogs that Doris Day looked wooden in the dance routines in the film ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, for which I was taken to task. It was pointed out to me that Doris Day would have done the background on Ruth Etting, and would have known that she was, as she had admitted to her piano player, not a dancer but a singer, therefore if she had danced across the stage like Ginger Rodgers it would not have been a true representation of the singer (not a dancer) Ruth Etting, point taken.

They also pointed out that in the movie Calamity Jane, Doris did the number ‘Just come in from the windy city’ and she did a good job dancing around in the bar, point taken.

So I thought I would check, and what would you know? Doris developed an early interest in dance, and in the mid-1930s formed a dance duo with Jerry Doherty that performed locally in Cincinnati. A car accident on October 13, 1937 injured her right leg and curtailed her prospects as a professional dancer.

So in a sense, we were both right. I think this is what I miss most during a lockdown, we don’t have these communications face to face.

 But if you want any more you must read it yourself.

The post arrived this morning and presented me with a heavy package, I opened it to find a copy of ‘Crimes and Arnold’ the story of two great racing cyclists, friends and rivals. As soon as I opened the pages and started to read, the world stopped for me.

Now hours later with my eyes coming together and my stomach making all sorts of growling noises, I have put it down, at least for a little while. I will print the first chapter of the book, (I’m sure the TA (Tricycle Association) will not mind me breaching their copywriting to do so), for each and everyone who ever straddled a bicycle will wish to be told this remarkable story.

Chapter One

A sunny and warm morning around 10.30 am on Sunday 20th June was a moment in time and space witnessed by those gathered at Ollerton roundabout on the A614 in Nottinghamshire, when unbeknown to them, the path of one’s future and two current great champions were about to cross. After winning the World Race Championship in 1965, Tom Simpson recalled that morning in June 1954 as one of the formative moments of his early years. Tom said that he was sixteen at the time and out cycling with some club-mates from the Harworty District Wheelers.

“We came across a dozen or so club chaps standing around an island near Ollerton. Thinking it might be a road race we stopped and asked what event it was. They said they were marshalling a record attempt by Crimes and Arnold on a tandem tricycle and that they were due any minute now. We waited in expectation to see a pair of old codgers ambling along about 15 mph. Instead, we saw two real athletes approaching at 25s on three wheels, taking the wide island on only two and leaning out like sidecar passengers, flattening out and tearing off down the road. That is one of my most thrilling memories of British cycling sport.”

Then at the peak of their powers, Albert Crimes and John Arnold were in the process of breaking by a handsome margin, the Road Records Association and Northern Road Records Association 50 and 100 miles record covering the 50 miles in 1h. 49m. 50S then continued on to complete the 100 miles in 3h. 46m. 30s. At an average speed of 27miles per hour. This was just one of an amazing sequence of record times and some like Land’s End to John O’ Groats tandem tricycle record broken in 1954, still stand today despite numerous attempts to better them.

These record rides were on an immense scale; achieved despite the challenges of racing tricycles as speed day and night Racing for 10 miles, racing on for 10 and 12 hours, 20 and 24 hours, 30 and 40 hours and 50 hours, when the riders had nearly realised their ambition. Oh yes and then they continued for a further 10 hours to complete 1000 miles in the fastest time ever on any form of pedal cycle. Albert endured debilitating bouts of severe stomach cramp and sickness. It was so bad at one point that termination of the attempt was seriously considered.

Crew Wheelers club-mates Chris Thorley, who worked in the same office as Albert remembered that after the ‘End to End’ Albert, told his fellow workers how his toenails had dropped off; they all sat with their mouths wide open in astonishment. Another colleague, Gordon Tatton, recounted the times when Albert came into work “having competed an endurance event and he would struggle to straighten his fingers as he had been gripping the handlebars for hours on end’

John suffered from a very painful condition in his feet and ankles, later diagnosed as a form of gout that made even walking difficult!

The mental and physical strength of these men!

In an era of continuing petrol and food shortages following WW11, and long before mobile phones, computers, digital navigation aids, and camper vans, club men and women willingly played a considerable part in John and Albert’s successes. Communication was through letters and eventually, telephones. This is the story of those two great athletes and their exploits; the high point and the low points. Self-belief and strength of character enabled them to overcome often seemingly insuperable difficulties. Humility and their almost unbelievable capacity for speed and endurance endeared them to club cyclists all over the country.

Did that wet your whistle

this is not a book for everyone, if you are not into cycle racing or have an interest in racing and record-breaking, then you may find it boring to extraction.

In every walk of life, you will find men and women that will suffer unbelievable pain and suffering for their sport or to achieve their goal, and you may wonder why they would do that. I listened to Shirley MacLaine in an interview on the Parkinson Show. She was telling us how ballet dancing was her life, from a young girl it was all she cared about at the detriment of everything else in her life. She said that one day she was warming up in the wings before going on stage, she fell, got up and danced the part all the way through with a broken ankle, only discovering it was broken when she came off and the pain hit her. She was off for three months and in plaster while it mended. She said she did not feel the pain, so immersed was she in her dancing, and added that she could now understand how soldiers that were wounded could simply ignore their wounds and carry on.

Although I never did anything close to the achievements of Crimes and Arnold, I did suffer sickness when I first started long Audax rides, spewing like a fountain and could not hold anything down. You simply had to keep going for it was further to go back then forward to your car, where you could put your head down for a while and recover enough, for what was normally, a long drive home.     

 I was out on Sunday for a short run over to Cupar, I could not believe how quiet the roads were, then again we are all supposed to be staying at home. I don’t know how kids are coping with that, I know I would go crazy if I were to stay indoors all day. So no matter the weather I try to get out for at least a couple of hours.

The afternoon was spent watching old movies, today it was ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, a film made way back in 1955, starring Doris Day and James Cagney.

It has always amazed me how songs and incidents that happened when I was just a boy, and I’m sure, were given little credence at that time, are so vivid now. I feel I have had such songs running around in my head all this time. Maybe they were just that good.

The film, a biographical musical drama telling the life story of Ruth Etting, a singer who rose to fame in the 1920s to become America’s sweetheart. The film is pretty much a true reflection of her real life.

Ruth Etting was born on the 23rd November 1896, in David City, Nebraska, USA. She died at the age of 81 on the 24th September 1978. in Colorado Springs, Colorado USA.

As a young girl growing up in Nebraska she wanted to become an artist, always sketching and drawing and at the age of 16, her grandparents sent her off to art school in Chicago. Etting found a part-time job in the Marigold Gardens nightclub, and while there she gave up on art classes in favour of a career in show business. Etting, quickly became a featured vocalist at the club, although she had no formal training she had loved to sing in school and church. Her manager at that time was Moe Snyder, whom she later married in 1922, and as her manager, he was successful in arranged radio appearances, recording and film contracts, she even appeared at the Flo Ziegfeld’s Follies in 1927. Etting retired from performing in 1935.

Her marriage to Snyder was a torrid affair, he was overpowering and dominant, the marriage ended in divorce in 1937. Etting later began a relationship with Harry Myrl Alderman, her pianist, but not until after he had separated from his wife.

Snyder hated the idea of his former wife in the company of other men, to the point of making threatening telephone calls to her. It all came to a head in October 1938, when Snyder travelled to Los Angeles and detained Alderman at gunpoint as he left a local radio station, forcing him to take him to the home of his Ex-wife. Snyder, told Alderman he intended to kill him, Etting and his own daughter, Edith, who worked for Etting at that time. Snyder did shot Alderman and three days after the shooting, Alderman’s wife filed a suit against Etting for alienation of affections. (there is always an ambulance-chasing lawyer to be found in America).

Alderman and Etting were married in Mexico, during the time of Moe Snyder’s trial, in December 1938 for attempted murder. Desperate to escape the limelight the couple relocated to a farm outside Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Originally Spencer Tracy was pencilled in to play Snyder, Tracy turned it down, and Ava Gardner or Jane Russell, in the Etting role.

Spencer Tracy was right to turn this down, and Cagney was the better choice, he plays the gangster to perfection, and a well deserved Oscar. I can not see Ava Gardner of Jane Russell (at that stage in their careers) in the role of Etting either, they could never come over as the put upon wife of the Gimp. I have always liked Doris Day as a singer, but she looks a bit wooden in the dance department, she does not have the flow like a trained dancer would on stage, I am not saying that Doris can’t dance but watch someone like, the great Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Hepburn or Julie Andrews, and you will see what I mean, dancers have a lightness, balance of movement that sets them apart. (although later when she starred alongside Howard Keel in Calamity Jane, she had learned a thing or two) As Denzel Washington (playing the CIA operative John Creasy) in the film Man on Fire, asks

“There’s trained and untrained, which one are you?”

Second thoughts,

 Seems I sometimes open my mouth and let my belly rumble, fact checking it would seem is not one of my strong points. I said in one of my blogs that Doris Day looked wooden in the dance routines in the film ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, (purely on observation) for which I was taken to task. It was pointed out to me that Doris Day would have done the background on Ruth Etting, and would have known that she was, as she had admitted to her piano player, not a dancer but a singer, therefore if she had danced across the stage like Ginger Rodgers it would not have been a true representation of the singer Ruth Etting, point taken.

They also pointed out that in the movie Calamity Jane, Doris did the number ‘Just come in from the windy city’ and she did not such bad a job dancing around the bar, point taken.

So I thought I would check, and what would you know? Doris developed an early interest in dance, and in the mid-1930s formed a dance duo with Jerry Doherty that performed locally in Cincinnati. A car accident on October 13, 1937 injured her right leg and curtailed her prospects as a professional dancer.

So in a sense, we were both right. I think this is what I miss most during a lockdown, we don’t have that face to face communication.

I do have a double CD of the real Ruth Etting, performing some of those great songs she sang way back in the swinging 20s, when she was at the top of her game, many of them later used on the soundtrack of the 1955 film “Love me or leave me”. But their voices were totally different, Ruth Etting has a much richer smokey voice. If I had to choose one song from the movie would be “Ten cents a dance” but there were so many great songs in the movie it would be a hard choice. 

 Pleasant enough out for the time of year, although the wind is picking up a bit. Had some shopping to do, so I chose my tric, just because it is fun to ride.

We have a flat screen information board in the library.

Today it was reminding us, what we are allowed to do during coronavirus restrictions and what we must not do. Included in the ‘must not do’ list was travel on public transport, ‘unless for legitimate reasons’ such as going to work.

What I found amusing, if it were not for the seriousness of it all, the split screen had a running list of the bus and train time table.

Why, oh why, are we still, running a full bus and train time table during a virtual lockdown? They are burning up fuel (and polluting the atmosphere at the same time) wearing out buses, trains, rolling stock, tracks, roads and costing Mr, and Mrs, taxpayer a fortune, all to run empty buses and trains, up and down, around, and around the country. Surely we can do better than this.

Surely by now, we know how many key workers require public transport to get them to their work, and at what times. Begging the question would it not be cheaper to send a taxi. How many people depend on the bus to get them to the supermarket? Would a minibus not be sufficient. and why a term minute shuttle service to Dundee?

The pandemic has been going on for months now and restrictions are likely to last into late summer-early-autumn, dependent on supply, eighteen months of running empty trains and buses around the country, that makes a lot of sense. And now it has been leaked (and the Tories are incandescent about it, being leaked) We, here in Scotland, are being short-changed on what was promised. It would appear that the company supplying the vaccine are private companies and if other countries are offering better prices, (the rule of supply and demand apply), why not supply them first, that’s the Thatcher way, free enterprise, what’s not to like?         

 I awoke at around 7 O’clock in the morning, it was not quite light, the bed was warm and cosy, I thought what’s the point in getting up, there is nothing to get up for?

“Oh no, you don’t, my lad, you are not getting away with that kind of attitude, get yourself up and out of that bed and be thankful for this day that you have been gifted”.

I have days like that when I have to give myself a good talking too.

So it was up and under the shower dressed and an hour later I was out on my bike and onto the quiet roads and then the cycle path for Guardbridge. Contractors were cutting down some saplings near to the cycle path, possibly to stop the roots from growing under the path and breaking up the surface. So I had to stop while the cutting was going on and of course a wee blether.

I only saw one other lad out on a bike, I have seen him around the area a lot so we nodded as we passed each other in opposite directions. As I neared Guardbridge I saw the riding school and stables, maybe they would give us some manure for our garden? I could get a couple of bags in my trailer.

I was greeted by a rather loud barking dog as I propped my bike against the fence, put on my mask and did the hand gel bit, but once inside and he was offered the back of my hand to sniff, he turned into a big softy.

The riding school was very busy, then is that not always the way with animals, mucking out feeding and exercise, down on the farm you don’t work 9 till 5.

I went over to the lad that looked most likely to be in charge, he looked like a farmer John, never out of work clothes. Now the secret of good buying, selling, or scrounging for that matter, is not to broach the subject right away, you do the dance. So I started by asking about the stables and how many horses they had around the place? People are always willing to talk about themselves and their work. Then I did the old soldier act, (I’m Walter and live in sheltered housing). Not surprisingly he knew City Park and he had a friend who also lived in sheltered housing in St. Andrews, this was going well. So by the time I did get around to asking for some manure for our garden, he was relaxed about my presence on his property, no problem. In fact, I was given all sorts of advice about how I should make an area where a trailer load of manure could be dumped and allowed to rot, this would produce really good manure. He then went on to tell me how his friend had used such material when planting his potatoes and he had never seen potatoes so big, (I think the type of seed may have had something to do with that), but I said, “really!”

Somehow the conversation went around and around form apprenticeship days, £3.00 a week then, to playing in a band. I found out, that for 22 years he had been a drummer in a band. I told him that when I lived in Edinburgh a lad Derrick Miller, you may have heard of him? was a drummer, he lived over the landing from me. I reminisced about Derricks and how when they started up their first ban, his dad had stood guarantee for the HP on their van and equipment, and how if the band had failed his dad would have been in the debtors’ prison for life.

We laugh at that for he had known how true it was, and how many dads did likewise for their children at that time. Now it may have only been around 5 miles out to the stables from my home here in St Andrews, but it had taken me the best part of the morning, there and back. Now was that not worth getting out of bed for?     

 Today (Saturday) was a bit special, I was up early and by habit switched on the television before making my way into the kitchen and put on the kettle. On my return the opera La Traviata was showing on Sly Art. This time it was a departure form the La Traviata were have come to expect, it was a modern adaptation from the Festspielhaus in Baden, Baden, Germany. What a delight, but why at 6 am on a Saturday morning, 7 or 8 pm in the evening would be a much better time to screen an opera.

8-30 am, I went off into town for the morning paper. It was a cutting, cold wind that greeted me along Market Street. The streets were busy with young students, no social distancing in evidence and only the warring of masks when in shops, will people ever get the message.

Home breakfast and a quick flick through the paper, don’t no why I bothered, nothing new to read in the papers. Time to tackle the roses, they were possibly planted at the time the building was built and a hatchet job of pruning, carried out each time they started to look a bit scruffy. Then again they are contract gardeners, and as such you will only get what you pay for. I spent some time doing my best, cutting back all the old dead wood, and trying to reinvigorate what remained, time will tell if I was successful in my endeavours.

Late morning and the wind had disappeared and the sun felt really hot on my back, time to get the bike out. I did a circuit of the Neuk of Fife. The A 917 to Kingsbarns and Crail the North Sea was very placed. From Crail a run along the estuary of the Forth, this is a wonderful run all the way into Anstruther. I stopped for a while down at the harbour, before taking the road (the B9131) once more, for home.

Out of the shower and with my bum firmly planted in the fireside chair the tiredness hit me, it had already been a long day. Still, afternoon television, there must be a film on this afternoon that I can sleep through.

It has been a good day, and free from all the troubles of the world, at least for a while.

Sunday arrived, bright and early, I had sat up till the early hours watching Apocalypses Now, “Don’t get out of the boat, too right”. This is possibly one of the best, modern anti-war films ever made, and far to close to reality for most Americans.

No sunshine today but a nice enough day all the same. Guardbridge, Tay Post, Newport Wormit St Michaels, Leuchars and home. It was an easy leisurely ride on almost empty roads, most enjoyable.

On my return, I made a meal of making dinner, today could not be rushed, it was the first day of spring, or was it the last day of winter? In America, they call it the day of the slow moon.

Planted the Sweet Pea seeds that had been socking overnight, what on earth will I do with 50 sweet pea plants that grow to 8 feet tall, I may have to build a goalpost and sting it like a tent for them to climb up. The original idea was for them to grow up a dead hedge but there will be too many for that. We’ll think of something.

It had been another good day, and in the twilight years, each one a precious gift.

Keep well.