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Hope Over Fear

I read this in iScot magazine and was so blown away with The Indy Lawyer, Eva Comrie speech at George square Glasgow on the 19th September 2021. Hitting the nail on the head, in one constellation she said all that I have been trying to put over these last years, and I’m sure she speaks for many here in Scotland. I just had to type it out and print it here. I’m sure I am not infringing on any copyright and getting myself sued by an Indy layer, then again you can not take the breeks off a highland man.

Glasgow and I first became acquainted in December 1969, as I, a wee teuchter from Crieff, heather hinging oot ma ears arrived full of home to meet Santa and see the Christmas lights.

Mind-boggling sights greeted me – long- hair hippies in afghan coats, teddy boys we DA’s and brothel creepers country and western fans, buskers, made-up women in miniskirts, backcombed hair and leopard skin jackets. A whole, different exacting world, of folk who worked yeaning to get on in life, hoping for better days.

Another momentous event took place in December 1969 – Amoco struck oil in Scottish waters – and that Hogmanay I recall hiding behind the couch in our home as my parents’ friends, men with sideburns and Brylcreem, their wives on Babycham shouting like Lulu and Cilla, they all sang Flower of Scotland, dreaming of Stetsons, skyscrapers, sequins and success. Oil has brought them hope, for themselves and for their bairns.

But those folk in Glasgow and on my caravan site didn’t all live the rest of their lives in a land of plenty – for there was no oil fund for them- Scotland wisnae Dallas of Dubai, hadnae a Statoil or a Stavanger – instead unfurled the 3 day week, winters of discontent, the Falklands war, the miners’ strike, the riches of the North sea bankrolled ta development of London, Thatcher’s Britain, a series of illegal wars and the abomination on the Clyde.

And today in 2021 you can sit on your oil rig in the North Sea and look ashore to food banks. And school uniform banks. And baby banks. And soup kitchens. And welfare funds. In Scottish townsfolk who are skint get their cookers and fridges repossessed and this energy-rich country has rising gas and electricity bills and no national energy company. After 22 years of devolution at least 30% of our Scots folk live in poverty.

And half a century after the heroic efforts of Jimmy Reid, Jimmy Airlie, Sammy Gilmore and UCS, we’ve a /Scottish government awarding shipbuilding contracts to foreign lands – Jimmy would be birlin and wondering who the rats after all are.  

The ghosts of those Glaswegian, my neighbours of 1969, and their compatriots are watching us now; their bones created this nation and comprise its soul; other Scots whose ashes are scattered to the four corners of the planet helped to build this world. Some of those emigrants left in fear but many departed in hope of finding the promised land. We weren’ae aye too wee, too poor, too stupid or too feart!

In Scotland 2021, no national bank, no national house building company, only beginning to look at a national care service but our education and health services are faltering for lack of visionary, lack of leader prepared to harness with a sense of urgency the collective efforts of those who seek to create a modern independent Scotland.

We’ve nurses doing extra shifts to make ends meet

We’ve care home workers taking on home careering, home helping and cleaning jobs to try to pay their way, their rent.

The working poor!

Single adults scrimp because their wages are insultingly low and bills unnecessarily high.

So, what’s tit to be Scotland? Will thousands of our people continue to cringe in embarrassment shuffling up a food bank queue looking at the ground trying to become invisible reduced to charitable handouts of pot noodles, pasta, tinned tomatoes, nappies, and baby milk?

We’ve lost Bathgate and Linwood, Methil, Singer, Timex, steel, textile, the woollen industry is decimated.

But Scotland’s economy is on the upward trend, with 4.7% growth in the last quarter; that tells us that our country’s problems are we need a government with better different priorities. Because by dint of birth or happenstance we are not all created equal, and we need a government that will seek to deliver equality by eradication the greatest driver of inequality is poverty.

And we need that autonomous government of our own, with all the economic levers of power, today, now, not in 2 years of 5 years or after yet another mandate and dangled carrot.

The ghosts of John Maclean, Matt McGinn, jimmy Reid, Mary Bargbour, Margo MacDonald, the men and women of those shipyards, jeans factories, woollen mills, mines and pits, steel fabrication yards, do you think they’re telling you to haud yer wheesht and hold for another few years, watch more of yer neighbours hunger, bairns fail as billions are poured into bombs and wars and PPE for cronies, tax breaks for the richest and loopholes for wastrels, spivs and tyrants. For a gravy train of Scots getting comfy in Westminster who needs reminding daily that it’s not their job to settle down but to settle up – now.

We can’t guarantee what our future as an independent country will look like, but we know what we have now, hunger, austerity, right-wing plans for authoritarian rule, Trident and its’ successor.

So, my relationship with Glasgow reached its pinnacle on the 17th September 2014 when we danced and sang in this very square full of hope that on the following day we’d see the end of Westminster’s grip on Scotland, their hold on our oil and all of our resources would expire, we nearly did it then because we weren’t feart. Let’s ensure that by this time next year 2022 we’re celebrating the restoration of our country’s freedom; an end to hunger, want, unnecessary waste of hope; new dawn when we take our futures back into our own hands, release the might of this country, cherish the dreams and achieve the potential of our greatest untapped resource, Scotland’s people.

Stay safe

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Two Jabs Later

It has been a funny old start to the weekend and no mistake. It really started at twenty minutes to eight o’clock on Thursday evening when I turned up at the Health Centre in St Andrews, to find that most of my neighbours were already there, all sitting along the corridors awaiting their turn for the flu and COVID booster jab. Not a problem, we are old hands at this now.

On Friday I awoke with a bit of stiffness in my left shoulder, much like it had taken a hard punch, so all was well.

I needed milk and bread and a few other bits and pieces so would make my run short this morning and because it would be short, I put a bit of effort into it. Out to Guardbridge, climb up to Strathkinness, but by the top of the hill I was not feeling well at all, I cut the run even shorter by heading back into St Andrews and home. By the time I had covered the few miles back home, I was feeling like shit. Breakfast and a large pot of tea helped a lot, but time to rest up. I picked up my copy of iScot that had just arrived, and started to read the next thing I knew I was wakening up three hours later, still in the chair with the magazine on the floor beside me, but feeling much better.

This morning I did a bit of light housework, then the shopping, and later, if I feel up to it, I will do a bit of gardening, tidying up required.

The shortening light has triggered the Chrysanthemums into flower, not a great show yet, but I will winter the stools indoors and plant them out again in the spring, for a better show next autumn, (gardeners always the optimist) and of course take cuttings, you can not have too many Chrysanthemums in your garden.     

Keep safe.  

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“How the Pandemic Ruined Britain’s Health and Wealth.

I have started reading Blinded by Corona by John Ashton, it should be read by every person having a vote in the next General Election so that they can make an informed choice about who they wish to govern them, I do not believe they will wish to choose either the Tories under Boris Johnston or the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon, both have failed us miserably, according to John Ashton. 

The Black Death or bubonic plague are well documented, the epidemic spread quickly from overcrowded parish to overcrowded parish. The wealthy fled to country properties taking the infection with them to smaller towns and rural areas, Eyam, in Derbyshire amongst them where 80% of the villagers died.  When the plague was diagnosed in a household, the inhabitants were sealed in, they either died or got better, quarantined. People walked down the middle of the road to stay away from houses, social distancing. They were told to scrub themselves and their clothing in carbolic disinfectant and paint the internal walls of their homes with lime wash, an antiseptic. We knew all this and had known it for a century or more. Yet when COVID-19 arrived in Europe, it seems we had learned nothing.

An epidemic was long predicted, and long overdue.  There was even a week-long exercise involving all the emergency services to see how they would cope if an epidemic, such as the Spanish Flu, were to occur again in this country again. The conclusion of the exercise was that the NHS would fail, and thousands would die. A little over a decade later that prediction became a reality COVID-19 arrived in the UK.

It was not as if we did not have adequate warning of how devastating this virus could be we had months as it spread west, first Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central Europe, finally to our shores. Still, the government dithered. We saw the first cases in York, none in Scotland at that point, but still we did not have any contingency in place and we kept our borders wide open.

As the need for hospital beds increased, the bed blockers (the elderly) were moved out and into care homes, no matter that they tested positive to COVID-19, with the inevitable consequences. Whilst other countries were isolating people that tested positive in specially set up centres, we sent them home to self-isolate, to in fact spread the virus amongst their family and friends, well; we are British and have civil rights. These are the sort of legal arguments that should have come in the wake of the report written at the end of the exercise that said that the NHS would collapse under an epidemic scenario.   

Even when social distancing was a legal obligation, I saw crowded streets in St Andrews, people shoulder to shoulder, no face masks, they were still only obligatory if going into shops, although staffs in shops, at first, were exempt. The whole thing was so poorly managed you had to ask yourself, “Is anyone in charge here?”

John starts us off with a history lesson, the word plagues has provenance dating back to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament of the bible. It was applied to catastrophic events including a population being overwhelmed by frogs, lice, boils and locusts to force the Pharaoh into allowing the Israelites to escape from slavery.

Leviticus, in the Old Testament, was the great book of the law. One of those laws was that you were not allowed to eat the meat of fallen stock that is an animal that has died from “Natural” causes. However, there was nothing stopping them from selling that meat in the next village. Yet here we are thousands of years on (and much the wiser) recycling meet of animals into animal feedstuffs, the cause of BSE in the UK in and around 1986.

In May 1997 along came, Hong Kong Bird flu, by December of that year the cross-species infection from fowl to human was confirmed with over 30 cases and four deaths. The Medical Officer of Health for Hong Kong, Margaret Chan, took the decision to have the entire Hong Kong poultry flock of over one million birds slaughtered. This prompt action ended the emergency but was an indication of what was coming over the next few years. The next respiratory virus with the apparent potential to cause a pandemic was SAR-CoV-19 in 2002; the outbreak caused 800 deaths from 8,000 cases in 37 countries until it petered out in July 2003.

When Ebola emerged in April 2014 in West Africa, a highly contagious virus with a mortality rate of at least 50% there was little interest in researching the virus or exploring the possibilities of developing a vaccine when financial returns to pharmaceutical companies would be so unlikely.  Likewise, with HIV/AIDS, it was only when infections began to occur among people from the developed countries that the rest of the world paid attention and even here it was slow off the mark.

John puts much of this “Slow to act” down to the overreaction of WHO to Swine flu in 2009. And the millennium bug, where millions were spent in prevention, that turned out not to be necessary. A waste of taxpayer’s money they cried.

New York September 11, 2001, changed all that. The fear of what our fellow humans might do raised public health as a key security objective. Up until this time the planning in the UK for such threats had been predominantly the province of the military and special intelligent agencies together with the police.

In the UK England abolished the Health Education Authority and replaced it with Health Protection Agency. This brought together the Public Health Laboratory Service and the national and regional laboratories along with the top-secret biological and chemical weapons laboratories in Porton Down. This was to prove critical in the 2018 Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

All Tracy Daskiewicz, the Wiltshire Director of Public health, knew was that two people collapsed on a bench for no apparent reason. She immediately understood the public health implications of the unspecified risk and set about contact tracing anyone near the couple, despite the incredulity of the police, and to establish a web of containment. This soon included sealing off Salisbury (Against strong business opposition) until the nature of the pathogen was established. After Novichok was identified at Porton down, it became clear that her prompt decisions on the ground had saved hundreds from death and disability. He goes on to tell how many changes were made in the UK, but like most things when the danger has passed, their maintenance falls by the wayside. John goes on to show how Public Health England came under attack by the Health Select Committee as being not fish not fowl, too close to the government to offer a critical voice nor close enough to be influential.

The downside rapidly became apparent. The local government has changed a great deal since 1974. Councils have become management offices. Many of the historic functions relevant to public health has been removed, long since privatised, or transformed into arm’s length organisations: municipal housing, water and sewerage, street cleansing, police constabularies, fire and rescue, recreation facilities and local schools, among others.  

Even though the 139 public-health directors had by 2020 side-lined, and the regional level diminished, in theory, they could still be activated in a crisis. Public Health England could instruct them to join the front-line as Public Health England had done in Salisbury in 2018. It has provided the Wiltshire public-health team with the authority, and access to data, it needed to deal well with the disaster. Likewise, with the national purview, Public Health England could have provided cabinet ministers with detailed steers on the areas bearing the brunt of a pandemic from local data gathered by its directors if there had been adequate testing capacity.   

However, in the case of COVID-19 which threatened the whole of the UK Public Health England acted very differently from when it was dealing with the isolated Skripal-Novichok spy crisis in Salisbury. Public Health England withheld the early information it received on the virus from its own local directors. Furthermore, it even refused to release all available data on the virus, including test results, if a local director specifically asked for it. In what must be one of the egregious scandals of public health, this stone-walling of its own staff on the ground continued for the duration of the lockdown.  

What Public Health England did do was instruct its staff under no circumstances to talk to the media without authorisation from Public Health England.

If Novichok had been handled like COVID-19, people might still be dying from the toxin and parts of the Salisbury economy might still unnecessarily be in lockdown.

This is just a flavour of the book, a must-read, “How the pandemic ruined Britain’s health and wealth.

Off on my run now, stay safe.  

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Honking Down Hill

Honking is the terminology used by cyclists when they rise from the saddle and force the pedals as they climb steep gradients.

I had dropped down onto the cycle path in ice-cold air and another one of those Irish, lazy winds, that can’t be bothered to go around you. By the end of the cycle track, I was wishing I had put on my winter gloved. Climbing out of Strathkinness and onto Knock Hill the wind was troublesome, then the steep downhill section to the Eden valley. Maybe the wind is funnelled along the valley floor, before hitting the face of the hill but as I crested the hill the wind was so strong I was almost going backwards. I dropped a cog and peddled, peddled, peddled, damn near had to honk, all the way to the bottom.

Now into the tranquillity of the Ceres burn valley, the sun was out casting dappled patterns onto the road ahead,

“Do I love you – my oh my – Rivers deep mountains high – ye, ye, do I love you, me oh my….”

A cyclist silently came up alongside

“Creeping Jesus” how embarrassing, then again it happens to me a lot.

“Tina Turner?” he asked, by way of introduction, “Bit of a fan are we?”

“Yes, I guess you could say that”

He was riding a lightweight road bike, not top of the range but up there. He told me he had not ridden a bike much since his teenage years, but now working from home, he felt he needed to be out of the house a bit more, so dusted off his bike, he had just turned 40, so a bit of a middle-age thing going on too.

Surprisingly the conversation was not about bikes or great bike rides, but Tina Turner, it turned out that he was a bit of a fan himself, well she has been around since 1957, decades really. I still listen to some of her early stuff when she was performing with Ike Turner.

“Did you see ‘One last time live in concert’ from the Wembley Stadium?” I asked, “How did she keep up that level of performance on stage, I don’t know what she was on but I could do with some myself.”

“And what about that gantry” he chipped in “Extending way out over the audience?” So he had seen the concert.  “The runway could have only been a couple of meters wide and there she was dancing back and forward along its length, the woman knows no fear.”

“Yes, any other industry and the Health and Safety man would have closed her down” I agreed.

All her concerts follow a well-versed pattern, however they just kept on getting better – better musicians, great backing singers, professional dancers, that became part of the performance (filling in during changes and wee rests) and of course new numbers added- 24/7 for example.   

All too soon we were into the village of Pitscottie and him off to Cupar, me to St Andrews, you meet the nicest people on bikes.

I did remember to put my Garmin on the bike today so:

Distance 16.1 miles

Time 1:22:59

Average speed 11.65 mph

Max speed 28.87 mph

Ascent 692 ft

Calories burned 638

Stay safe.

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“We need to take back control.”    

The morning came late; it was after 8 am before I made it onto the road. The low morning sun was bright and watery, I rechecked my rear light. Elie weather had told me that the wind would pick up between 20 -23 mph by mid-morning, the flags flying at right angles to their flagstaff confirmed their accuracy.  

I saw a cyclist, male, on a ladies framed bike; he was travelling along the pavement, so I nodded as I passed. Halfway along the cycle track, I saw the shadow of a cyclist behind so pulled over to the left, and give him the road; it was the cyclist I had passed earlier. He was pushing hard struggling to pass. So I jumped on his wheel, now my shadow cycled sat alongside his rear wheel. As he tired I put in a spurt and passed, looking back I saw he had given up and parked his bike by the fence. That competitive spirit never leaves you, I hope it never will.

As I neared Guardbridge, I turned onto the Strathkinness road, the road rises from sea level to 100m in about a mile and a half so a long climb. About 200 yards in front I spotted a lad on a road bike, he was peddling steady and easy up the climb. I surprisingly was gaining on him all the way. We crested the hill, more or less together, then his 700C wheels with their skinny tyres took over and left me for dead.   

There is a big stooshie going on over the supply of gas into Europe. The mainstream newspaper in the UK is telling us that the high price of gas is all because the Russian government (Putin) is using gas as a political weapon. 

So what is the truth behind the story? I watched Putin being interviewed on television, he was constantly asked why Russia was withholding gas to Europe – by the end of the interview, the Russian president must have been frustrated with the interviewer for constantly asking a question that he had fully answered a dozen times. He told her that Russia would supply as much gas as required by Europe, that the supply companies are in business to supply gas to anyone who wishes to buy. And repeated over and over, if Europe want Russian gas they must first ask for it, put in your order for gas and we will supply. We are already fulfilling all our contracts and more, he repeated.

So what is the problem? To find the answer we have to go to America, America is a supplier of gas to the world, it ships lots and lots of gas to the far eastern countries, so why not Europe? Simply really the far eastern countries are willing to pay the high market price for American gas, Europe is not. 

Rather than tell the British public that their gas bills will increase tenfold over the coming winter, because the supply companies have been privatised, and if these companies paid the market price for gas they would be supplying gas at a loss, and find themselves bankrupted – or they will have to increase gas bills by an alarming rate that will force more and more people into fuel poverty and show the government in a very bad light. The government may be forced to step in and put a price cap on gas, but would then have to subsidise the gas supply companies (bailout unprofitable companies.) They may have to increase pensions and income support credits, to cover the high cost of living. Remember that there will be a General Election a few years down the line.

When you are in the shit, blame Russia.

Europe is not held to ransom by the Russians, it is held to ransom by privatized fuel supply companies. Scotland needs a publicly owned grid, a publicly owned generating network of wind, wave, and tide. A publicly owned gas supply company, or as Boris would say:

“We need to take back control.”     

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Scotland shit upon once more.

Away back in 2014 David Cameron, the then Tory Prime Minister, offered a (I believe it was one million pounds) to explore and develop carbon capture and storage, (CCS) when it looked as if Scotland was the only contender, a gas-fired Power station in the northeast of Scotland, the offer was withdrawn. Longanet Power station in Fife ran a CCS taking carbon from the flue gasses of the chimney and storing the CO2 that would have been pumped out and under the North Sea, but the scheme was scrapped when the funding ran out.

They can make the system work, but it comes at a cost and who collects the bill, certainly not the private companies, who own the power stations.

CCS is once more on the agenda, the Westminster government is talking about putting money into setting it up, so far there are three contenders for the money – two in England, one in Scotland, St Fergus Gas Terminal at St Fergus Bay, where there is already a large chemical site. And where the pipelines come ashore from the North Sea platforms, is ideal you would have to say.

This ambitious scheme to site the plant at St Fergus would cost around one billion pounds. The Scottish government does not have that kind of money, and the Westminster government will not allow them to borrow the money, no matter that it is needed and would bring with it countless jobs, some estimate as many as 200 thousand. Scotland already has the skills in the Aberdeen area, from the declining oil industry, this would bring continuity of work, to so many.

Well, Scotland, if you did not believe it before, there is no doubt now; putting St Fergus Gas Terminal on hold is an anti-Scottish political decision. (But will be resurrected if the two English sites fail a very big if.) St Fergus is up and running, it has all the connections in place (pipelines) to Grangemouth, Moss Moran, and sites in the North of England, along with all the old pipelines out to the seabed in the North Sea. St Fergus is ready to go.  Big Problem, Ferguson Bay that’s in Scotland so has been stricken from the list of potential sites.

We really need to ditch this Tory First Minister and install one that will work on Scotland’s behalf. We really do need independence and we need it now.

Depression is setting in at the news tonight of this change by the enemy of the Scott’s Boris Johnston, I will have to put on my Tina Turner ‘One Last Time in Concert’ DVD. Never fails to lift my spirits, it should be on prescription.

Stay safe

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Global Warming and The Widow’s Mite

Dreich and wet over St Andrews, this morning, so I thought I would wait a while to see if it gets any better before venturing out on my bike.

Whilst flicking through the television channels yesterday evening I caught the end of a programme on BBC 2. The programme was about the changes from global warming that are happening, before our eyes, in Norway. I wish I had found it sooner.

The first thing that strikes you, when ordinary people were asked for their opinion, their English was perfect, (much better than mine) the clarity of diction, they could all have made an improved, contribution to television presentation in the UK – If you closed your eyes when listening to them you would say they were Black television newsreaders. I do not know why this was such a surprise having travelled extensively in Europe. And not only in speech but the clarity of their thinking came over, as well informed speakers on the subject of global warming. These people were not well-versed academics trying to put forward their thesis, these were just everyday men and women.

The reporter spoke with some young activists that were taking their government to the Court of Human Rights, over issuing more oil and gas, exploration licences, they want the court to overrule the Norwegian Government on this issue. I had read a similar article in the Guardian newspaper some months back.

Climate activists taking Norway to human rights court over Arctic oil plans were the headlines in The Guardian newspaper.

Activists allege decision to grant oil exploration licences violated the right to a healthy environment

When the reporter spoke with the Prime Minister of Norway, out canvassing for a third term at the time, she said

“She believed in democracy, this is not a matter for the courts”

Sorry Prime Minister, you know as well as anyone that democracy goes out the window when your job is on the line.

 Norway is a small player in the global crude market with production covering about 2 per cent of the global demand. Norwegian production of natural gas covers approximately 3 per cent of global demand, however, as an exporter, Norway is a significant country. Norway is the third-largest exporter of natural gas in the world, behind Russia and Qatar only. Norway supplies between 20 and 25 per cent of the EU gas demand. Nearly all oil and gas produced on the Norwegian shelf is exported and combined, oil and gas equal about half of the total value of Norwegian exports of goods. This makes oil and gas, the most important export commodities in the Norwegian economy.

We saw the truth of this when a worker in the gas industry was asked about reducing exploration for oil and helping wean ourselves off oil and gas,

“If we stop, supplying gas, others will supply it,” he said.

Strange, I remember dad telling me when he was fishing for whales, that the way whaling was going could not be sustained. But when I suggested (in my naivety)

“Why don’t they stop the whaling if they are going to kill off all the whales?”

He told me  

“If the Scottish boats stopped the slaughter, Norwegian boats, would be the benefactors.”

For all the bloody savagery,

Nothing can compare,

With the big bite that the taxman takes,

When he gets hold of you’re share.

Like all countries across the world, Norway is on the horns of a dilemma. How do we cut back on greenhouse gasses, while at the same time, maintaining our standard of living when it comes from the revenue from oil and gas?

A couple of wee stories I heard at Sunday school may help us. The first:

As Jesus preached in the temple square a rich man approached and asked,

“How do I enter the kingdom of heaven?”

He did not like the answer for he was told to, give away all his wealth and follow me. Jesus then said,

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

To me it all comes down to how much you are willing to sacrifice, to enter (our) kingdom heaven.

The second, was the lesson of the widow’s mite, (widow’s offering) retold in the gospels of Mark (12:41-44) and Luke (21:1-4), again we have Jesus teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem

  “He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

The Gospel of Mark specifies that two mites (Greek lepta) are together worth a quadrant, the smallest Roman coin. A lepton was the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation in Judea, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage.

Years later, I was listening to a Salvation Army officer preaching and he was using the Widow’s Might as his sermon. He ended his lesson by telling his congregation, we must give until it hurts.  

The whale population is growing once more, since whaling ceased, not because man thought it was unethical or cruel but because it become uneconomical to fish for whales. We see how nature will return to right the wrongs of the past, but only when man changes his ways first.

Global warming is with us, we have choices to make if we are to enter into our (heaven here on earth). Will the world, have to relearn the teaching of the widow’s might? Will we have to give until it hurts, or like the rich man, forever be unable to enter……….

Stay safe.

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“Victory for Truth”

I have been riding my conventional bike these days; it is now my winter bike since it is easier to hose down when I return after a run. I do not know how e-bikes respond to a good soaking, and too expensive to replace if it does not.

The morning was dull, and dreich but not in the least cold. The run today, twice out to Guardbridge and back, well it’s nice and flat. Returning on the second leg I watch a squadron of geese cross overhead, heading south for the winter.

Have you seen the dark lines, across the morning sky?

Honking their endless clarion cry,

Or watch the sky turn from grey to gold?

As dawns light magically unfolds?

Not long after I returned home, the rain started in earnest.

It rained and rained, and then it rained,

The daily deluge is now well maintained.

“The BBC admits Syria gas attack report has serious flaws.” The BBC said.

The documentary alleged chemical weapon attack had inaccuracies, the programme dealt with an alleged chemical attack at Douma Syria, in 2018 it included an account of ‘Alex’ a former inspector with the poison gas watchdog, BBC said it had no evidence that ‘Alex’ believed the attack in Douma was staged.

The BBC has admitted that a Radio 4 documentary on an alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma (pictured in 2018), Syria, contained serious inaccuracies

Adjudicators agreed the programme by investigative journalist Chloe Hadjimatheou failed to meet the Corporation’s editorial standards for accuracy by reporting false claims.

Last week – nearly ten months after the broadcast – the ECU delivered its finding that the BBC was wrong to insinuate that ‘Alex’ was motivated to go public about his doubts over the attack by the prospect of a $100,000 (£72,000) reward from the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

No such reward was ever paid, according to WikiLeaks.

The BBC also accepted it had no evidence to back up its claim that ‘Alex’, a highly qualified and apolitical scientist, believed the attack in Douma, which prompted retaliatory missile strikes by Britain, the US and France, had been staged.

In its ruling, the Corporation withdrew the imputation that Mr Hitchens, who has reported on despotic regimes for more than 40 years, shared ‘the Russian and Syrian state views on the war’. 

Welcoming the ruling, Mr Hitchens said: ‘This is a major victory for the truth. The whistleblowers inside the OPCW were always motivated by a strict regard for scientific truth.

‘Far from seeking rewards, they realised that their actions would damage their careers but went ahead anyway. 

‘I do not serve any government, least of all those in Moscow and Damascus. 

‘I am glad the BBC has now made clear that it grasps that my reporting was motivated solely by the search for truth.’

He added: ‘It is astonishingly rare for the BBC to rule against itself. ‘This is a huge development. I hope it represents a wider change of heart in the Corporation.’ 

The BBC for years now has rather than being an impartial state broadcaster had been a propaganda broadcaster for the Westminster government. And even now when all these revelations have been exposed the BBC is still doubling down on the story.

I heard Gordon Brown (former PM) on the television spouting off about how the tragic death of an MP should not threaten our democracy. Sorry Gordon you and your ‘partner in crime’ Tony Blair killed off any democracy that still existed in the UK. The systems are broken, the main media channels now dedicated to publishing and broadcasting Westminster Government, Press Realises. No matter the truth. No longer can the BBC be trusted, and we should all do our own research into what is broadcast by mainstream media. This is a sad state of affairs, and that is the truth of it.

For further reading: the Organization for Propaganda Studies,

Steering Committee

Professor Tim Hayward, Professor of Environmental Political Theory, University of Edinburgh

Professor Paul McKeigue, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics, University of Edinburgh

Professor Piers Robinson, Chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism University of Sheffield

Researchers

Jake Mason (PhD candidate, University of Sheffield)

Divya Jha (PhD candidate, University of Sheffield)

The Douma Controversy:

Now is the time for transparency and accountability at the OPCW

Stay safe.

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“They have went and gone and done it.”

The cycle run this morning was in drizzle rain, but summer is over so we have to adapt to the changing seasons.

Home showered, and as I flicked through the television menu, I spotted Swallows and Amazons, my all-time favourite children’s adventure film, well ‘Railway Children comes a close second. Both were made for television and show on the BBC.     

However when it started, something was very wrong with the storyline, Oh no, help ma boab, it’s a remake, they have totally spoiled it for me. My favourite children’s movie – Swallows and Amazons, why do they do that?

Swallows and Amazons is a children’s adventure novel by English author Arthur Ransome and first published on 21 July 1930 by Jonathan Cape.

At the time, Ransome had been working as a journalist with the Manchester Guardian but decided to become a full-time author rather than go abroad as a foreign correspondent. He did continue to write part-time for the Guardian, however.

The book was inspired by a summer spent by Ransome teaching the children of his friends, the Altounyans, to sail. Three of the Altounyan children’s names are adopted directly for the Walker family.  I loved the 1962 adaptation that followed closely the author’s thinking. It had all the delight of a summer holiday spent in the Lake District, set in a time between the wars, the summer of 1929 the main characters,

The crew of the Swallow

John Walker: eldest of the Walker children and Captain of the Swallow.

Susan Walker: Mate of the Swallow and the cook and domestic organizer.

Titty Walker: Able Seaman of the Swallow and most imaginative of the Walkers.

This nickname was the real-life Mavis Altounyan taken from Joseph Jacobs’s children’s story Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse. Changed to Kitty in the 1962 television series of Swallows and Amazons, (for obvious reasons, Titty caused much tittering amounts children.)  

Roger Walker: at first Ship’s Boy, which he did not like, so was changed to Able Seaman; Roger was very fond of chocolate.

Bridget Walker: Ship’s Baby who proves to be a brave member of the crew.

The crew of Amazon,

Nancy Blackett: (real name: Ruth) — Captain of the Amazon; an enterprising leader. She is an imaginative and lively tomboy who is always willing to create fantasies and adventures. Though somewhat brash and short-tempered, she nonetheless has a heart of gold and is always quick to defend the weaker and less-confident characters in the tales.

Peggy Blackett: (real name: Margaret) — Mate of the Amazon, Nancy’s sister; although a bit timid and unassuming, she tries to live up to Nancy’s expectations

Ransome and Ernest Altounyan bought two small dinghies called Swallow and Mavis. Ransome kept Swallow until he sold it a number of years later, while Mavis remained in the Altounyan family and is now on permanent display in the Ruskin Museum. 

The first film was a delight, the children seemed real somehow, what we learned about seamanship and lines of sight were very accurate and would instantly be recognised by any seaman today. This new version was a disaster, totally out of context with the real story and the children totally out of character with the storyline of the book.

I am not a lover of remakes – they seldom work, I can think only of two that did. “Parent Trap” (Hailey Mills playing the part of the twins in the original, and so badly cast) and “A star is born” (the first was very much of its time).

Looks like some very wet cycling over the coming week, so a lot more bike maintenance, ho-hum

Stay safe. 

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Toothless around North East Fife.

Today was a good day. Out on the road at 8am and not back until 1 O’clock. The clouds were high and the air cold but I enjoyed riding on this cold clear morning. Clothing is always a problem cycling, when on a 200k Audax ride you can expect to be out for around 12 hours, and the weather can change dramatically over that time especially riding in the winter months. The discipline of endurance riding such as Audax, you have to expect a bit of discomfort, it comes with the territory, since you are carrying the minimum of equipment you can get away with, especially in the wardrobe department. These days I ride in everyday clothing a warm pair of jogging pants with elasticised bottoms so they do not foul on the gears, an under layer, a woolly-pully (if required) and a lightweight outer garment, the jumper can always be removed and tied around my waist if I start to overheat. The only concession to cycling is my shoes.

Today I was riding less one of my teeth, having been over to the dental university in Dundee yesterday, where a final year student, skilfully and painlessly, removed a tooth that had been proving problematic. It is one of those months when I have a full calendar of appointments with dentists, hospital vaccination centres for flu and Covid-19 booster, and back once more to Dundee for a hearing test. My hearing is really bad now, to the point that it is cutting me off from socialising. I did go up to the doctor’s surgery to ask for them to make an appointment for me to go to the NHS hearing aid clinic in Kirkcaldy,

“The NHS does not do hearing aids now” I was told.

I was given a telephone number at a private hearing aid centre that I could call for an appointment. When I returned home I went onto the internet and looked up NHS hearing aid centres and all I found from their web site were the types of hearing aids you can get and what ones suit different degrees of deafness. So it seems as if the girl was correct: no free hearing aids from the NHS anymore.

A further search on the internet for hearing aid centres and there is an abundance of them all plying for my custom. Most do not give prices, but Boots (the chemist) has now opened a shop in St Andrews for spectacles and hearing aids (jumping on the lucrative new bandwagon), they did show average prices and they were not cheap £2,000 – £2,500,

“You can’t be serious?”

But hey you do get to pay them up – well that’s all right then, I have made an appointment for the free hearing test, find out just how bad things are, and take it from there. Privatisation creeping into the NHS by stealth, starting with the elderly, they won’t complain, they have been conditioned all their lives to accept whatever the governments tell them, and if they waver, well we will roll out the Queen to remind them about the war and the Dunkirk spirit.  

If you are in your fifties and still employed I would start Medicare insurance, for old age does not come alone – make sure it covers any eventuality for loss of hearing, spectacles, hip/knee replacement…………. They too will not be on the NHS by the time you retire the way things are going.

I always like to end on a cheery note of optimism, emmmmmm nope, can’t think of anything cheerful to say about Scotland today, unless you ride a bike.

Well, time to put the dinner on.

Keep safe 

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“How can you judge a man’s life unless you have walked in his shoes”

The big story today, these crazy winds, blustery to the point of being dangerous, I did not go far but I feel all exercise is relevant. Actually, I have covered my first 1000 miles on the little bike, shipped to me on the 2nd of June 2021. Yes, I know it is only an average of around 7 miles each day, but considering some of the weather we have had, and a few weeks of downtime (under the weather) I am happy with that.

I was listening to Wade Davis today, and he said something that stuck in my head. He said

“In 9/11 Americans spent more on their lawn, than the whole tax revenue, raised by the Indian government”.

That is the power of advertising. I wonder how much of that vast sum of money was spent on “Pest Control” . Certainly, it was around this time that our small birds populations, whose survival is dependent on insects, fell off a cliff.

Davis also talked about China and how they clamped down on and free will of the people, giving Hong Kong as an example. Now I really know nothing about the everyday life of the average Chinese person in China, and maybe the freedoms we take for granted here in the west are suppressed, in China. But when I see documentaries or films from China I don’t see beggars sitting on the streets, or people sleeping rough in doorways. I have not heard how the Chinese are keeping down three jobs, yet at the end of the week, they are still unable to pay for a roof over their head, so they have to live out of their cars. I do not see the same inequality in China as I see here at home, where poverty is rampant in, what is supposed, the 6th richest country in the world.  Maybe that is the price we pay for our so-called, freedom, (for the few that can afford it) and maybe, just maybe, the people of China are happy with their lot.  

“How can you judge a man’s life unless you have walked in his shoes”

Popped into my favourite charity shop today and picked up a couple of DVDs, one I watched this afternoon, ‘The Blind Side’. The best £1.99p I have ever spent.  This is a must-see film, and even more remarkable it is based on an extraordinary true story.

Sandra Bullock gave an outstanding Oscar-winning performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy – a white, strong-minded interior designer and wife of a wealthy businessman Sean Sr. Leigh Anne is a highly intelligent and well-connected lady, who always gets her own way. Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a black teenager, homeless and knows only the streets of Memphis. The story is all about how both develop in this unlikely relationship.  

Burt Cotton, a friend of seventeen-year-old Michael’s father, (killed in an accident) and on whose couch mike has been sleeping, gets the Coach of Wingate Christian School to help enrol his son and Mike at the school. This is where Mike is befriended by Sean Tuohy, Junior. He is played by Jae Head and adds a lot of fun to the movie.  

What came over very strong in the storyline was the attitude of the Tuohy family to the idea of their mother taking Michael, not only into their home but under her wing, going above and beyond the call of duty to get his grades up so he could remain in school and on the football team, eventually becoming his legal guardian.   

In the end, Michael is accepted into college and says his farewells to the Tuohy family. And as the credits roll, we have information about and photographs of the real Tuohy family and Michael Oher, who went on to play in the National Football League.    

This really is my kind of movie, (paper tissues to the fore) and I’m sure it will be watched again and again – a great uplift DVD for those dull, wet and dreich days of winter, much like today.

Keep safe.

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Like Paddie’s shirt, it will all come out in the wash.

It was much brighter on this morning run, there was an autumn coldness in the air but the winds were light and pleasant enough. I dropped down off the road and onto the cycle track, as I did so, this lass appeared on a bike, she was cutting the corner, so we were in line for a head-on collision,

“Hoy!” I yelled out and the response was instant,

“Ops!” The lass moved with all the grace and speed of a Tour de France cyclist changing direction. Her “Sorry” – trailing after her as she headed up the slight hill to the road I had just come down.

She was riding a sit up and beg bike, a knapsack sticking out of a basket, strapped onto the handlebars. Well wrapped up in everyday clothing, ready for any change, the weather might throw at her. Even without the dexterity that she showed on her stead, I would have clocked her for Dutch or possibly German. She would have grown up riding a bike, almost as soon as she could walk. Riding to school would have been as natural as breathing, from that very first school day, possibly accompanied by her mother, on her bike. No GP mums on the school run in Holland.

I see almost every day the school kids, from the Madras, pouring out of the tuck shop (the local supermarket on Market Street) or stuffing their faces with goodies from Greigs the bakers, little fat buggers, bussed to school and back, stuffing their faces with junk food, each and every day, and they wonder why the NHS is snowed under with young adults with preventable diseases such as diabetes, and respiratory problems.

I passed two other girls cycling into St Andrews, again they looked as if they were on their way to classes and three girls, two jogging one running; I wanted to call out to them, telling them that I had read somewhere that skipping 100 times is equal to jogging five miles.

“One, two, three a-Leary – I saw Wallace Beery, sitting on his bum-be-Leary eating chocolate soldiers – four, five, six a-Leary, seven eight, nine…………” Days of my childhood, where are they now?

As I returned back along the cycle track the low watery sun was full in my eyes so care was needed less I repeat the mistake of the young lass earlier.

I had noticed, however, that the girl running, in the opposite direction to me, her perfume, trailed in her wake long after she had passed. Now I know that this was not droplets, in the same way, that breath is – but you have to wonder, is two meters really a safe distance from a person breathing out coronavirus into the atmosphere?

Some time back a container ship blocked the Suez Canal and ships were held up for weeks unable to deliver their loads into Europe. I remember thinking at the time; some insurance company is going to be hit by a huge bill for this lot.

Today I read that the container port of Felixstowe has almost ground to a halt. Lack of drivers to take the container away, so ships can not unload. Many have been tied up for weeks, some are being diverted to Rotterdam and their containers transferred to smaller ships that can enter other ports in England. Secondary to this is the inability to return empty containers causing problems at the other end of the distribution chain. What a bloody mess this government has made of things. They had years to sort out these problems that were all predictable, as they negotiated Brexit, but then of course Trump was in power in America, so no problem about a trade deal with America, the UK would simply become America’s newest state. Oven read, trade deals around the world, NI sorted, Sea of Opportunity for our fishermen, Immigration sorted, Brexit – it is all so easy Boris sold the English a pup. What did we get? Prayer Meetings and Abbeys, come to mind.

Talking about Trump, The Cop in Glasgow is only weeks away and there is no real push to do much as far as I can see, as a wise young girl put it – Blah, blah, blah. As far as climate change is concerned China has pulled its finger out and is making big changes there, America on the other hand, well Biden seems out of his depth on this one. Now, much as I hate to say it, he might well be a one trip pony, and come election time in America we could well see Trump back in power, – what then for America’s contribution to Global Warming?  Like Paddie’s shirt, I may well, all come out in the wash.  

Stay safe.         

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The words of the prophets – written on the subway walls.

The weather is dreich once more although the rain had stopped by the time I made it out onto the roads. I did a couple of perambulations of the cycle track; for even after all these years awheel, I am not comfortable on the main roads in poor light conditions. Although I do have a large winking rear light, beaming out its warning, cars get far too close for comfort, it’s a British thing, roads are for cars,

“Get off my space”.   

The days are drawing in fast now, and on grey days, it never seems to get really light. The trees are colouring fast too. Anyone who keeps bees will tell you, autumn is the time to spring feed. Beekeepers will always plant crocus in their garden, for they are the first pollinating flowers to arrive in the spring. I decided to plant crocus in the front as you come in the gate, I also wanted to plant more daffodils.

I chose the smaller variety of daffodils this time. The crocus bulbs had arrived a few days ago, so I put them aside, until yesterday afternoon when a bag of mixed daffodils bulbs was delivered. And since I am a cut-a-stick when you come to it sort of chap, I put on the gardening boots collected my tools and headed out into the garden. I simply tipped all the bulbs along with saved poppy seed pods (they may come to something) into my bucket, removed around 100 mm of soil and scattered the lot over the prepared ground. Spent some time making sure they were all in their right orientation, root plate down, and covered them over with soil, job done, and perfectly times as the rain started in earnest.

My work in the garden has starting to wind down now as winter approaches, all the autumn planting is over, the roses have been cut back to stop winter rock, only the gladioli bulbs and chrysanthemums to bring in for overwintering, but time enough for that, I will wait until the foliage has died back. 

I am more than happy with what we have achieved in the first year. Plants, brought on from seeds, then planted out, have shown remarkable growth over one season, especially the Lupines and Delphiniums; they should put on a great show next summer.

The onion and garlic beds are looking good, all have sprouted and are showing through the soil and I know will be putting down good roots for a great crop in the spring, early summer.

The rear garden has not been so successful all the care taken to bring on Wallflower and Sweet William plants from seed along with planting chrysanthemum in the raised beds, they only succeeded in providing a good meal for the young rabbits, if it’s not greenfly it’s rabbits, ho-hum.

Our best success has been the Jersey Lilies; they just keep on giving and giving clusters of beautiful pink or blue flowers.  

Sky News has spent the morning telling us how high gas prices are affecting our manufacturing industries, (it is all the fault of the Russians of course taking advantage of the high demand for gas).

Once upon a time, when the moon was still young, the UK had publicly owned gas works, electric generating power stations and a national grid for distribution of both the above. The gas works and electric power stations were feed on coal from a national coal industry and shipped around the country on a national railway. All these services worked, hand in glove, to keep the lights on and the industry running day and night. When gas deposits were found in the North Seas things would have to change, since we would no longer need to produce gas from coal. That is when Margaret Thatcher (no fairy godmother) comes into the story. She could see the opportunity to not only make lots of money for herself and her friends but at the same time kill off the strong unions in this country, that she believed were “The enemy within”. She sold off all the nationalised industries to her palls in the corporate world of investment banking. Once broken up into small chunks all working for their bottom line, the coherence was lost. I have no problem laying the blame clearly at the UK government’s door, (Tory – Labour, Labour – Tory) not the Russians, or the Chinese, not coronavirus, not high gas prices………. The UK government made this bed for us, and now we are forced to lie in it – Or must we?  It is the people of Scotland who are sovereign, not the government.

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All in a day’s work.

Another fine day so I put in a few miles on my bike, feeling good, off to the ironmonger now, the girls have given me a test piece – drill hole in some tiles but that requires special drills that I do not have. They have bought these tiles and wish to thread ribbons through holes so that they can hang from walls. All part of their craft stalls at a local craft fair, coronavirus has put pay to them holding their annual coffee morning and crafts stall, here at City Park, the things I do for charity, unlike Yorkshire men.

“Do, ought for nought – unless it’s for thy self”

I have the news on in the background and every half hour there is a piece about violation of Human Rights in China. Now I am not against flagging up human rights violations no matter the country involved. However, what we have here is an unsubstantiated report from a Chinese defector (a whistleblower). This seems like another Chinese bad story, propaganda for the US and UK involvement in the China Seas. Of course the UK and US, – those great democracies and defenders of the truth and justice. There are lessons to be learned from these two great bastions of civil rights, that treat all whistleblowers with the same benevolence as this Chinese defector. Oh wait a minute, what about Julian Assange, Guantanamo, Palestine, Yemen………………… A very wise man once told us,

“You that are without sin, cast the first stone”

Had a very busy weekend, on Friday I went off to the Criterion for lunch with my niece and her husband, I love the atmosphere in this pub and the food is first class, cooked on the premises, (plug, plug). Trent and I, we’re already talking about our next fishing trip, loch next time, where I will have more room for casting, my excuse for not catching anything, Trent caught a beautiful trout, which I have to say I enjoyed very much indeed. They taste good no matter who catches them.

Saturday my big brother made an appearance so it was off to our favourite little café in South Street, for coffee and homemade fruit scones, layered with butter and strawberry jam, it’s gid tell yir ma’. Campbell has just returned from a fortnight’s holiday, being pampered by an old lady friend.

Although 10 years my senior he still works, in a very advisory capacity. He has all sorts of letters after his name as a consultant on traditional building methods and writes reports for such people as Historic Scotland, English Heritage and advises on remedial work on ancient monuments. He told me a great story about a job that he was involved in quite recently at Westminster Palace, but the least said about that, maybe the better, only to say that the taxpayer has deep pockets and those in charge of its refurbishment certainly know how to milk the system. He has retired dozens of times, to my knowledge and was telling me how he gets emails each and every day offering him short contracts.

“All Good,” I told him, keep it up as long as you can; sitting at home looking at four walls and out of touch with the real world is a shortcut to an early grave,

“Happiness is not a gift, it must be worked at” Dalai Lama.         

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

The weather has quietened down over the past few days allowing me to get out on my bike more. But I have been spending much more time in my workshop too.

My brother returned from holiday he brought me a present of a book, the 50 greatest bike rides of the world by Sarah Woods, I have only read the first ride in Belfast; Northern Ireland, and it already sounds like Sarah Wood does not even have a bike. For it is like all the information came from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board pamphlet. And I do not hold with her that an Englishman, John Kemp Starley created the bicycle in the form we recognise today, I do accept that he patented his bicycle in 1885, so may have been the first man to patent the idea.

In June 1842, Macmillan seems to have ridden the 70-odd miles to Glasgow. A newspaper report talks of “a gentleman from Dumfries-shire bestride a velocipede of ingenious design” who knocked over a little girl in the Gorbals area and was fined five shillings. Many believe this was Macmillan, though others question whether a newspaper would describe a blacksmith as “a gentleman”. Macmillan did not patent his invention, and in 1846 Gavin Dalzell of Lesmahagow produced a very similar machine, leading to a belief that persisted through much of the 1800s that he had invented the powered bicycle.

In 1854 Macmillan married Elsie Goldie, and they had six children together. He died in 1878. The smithy where he worked is still standing and carries a plaque which reads: “He builded better than he knew”. Two of his bicycles are on display in the Dumfries Museum 

I am not sure that I accept either that,

“Today, now that the 50 years of unrest and social conflict is consigned to the history book, Belfast and its slogan –daubed mural-painted walls, vast…..”  

All we read about riding in Belfast and Northern Ireland from Sarah is a seven-mile traffic-free section of the National Cycle Network (NCN). In fact, the only thing I recognize about the NCN is her tip:

“Be alert to debris on the road and the threat of puncture from thorns, sharp stones and old rusty nails.”

For this is the state of the UK cycle network throughout these islands, and why cycling as a means of transport will never take off as it has in Europe, and at the detriment to the health of the nation.      

A few weeks ago I commented on an article I had read in the iScot magazine. It had been written by a doctor that writes a regular column there and I was shocked at his words. What he was talking about was PM2.5 particles in the atmosphere. I had read other articles on PM2.5 particles but always in connection with diesel engine exhaust gasses, this was different.

PM2.5 particles are so small they pass right through the lungs and into the bloodstream, and from there into the main organs of the body and why they are so dangerous to human health. Not only do they cause death but they are contributory to bad health in general and account for a high toll on the NHS resources and budgets.

Now if PM2.5 particles have been known about for decades and their effect on our health and wellbeing well documented. Why the shock now? Well, today (Saturday 9th October 2021) I read in The Guardian, an article by Damian Carrington, it was more or less making the same argument that I had read in iScot, that even the new Eco wood-burning stoves emitted 375g of PM2.5 particles for every gigajoule of energy produced, whereas a modern HGV diesel engine only 0.5 per gigajoule. Nordic swan, the official ecolabel of Nordic countries allows wood stoves to emit up to 150g per gigajoule, 300 times more than a modern HGV engine.

40,000 early deaths across Europe each year are attributed to wood burning.

These are figures for modern high efficient stoves, but many homes that have central heating will still have an open fire for nostalgic reasons. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and in today’s world of high gas prices, how many more will open up their open fires and burn wood? This will not only mean more pollution from the chimney pots but also into the room where the fire burns.

We are told that the UK government has no plans to restrict the use of wood burners, (I am not sure if this applies to Scotland too) although the sale of wet wood has been banned from sale since May.

A spokesperson for the government’s Department of Environment did say

“That air pollution has been reduced significantly since 2010, with PM2.5 emissions falling by 11%” (That’s only 1% per year by my calculation)

“The environment bill currently in parliament would”, he say, “Make it easier for local authorities to tackle pollution from domestic burning by providing powers to issue (fines) for smoke emissions” 

So another half-hearted bill, not to ban dangerous wood-burning (open fires or stoves) and only allowing local authorities to tackle, smoke emissions, not PM2.5, and only in domestic settings, not commercial settings, where the real problems are. So, boilers, such as the St Andrews University bio-fuel boiler at Guardbridge, will have no PM2.5 checks on emissions from its chimney, by any local authority. 

Is it any wonder that we will never tackle global warming when governments are so afraid of upsetting their paymasters, big businesses?        

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“All good” I hear you cry.

It is a dreich, dreich day here in St Andrews, I did go out on my bike first thing but it’s hell out there folks, (what am I on – I’m on my bike.) It was wet, unbelievably windy and freezing bloody cold, (Che gelida manina), it was so good to be home, yes, I really am getting soft these days.

I did go over to the dental university hospital yesterday afternoon, where I became a bit of a celebrity. The young student thought she saw something of interest – calls on her tutor – yes, definitely interesting and worth exploring, the excitement was building in the room, I could tell.

The consensus opinion was that an x-ray should be taken of my jaw. I now went on a route march to the first floor and the other side of the building. Very quick and painless progress, the results quickly beamed to the fourth floor by the wonders of the computer, arriving there long before I make the long trek back up there.

The confab, confab, another examination this time by a much more senior person, may have been a deipnosophist. Confab, confab, I was presented with three possible routes to rooting out the problem (sorry). Seems there is still infection below the tooth and the ex-ray has shown deterioration in the bone. I cut through all the chat and said if this tooth was going to cause me problems anytime in the future let’s just have it out now. Decision made. An appointment will be set up for me to go back and a dentist will remove the offending tooth, ho-hum.

The tooth will be removed by a qualified and practising dentist in some other part of the building. They will then call me back in six months time to the university for a check-up. So in six months I will find out how the young student, who has been looking after me, is progressing, she seems already confident after only a year of studies (still two years to go) but she will make it, she is dedicated, chatty, very friendly, all the qualities you want in a dentist, for let’s face it, a visit to the dentist is not someplace you look forward to going. 

Listening to Parallel lines, Blondie, ‘Bang A Gong’ (Get it on) certainly brightens the dismal weather outside my window as I chap away at the keyboard.

Interesting that the head of the ICC (the US Treasury) told Congress that they do not have either the budget or manpower to investigate alleged War Crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan, only those War Crimes (not alleged) committed by the Taliban and Islamic State.

The Westminster parliament had already passed into law a bill preventing any British soldier from being charged with War Crimes.

A ‘Get out of Jail Free Pass’ for coalition forces, the US and the UK can now with impunity take out civilians, targeting them with drowns, render them, exposing them to suffer and inhuman atrocities out of sight and out with US and UK laws.

And we are complicit – for remember they do it in our name.

Facebook went down for 7 hours and the world came to a grinding halt, (poetic licence) but it just shows how many lives are interlinked with Facebook, not just chat and blog, but business too. But worse than all of this, the multimillionaire owner of Facebook lost 7 billion from the shutdown, I’m sure like me you really feel for the man.

There has been a lot of chat on the internet about us turning green, and as you know I have a problem with much that is said on the media outlets in the UK. We hear how it is all going well; electric cars (but how green are they really?) Who will benefit from the new technology? Well, not we the consumer or the planet.

China is trying to move away from manufacturing cheap goods that they now sell to the west. And to this end have built a completely new city – a city dedicated to modern, high technology companies, in one factory, set up 10 years ago, (when the west was still wondering if global warming was a problem) they make electric vehicles, busses, lorries, cars. “All good” I hear you cry.

These cars need batteries so they went to the source of the world’s biggest deposits of Lithium, a high altitude salt lake in Bolivia. The government there did not have the where for all to extract the lithium, so the Chinese built them a factory (publicly owned by the Bolivian government) and if corruption does not set in the Bolivian people will be better off to the tune of 45 trillion dollars by 2022. “All good” I hear you cry.

They now have solar panels that are so thin and flexible that they are being stuck to the front, sides and roofs of buildings so that the building becomes a generating station in its own right. “All good” I hear you cry.

Wind turbines are producing vast amounts of electricity from their huge blades. “All good” I hear you cry.

So what’s your grip, Hamilton?

Batteries will eventually wear out, as will solar panels, and the blades of wind turbines have only a life span of a few years. Already we see blades from the first wind turbines being stockpiled because they are too expensive to recycle, many now abandoned in fields, alongside the turbine they came from. Batteries likewise have become very expensive to recycle, and so it is with solar panels. What we are seeing is something akin to nuclear waste being produced.

I would not be so concerned if all this was publicly owned but it is not. The companies that are producing electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbine blades have no responsibility for their disposal at the end of their useful life. When it becomes a problem, who will pick up the bill? Just as we see over plastic pollution today, no one is responsible for plastic pollution, in our atmosphere, our seas, our landfill, where does the bill fall?

How much more will Mother Nature, wildlife, and people be able to absorb before they stop having to produce one-use plastic? Or this new pollution, from this ever so Green Economy?

It is estimated that if the people of China wished to emulate the lifestyle of people in the west then we would need a further 7 planets like earth to live on. Leaving our lives in the hands of big business – whose only interest is business and making money – will be the equivalent of making a stick to break our own back.

We have to change the way we all live our lives, not this short term business model. I walked through the shopping centre in Dundee yesterday and there were shops after shops of goods – and I wondered just how much of these consumer goods do we really need in our lives??????

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Early one morning just as the sun was rising…….

The weather over the last week has not been conducive to pleasant cycling; in fact there have been days when I did not leave the house. However I find that if you go out early enough there is a sort of tranquil peace before the weather kicks in. This morning was one of those days. I was out by 7 O’clock, still dark, and not wishing to risk riding on the roads, more so when the sun does make its appearance, it is very low in the sky (blinded by the light).  

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I dropped down onto the cycle track and on reaching Guardbridge; I returned to the start and repeated the circuit. This is really the only way I can keep some fitness in my legs and me out of trouble. By the time of my second circuit a few students were beading along on their way to classes, all were girls, there was also a girl runner, I say runner rather than jogger for I was doing 20K along the path, and it had taken me a fair while to catch up with her, as for the student cyclists, they were long gone.  

The cycle track, littered with pine needles after the high winds and heavy rain of the last few days, and my wheels leave clear tracks on the damp road. Although I believed I was steering in a straight line, on my return I notice I had not been. The bike had been weaving around, as much as one meter, from one side to the other.

The field of potatoes has now been harvested,

    No longer school children stoop in the field,

A potato monster gathers the yield,

Birds still chase after the plough,

That turns over land bare and barn now,

We are losing that infinity,

We once had with the land,

To ignore, is not to understand.

On the little side road was a large skip so I stopped to have a look. It was full of old bikes and bicycle equipment from a distant past, I lifted this one off the top to photograph, once upon a time I would have trailed it home with me, but those days are gone now. Now they are only a curio.

I have an appointment at the NHS dental hospital in Dundee this afternoon so better get my skates on. Shoes to polish, trousers to press, shirt to iron, shower, and remember to change your underpants – well you might have an accident, mum would be black affronted if the doctor found you with dirty underwear.  

I think this will be my last visit since no work was needed on my teeth apart from cleaning and today polishing. All I need now is a new hearing aid and I will be all set for Europe in the spring.

I was looking through some of my old photographs and postcards and came across this little lot from my trip to America.

Actually I was looking at my bank balance, and I have been saving well over this spell of coronavirus, and was wondering if I could possibly fit in a trip to Holland, we have some good weather in September October, even November and December, or maybe one of those bus trips to the German Christmas Market. Tour operators run all sorts of trips during off season that are all inclusive and very reasonable, although I have the problem of all solo travelers, the single room subsidy, ho-hum.

Stay safe.   

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“Vote None of the Above”

It has been a funny sort of a day, I feel I did achieve a lot first thing in the morning then it all went downhill from there. Rain stopped play.

Boredom set in, around noon, I did watch a movie called SALT, would have been more exciting if I had not seen it half a dozen times already, ho-hum. Opened up my computer and started to type, always guaranteed to take me out of myself. 

The only thing that seems worse than the weather at present is our hopes of independence. Some say that all the cock-up by Johnston will bring independence like a tidal wave to our door, not a chance, just take the petrol crisis. Johnston has called in the army, not to sort out the petrol crisis, “What crises?” He has already said the situation is stabilising; no this is the reinstate conscription as a way of uniting the UK patriotic ferver. He has an excuse now, the army driving delivery HGVs.

We could, if we wished, withdraw from the Union tomorrow. A treaty is a treaty, is a treaty, well understood in international law. It is the mechanism that two signatories that have entered into an agreement can withdraw at any time, take Brexit. 

When the Treaty of the Union was signed, Scotland was under coercion, threatened with invasion and trade blockades put into force by England, that is as good an argument as any to put before the international body of judges, (although it had not helped the Palestinians the they are in the same place with Israel, in the UN.) How few Scots were allowed to vote for the sale of the nation’s wealth then, and now? We are effectively blocked from trading with other countries now, even our closest neighbours, Ireland and the EU, is this not repressive and echoes of 1707? Yet we have an SNP administration that is frightened to confront the British state. They have forgotten that sovereignty lies not with Westminster but the Scottish people yet they have failed to assert that sovereignty on our behalf.

The longer this goes on the more frustration will increase, people will get angry, they already see their lives are controlled, how we remain an underdeveloped country, Brexit has hastened the process, we now see how we are unable to solve what’s happening to us. What has the SNP done to counter this attack on our sovereignty, yes that’s right, NOTHING?

Oh, our Westminster MPs, will stand up in the Commons and,

“We won’t let it happen”, and then it happens.

The SNP doesn’t seem to understand that a referendum is not the worst route to freedom. We need an accord with our neighbours, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and yes, the Republic of Ireland too. Residential status alone is a dangerous strategy, guaranteed to lose independence. No country used that process to decide its entire future. In a country where we cannot even control our borders, Scotland, agreeing to a vote on independence for residents, is a colonial trap.  

 I have written at length in the past about how Nicola Sturgeon is unfit to run the country and take her forward, selfies and being a nice person, able to stand up and give a good performance is not leadership. As for her nefarious, unscrupulous husband, CEO of the SNP…………

Nicola did have her high points, when she went to the Irish Republic’s parliament, the Dail Eireann, she was warmly welcomed and gave a good speech, but alas it has been all downhill thereafter. The trouble is her competency, she has not gathered any experience, she has not learned any state craft, she has no agenda, she has no vision for Scotland. Her marriage to the Scottish Green party is only to bolster her personal power base; just believing in Scotland’s constitutional rights will not get us independence, what are her civil servants doing and thinking when she does not even bother to call on them for advice.  Alex Salmond, handed her a gift, a potential of a 58% vote for Yes, and since six mandates so far, what has she done with any of it? Sturgeon needs to step aside or resign, (and take the CEO with her) but this is not up to me, but when people feel you do not have the skills to accomplish the tasks appointed to you, you are given a different brief so someone more qualified can fill your job, this would be a dignified exit, (there are plenty of excuses used by politicians, want to spend more time with their family, start a family………. All that said, I am still positive that the SNP can be saved, but when a revolution is delayed or as people become more impatient with the First Minister, or feel betrayed, by the SNP party, new independent parties will come to the fore, Alba Party and the ISP.

Johnston heads the most right-wing, neo-liberalism UK government since Thatcher. In the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties, wealth was spread reasonably well across our infrastructure, roads, social justice, and hospitals, libraries, and schools and so on. By the Nineties the neo-liberals had managed to convince governments, via placement and bribery, that less democracy frees people, as Baldric would say, ‘a cunning plan’ the opposite is true, it leaves us open to robbery and theft and loss of rights.

“The main principle of neo-liberalism is undermining the mechanisms of social solidarity and mutual support” Noam Chomsky.

For example, a Tory neo-liberal will be quite happy seeing demonstrations banned around our parliament building. They see the people as the problem. Now we have an SNP aping Tory ideology, a colonial mindset. Blocking our independence, ignoring our sovereignty, robbing us of our wealth reduces our freedoms.  Remember not so long ago we used to be able to go anywhere for our holidays, no longer the case. Brexit would never have happened in Scotland had we been an independent country once more.

How do we gain back control? The public must engage in marches, protest rallies, petitions to parliament, badger your MP and MSP, but most of all use the ballot box to oust those that hold us back (if you hand offends you, cut it off), when their jobs once more are on the line, their pants will start to fill with poop, and change will come. Even the great Tory leader Thatcher, when she stopped being a vote winner was ditched by her party, how much easier it will be rid ourselves of an incompetent First Minster. The SNP have decided good governance is all that is needed to sway No voters to Yes – their chosen road. Now they are content to draw salaries until the cows come home, if we leave self-governance in their hands. The council elections may be Scotland’s last chance saloon.   

In the movie Brewster’s Millions – Brewster ran for office to dispose of millions and his slogan was

“Vote None Of The Above”

Maybe that should be Scotland’s slogan in the up and comming council elelctions, none of the above SNP candidates.

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Ready Steady – Go!

In the movie Knight and Day, we get the line,

“Well, I did warn you not to get on the plane”

“When, when did you warn me?”

“When I said, sometimes things happen for a reason”

“That’s not a warning” retorted June, “Next time try – June if you get on this plane you will die.”

This morning was one of those days that ‘things may have happened for a reason’; I was dressed to go out on my bike, but would take the paper and cardboard out to the recycle bin first. As I opened the door, a large parcel was propped up against the door jam, the bag of daffodil bulbs I had ordered had arrived.

The morning was cold, high winds from the south and west so planting bulbs seemed like a better option than riding a bike. I swapped cycling shoes for gardening boots. Five kilos (approximately 100 bulbs) did not go as far as I would have liked, still plenty of time to order 100 more.

Once planted it was out with the Dutch hoe, to chop the heads off any weeds that were brave enough to present themselves in their no-win stance against the mighty hoe as it scythed its way through the soil. It doesn’t take long to run around with the hoe just after rain has passed, as the soil is soft and easy to work. Just as I was clearing away, down it came, a plump of very wet, and ice cold rain,

“Didn’t it rain children?”

Had I been out on my bike now, it would not be very pleasant – sometimes things happen for a reason.

At the start of the year I dug up a bed of Jersey Lilies and broke them into small clumps to spread around the beds at the front of the building, to add a bit of colour. What I did not expect was two different colours from the same plant.

The original plant produced these large blue heads, and the first to appear at the front were sisters of the originals.

However, when the ones planted in the bed that ran along the length of the old random rubble wall, came into flower, they were pink. How strange, I wonder if the different soils give different colours of flowers. The wall is obviously high in lime, where the other may have been planted in a more neutral soil – ????????

Stay safe.      

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“Who will guard the guard?”

First thing this morning the skies over St Andrews were as black as the earl of hell’s waistcoat, the hope is that it will pass over soon.

I have been watching the young people’s climate change conference, from Italy, and can’t help feeling it is all being filtered through a media controlled by the world government’ media.

We are happy to allow the young to have their voice and their day in the sun, Oh, it is fine for the young to want to safe the world, but they have little idea of how the world’s economies work and it is us not them that must balance the books. This was the attitude of the Italian government‘s spokesperson.

I believe their thinking is wrong, and as wrong as it can be. We were taught by J. Bronowski in that brilliant series on the BBC ‘The Ascent of Man’ possibly made for the Open University. The great empires of China, Egypt, Rome and England all failed because they were static. The children were taught to do as their father had done, and their father as their grandfather had done, we have to allow our children to develop freedom of thought, and move the world forward.

I can not truthfully remember the date, but it would have been around 1976 when the remake of the film ‘A star is born’ came into the cinemas of Edinburgh. I was blown away by the music and the next day went out and bought the LP before returning to the cinema that night, and the following night and the next after that, the film had such an influence on my thinking at the time. And of course Streisand was a superstar. I believe the words of ‘Woman in the Moon’ are just as relevant today as then,

“For if we do not move – then we will never feel our chains”

Lyrics, Woman in the Moon, from the film A star is Born.

I was warned as a child of thirteen not to act too strong,

Try to look like you belong but don’t push girl,

Save your time and trouble,

Don’t misbehave.

………….Memorize your lines and move as directed,

That’s an age old story,

Everybody knows that’s a worn out song.

But you and I are changing that tune,

We’re learning new rhythms from that woman – I said that woman in the moon,

Little sister, little brother,

Keep on pushin’

Don’t believe a word about,

Things you heard about askin’

Too much too soon,

‘Cause they can hold back the tide,

But they can never hold the woman in the moon……..

‘The Woman in the Moon’ words and music by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher,

The French president Macron has instigated a commission on ‘Fake News’ – will it be about Fake News’ or control of the media and internet? This is the struggle that is going on, not only in France at this time, but we hear it from Boris Johnston, Trump and now Joe Biden.

The question I would wish to ask is, will the French government (or any other government for that matter) come under the commission’s spotlight too?

“Who will guard the guard?”

Stay safe.

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What about Nice?

Yesterday it was very cold out on the bike; today the rain added its pennyworth, so cold wet and very windy, I was only too glad to be home.   

When things go wrong in my life, I do not fret over them that would be wasted energy, spilt milk, move on. But of course, the time and effort put into trying to get to where you wanted to be before it all went pear-shaped, is never a total write off.

The plan was, knowing that I would always want to do something with boats, in the years running up to my retirement. I bought the old folk boat for the purpose of using it as a live-on-board home. When complete I would sail over to France, join the canal system, and travel down to the south of France, into the Mediterranean, and from there the Canal du Midi, and with my saving and sale of my house, I would buy a plot of land next to the canal bank and plant a vegetable garden, the fruits of my labour would be sold to passing trade from my waterborne home and at the local market. That’s the plan.

Okay, she needed a few new planks (actually twice as many as first thought) some new ribs (more troublesome since they were mostly hidden behind miles of brightwork that made up the interior of the boat.) new, standing and running rigging, a new mainsail, and none of this would come cheap. However I had given myself a few years to do the work, had some savings, (well at least at the start of the refit) and was still earning a wage, so some disposable income too, as always, I would be leaning on the job, but

Why France?

A warm climate, the Mediterranean, non-tidal so you can sail at most any time you please, (although it can be a bit fickle, weather-wise, as Paul found out.) most yacht owners, who sail in the Mediterranean over the summer months, bring their yachts into the canal system over winter, much cheaper than in a marina on the coast. (It would have cost me around £70.00 per year to house my boat on the canal if things had gone to plan.) The canal chosen was the Midi, a 240km waterway in Southern France, connecting the Garonne, running from Toulouse down to the Etang de Thau on the Mediterranean.

I did retire, I did finish my three years refit of the boat, I did sail it afterwards, however, not in the Mediterranean, but the North Sea out of Grimsby.

Yes, but what about ‘Nice’? 

I needed to do a reconnaissance of the area, near to where the canal and Mediterranean collided I set out for Sete. I soon became worn out with tourists, heavy traffic the south coast is no place for a bike. With time on my hands before I would have to fly home from Nice, I decided to return to my old hunting ground, and boarded a train for Aigueze, in the Rhone valley.

Aigueze to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 29 miles

In the centre of the town, the game of boules is played under the shade of the plane trees, as it has been played down through the centuries, at the terrain de boules, and area laid out especially and a great place to sit and watch the world go by.

Dominating the landscape of the area is Mont Ventoux; it hangs over you like a cloud as you cycle past picturesque vineyard after vineyard. The whole of this area is given over to the growing of grapes for winemaking; Chateauneuf-du-Pape is probably the best known of the wines from this area. The variety of grapes that can be grown as well as the percentage of alcohol is all controlled under the rules of ‘appellation controlee’. It is they who ensure that all wine produced and bearing the label Chateauneuf-du-Pape comes from this region.  On route you will cross over the River Rhone, I stopped at a little campsite, L’Art de Vivre on the banks of the river and practically in the vineyard.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape to Villes-sur-Auzon 24 miles,

As you approach Mont Ventoux, you will be thinking of the death of Tom Simpson in 1967 on the Tour de France. Simpson was the first British rider to wear the yellow jersey and had been World Champion. The stage finished in Carpentras, was attributed to the British rider Barry Hoban. It was agreed amongst the peloton that a British ride should take the stage as a tribute to Simpson. I could have gone off route and cycled to the top of the toughest climb on the Tour de France, but having seen these top cyclists struggle, I had neither the will nor inclination to ride to the top, so passed on by.

Villes-sur-Auzon to Sault 19 miles,

This is something a bit special, as you leave the vineyards behind and cycle the Gorges de la Nesque only 19 miles but this is spectacular, the road skirting along the side of the gorge, and through tunnels cut into the limestone rock. The honey produced here is a bit special too. It takes on the favour of Lavender and Thyme grown extensively in the region. Lavender is of course synonymies with Provence.

Sault to Forcalquier 33 miles,

The fields above Sault are where the world’s lavender is grown. I had gotten myself lost. I was supposed to go into the village, not by-pass it and come out in a totally new direction, I had continued on the road that I was now on. The road grew steeper and steeper until I thought I was climbing Mont Ventoux, although that was now way on the horizon. I found myself on a high plateau, totally covered in lavender, the scent in the air was overpowering. I found a small filling station and went in to ask for directions. The owner did not answer but pointed out the window to a lad filling a small van. I don’t know what was written on the side of the van but did recognise the name Jones, and that Mr Jones was something to do with electricity. Mr Jones was indeed Welsh and had come to lived and worked here in France, as a self-employed electrical contractor, and yes, the only way to get back onto my road was back the road I had just come, ho-hum, well at least it would be all downhill.  

This is beautiful pleasant cycling and not until you reach Le Rocher d’Ongles will the road open up again. This is a very fast road down through the valley, slightly downhill to meet the Laye River that terminates in a reservoir. you will see domed-shaped dwellings, dating from around 2000 BC, dry-stone built from flat slabs of limestone, called lauzes, they are everywhere, saved for prosperity and repaired using traditional methods. There is much to see in Forcalquier, including the Place St-Michel and its 15th-century fountain, and nearby, the Centre d’Astronomie, open to the public.

Forcalquier to Moustiers-ste-Marie 37 miles,

The Durance river valley divides Provence and from here it is a bit of a pull up onto the Plateau de Valensole, another sea of lavender. The area has a very different feel to it, more of a Roman influence, and is very Mediterranean. From the town of Moustiers-Ste-Marie, I travelled a few km to the village of Moustiers, well worth the climb.  Perched on the cliff-face, the river Raoul cuts the town in half as it tumbles it way down from the mountains. I journeyed here to see the chain and star. The story goes that a Knight taken prisoner during the Crusades, vowed that if he ever returned to Moustiers he would hang a silver star above the village, the current star was put there in 1882. The village was established by monks in the 5th century, living in a cave hollowed out of the cliffside.

Moustiers-ste-Marie to Balcons de la Mescala 25 miles,

The waters of the Lac de Ste-Croix reflected the blue of the sky this is a gorgeous area for France. The Gorge du Verdon is second only to the Grand Canyon in the US. You cycle all 25km of the gorge, with its emerald green waters below. The Parc National Regional De Verdon would make a great place for a fortnight cycling holiday. There is rafting, canyon and kayaking on offer too or why not, bungee jumping, from the Point de L’artuby, for those of an adventurous nature.

Balcons de la Mescala to Castellane 25 miles,

Again a spectacular ride, at Comps-Sur-Artuby you will plunge to the upper reaches of the Verdon River gorge. I chose to climb the hillier route from Jabron that ended in an exhilarating, almost free-fall descent around hairpin bends and over small stone bridges of the Canyon du Rayaup, this was suggested to me by a local cyclist; he said I would not be disappointed, he was right. I arrived early so had time to explore the Chapelle Notre-Dame du Roc, built-in 1703 and sits above the town, a thirty-minute walk.

Castellane to Greolieres 29 miles,

At the start of my journey from Castellane, I could now feel the weariness in my legs as I climbed to the plateau at over one thousand meters, before plunging once more through a tight limestone gorge, unfortunately riding on the right you feel very exposed with walls less than a wheel height to stop you getting to the bottom very quickly indeed. Beware of the ‘Mistral’ crossing the high plateaus and passes of Provence you will come across these might wind from the north-west, they have tremendous power in them and have been known to reach gusts of over one hundred kph.

Greolieres to Nice 28 miles,

The Gorge du Loup, it was all downhill from here and I had two days in hand, so it was a leisurely ride, stopping off to take a dip at the waterfall, it was breathtakingly cold but so refreshing. You will not be weary of things to do in Nice, so long as you like to do them surrounded by tourists. Nice has more art galleries and museums than Paris. The cycle paths can be tricky with give way signs everywhere, at the Promenade des Anglais, I dipped my wheel in the sea, the end of my journey, I folded up my bike and packed it away in the carrier bag, dumped most of my clothing pamphlets and reading material picked up on the way to lighten my plane journey home, spending my last day just sitting around watching the world go by, the last thing I wanted to do was to join it.                  

Stay safe.

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The Gorge de L’Ardeche.

Monday and a weather front has moved over us, leaving in its wake high winds. Monday as ever is laundry day, and Mrs. Hubbard’s cupboards were once again in need of replenishing, so no cycling today.  

So to our tale, the Gorge de L’Ardeche.

I was planning my next cycling trip to France, and for reasons known only to myself, decided that cycle the Loire from source to its termination at the Atlantic Ocean. The Loire passes though some of the most spectacular countryside in France, along with many of the cities worthy of a visit, and the real reason for choosing this journey.

The mighty Loire Rivers starts its journey, near to a large volcanic plug in the Massif Central. Travelling first north, then west, the river maps its way across the central belt of France, all the way into the Atlantic Ocean, on France’s west coast. The nearest town to the source, that I could find was St-Laurent Les-Bains.  Now as I planned my route to St-Laurent Les-Bains, I found that the Gorge de L’Ardeche was only around 200 km south of that town. I was by now licking my lips, less than a days cycling ride. This was too good an opportunity to let pass.





The King sits in Dunfermline town

Drinking a blood red wine,

“Where can I get a good sea captain

To sail this ship of mine?”

My journey started by settling my mother into rest/care in Shipley West Yorkshire, and making the four hour drive north to Dunfermline in Fife, the home of my sister. It would be she who would be look after mum’s Yorkshire terrier, Tim, for me for the duration of my three weeks holiday in France.

That evening I travelled by bus over to Edinburgh and boarded the overnight National Express coach, for London, a short journey since I slept most of the way, arriving at Victoria Coach Station around 6am next morning. I only had time to catch a quick cup of coffee before boarding the bus for Paris.

The ferry from Dover to Calais was a welcome break from the coach, as I sat up on deck, with my coca cola and munching on mutton pies, that had come all the way from Bains on the High Street in Dunfermline, you don’t buy food and drink on a ferry unless you have money to burn.

The best laid schemes of mice and men……..

I had planned to stay overnight in the outskirts of Paris and spend some time there before pushing on south.  It was six-thirty in the evening when I arrived at Pont National Quai de Bercy, the bus station in Paris. The air was heavy and the skies black, thunder storms had been forecast for later that evening, not wishing to wake, in a soggy field with everything I owned sodden I chose to take the Metro across the city to the Gare du Nord, and catch the TGV, a 557 kph train south all the way into Orange.

The high speed train departed Gare du North at midnight; it was comfortable and warm so my eyes started to close as soon as I was settled. It was a fitful journey; I kept wakening up ever half hour or so to check the time, not wishing to sleep through my station. When I did lighten from the train at Orange it was onto an almost empty platform with the sun just starting to make an appearance. I was tired, bleary eyed, and the last thing I was thinking about was unfolding my bike, repacking it and taking off for Pont-St-Esprit. I did peddle away from the station but only as far as the first campsite I came to, a small patch of ground down by the sandy bank of the river.  Once established I curled up upon my sleeping bag and slept the sleep of the gods until late morning. I sat by the waters edge, dressed only in swimming trunks and a T-shirt, refreshed by the cold water of the river. The village shops had supplied me with bread and milk so I brewing up a pot of tea, the pot was then recharged with porridge, (I away carry a large bag of the stuff with me).

This was a defining day for me for I had truly arrived in the South of France. The climate, the pine forests, the valleys of Ardeche, crammed with vineyards and fruit orchards awaited my arrival. I felt I already knew the area for I had been inspired to come here after reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s account of his travels in this part of France.

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Alas, as we get up in life, and are more preoccupied with our affairs, even a holiday is a good thing that must be worked for. To hold a pack upon a packsaddle against a gale out of the freezing north is no high industry, but it is one that serves to occupy and compose the mind. And when the present is so exacting who can annoy himself about the future?

Robert Louis Stevenson set off from Le Monastier-sur-Gazeille with Modestine the donkey on a 12-day hike through the Cevennes. Modestine turn out to be a bit of a handful and a very reluctant travelling companion, a great read.

My journey would be less troublesome, for I would not be employing a stubborn donkey to carry my load. I struck camp with the sun at her zenith, refreshed, and in good spirit for

Pont-St-Esprit and the start of a 47 kilometre ride above a limestone gorge cut over the millennium by the Ardeche River. The road is like a ledge following the curves of the river; it is narrow, a cliff face on your right and not much on your left until you reach the bottom and the river. Passing places have been provided at some of the best viewing points as you travel towards Pont D’Arc.

The spectacular ride along the gorge was breathtaking but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. The Pont D’Arc, this is the only example of a natural stone arch spanning a river in France. I arrived late in the day, the sun was already well over the yardarm and the Pont D’Arc under the soft evening light was to behold. I stripped; and lying on my back floated under the arch, life just does not come much better than this.

Next morning I travelled into St-Laurent Les-Bains, where I camped for the night, many of these camp sites are attended by students over the summer recess; likewise this one and the girl told me to bring my bike into her office for safety overnight. These are the sort of details you always remember, an act of kindness. The village is dominated by a large plant bottling water that tells you it came from the volcanic rocks high above on the Massif Central, and the source of the River Loire.

and where I would be going tomorrow, but that is another story.  

Stay safe

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Hautefort to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.

The wind had abated, somewhat, but still it was a stiff breeze I was heading into on my way towards Crail. I did not go into Crail proper, but turned off onto the B9171, maybe a couple of miles from the quaint, little, fishing village. From here I made my way across the country towards Kellie Castle, but did not stop. At Arncroach I climbed up onto the B940 at Knights Ward I turned left for Peat Inn and home, over Drumcarrow Craig, finally dropping down into St Andrews. It was hard going but you always feel so much better when you have done a bit of work. 

As I entered St Andrews and stopped to allow traffic to pass, a young girl, possibly late teens, approached. She caught my eye because of what she was wearing. Dressed in colour match pink and white, a pleated tennis style skirt, in white, a pink top, each set off with contrasting, decorative pieces of cloth, pink on white, white on pink. Her straw-coloured hair fell past her shoulders, long and blond, that looked natural. She had pleated her hair, ending her work with large pink bows, dressed I would have thought for a party. She looked so clean, neat and tidy, the clothes hung on her slim body so well, and it just all worked. As she approached and crossed the road in front of me, it was then, and only then, that I noticed her eyes. They were puffed, and red rimmed, her eye makeup smudged. Had she been crying, or simply lack of sleep, I hoped the latter; she was too pretty to be unhappy.

Lifting my pad and pencils, and starting drawing once more, I have been paying much more attention to what is going on around me. So many faces, so many stories behind those faces, it is easy to conger up a scenario to go with faces.

Hautefort to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, 36 miles

With enough miles in the tank now we can push on from the Perigord region of France, and into a land of troglodyte caves of Roque Saint Christophe, and the cave paintings of Lascaux. This is where Cro-Magnon man, our earliest modern human ancestor, was found. The tree lined roads are very rural, meandering alongside quiet flowing rivers; this is a real taste of Dordogne. Taking our time, we explored every day,

The Roque Saint-Christophe is a rock formation with rock shelters (abris sous-roche) at the River Vezere near Pevizac-le-Moutier in the

The Maison forte de Reignac is a château in Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It is built into the rock face.

There is so much to see here, we would spend the whole day exploring, returning laden with fresh food from the markets and sticky from a day’s labours. Skinny dipped in the broad river that ran alongside our rustic campsite, it felt so natural and refreshing. Les Eyzies-de-Tayac was the perfect end to a perfect French experience. All too soon, we would be loading up the van and driving the long miles back to the ferry and home.

We spoke little on the way home, both lost in our own thoughts. My feelings at the time, a conversation would somehow break the spell, for that is certainly how it felt, a spell has been cast upon us, France, – Spellbinding.  

But what about Nice I hear you all cry! Well that was another adventure in totally different circumstances. For a start I was riding solo, (not near as much fun) and thirty years older.

Stay safe.      

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It’s war folks.

Watch: Pro-independence supporters march through Edinburgh | Edinburgh News

Just before I go off on my Sunday run, I thought I would tell you how the AUOB Rally went yesterday.

There has been a concerted effort to dampen any attempted by the Scottish people to hold rallies in support of independence, Nicola Sturgeon’s government can not stop the marches but she can make it as difficult as possible to hold them as displayed this weekend.

All Under One Banner had submitted their proposed route from Carlton Hill in Edinburgh to the Parliament Building at Holyrood, as long ago as last January. At the last minute the route was rejected, a second proposed route was rejected, again by Edinburgh Council, even although it was acceptable by Police Scotland. All this was taking place only hours before the march was due to start. The final meeting by the Edinburgh Council was held behind closed doors, no public, and no press present, they did finally grant permission for a march, not through the streets of Edinburgh, but form the Commonwealth Pool through the great park below Arthur’s Seat and in by the back door of Holyrood.

Now we hear that approval has been sot asking the Westminster government to rule against any political gathering outside the Holyrood Parliament Building.

Oor, Nicola will of course wash her hands in public. It was not me; it was Edinburgh Council that made that decision, not me. It was the body that looks after the Parliament Estate that submitted the request (to a foreign power) for rallies and political gatherings not to be held outside the Scottish Parliament, not me

“My hands are clean” Aye right.  

Sorry, Nicola, that will not wash, you are the First Minister of Scotland, what influence have you brought to bear in stopping this request, to a foreign power, to take away the freedoms of the Scottish people. And since the SNP make up almost half the councillors in the Edinburgh Council, Well Miss Sturgeon, the air is filled with the smells of rotten fish, and as Lenin said

“There is no profit in last week’s fish”.

Despite all the log jams, despite the real fears still hanging over us from coronavirus (3,261 cases reported in the UK on Saturday), yet still, they came. The numbers were small, in comparison with the 200 thousand that marched AUOB before lockdown, I estimated a little over two thousand, but still significant. This was especially telling when other independent marches were taking place across Scotland on the same day, a sign, that coronavirus is having an impact, ‘small is beautiful. I saw on the internet today that five thousand had watched the march on U-Tube or Facebook.

I stayed for the speeches outside the parliament building (and the music) they were passionate from activists of all colours, and yes, an MP from the Alba Party, good on you for sticking your head above the parapet.    

Stay safe.

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 “The party’s over the candles flicker and dim…………”

Today I am preparing to head out for Scotland’s Capital City, Edinburgh where the AUOB March will be held. There will be the usual playing down of the numbers attending, but it matters little for thousands will attend and that is all that really matters.

The frustration of the Scottish people is growing and sadly it is growing against the SNP lead government. Nicola Sturgeon had her third mandate from the Scottish people on holding a referendum on independence; however it will never be acted upon by her.

We know she has thwarted many attempts to move forward on independence, I have covered that ground so often now, spilt milk, move on.

The SNP are now an established part of the Westminster government of the UK and that is all Nicola Sturgeon ever wanted, and ever will want, the SNP party in power at Holyrood. Holyrood had become an appendix of Westminster under her term in government.

Oh, she will stand up in parliament and spout off about independence and the Tory leader will call out that she should forget independence and get on with the day job.

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

The government of Holyrood have never been as close to the government at Westminster at any time in their history as they have become under Nicola Sturgeon, they are now part of the Tory establishment, no matter the pretence to be on opposite sides of the fence.

The Tories will win the General Election in 2024, and it will be aided in victory by the SNP, for so long as Scotland keeps voting for the present SNP party, Labour will be kept out of power at Westminster. I am not saying people should not vote SNP I am just stating the arithmetic at Westminster. As it stands Labour can not command enough votes in England; they need the Scottish vote, but the present leader of the Labour party is more British Establishment, than Boris ever will be, and the fight still goes on within the Labour party for the soul of the party.  But what I am saying is that the Tories and the SNP are now in collusion to keep each other in power, no matter the faces they show to a gullible voter.  

I thought that the Alba Party might be the catalyst for change, but where are they?

Will there be a big contingent of Alba party members marching today, flying the Alba flag?

Will there be any elected members of the Alba party leading the march?

We have up and coming elections in Scotland, next spring, 2022, is it not time therefore for all parties to nail their colours to the mast, and say what they really do stand for?

“The party’s over my friend.”         

I spend a fortnight’s holiday in the Dordogne, with my girlfriend at the time; it was April (knowing how hot it can get in the Dordogne region in summer.) She was not into cycling as I was and although we did take two bikes with us, the cycling was slow and sedate and a lot of sightseeing. I would ride solo in the early morning, and on my return we would go for a dip in the river, I am a very poor swimmer and stayed in the shallows, Janet on the other hand struck out like a torpedo through the water. However the Dordogne did leave a lasting impression on me and we did get to know the area, and each other, very well. I loved it so much I have always wanted return. 

The D675 takes you due south travelling through the Parc Naturel Regional Perigord-Limousin. The region is a patchwork of postural land, green meadows and lashings of wild flowers, even this early in the year. Small chestnut woodlands are a feature of Dordogne and use for making charcoal, fencing and furnisher. The cattle you see are the red Limousin cattle famed for their quality of beef. Not that I had a chance to sample the quality of their beef, Janet being a vegetarian, made me, more or less at that time, a vegetarian too.  The roads, defined as a main road, but the traffic is very light in this sparsely populated part of France.  Although the landscape is flat, the roads meander, a pleasant change from the rule-straight roads of the Loire.

The Dordogne architecture is very different to what you will have seen in other parts of France. The towers are squat with square bases, and have a soffit that overhangs like a brim of a hat.

As a treat we indulged ourselves by booked into Le Chatenet, for a night, a grand Perigord stone manor house built in  the 17th-century by Lord de Giry, the room was very quaint 1920 decor, Adn did not smell at all like our tent. It had the biggest bed I have ever slept in, and the biggest bath tub I have ever shared with a woman.

One of the places we stopped was Nontron, famed for its knife-making techniques, and reputed to be the oldest knife-making foundry in France. The carnival des Soufflés, held in Nontron, dates from the Middle-Ages, a bi-annual affair, held every other April. We were fortunate enough to be there on a year that it was being held.

The townspeople dress up in nightshirts, cotton caps, clogs and masks and each carried with them a pair of bellows. The object of the exercise is to attempt to blow air up each other’s nightshirts, in order to chase away evil spirits! It looked like a lot of fun and I would have loved to have join in. That is something I find on holidays out-with Scotland, you have less inebriations about letting your hair down.

canoeing in Brantome

The ‘Venice of Perigord’ is the title given to Brantome, which is a bit strange for the area dose not have any canals. Over one thousand years ago the monks cut a mill-stream across the corner of the Dronne River, and as a result, Brantome sits on an island in the Dronne. Six bridges link it with the mainland, and where the name originates from. This area of the Dordogne is so popular with British tourists it is often referred to as ‘Dordogne-shire’ although, blessedly, when we were there we never heard another English voice.  

Stay safe.   

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Fontevraud-L’abbaye (France), via Upper Largo (Fife)

I needed to put some serious miles today, 34 to be exact. I travelled out by Denhead and up over Drumcarrow Craig, the rising wind began to make its presence felt, I was totally exposed now. I fought the wind all the way into Peat Inn; relief came as I dropped down to Largoward. Turning right at the crossroads I climbed into the foothills of Largo Law, cresting the hill at Wester Newburn is always a delight to see the river laid out before you. I once more faced with the full force of the wind from the southwest, less troublesome as I scooted off down into Upper (Kirkton) of Largo, now with the wind on my back, it was throttle wide open for the next 5 miles into Elie, 16 miles on the clock now but struggling for that average of 10 mph.

I was feeling good with the wind’s hand firmly pressed upon my back, I always do, running before the wind, so did not stop until I had reached Anstruther, another 5 miles in and 4 more, on into Crail. The wind was no longer a favourable one, but no great threat either. Crail marked the started the long, slow climb, following the North Sea coastline for Brownhills, ending in a big Weeeeeeee back into St Andrews. I was feeling on top of the world, 37 miles, (it should have only been 35, but I’m not going to argue with the computer). 

It was not until I had reached home and was sitting with my obligatory pot of tea, that the tiredness hit me, my legs felt fine, but I was pooped, hardly surprising for my average speed now read a tad over 11 mph (wind-assisted). If I had been doing as much mileage on a long trip, it would not have been sustained as today, I would never have pushed to the point of exhaustion, but this is all about getting some fitness back into my body.

Brissac-Quince to Fontevraud-L’abbaye, 34 miles,

Fontevraud Abbey - Wikipedia

This is without doubt one of the finest cycling, touring areas in the world, then again I have not been everywhere in the world. It is not just the beautiful countryside but the whole ambience of the area, the dress, white sandstone of the building, unique to the Loire, which gives off a warm creamy glow in the strong light of the day, turning to rich gold in the last rays of the sun. Passing the many, many caves where they store the famous Saumur sparkling wine, a delicious temptress, fermented from the grapes grown in the rich soil that rises up from the Loire valley, the Saumur Brut, and Cremant de Loire, sparkling wines, truly equal to any of the finest of all the champagne of France, but without the price tag. You can not help but be won over by the atmospheric old streets of palaces, such as Fontevraud L’Abbaye and its impressive monastic complex, the largest in France incidentally. The roads are hardly challenging, mostly flat running alongside the calm waters of the Loire.

La Loire à Vélo is a unique cycle route, that forms the western section of the EuroVelo 6 route, linking the Atlantic with the Black Sea, A large stretch of the Loire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; in parts, it’s also known as France’s Valley of the Kings and as The Garden of France. All along La Loire à Vélo, you stick closely to France’s last great wild river, with its sandy banks and islands, its vine-covered slopes, its typical towns and villages, passing under the canopy of small woodlands, the last vestiges of what was once the great hunting forests of the French nobility, all of this, comes with fine food and an atmosphere totally unique to the Loire valley, (of course I may just have customer prejudice in favour of what France, offers me her best customer.)

I will be riding the eastern part of the route, the Black Forest to Vienna, returning via Salzburg and Zurich, in the spring, although on the return trip I may well enlist the help of a train and/or bus. These routes are designed with cyclists in mind, with more than 50 per cent of the route traffic-free, (the part I will ride from the Black Forest to Vienna almost totally traffic-free) the remainder on back roads, and not at all like here in the UK, an afterthought, more often than not on poorly maintained paths or using cyclists as a traffic calming incentive. Money handed to quangos with highly paid executives in well-staffed offices rather than the money spent making, well-maintained cycle tracks, traffic-free and safe roads for cyclists. Sorry on my little soapbox once more.  

inscription edition 2021

If you are in need of lots of fun with like-minded people on bikes then join in the Anjou Velo Vintage. As the name suggests it is a festival of cycling, held over two days, with the majority of the cyclists making the effort to come on vintage machines and in the costume of the era of their machine, the main object of the festival is just about having fun. There are rides, loops, from 50k to 150k, so something for everyone. Like others around France, these festivals are well organized and you will be well catered for, with refectory tables set up and campsites organised, give yourself a real cycling break and attend a French-style cycling rallies, (the Cider Meet in Brittany is another excellent rally). 

Keep safe.  

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Chalonnes-Sur-Loire to Brissac-Quince.

Monday so laundry day for Hamilton here at City Park, the washing was quickly taken care off – as I wrote this I was thinking of a notice I saw in a Pakistani shop window in Bradford in the 1960s it read,

“All customers will be quickly executed”

My ride today was under clear blue skies, and strong autumn sunlight, a truly beautiful autumnal morning. With the sun now lower towards the horizon, travelling along the cycle track in dappled sunlight, I found care was required, as joggers and cyclists could easily be lost from sight as you passed between light and shade.

The scabs on my healing war wounds, sustained in last week’s crash, were itching like mad, oh, how I wanted to claw at them. Thankfully the wise words of Spike Milligan came to my rescue,

“You have to pick when the picking is good, for if you don’t pick right things will never get better.”

Just less than a 20 miles riding today, and a little short of our journey from Chalonnes-Sur-Loire to Brissac-Quince, 22 miles. This is again a great cycling country, on well surfaced roads almost devoid of traffic. They will sweep you past the many vineyards on to the small town of Denee, to meet up once more with the River Loire. Crossing the bridge you will be unaware you are now riding on an island in the middle of the river, crossing back over to the rivers south bank at Murs Erigne.  Take your time, for there is so much to see, and untold myths and legends to be heard.

Mémoires de Renée Bordereau, dite Langevin, Guerres de Vendée, Révolution,  Histoire de France, Histoire, Nos Rayons - Chiré

We hear so much about how Joanne of Arc, rode at the head of her army, inspiring and leading them to victory. Here we come across another female soldier. Renee Bordere nicknamed ‘Lady Angevin’. She was a Frenchwoman born in Soulaines-sur-Aubance in 1777. She dressed herself in men’s clothing and fought in the Royalist Cavalry during the Vendee wars. She was a skilled tactician and at the forefront of her little force pushed six hundred republican soldiers into the River Louet from Roche-de-Murs. I picked up a book (in English), of her exploits when I was travelling in this area, and may well be still in print today, a good read.   

Brissac-Quince 2021: Best of Brissac-Quince, France Tourism - Tripadvisor
Mary Queen of Scots slept here.

Brissac Quince needs time to explore, and dominating is the Chateau De Brissac. Sitting high on a hill, it commands your attention as you approach the city. Not only is it the most impressive chateau you are likely to see, it claims to be the tallest of the castles along the Loire Valley. Built over the remains of an old fortress, what we see today developed over the centuries from a modest chateau started by Charles de Cosse, governor of Paris and marshal of France, into this spectacular chateau. The front elevation features a 17th –century domed pavilion. It is guarded, sentry like, by two 15-century towers. Today fifteen of the rooms are open to the public, these include the bedroom of Louis X111 and the opera theatre built in 1883. (The theatre still hosts concerts to this day). The gardens are extensive as are the wine cellars.

Mary Queen of Scots slept here.

As you can imagine the chateau is a big attraction for tourists, and the French were not slow to take advantage. Several restaurants around the city have been situated to take full advantage of the views, their terraces offering panoramic sights of castle and the beautiful Loire River. The city of Brissac Quince had in the past hosted the ‘Le Champoionnat de France de Montgolfiers’, (Championships of France for hot-air-balloonists) the championships are named after the brothers who invented the first hot-air-balloon.

I believe I have seen balloons climbing into the air over the chateau in an advert shown on television. Strangely enough I always remember the advert but not what it is trying to sell me.

You will no doubt wish to visit the office de tourisme where like me you will gather all this information on the numerous free pamphlets that are the lifeblood of the cycle tourist. It is from here you will have one of the best views of the magnificent towers and facades and the chateau’s extensive gardens.  

I camped for two days here near the little village of Le Port, and swam in the Loire daily; the waters were warm, shallow and refreshing; on those long hot summer days. 

Stay safe.

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Mr Angry.

The rain that passed over during the night leaves behind overcast skies, still the bike remains steadfast in my living room, today I must go up to Aldi to stock the cupboards, bike ride, later, possibly.

There is much on the news about shortages of gas, leading to higher prices for the consumer and even the demise of some small supply companies. This is hardly news. We have been talking about fuel poverty in Scotland for decades.

Now I was a delegate at the SNP conference, when it was the decision of the conference by 527 votes to 6 (if memory serves) to set up a state-run energy company. Four years on (this Nicola Sturgeon, run excuse for a Scottish government) have shelved the whole idea and “re-focused” (you can pick the bones out of that one) on a new Public Energy Agency.

(Read, phone line to a computer that will tell you to shop around for the best prices.)

Four years ago, at that conference, it was Nicola Sturgeon that joyfully and triumphantly trumpeted the setting up of the new energy company. “Publicly owned, not-for-profit Energy Company” with charges “As close to cost price as possible” by 2021.

Here we are nearing the end of 2021, higher fuel prices, leading to higher rate of fuel poverty amongst our poorest citizens, waiting for Boris to pull a rabbit out of the hat. And what are the excuses from Oor, First Minister (for Scotland)? – The pandemic, the changes in the energy market. Strangely, the last time I looked there was no pandemic four years ago, or even three or two years ago, ‘pants on fire’.

Ironic that the SNP government have spent the last five years, standing up in the Commons, in Holyrood, and on the media, shouting about broken promises to the electorate by a Tory government and how that self same Tory government has been selling Scotland short. Let’s not hear anymore lies from this First Minister, drum her out of office.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Angry.     

It was around 9 o’clock in the evening when I went into the kitchen to make myself some supper. As I stood by the window looking out, the glass was a partial black mirror, a partial widow. The row of tenement buildings across the road from me showed no detail, only a black, flat canvas.  There was light in every large living room window, in every fanlight, over each and every doorway, every smaller bathroom window and skylight, yet no light was allowed to escape into the night. Light, varying in degrees of depth and intensity, remained trapped behind some invisible shield, appearing now only as blocks of coloured light, flat against the black flat background of the painted canvas. For that is how it appeared to me now. How often had I stood here and seen this picture before? A dozen, a score, a hundred times before, yet here I stood seeing it for the very first time.

“Living is easy with eyes closed” sang the Beatles.  

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Tractors, fayre grounds and gulls.

Saturday, you need to get out on the road early, for there is no let up in the traffic after 9 O’clock.

The air was cold first thing with a greyness hanging over the morning. Like me a farmer was up with the larks, driving a big blue tractor, a cultivator hanging over the bow and dragging another in its wake. A white, fast moving, cloud of sharp eyed gulls, moved unrehearsed over the newly cultivated ground, screaming their delight to the air.

I stopped off at Pitscottie and sat on the parapet of the bridge to enjoy a long pull at my water bottle and just enjoy the day, as I make ready for the hill ahead. Dropping down into Cupar, the shows (fayre) was in town, now the long climb up to Dairsie. It does not look all that steep but it does take it out of you. Guardbridge, then home. St Andrews now bathed in brilliant sunshine.

Distance 18.6 miles

Time taken 1.40.48

Average speed 11.06

Max speed 23.13

Ascent 872 feet

Calories burned 639

This added to yesterdays total of 18.2 (a carbon copy ride, but in reverse) gives us just enough miles to carry on our French journey.

Craon to Chalonnes-sur-Loire 39 miles

once more it has taken two days of peddling to collect sufficient miles for this one trip, but I could not get to Chalonnes-Sur-Loire fast enough. Although the road like many in the area is as straight as an arrow, it is undulating, which helps a lot.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1920px-Ch%C3%A2teaux_de_la_Loire_-_Karte.jpg

There is something magical about the Loire Valley for me. A couple of years prior to my two weeks of sojourning in the Loire Valley, I had journeyed the length of the Loire river itself, from its source in the Massif Central to the Atlantic. I still remember spending the night at a small campsite in St-Laurent-Les-Bains, and the next day tackling the 22 km climb up onto the Massif Central and the start of my journey proper.

It was not the climb so much as the long drop down from the road into the valley below that I remember. More so, since all that lay between me and the valley floor, hundreds of feet below was a small wall that was less than half a meter high.

Bursting out at the top of the climb was a joy, for it was remonisant for a scene from the Sound of Music, where Maria leads the children onto the high mountain meadow festooned with wildflowers. That day, on those high pastures I found lazy, inquisitive cows, with big sad-eyed, contented they lay chowing their cad on a green carpet, with an undetermined pattern of yellow and white flowers. I did not have a lot of time to spend on that trip – a day in Orleans and Tours were the highlights. Before reaching home I had made up my mind that I would return and spend a full two weeks exploring the Loire Valley, it was possibly the best holiday ever, certainly the most memorable.

Here at Chalommes-Sur-Loire, the river lies at peace and you are lured by the tranquillity of it all, unwinding is easy and ‘going native’ is just as natural as breathing. You will never tire of something to see. The Chateaux De La Loire are as, numerous as bouquets of flowers at a wedding. And even although the crown of France was bankrupted, and the 100 years war was at its height during the time of these great hunting lodges, it did not stop the extravagant building of châteaus.

Not to be missed, Tours, a city of two halves, the gleaming new modern train station, and the old town with its narrow streets, whose building tower precariously above your head.

Basilica of Saint Martin, Tours - Wikipedia

Here also the Basilica of Saint Martin, of Tours, the resting place of France’s patron saint.

His father, a centurion, signed the lad into the military academy at 14 years of age. He did pass out and he himself became a centurion, an officer in the Roman army. But was woven from a different cloth, he had leaning towards Christianity and the story goes that when he passed through Tours, on seeing a naked beggar by the side of the road, he removed his cloak, cut it in half with his sword, and handed half to the beggar. His life story is a fascinating one and makes for good reading in the camp of an evening. He died outwith Tours, whilst on his missionary journeying.

Now holly men and saints were a big tourist attraction (dead or alive), so the villagers in the place where he died, wanted to keep the body for themselves. A group of his followers from Tours recovered the body and spirited it away during the hours of darkness, escaping by raft along the Loire for burial back in Tours. Many years later, the Basilica we see today, was built to house St Martain’s resumed body. In celebration, pilgrims travel the route taken by his corteque each November, on the anniversary of his death. Even after all these years, St Martain is still pulling in the crowds.          

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Big Erection for Boris.

Weights and measures are a reserved matter

I always bring up the newspaper headlines of a morning to see what is going on in the world. One headline intrigued me. Alongside a photograph of a fruit and vedgetables stall, was the headline telling us that the UK was going back to using the old imperial measures.

Reading deeper we find that this is not a change in the law but a concession, if merchants wished, they can in future sell goods in imperial measurement, cwt, stones, lbs, and ounces. There was the usual padding of the story from the straight banana brigade. This change, on the face of it, would seem ‘No big deal’ and would not affect British companies whose packaging lines were all set up in metric. But what is behind the headlines I wondered.

I have always been skeptical about Johnston’s unwillingness to have anything to do with the EU, and his unwillingness to consider shared food standards. This was one of the big stumbling blocks during the negotiations over Ireland. There was a lot of talk about lowering food standards so that trade deals would be fore-coming with American companies. Chlorine-washed chicken, GM food feed to animals, steroid injected beef…..

Thinks – most fruit and vegetables come in pre-pack sealed bags and printed on such packaging is the weight of the contents, which at present in the UK is in metric. How much more convenient would it be for American supermarket chains to set up in the UK if they did not have to repackage in metric weights for the UK market alone. These American companies already had their packaging lines in place and it would be very costly to run a separate line just for one customer (the UK).

Now I am ever fearful of anything the Tories do by sleight of hand. Remember Thatcher planed years ahead, stockpiling coal at power stations and changed the law on secondary picketing, no miner could then picket outside any power stations, so that no power station could be closed by pickets. Stockpiling would ensure that no power station would ever run out of coal so the lights would stay on. All this was planned long before she took on the miners. Thatcher then went to war with the people of this country, civil war by any other name.

If I am right, and I’m sure I am, a deal with America has already been struck. This is the thin edge of a wedge, what about elderly care, we hear so much about it. Not that the councils will be given more money to pay of elderly care, it will be privately run elderly care, American companies perhaps, running the new proposed care for the elderly, and not out of the government’s coffers, but raising taxes to pay for such care. The propaganda has already been started, ‘if you want elderly care, it will have to be paid for” not out of taxes already collected for the purpose, but by muggings once more, the gullible taxpayer.

And why stop at elderly care, the NHS is in trouble too, American-style healthcare anyone? Trump told us that if an American trade deal was to be done, “nothing was off the table” I think a trade deal has already being thrashed out, but stealth was needed to put it into place.

So Boris is to spend, spend, spend on new nuclear submarines and their ancillary armaments, never a problem finding money to buy such toys, (always guaranteed to increase erections around the cabinet table at number 10 downing street.) and we will not be asking people to chose ‘Defence but at a cost, so taxes will have to rise.

The writing is on the wall – it could not be plainer – we need out of this so-called ‘Union of Equals’ – we need independence, and we need it now.

Bairns not Bombs.

Stay safe.

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The Visitor.

My brother came to my door yesterday, he was going off on holiday and wanted to do some last-minute shopping in St Andrews. I had just returned from my bike ride and told him to give me five minutes to shower and change and I would take him for coffee and a scone. I have a favorite little cafe, where they make homemade scones, just like mother used to make, and big enough to satisfy the biggest eye and belly.

Settled in at a table and out of the blue, my brother said,

“That Nicola Sturgeon is one stubborn bugger”

Now this was something new, my brother hardly ever mentions politics, and since we are poles apart, he a Tory and me, well, I’m not sure exactly, but always a socialist. I think it is an age thing, Campbell remembers the war and the British Empire days, Queen and Country, and all that, we were all very British coming out of the war. I, on the other hand, was one of the rebellious teenagers that came along in the late 1950 and early1960.

He said, Sturgeon needs to forget this independence rubbish and get on with putting the country back on its feet, get a economic recovery sorted out, not independence.

Red rag to a bull time.

“And how do you believe economic recovery for Scotland can happen without independence?” I asked.

Does Scotland control, anything. The waters around our coast, the fish within those waters, the oil under those waters, no, Scotland’s waters are in the hands of American hedge-fund manager based in London, Boris Johnston, could not give a shit about, Scotland, her people, or her problems. And I suspect, he cares with just as much enthusiasm about the problems of people in all the other parts of the United Kingdom.

The UK government are spending millions to upgrade the dock at Dundee for decommissioning North Sea oil rigs” he told me.

So millions to get work, for how many years? And is it really the UK government that is putting up the money or the American oil companies that, by law, have to decommission the rigs? And when the old rigs have been decommissioned – what then, back on the dole queue? This is not a plan for the future this is lurching from hand out to hand out.

The buzzword at present is wind, wave, and tidal technology. We just saw the lunch of a huge tidal machine from the dock in Dundee, it goes on trials off the Shetlands, most of the development money came from the Scottish government. When trials are complete, how many of these machines do you expect to be built in Scotland?

None” he agreed.

Everyone is talking about wind farms in the North Sea, yet Bifab at Methil, a fabrication yard that made jackets for wind turbines could not even get to weld two pieces of metal together for one of the large wind farms being installed in Scottish waters, and within sight of their front door. No, if there are to be wind farms in Scottish waters, they will be managed by hedge fund managers, and contracts for their manufacture and installation give out by them, and it is they that will set the cost of the electricity they generate to you the customer, Scotland will control nothing of it and certainly will not benefit financially from any of windfall.

He mentioned his son, (recently deceased) who worked for a company in Vietnam, his son’s weekly wage, he told me, could pay the wages of 30 of the Vietnamese workers under him. You can not compete with such cheap labour, he told me

You see to me this has nothing to do with the bottom line, it is about the welfare of our people. I lived through the 1980s when Scotland (like many industrial societies at the time) was faced with those twin evils, unemployment and inflation. I knew the anger and despair of many working families – men who, after working all their lives to give their kids a good start in life, now find that most of their work has been in vain, for many of their kids now could not find jobs and face an uncertain futures on the dole. The 1980s hangover is still prevalent today.

My names Dan, I’m a working man,

A tarnished badge they tell me,

But one I ware with pride,

A fair day’s work, for a fair day’s pay,

I’ve always lived my life that way,

Now I can’t help thinking,

I’ve been taken for a ride.

And those cast onto the dole queues in middle age.

When you’re 55 years old and looking for some work,

No one wants to know your name,

No one gives you a start,

So I watched him growing older,

And more bitter every day,

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

There was nothing I could say,

They had no use for him.

What is the real cost to a country from unemployment? The mental health problems it brings are a big cost to the NHS. Broken marriages, children into care, social welfare, housing benefit, our prisons filling up with youngsters, and if there is no working class there is no income from taxation, all this lie at the doorstep of number 10 Downing Street. For these are government inflicted wounds

Yes, Campbell, the wages may be 30 times lower for people working in the far eastern factories and shipyards, but what of the standard and cost of living in Vietnam? If you continue to outsource all your work to the far eastern companies at the detriment of your own then, you must face up to the responsibility of those decisions, as our dad would have been quick to tell us,

“You make your bed, then it is you that must lie in it”.

What will be better for Scotland and her people, an independent nation making her own decisions and way in the world, or a few more billionaires, under the Boris Johnston system, with the devil taking the hindmost?

And of course, we always part as friends and always still brothers. The scones were the berries too.

Today’s ride, same as yesterday.

14.2 miles

Average speed 11.52 miles per hour

Time taken 1.13 hours

Max speed 24.63

Altitude climbed 640 feet

Calories burned off 557

So with 28.4 Miles in the tank, we can once more press on with our journey towards Nice.

Vitre to Craon 25 miles. This is a very relaxing part of our journey, you will leave the Breton flag as you cross over into the department of Mayenne, (although when I did this stretch it was in the opposite direction and into a headwind all the way to catch my ferry home.) the roads are tranquil back lanes well surfaced, carrying you mile after mile past fertile fields and into Craon, famous for its château and chariot racers. (Mary Queen of Scots, sleep here too.)

July is a time to be here if you wish to become embroiled in horse racing. Caron’s hippodrome hosts nine national and international races attracting over 70,000 racegoers during the season. Sulky racing is big, and no matter the time, of year that you pass through, you will see, jockeys sitting on a light two-wheeled cart pulled by a briskly trotting horse. The locals of Craon love a flutter and outside, just about every small cafe and pub, you will see the PMU green sign with a picture of two horses. Inside they will be drinking their coffee, beer, or cider, clinging desperately to their betting slips. These betting stations are found in even the smallest cafe and bars and are a key part of the culture in the region.

Mayenne, Mayenne - Wikipedia

Château de Craon, built out of the white limestone from the banks of the Loire, is well worthy of your time. Dating from the 18th-century is a more stately home than a castle proper. The château is open to the public and prides itself on wholesome cooking. The vegetables are all sourced from their own gardens. Take time to explore the forty hectares of grounds, its parks, and French-style garden by following the melancholy River Oudon, past grazing cattle, ducks and geese on a 6 km stroll.

Book Chateau de Craon in Craon | Hotels.com

You can see that although I did the mileage required in two days, it was only just over an hour on both occasions, so would be easy to accomplish in one long summer day, an hour before lunch, and an hour in the late afternoon of early evening. This will leave plenty of time to sightsee and that is really the reason for going. If you only want a bicycle ride, well you can do that at home. No this is about the ambiance, the culture……….. May the wind always be on your back.

Stay safe.

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Another day awheel.

The cloud was down to zero in the slack air almost like a sea fog. By nine it had not lifted much but I had to get back out on my bike once more. I did an almost carbon copy of last Fridays run but somehow managed to add almost two more miles, taking me to 19.7 miles. And raised my average speed to just under 12 mph, the lay off certainly did not do me any harm.

My computer finally gave up the ghost, the battery would not charge, if its not flees it midges. So I bought another small laptop A4 size. I have been spending time this afternoon installing software for the printer and the internet and trying to remember all the passwords. Computers are like women, hard to live with and just as difficult to live without.

The planning department are busy with preparations for a sale of work and because of restrictions here at City Park, with coronavirus, they are holding it outwith City Park. They have asked me to contribute, no rest for the wicked, I haven’t even finished the wooden toys promised for Christmas. Still, like all these thing, getting off ones bum and starting is always the difficult part, and all those distractions, I have a lot of them in my life, its a disceas of old age.

Today I was thinking of a ‘thank you’ card for the girls looking after me at the dental hospital. Normally this would be biscuits or sweets, but I did not think that would be appropriates at a dental hospital. I made a cartoon character card, just a bit of fun really. where dose all the time go?

Birds of a feather flock together – my Perapex birds.

Back to our virtual ride in France

Fougeres to Vitre 19 miles and one of the fastest stretches

This you could say is a CTC run, for it is from medieval Château (castle) to medieval Château, the beautiful Château do Fougeres to the well-preserved Château de Vitre, and like most medieval castles perched high above the town.

When abroad, and people asks me,

“Are you English?” I am quick to reply,

“No Scottish”

Here in Brittany they too have that same strong sense of their independence and culture. If you asks, they will be quick to point this out to you – Brittany not French.

Today Brittany is classed as a rather poor region, of Franc. However this was not always the case, in the middle-ages Brittany had a thriving bustling economy, with a merchant fleet trading in Stain, Portugal and Northern Europe, this included here in Fife, in coal and fish. Now like London (here in the UK), all the wealth of France has gravitated into Paris, both centres, sucking their nations wealth to themselves, like some enormous black hole.

Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany all have their own language, and in many way similar in origin, all from the same Celtic roots. And it is no coincidence that the flag of Brittany just happens to be very similar to the Cornish flag too.

This being a short flat stage, you will have all the time you need to explore and take in this beautiful part of France, but best keep that bottle of wine for the campsite at night. On lazy days like this it is too easy to go native.

Stay safe.

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Who’s, a Sill Boy Then?

 It had rained throughout the night and as I waited for clearing skies, I watched (well, listened to) La Boheme on the Sydney Harbour, from Sky Art. I have too much to do when I rise off a morning to be sitting around watching television, so I buzz around with my earphones firmly in place, “Music While You Work”. This opera was a very modern production, with young artists performing, they even had a hooker shooting off a gun, and there was me thinking that Paris would be nice at this time of year. Then again, like policemen getting younger as we grow older, I suspect the same goes for performers.

Out on the road by 9 am up over knock Hill, down and over the Eden and onto the main road into Cupar. That is when it all went pear-shaped.

I had just navigated the big roundabout at the industrial estate, and of course looking everywhere but where I was going. As I turned my attention back to the road I was just about to go crashing onto the high kerb and cried out.

“Oh, Sugar!”

Or something to that effect, and in panic, yanked on the right handlebar with the inevitable result. The little 20-inch wheel skidded under the frame of the bike, leaving me lying on my side in the road, bike, pannier bag, hat, cast to the four winds.

You do not think in this sort of situation you just react. I gathered the bike and put it safely on the pavement, collected up hat and bag. Already folks were stopping to ask if I were all right.

“Yes, Thanks anyway” the only thing that seemed to be bruised was my ego.

Suddenly I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach so lay down by my bike and closed my eyes, hoping it would all be over soon.

An old age pensioner, lying on the pavement, help ma boab, heart attack, stroke, he may even dead, I may as well have hung a sign around my neck ‘STOP-HELP”.

Most just drew up and asked from the safety of their car, “are you OK.”

However Florence Nightingale, wanted me checked out by a paramedic, and was reluctant to accept that, yes, I really was fine, and, no, you do not need my telephone number to call me and see that I made it home in one piece, I am just a bit shaken up, that’s all.

“Where are you from?” asked her husband, “We could drive you home”.

“St Andrews, but honestly, there is no need, I’m fine now” – in disbelieve,

“He has come all the way from St Andrews” he told his wife. Well, possibly the last the time he was on a bike, it had stabilizers.

By this time I was up on my feet and guzzling, greedily at my water bottle, and with my thanks ringing in their ears, I pedalled off before I was forcefully restrained and carried off to see a doctor.

(I know I have made light of it but they were genuinely worried for my safety. Thank you, whoever you were).

Today’s bike ride – 18 miles

At an average of – 10.63 mph

Time taken – 1: 41: 25 (minus injury time.)

Max speed – 26.80 mph

Ascent 784

Calorie burned – 708

Home now and under the shower, ‘nothing to write home to mummy about’, all the sticky out bits down my left side, thumb, elbow, knee, ankle, had all lost a bit of skin.

“That will learn you ma lad”

Almost there – that’s the White Cliffs of Dover over the bow lads, I just love your safety equipment.

Refugees have never been out of the news for decades, and once more they take centre stage in the media. The Tory lead government have totally lost all control over immigration. They are now calling for boats, to be forcefully returned to whence they came. Rubber craft loaded to the waterline, with desperate people, try to escape, war and poverty, inflicted upon them as a consequence of UK foreign policy’s. Risking all to cross the English Channel, (Manche) in the hope of a better life, if not for themselves, certainly their children. This smacks of, not only desperation, by Johnston’s government, but Trump calling out

“Build The Wall”

Polices, to appeal to bigoted, stupid people, and keep the Tory government in power. Like Trump’s wall, this too is doomed to failure. All it will take is a British patrol vessel forcing, what is bacillary a rubber blow-up boat, already unstable and overloaded, to do a 180-degree change, of course, to be caught by a wave, or strong tides, and capsize. God forbid, with loss of life. Should such a scenario play out at sea, within minutes it will go viral around the world, you can see the banner headlines now,

“The Uk’s Immigration Policy” …………… played over and over, on social media.

Do not look for an immigration policy in the Channel, but at the beginning of the journey that these desperate people have made. The refugee camps, where they have first sought sanctuary from a war-torn country. (Wars feed by the weapons supplied by the UK and American arms companies.) Here they find themselves in a living hell, facing a lifelong future of grinding poverty, famine and disease. Why would they not wish to escape, to hopefully, a better future?

Boris, get your Foreign Minister’s, shiny arse off that chair in Whitehall, get her on a plane, to meet up with, and around the table with her other G8 pals, and the leaders of the countries that this problem emanates from. Time to roll up your sleeves girl, and earn some of that extravagant, salary and perks on the Westminster gravy train, and go to work on a workable solution. A solution that will give such desperate people’s of this world, the life chances, that like all of the children of the world, deserve, living in their own homes, in their own countries. A life, at least as fulfilling, as they would hope to find here in ours.

It is said of one experience that it is one of the most agonising possible . . . that of leaving the soil of your native country forever, of turning your back on your heritage, being torn away by the roots from your familiar land. I have not suffered that experience. But I know of an experience equally agonising, and more irreversible (for you could return to your home) and that is the experience of knowing, not that you are leaving your country, but that your country is leaving you, is ceasing to exist under your very feet, being sucked away from you as it were by a consuming, swallowing wind, into the hands and the possession of another country and civilisation.’

(Welsh philosopher J.R. Jones, as quoted in Billy Kay’s The Mither Tongue)

There are no problems in this world, only solutions” John Lennon.

Pontorson to Fougeres – 23 miles.

Mary Queen of Scots – Slept Here.

Light again Hamilton, but Fougeres is where I would have stopped. This is a beautiful part of France, little country roads and rural villages, and the natives are very friendly. Market Day was Saturday, when I visited, but may have changed and there is a large supermarket that will supply all your need before turning into camp for the night. If you have not travelled in France before you may like to check out the fish stall, with live lobsters and crab, (however, difficult to cook on a picnic stove.)

Fougeres has a great history for cyclists. In 2013 it was the ville de depart for Stage 12 of the 100th Tour de France, and you may remember this is the year that Chris Froome wore his Yellow Jersey, on this Stage from Fougeres to Tours. This is a particularly flat stage, which suited the sprinters. It was also the stage where, like me today, many came a cropper in one of the many crashes. Mark Cavendish was pipped on the line in Tour by the German rider Marcel Kittel, in a nail-biting finish.

Anyone into Audax riding will know of the Paris-Brest-Paris ride. This is a ride of 600Km from Paris to Brest and 600 Km back into Paris, and the ultimate test of mental and physical endurance. Why do I mention this, well if you do take it on, you will pass through Fougeres, twice, but will have no time for sightseeing.

Footnote, my cycling shorts/trousers, since they have a zip on leg extensions, got rather dirty today so I popped them in the laundry basket when I showered. I pulled from the airing cupboard an old pair of trousers that only six months ago were straining to go around my waist. Today I could gather up around four inches, or pull them over my hips fastened. I have to admit I was surprised at the loss of inches around my middle. But that is what lockdown does to you, sitting at home for a year with only light exercise, and a cupboard full of goodies at the disposal and an eye that is bigger than your belly.

Stay safe.

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Another Onion Jhonny.

 

Arriving home yesterday to find my onion sets and garlic cloves had been delivered, I only ordered them yesterday, shoosh. No rest for the wicked, I suppose, out with the fork and spade. And since most, of the garden around the front of the building, has matured over the years with huge trees shade pretty much all of it, it is a case of finding a space where you can find it and making a little bed.

Garlic Anyone?

I have always planted my onion sets in autumn, the soil is still warm from the summer sun, which gives the sets the time to put down roots over winter and by spring they are ready to burst forth. If we do have late spring frost, after they have popped up out of the ground, I will throw a piece of protective fleece over them. This material is everywhere these days, so has become cheap enough to buy.

This ground has not been turned over in aeons, so I raided the paper recycling bin and forked in some old newspapers, right down to the full depth of the fork, this was over an area big enough for my bed. Not one worm did I find, all down to the garden maintenance men spraying with weedkiller, quicker and easier than hoeing. Although newspaper takes a long time to break down, it should help bring life back into the soil, as nature does its work. (much of what is written on these pages is pretty well manure already.) My other gripe, their very powerful, commercial leaf blowers, scaring away all the mulch off the surface, although I have noticed they are a bit more selective and stay away from the borders now. My wee letter to the manager must have had some success. The heat of the day did not let up, in fact, I am sure it was getting warmer as the day progressed, we could have rain. The shirt was sticking to my back, by the end of my labours, time to put away the working grath.

Anyway, that’s them in. Of course, my work did not go unnoticed (even although I never saw one sole, security cameras, what a waste of money there turned out to be.) when I came back in one lady asked what I had just planted? When I said onions and garlic, I got the strangest of looks.

“Don’t you like onions?” I asked.

Later a neighbour came into the common room, as I sat reading my e-mails, (the Chinese whispers had gone around).

“Will you be going around St Andrew, with strings of onion around your neck?” laughingly she asked.

“Of course,” I said, “and draped over the bars of my bike, too”. I am just waiting for them to give me the nickname, ‘Onion Johnny’.

The last of the roses, along with the Jersey Lilies, are putting up a fine showing. I split up the Jersey Lilies, early in the spring, and planted them around the garden to fill up holes. They are looking much happier in their new homes and more flowers than before they were split. What we had before was lots of foliage and very little in the way of flowers. That is the great thing about gardens, things multiply, so you can split them up and give them away to neighbours and friends.

Today, the skies over St Andrews are leaden and the wind has risen from yesterday, looks like rain. I see that the poppies have all gone to seed and looking rather untidy, everywhere I look now there is a job to be done. I thought a splash of colour for the spring, bright yellow daffodils and narcissi, so the job today is to prepare the ground, ready for the imminent arrival of the bag of 100 bulbs. I will dig in the poppies as green manure some poppy seeds may even germinate and pop up next spring. (They tell us that poppies love the newly disturbed ground and why they flowered in such perfusion, over the cratered fields of France, during the First World War) along with more waste paper, then plant the daffodil and narcissi, for a wee show in spring, we travel hopefully. Although my day had not gone as planned, that is no bad thing. Off up to Aldi now to stock Mrs Hubbard’s Cupboard, before the hard work, and the rain begins.

Message from members of the Yes Hub, Lasswade Road.

We are looking to make a show of the Yes Movement down Lasswade Road around the Hub and along the road. Therefore we are after as many people as possible with flags and banners to line both sides of the street. So it is clear we are Yessers and not just supporting the Scottish cyclists (not that we can’t do both) we suggest the flags and banners should be clearly Yes/Scottish independence ones. The race (Tour of Britain) is being shown live on ITV4 and as they will only take a few minutes to pass we need to be as visible as possible. If you want to bring musical instruments feel free.

The natives are restless.

Keep safe

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 Oh! What a gay day.

I should stop say that now, for words that I used a few decades ago may have changed their definition, so it can all get a bit confusing.

Do you remember the days if you said that you were Gay,

It meant with joy you would leap and shout,

When a fairy was enchanting and dressing up and camping,

Was something we did with the Scouts,

Oh those carefree days when an urgent case of AID,

Was something we sent to the Sahara,

A fruit was something nice to eat,

A poof something for your feet,

And a queen, some old tart in a tiara.

However, it has been a stotter of a day, I set off just after 9 O’clock, once the traffic had calmed down. With no clear destination in mind, and on the clear understanding that if you do not know where you are going, all roads lead you there, I pressed on into Dairsie. Wham, I was struck in the lip by a large flying object, possibly a bee, boy did it hurt, leaving me with a fat lip to prove it.

I had been perusing, the OS map the other day looking for little second class roads that I have not been down before. I found one that went down the side of Dairsie School let’s try that today. The road soon led me onto a farm track, steep with a loose surface, so much for following the OS map. After the farm the road, if you can call it that, petered out and became a grassy lane, the track just about visible. With grass now the height of my handlebars, I trundled on. The lane ended at a farmer’s newly cut hayfield, and by the time I reach that gate, my feet and trouser legs, all the way up to my bum, were wet through, (help ma boab, folks will think I’ve peed m’sel’.)

What to do now? I saw a farm about a mile away across three fields, there must be a road beyond the farm, so I set out first across the newly cut grass, then newly harvested barley, and finally another grass field, and there it was a road covered in lovely tar Macadam, O’ joy of joys. I had not gone far when I found my gears would not index, stopping to check the chain and gears had been trying hard to impersonate a grass cutting machine, ho-hum.

(checking the map when I returned home I now see where I went wrong and the path I cycled today was simply that a footpath.)

The road took me into Logie then Kilmany where I joined the A92 the main road from Dundee to Edinburgh. To get off the main road I turned off at Rathillet for Cupar. I did not fancy going all the way into Cupar and home on the A91 so when I saw the sign ‘Leuchars 10 miles’ I turned off east once more, leading me back into Kilmany, by some very rural road, with grass in the middle.

Now I knew that Jim Clark was born here, but have never approached from this direction before so was amazed to see a statue to the great man by the side of the road, I stopped to take a picture.

Back onto the A 92 for the short hop to the roundabout and the back road into St Michaels – Leuchars and home.

Distance 28.9 miles,

Time 2: 49:30

Average speed 10.25 mph Not bad considering the bad start (grass tracking).

Max speed 29.66

Ascent 997 Feet

Calories burned 1058 so I had a banana sandwich on my return.

Do you remember the days, when only eggs got laid,

And only the Rhinovirus was horny,

When only kangaroos jumped,

And only camels humped,

When getting stuffed, was a little taxidermy,

Now it has all become quite obscene,

With a heavy ugly screen,

Any movie, staring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For decades now we have had a demographic disaster building (although our First Minister did help out when she put bed-blocking old folks out of the hospital into care homes, knowing full well they had Coronavirus.) Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer is having difficulty getting the sums to add up. Our Prime Minister want to raise taxes to pay for ‘Social Care’ for the elderly which has not gone down well in the country – and with local elections coming up, who could blame the MPs for getting a bit skittish, more so when one of the manifesto pledges was “We will not raise taxes, like that other lot”, Oh dear o’ dear, poor Boris.

Good government is all about choices, and what to spend money on. Well here is a starter for 10, where to find the money for the NHS, Schools, care for the elderly and much, much more.

Trident renewal: would £205bn be a price worth paying?

The cost has become more of an issue at a time of budget pressures, but MoD has been coy about giving an overall estimate. Still, £205 billion would go a long way to helping you out of your difficulties, Mr Johnston. But what about all the highly paid jobs that come with Trident? Who do you think looks after us in hospitals, schools and social care, Robots?

The government announced its commitment to an order of 138 F-35 aircraft, with 24 available for carrier duties by 2023. How much will it cost? The overall programme is the most expensive weapons system in military history. An estimated cost from 2015 put the price at £78m per jet, without engine or electronics. For everything included, the Lightning jets come in at a grand total of £190m. And that is before we factor in the cost of armaments.

And what will we do with all this hardware, put it on the new Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and let the Americans use it in the Pacific, to frighten the Chinese into surrendering their territorial waters? With about as much success as their little farce sending a gunboat into the Black Sea to scare off the Russians, who are minnows compared with China.

The two Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (only one commissioned the other already mothballed) cost billions to build and billions to maintain, mothball them both or put them on e-bay and claw back some of the cost to the UK treasury. No one knows what the final bill and running costs will be but I would think it would be enough to provide a very healthy budget for the NHS and social care for young and old alike. Bairns not bombs.

Yesterday we did not have enough mileage to reach Pontorson, today with 28.9 we have more than enough for the journey.

One thing I should mention, you will have to get used to long straight roads for mile after mile and those annoying markers every kilometre, laughing at you as the kilometres ever so slowly tick down.

So, with these extra miles in the bank today, why not a detour to Mont St-Michel, just up the river from Pontorson. If you get the opportunity to go – then go, but go early or late in the evening, for the tourists are heavy on the ground during the day. Sadly bicycles are no longer allowed to cycle out over the causeway, so you have to leave your bike at the free bike park near the Palace du Barrage, and either walk or take the shuttle bus. Oh, the cobbled streets are not cycle shoe friendly either. Give yourself plenty of time for this journey since you will be walking, a lot.

Stay safe.

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Not the 9O’clock News.

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party welcomes 6,000th member as 65-year SNP loyal quits

Alex Salmond’s Alba Party has welcomed its 6,000th member, as registration opens for its party conference in September.

Longstanding SNP member Moira Brown became the 6,000th person to sign up for Alba – saying she wanted faster progress to Scottish independence.

Mr Salmond presented Mrs Brown with a Scotland football strip numbered 6,000 as he made a surprise visit to her home to welcome her to the party.

Alba’s inaugural party conference will be held at Greenock town hall on September 11 and 12.

The former first minister launched the party earlier this year, with Alba candidates running for list seats in the Scottish Parliament elections.

Despite claims it could help build an independence “supermajority”, the party failed to win any MSPs and secured just 1.7 per cent of the regional vote.

However, it has two MPs and a number of councillors around Scotland who left the SNP in order to join.

Mr Salmond said: “Moira Brown, with her 65 years of experience in the SNP, will be a great asset to the burgeoning ranks of Alba.

“We are proud to welcome her as member number 6,000.

“People like Moira are the heart and soul of the independence movement.

“She has seen it grow from a tiny acorn to a mighty oak and now wants to see the realisation of her lifelong political dream.”

Ms Brown, who turns 89 this year, said: “One of the things I liked about the SNP is that it was a party that came from the bottom up, but I can’t say that now. I have had my doubts the past few years and it cumulated in me talking and listening to other people and soul-searching about leaving (the SNP).

“Sixty-five years is a long time to belong to a party.”

Stay safe

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Indian Summer.

Here at St Andrews, we are experiencing an Indian Summer, the winds soft the air warm, such a change from a cold August. However, no matter the warmth of September, the shortened days have put pay to any roses now coming to full flower. Time to think about cutting them back, protection against the winter gales to come. The Gladioli are making quite a show, no matter if late they are they will always put on a show.

I made my way out to Cupar, then Pitscottie, and because of road repairs back into St Andrews via Claremont. The Garmin computer tells me I covered 18.47 miles, in a time of 01.36 and ascent of 558 feet at an average speed of 11.5 mph, and burned up 670 calories. Give that man a coconut – sorry no coconuts, by will have to take a Bounty. Hey, you bounty like that.

Just for a bit of fun, I thought I would use my daily mileage (although small) to make the journey from St-Malo to Nice, (going to take a while). St-Malo is almost exactly on the finish line of the St-Malo stage of the 2013 Tour de France.

Stage one: St-Malo to Pontorson, 38 miles – this would have been an average day for me, so I thought I would mark the distances in that way. Today I am about 20 miles short of my target. This first stage, as I remember it, you will be hugging the coastline, giving you a true taste of Brittany. I remember some brilliant local dishes, mostly seafood, from the little restaurants down this coast, always go with the locals, if they are eating it then you should too. And for that first taste of Oysters, then there is no better place to go than Cancale. Even now memories flood back of cycling and camping in Brittany. I remember the wind, but I can not remember even one day of rain, although there must have been some.

With more than 300 sites of historical importance, from Edinburgh Castle to the Neolithic settlement at Skara Brae in Orkney. Research has shown that almost 90% of them are at risk of damage due to the effects of global warming, How do we protect our historic landmarks from climate change? Asked Historic Environment Scotland.

If climate change carries on the way it’s going a lot of these sites will be lost, with their tangible and intangible heritage, and for future generations, they just won’t be there to enjoy” Bonnie Burton a PhD student researching the effects of rising seas and storm surges.

Researchers have identified 28 sites with “very high” levels of risk from hazards of climate change. These include Inchcolm Abbey, situated in the Firth of Forth, which is vulnerable to coastal erosion and flooding. Stanley Mills on the River Tay, again vulnerable to flooding. Likewise Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace. Skara Brae is at risk from stormy seas.

Duff House, vulnerable to flooding from the River Deveron. Much work has already been completed to protect Fort George against rising sea levels.

What will be the real cost of global warming? Are politicians really taking this seriously, I have my doubts, when we see how little has been done since the Paris Accord.

Stay safe.

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 Getting Motivated.

We all have things we would like to do, even want to do in our lives, but getting started can be the first big hurdle. You first have to learn how to do whatever it is you are trying to achieve, or at least how to go about it, to start with.

In the musical ‘Sweet Charity the girls have a dead-end job as dance hall hostesses, in the Fandango Ballroom. Charity is a lovelorn NY girl who dreams of old-fashioned romance, her friend tells her,

“No point flapping your wings girl, you are stuck on the flypaper of life”

“Not me,” said another – the girls go into the number ‘ There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.

however when Charity decided to change her life for the better and goes off to an employment agency and asked the interviewer to give her a nice job, he tells her,

“But you can’t do anything”

So we start by – reading about it – “Climbing Everest in, 10 easy steps” Once you have convinced yourself that is really what you want to do, you will either join a club or do it the hard way, learn on the job.

Joining a club this will give you all the expertise you require in one place, but beware of stories from fair-weather sailors. Once you have the rudiments, then the rest practises, practise and more practice. This is when you find that mental strength is much more important than physical strength. This is where you have to get off your bum and do the hard work.

At one point in my life, I did 100 miles a week commuting back and forward to work. Went out with the club on a Tuesday evening, and we would pull the legs off one another. Wednesday (my day off) I would captain a tandem, for a blind lad, most Wednesdays we would cover 50 miles or so. Most weekends a 200k Audax ride. However I did not decide to do all this, then simply go out and do it, this was two years in the making. I was so fit at that time, I felt like superman, everything I did was a challenge, at work and at play.

Getting started was hard, I had not been on a bike for years, once I had my bum on a motorcycle saddle, the bike was used less and less until it took pride of place in the back of a dusty shed. A change of job, and no longer having a motorcycle at the door, I used the bus to commute in the rush hour traffic too and from work, it was a misery.

“Why?” I asked myself “do I not use my old bike, to commute to work?”

The bike was dragged out services, new tires fitted and I was off, soon I was scoot in and out of the queues of stationary traffic, “shit, this is hard work”, I thought on that first day. But as the days rolled on, I found I was looking forward to my daily commute, I just loved flashing past rows and rows of stationary cars,

“Fools” I would silently cry, “get a bike”. That was the motivation to pull the bike out of the shed, each and every morning, no matter the weather, and head out into the maelstrom.

I watched the interview of Mohamed Ali, on the Parkinson show. He was asked what he might have done if he had not been a boxer? He replied

“No matter what I did, I would have been the best. If I was a bin collector, I would tip more bins than anyone else” That was the motivation, he just had to be the best.

As my fitness grew I joined a local cycle club and went out with the touring section and the CTC (cycle touring club) or to the club riders – the ‘cafe to cafe’ club, “Shit, this is hard work,” I thought on those first few club runs, for these cyclists could happily trundle along at an average 10 mph all day, or at least that is how it seemed, uphill down dale. However cycling in a group, you find is much easier than solo, for you, can shelter in behind the stronger riders, and get a bit of encouragement when you are starting to flag. But don’t expect an easy ride forever, eyes will be on you, you will be asked to take your turn at the front, when they feel you are malingering. It is this sort of motivation that makes it easier to put miles into your legs.

As the years ticked by I wanted to tour, throwing up all sorts of new challenges. Being on your own mile after mile, it is difficult to stay focused, more so on long straight stretched, with the road stretching way out before you, out of sight somewhere over the horizon. Where to stay, camping or youth hostel will determine what your carry, so what distance you will make in a day, more days spend on the road, more hostel or campsite bills you will rack up. I found I had to set goals for myself, with a reward at the end, as a prize.

I still do this today on my daily trundle. Now like most people, I love chocolate, cakes, ready salted potato crisps, but I also know that if I sat in my big chair all day reading and stuffing my face with any of the above, well, I would not be doing much cycling, or much or anything else for that matter, so I never buy them – except, to use them as motivators. I set myself little challenges.

Cycle 10 miles without letting your average speed fall below 10mph and you can have that treat, (one of the above). Strange the crisps always tasty better, however, I have stopped buying cakes and chocolate, they would take far too many miles to achieve, so no motivation there.

“Old age does not come alone” all the miles you put into your legs over the years, will help you to keep cycling on, but the muscles will start to shrink,

“Yes, I had noticed”, said the maid to the gardener

Motivations therefore become even more important, you have to find what works for you. There is an old lady, a neighbour of mine, she is now in her 90s, I see her out and about St Andrews pushing her wheeled walking frame in front of her. She is out in all weathers, head down, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other. I hope I can find that kind of motivation if I ever reach my 90s. Then again, having been born between the wars, she will have lived through the great depression and the Second World War so will be a tough old bird. Seeing her always gives me the motivation to keep going.

Motivation, for us, wrinkles an opportunity to “Go downhill slowly”.

My Historic Scotland magazine arrived today and I found in ‘Time Trip’, as the name suggests these articles are from the past, this month we had Halloween.

As we near the end of the old Celtic calendar, Halloween, originally known as the festival of Samhain, marked the end of summer when the dead were believed to return to walk amount the living.

In Scotland Halloween has its own traditions and customs, Scotland is famous for spooks history of gusing, as the shortened word for ‘disguising’. children would dress up in home-made costumes and tell a joke, recite a poem or perform songs to their neighbours in exchange for sweets, they would also make tumshie lanterns out of swedes to ward off evil spirits.

(I did read once that traditionally gushing was originally started by beggars, who would dress up and go to ‘The Big Houses’ and perform for them in exchange for food.)

I remember well those days in the 1950s, sadly it is all too commercial now, bought or hired costumes, trick or treat rather than having to perform for your apple or sweets. And for the grown-ups – well the Halloween party. So big has Halloween become in America that it is now more popular (and rewarding for the shopkeepers) than Christmas. So much for God Bless America.   

Stay safe.

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More Bletheres.

 Yesterday the skies were again overcast, the air cold and autumnal. It is always a difficult choice, when it comes to cycling clothing, too much and you sweat, too little and your freeze, so much of your clothing tends to be layering. I did not go far again yesterday Leuchars and home. Today, however, the skies are leaden and weeping profusely, so I will stay home today.

They have been working in the flats over the road from me for some weeks now – I’m sure the flats belong to the university, like most every other building in St Andrews. New kitchens have been installed in what was the sitting room, so I take it that the old kitchen has now become another bedroom. New students visited yesterday to look around the place, they look so young. They tell us we are getting old when policemen start to look young. Why I’m so old I can remember when girls in the “Wet T-shirt” competition, on the Isle of Man at TT week, actually kept their T-shirts on.

Off to Dundee Dental Hospital this afternoon. I applied to be a guinea pig for the students to (cut their teeth on) practice on. I want to be sure all is well when I go off to Europe in the spring. Those stupid English people voted to leave the EU (so no reciprocal health care arrangements now) and those stupid Scottish people let them, what does one do? You will find it easier to locate a Unicorn in Fife than find an NHS dentist willing to take you on their list of patients.

I did a bit of tidying up in the garden, moving some plants, that had been grown in pots, to the garden proper. Tying up the late Gladioli. They have not done much this year but again we look forward to better things next year, gardeners – always the optimist.

I have read many self help books, for budding writing over the years and most tell us, you have to read a lot, ‘to find your voice’. Listen to your voice by re-reading what you have written, in a critical manner, and try to improve on what you have written, something I should take more seriously, I am very lazy at re-reading and correcting.

At school, I can not remember us being taught much in the way of literature, and less so at college, but I can remember the teacher telling us that we should read as many different literary genres as possible, even if you do not particularly like, science fiction, for instance, read some. Problem I found was, that no matter the genre the story remand the same only told in a different voice or setting.

My cycling mate, when I lived in England, was a teacher at the local grammar school. I was scribbling a bit for my local cycling club magazine at the time, well, I had a lot more to scribble about then. I told him that I often woke up with ideas in my head but by the time I had washed and shaved they had vanished like ‘snaw aff a dike’ in spring.

“Keep a notebook by the side of your bed and jot down your thought when they are clear in your head,” he told me.

I preferred to jump out of bed and sit naked in front of my computer, regardless of the hour, and chap away at the keys, touch typing is very good for this sort of thing, you simply sit tell yourself stories, and the words appear on the screen as if by magic. You can do that when you live on your own, and no I do not wear pyjamas in bed. (Too much information there Walter.)

To be good at anything be it music, athletics, drawing…….you will have to practice the good books will also advise.

This is something I try to do every day, but when you are riding the same roads day in day out, it is hard to find inspiration there. Today I started writing about a ride I did in the summer. The chosen ride would take me over some hilly country. Taking my conventional bike would require a lot of honking up hills, but that was the point of the exercise. As I started writing, I got a bit carried away and started drifting into fantasy land. I started to inject a storyline within the storyline, sort of parallel storylines running side by side, intersecting from time to time, weaving themselves into a patterned cloth, as they went.

Sorry it can not publish my musings here for it must be delivered from under the counter – or read-only after the 9 o’clock watershed – or delivered in an e-mail that is delivered, inside a brown, plain, envelope.

I have never attempted an erotic sex story before and found it a lot of fun.

Stay safe.     

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 WOW!

It must be Thursday for I have just watched the Alex Salmond Show.

Alex guest today was none other than Lawrence B Wilkerson.

Wilkerson is a retired United States Army colonel (now Professor Wilkerson) and former chief of staff to the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson a veteran of the war in Vietnam, (he was an OH-6A Cayuse observation helicopter pilot, logging over 1100 combat hours over a year.) Since the end of his military carer, Wilkerson has criticized many aspects of the Iraq War including his own preparation of Powell’s presentation to the UN, as well as other aspects of American policy in the Middle East.

Alex asked him about the decision to go to war in Iraq – without any ambiguity he told it as it was, Bush was coming up for a second term in office, and Colin Powell could easily have stolen his thunder, the decision to go to war was more about home politics more than foreign policy in the Middle East, it would seem, we were all taken for a ride. (what does every president want – a second term.)

About Iran – pulling out of the treaty was a big mistake.

On Afghanistan, a failed policy from the start. Had we gone in on security grounds fine, but trying to turn what was, and still is, a collection of warlords, not a state, into a democratic country, was never an achievable goal, doomed to failure from the start. Was it right to get out – yes, or we would be there for another 20 years with the same result.

What of Afghanistan now, its fate lies with its neighbours – Pakistan, Russia and China.

Has it weekend Biden – no, 55 per cent of Americans believe it was the right decision, although they disagree with the way the exit was handled.

I will be watching this programme again throughout the day – trying to take it all in. If you have not already seen this show, please, tune in later in the day, and get yourself educated, for they do it in your name.

Stay safe.

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 Stupidity they say,

Is when you keep repeating the same mistakes and expect a different answer.

I was in the supermarket today buying bread and milk. I always peruse the newspaper stand and read over the headlines.

In the days before the internet and sending e-mails and texting home when on holiday, we sent postcards. some would be of local scenes, (to your mum and dad) but often saucy one to your mates at work.

humorous postcards, we were less thin-skinned and liberal then.

When is Scotland there would be all the terrible stereotypes about Scotsmen – kilts – sheep – and of course the atrocious weather, lashing rain, sou’wester clad tourists braving the elements,

“Weather here!”

Today I read a headline,

‘Scotland should be trying to preserve water’ whit.

Once upon a time water buts by cottages and on allotments were common place. Well as the population of England expands, and long dry summers become more of a reality in the UK due to global warming, England, will once more need Scotland, or at least Scotland’s water. It is claimed that in the South East of England there is less water available per person than in many Mediterranean countries.

T

Thanks to Alex Salmond, (when First Minister of Scotland) who saw the folly of Scotland’s water being sold off, saying at the time,

“It would be like selling off your oil wells just when the motor cars were first invented.”

which of course is exactly what England did under Maggie Thatcher’s government.

Rainwater harvesting, (the collecting of rainwater rather than allowing it to runoff), comes in many guises. From roofs and roof-like surfaces, such as solar PV panels, we see fields of them now in many parts of the country. This water will then be redirected into tanks, cisterns, deep pits. Water can also be stored in an underground natural reservoir, simply the water seeps into the ground as groundwater. However as more and more gardens are covered over with slab, concrete, or other hard surfaces it becomes run-off into road drains and not collected for recycling. This can cause problems during heavy rain, (much more common, under global warming) drains back up small burns turn into fast-flowing rivers, and can cause landslides, that destroy everything in their path. still we keep repeating the same mistakes.

Global warming does not only cause heavy rain problems, as temperatures rise people suffer. A combination of urban ‘green’ rooftops with rainwater catchments are known to reduce building temperatures by more than 1.3 Celsius.

Rainwater harvesting in conjunction with urban agriculture would give sustainable food and water security – the technology is still in its infancy, but it is a well-tried and test method in countries like Holland and the Fends of England where it has been progressed over centuries.

Kenya is already successful in harvesting rainwater for toilets, (something we really need to get into in the UK, litres of water flushed down the loo after having a pee, and with a young family in the home – well you probably all been there.)

in Caribbean countries capture and storage of rainwater run-off is well established, reducing the risk of losing some or all of the year’s harvest. It also helps reduce soil erosion during high rainfall.

One of the biggest commercial rainwater harvesting systems is in Germany. The water collected from the 26,800 squee meters of roofs over the new airport building at Frankfurt Airport, is stored in tanks in the basement, with approximately 1 million cubic meters of water per year. The water is used for toilet flushing, cleaning, air conditioning system, and oh yes, watering the plants. However at a cost of 1.5 million dm ($63,000 US dollars) in 1993, such scenes are unlikely to be copied in England unless they can be shown to be commercially profitable to the private companies.

Rainwater harvesting was adopted at The Velodrome – The London Olympic Park – in order to increase the sustainability of the facility. A 73 per cent decrease in potable water demand by the park was estimated. Despite this, it was deemed that rainwater harvesting was a less efficient use of financial resources to increase sustainability than the park’s blackwater recycling program.

When it is a commercial enterprise the bottom line will always trump the environmental impact.

UK homeowners using some form of rainwater harvesting system can reduce their mains water usage by 50 per cent or more. And dependent on your water company, (where you live in England) the delivery of wastewater and sewerage processing cost about £2 per cubic meter. Reducing mains water metered volumes of water also reduce sewerage disposal costs in the same proportions, (water companies assumes that all water is taken into the house will end up as sewerage, and bill accordingly.)

There was a time in Scotland when rainwater harvesting tanks had to be fitted to all new builds, I can not remember when this was changed (possibly by lobbing by housebuilders) or what they estimated the extra cost to be on a new home. However, it is schemes such as this that will only turn around the water shortage in England. But as I have said before and make no bones about saying it again, if the countries water boards are in the hands of private investment companies, it will never happen.

We all depend on utility companies for our everyday existence, be that water, electricity, waste disposal…. They must be held in government hands so that our environment is not placed at the mercy and dependence of the profitability at the bottom line. 

Stay safe    

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 Jacob, had a coat of many colours.

In our new world of 24/7 rolling news and the decline in newspapers readership any story will be buried almost as soon as it hits the street. In 1984 Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, collaborated on anti-famine efforts for Ethiopia, by releasing that bloody awful song – “Do they know it’s Christmas” was recorded in the UK in November of that year, and became Christmas number one. Bob was on our television every day,

“Give me your money” he demanded and we did.

At the time, believing we could really make a difference, as the trucks hired by Bob trundled their way from the docks to the villages with their loads of food, emblazoned on the side the logo for Band-Aid.

Oh well, it made good television anyway.

In 1989 three recordings of the song to raise further money for charity also topped the charts – The first was Band Aid 11. Then came Band-Aid 20 a version released in 2004. finally Ban Aid 30 in 2014. I think you know where this is going.

We are told that the reason that the people were dying of starvation was that the crop had failure that year. But is this really the truth?

Parts of Africa have know famine and years when crops failed ever since the dawn of man’s understanding. Remember your Sunday school stories. Jacob, and his coat of many colours. How he forecast the future in dreams. how he saw the seven fat cows and seven thin cows. So the Egyptians built grain stores in the city and the grain was brought there to be distributed in the years of the thin cows. Must have been growing ears by then, but the point of the story is that good governments save their people by planning for the future, not the fast buck. Failed crops were not the problem.

Although the graphics said “Feed The World” only Africa is coloured in, does that tell us anything? The British Empire, pulled out of Africa when it was becoming too costly, and the commonwealth troops had done their bit in the Second World War. Now Britain was on its uppers, so like today, in Afghanistan, they made a chaotic exit, leaving the people of Africa in the hands of warlords and dictators.

We see the same mistakes repeated over and over, take refugees for instance.

Today, there are more refugees and internally displaced people than at any point since World War II. Driven from their homes by conflict, persecution, environmental calamity, or dire economic straits, these refugees—more than half of whom are children—have been deprived of their statehood, material possessions, and in many cases, their loved ones. They seek solace in refugee camps and unplanned settlements, where they wait out their displacement or attempt to begin life anew. UNHCR

Most of the world’s refugee camps were designed as temporary facilities. However, many have grown and developed into full-fledged cities, complete with their own economies, systems of governance, and civic institutions, but are a far cry from resettlement back home. Refugee camps are monuments to human suffering, and the sheer size of these settlements testifies to the severity of forced displacement around the world.

And at the heart of this humanitarian crisis, lack of forward planning by the governments (in the pockets of The One Per Cent, of this worlds riches.) It was these governments that cause such miser, it is they that are now walking away.

We know from past experience in World War 11 that people will try to escape the hell of war and travel to a place of relative safety if they can, we call them refugees. Despite this, neither the US nor her alias ever gave a though to how they would cope with the problem of refugees fleeing the conflicts these countries were engaged in.

Kakuma refugee camp, in north-western Kenya, is the largest refugee camp in the world. Established in 1992, (almost three decades ago) this camp is jointly managed by the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs and UNHCR. Today, Kakuma is home to some 100,000 South Sudanese and 55,000 Somali refugees, most of whom were driven from their homelands by civil war. But the camp also hosts refugees from nearly 20 other countries. Conditions in Kakuma are grave, as donor support has waned in recent years. The camp’s resources and infrastructure are overtaxed, and occupants have scant opportunities for gainful employment or education. Malnutrition is rampant throughout the camp—especially among younger occupants—and overcrowding has accelerated the spread of infectious diseases.

This is just one of the top 10 refugee camps in Africa that “YOU” are complicit in creating and sponsoring. For remember, the MPs that you elected into Westminster, do it in your name.

Suffer the children to come unto me,

The man that said that died on an old wooden tree,

And as we rejoice at the time of his birth,

The children still suffer all over the earth.

From the African jungles to the hills of Afghanistan,

Their thin, hungry face, black, yellow and brown,

They are starving to death on their millet and rice,

They don’t know, Santa Claus of Jesus Christ.

So as you sit round the table at this Christmas time,

And stuff the roast ham and the turkey inside,

Don’t think of the children in lands far away,

Where 200 children – will die today.

1. Kakuma (Kenya)Population (2015): 184,550
Established or recognized in: 1992

Occupants primarily from: South Sudan, Somalia

2. Hagadera (Kenya)

Population (2015): 105,998

Established or recognized in: 1992

Occupants primarily from: Somalia

3. Dagahaley (Kenya)

Population (2015): 87,223

Established or recognized in: 1992
Occupants primarily from: Somalia

5. Zaatari (Jordan)

Population (2015): 77,781
Established or recognized in: 2012
Occupants primarily from: Syria

7. Katumba (Tanzania)

Population (2015): 66,416

Established or recognized in: 1972
Occupants primarily from: Burundi

8. Pugnido (Ethiopia) Where Bob and Midge save them from starving with Ban Aid.

Population: 63,262

Established or recognized in: 1993
Occupants primarily from: South Sudan

9. Panian (Pakistan)

Population: 62,264
Established or recognized in: 2008

Occupants primarily from: Afghanistan

These are real people whose life’s have been taken from them by we in the west and I have not even mentioned Yemen or Palestine.

The UN and its humanitarian partners currently provide aid to eight million Yemenis each month. three-quarters of the Yemeni population is estimated to be in need of humanitarian support.

And the longer the conflict continues, the worse the situation is becoming.

That is despite very large sums pledged in aid for Yemen. 

The UN appealed for close to $3bn (£2.4bn) to fund the humanitarian response in 2018. It will ask for $4bn (£3.16bn) next year.

The current conditions on the ground are seriously hindering the delivery and distribution of aid – far too little is reaching those desperately in need.

On the one hand, the Saudi-led coalition (including the US and UK governments, by their cooperation with Saudi Arabia) is enforcing a commercial blockade on the sea and air routes into the country, and placing restrictions on relief supplies.

A total of 90% of imports are food, fuel, and drugs, and the blockade is effectively choking a country heavily reliant on these goods. Aid is also subject to long inspection delays as well as in some cases being rejected altogether.

Coalition forces (the UK) have also bombed bridges linking Yemen’s main port at Hudaydah with Sanaa, the capital city, which has meant trucks loaded with vital supplies are having to take other routes, adding many hours to journey times, increasing the price of delivery and, in some cases, making it impossible to deliver supplies at all to areas in desperate need.

On the other hand, local groups and warlords are also at work, hindering the delivery of aid, and at times there is outright looting and selling on the black market.

Houthi rebels (why rebels? Oh sorry I remember it was a BBC report) have blocked access to besieged cities such as Taiz and set up checkpoints into the capital, charging extra fees to aid agencies, who in turn have less available to spend on humanitarian aid.

Profiteers on both sides of the conflict are also intentionally creating shortages and spiking prices of certain items such as fuel and gas. (in other words lots of taxpayers money, given to lots of relief agencies (with big offices and highly paid staff) getting nowhere, when the real solution lies in stopping the war, bringing the two sides around a table at the UN to settle their differences not sell them more armaments and, that only increases the suffering.

On May 20, 2017, the US President Trump and Saudi Arabia’s Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a series of letters of intent for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to purchase arms from the US totalling $110 billion US. And $350 billion US over the next 10 years.

US contributions to Yemen relief – a little over 400 million, less than Donald Trump will get in commission from the arms sale.

The unplanned migration of refugees making their way to Europe to escape the trauma of war and starvation.

2020/12/18

Turkey and countries (although within the EU, and against EU policies) are building fences to stave off the influx of uncontrolled migration into their countries. They see the writing on the wall, and no one is taking reasonability, so they have gone into a self-preservation mode, and who could blame them?

The European Union has paid the final instalment of a €6 billion fund to Turkey as part of a deal on hosting refugees. The 2016 agreement has led to standoffs, as Turkey claimed that it had not received all the money promised.

The UK government has paid £114 million to the French government in order to stop illegal immigration originating from that country since 2015 (Parliamentary Answer, 16 June 2020)

How many years must a cannonball fly before it reaches the …………….. the answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind”

Stay safe.

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Everyone has a book inside them.

 The weather in St Andrews today has been somewhere between autumnal and early winter, I am pleased I was well wrapped up in my cycle run this morning. This was a big change to Saturday when out in ‘shirt sleeve order.

They say that everyone has a book inside them, search as I may, I have not found that book yet. Oh, I have tried believe me. A book on my childhood growing up in a mining village. My cycling adventures, my sailing adventures, days spent hills walking in the Scottish mountains, from the most northerly Monroe to the most southerly, Ben Hope to Ben Lomond. No good.

Then a novel maybe, well my teacher always said that I was the most creative amongst her pupil’s, sadly for me, she was my maths teacher.

Sex, now I have your attention, we were told at college that any book with sex in the title will sell well. But what I know about sex or the emotions of women well, it would be a very short book.

Maybe I should just let it happen, like Gavin Maxwell’s book,

Depicted in the film ‘Ring of Bright Water’. We are told he bought an otter in a pet shop in London (actually, I believe he brought it back with him for the Middle East, Iraq, if memory serves.) It was then he decided to decamp back to his native Scotland and write a book on, I can’t remember what. He would end up writing about his Outer. However, having been brought upon a large farm so would have known a lot about animals and nature, and educated at the best public schools, so knew what ‘Grammar are’ he had a head start on me.

In the film, Breakfast at Tiffin’s,

The struggling writer, played by George Peppard, finds inspiration for his book from his eccentric neighbours, played by Audrey Hepburn, sadly I do not have an eccentric Audrey Hepburn here at City park, to inspire me, boohoo.

I have written many layouts for books over the years and have become very involved in their research, the one that springs to mind,

The main character is a beautiful young woman lawyer, (modelled on Audrey Hepburn, my screen goddess at the time.) she is highly intelligent, straight out of Stanford, now working in a pro-bono office in NY. Invited to shares a flat, in a very expensive part of town, by a newfound girlfriend – that she just happened on. Then came the swanky parties, even given free-range of her new girlfriends wardrobe, which strangely enough, all the cloths fit as if made for her, (more like a film script.) At the party she is approached by, someone akin to Valentino, she can not believe her luck. He is gorgeously attentive, flattering, and in the bedroom …..

The next day her dream lover vanished from her life as if he never existed, she later finds herself pregnant. She can not believe it they took all the precaution, (and in fact, her Valentino could not have made her pregnant, he had the snip) – it was all planned.

He friend supports her stops her from having an abortion, money is no object, from the friends sugar daddy, but of course, that was all staged too.

After the birth, when the child was to be spirited away from the hospital and into the arms of her new rich parents, who could not have a child of their own,

Well, I will not spoil it for you by revealing the ending, you never know I may write it someday.

And to end my daily blether’s

STATEMENT FROM ALEX SALMOND 30th August 2021

SALMOND REFERS BOOK EXTRACTS TO CROWN OFFICE FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

I am delighted to see Alex finally hit back at those who have been consistently smearing him since the criminal trial. He must have had the patience of a saint to have lasted this long. At last, the gloves are off. Let’s see where it takes us?

Then again – playing devils advocate – the timing could not be better, Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party, is about to hold it’s Introductory party conference next month. ‘There is no bad publicity.’

As for that book, – I am still staring at a blank screen.

Keep safe.

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‘We The People’.

I have watched over the years how the tentacles of the US empire has spread across the world to its decrement. Unlike other invaders and empire building nations of the past, America attacked from within the countries it wished influence over.

In March 1951 Arbenz succeeded to the presidency of Guatemala, supported by the army and the left-wing political parties, which included the Guatemalan Communist Party.

Reform quickly followed this lead t clashes with the largest landowner in the country, the US based United Fruit Company, when he tried to expropriate idle land and raise taxes, on some of the largest landowners.

The more he pushed reform, the more concerned the US government became. Fearing over the threat to sizeable American banana investment and the US bank loans to the Guatemalan government, along with concerns that the Guatemalan government were to close to the communist bloc, they took action.

The CIA (central intelligence agency) opened its play book. First the US media painted Arbenz a friend of communists (how’s support he undoubtedly had) however, the stories told by the CIA the US media that Arbenz has close connections with the Soviet bloc, (although unsubstantiated) was enough to convince the US public that this man had to go.

Working in Honduras and El Salvador, the CIA helped to organize a counterrevolutionary army of exiles led by Col. Carlos Castillo Armas. Exaggerations of the size of the invading force panicked the capital; the Guatemalan army refused to fight for Arbenz, and he was forced to resign in June 27th 1954. Jacobo Arbenz went into exile. America was back in control – their man in office.

Around the same time another revolution was taking place in Cuba. on 26th July 1953 and the Fidel Castro and his fellow revolutionaries of the 26th July Movement took up arms against the dictatorshi of Cuban President Fulgencio Balista. On the 31 December 1958 Castro finally ousted the dictatorship and formed a new government in Cuba. This was not a bloodless revolution over 3,000 lost their lives on both sides.

The revolution had strong domestic and international repercussions, in particular it transformed the relationship between Cuba and the United States. Up until the time of the revolution Cuba had become a safe haven for American drug barons and corruption. Under Castro, its economy was turned around, he also heralded an era of Cuban medical internationalism, sending doctors around the world to war torn areas and third world countries where people had no doctor. It is worth mentioning that after the aftermath of 9/11 many firemen and policemen that suffered injury in the attack, when their medical insurance (through their ex-employer) ran out went off to Cuban where medical aid was free. Still America continued to try to oust Castro and has since the time of the revolution placed economic sanctions on the Cuban government.

In Chile over a period from September 11, 1973 and March 11, 1990 the dictatorship was established after the overthrown of the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende in the US backed coup d’état. It was widely reported at the time that the CIA was directly involved in orchestrating the carrying out the coup. The military headed by General Augusto Pinochet utilized the breakdown of democracy and the economic crisis to take control

The government was a regime of military dictatorship, it suppressed all political parties and the persecution of dissidents to the extent unprecedented in the history of Chile. Overall, the regime left over 3,000 dead or missing, tortured tens of thousands of prisoners and drove an estimated 200,000 Chileans into exile, (I knew one personally). The country moved away from lefty politics to a free-market economy on the advice of economists educated in the US universities know as the Chicago Boys. Later, in 1980 the regime replaced the Chilean Constitution of 1925 with a new constitution. This established a series of provisions that would eventually lead to the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite on October 5th 1988. The military dictatorship ended in1990 with the election of Christian Democrat candidate Patrico Aylwin, However, the military remained out of civilian control for several years after the junta itself had lost power.

Which brings us nicely to the US involvement in UK politics. A big pal of General Augusto Pinochet was the now duly elected (dictatorship) of Margaret Thatcher, she was also, a big pal of the American President Ronald Regan and together they cooked up a system that moved us off the gold standard to there open house and the free marketeers.

At the end of the Falklands war, thatcher warped herself in bunting and when to the country, and won a landslide victory, now she had the power to put her privatisation plans into practice, using every dirty trick from the CIA play book.

During the Battle of Orgreave on 18th June 1984 at the Orgreave Coking Plant near Rotherham, striking miners attempted a blockade. There was around 5,000 miners and the same number of police, it all went badly when the police on horseback charged with truncheons drawn. Although it was the police that charged the pickets without provocation, the media (including the “Impartial” BBC) showed the pickets attacking the police lines, this was the constant lies and propaganda, that were broadcast during this period.

During the strike, 11,291 people were arrested, mostly for breach of the peace or obstructing roads whilst picketing, of whom 8,392 were charged and between 150 and 200 were imprisoned. At least 9,000 mineworkers were dismissed after being arrested whilst picketing even when no charges were brought. The good old CIA play book won the day.

Magie, sold off the family silver to the hedge fund managers of London and America. Sold off the council houses, and used the new found wealth of the oil found off the coast of Scotland to fund the unemployment bill that came in the wake of all the pit, rail, and steel industries closures, along with their associated companies. Outsourcing was the new buzz word. With the big companies now in private hands or closed down, the Union’s teeth were drawn. We are still living with the consistences of Thatcherite polices.

For a while I though we would never move away from American’s grip on the world’s finances, away from their disastrous foreign policy of regime changes when governments did not toe their line, then they would put their man in their place. You can have democracy so long as it is our brand of democracy, and Just so long as the buck stops here.

Then came, 2002 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt by the US. The situation began on 9th April when a general strike was called by the trade union organization National Federation of Trade Unions. The strike was in response to Chavez’s appointment to prominent posts in Venezuela’s national oil company. Two days later in Caracas, up to one million Venezuela’s marched in opposition to Chavez. At one point during the march, opposition leaders redirected the protestors to the presidential palace, Miraflores, where government supporters and Bolivarian Circles were holding their own rally. The two sides confronted each other. Shots were fired near the Miraflores Palace and by that evening 19 people were dead.

As a response to the protests they demanded he resign, President Chavez was subsequently arrested by the military. Chavez request for asylum in Cuba was denied, and he was ordered to be tried in a Venezuelan court. On the American news programmes, that evening all were showing how it was government supporters and Bolivarian Circles were responsible for the shooting, in fact they were hunkered down trying to avoid being shot by military types overhead and the street, into which they were supposed to be shooting into the crowd was completable clear of people, CIA play book once more in action.

The Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce president Pedro Carmona was declared interim president. During the National Assembly and the Supreme Court were both dissolved and the country’s 1999 Constitution was declared void. The coup was on the verge of collapse, as Carmona’s attempts to entirely undo Chavez’s reforms, this angered much of the public and key sectors of the military.

When word leaked out that Chavez had not resigned, as was publicly claimed, Chavez supporters surrounded the presidential palace, seized the television stations and demanded his return. Carmona resined the same night. The Mirflores was taken without a shot been fired, leading to the removal of the Carmona government and the re-installation of Chavez as president.

Special police shot Kiev protesters, inquiry says, again a peaceful protest orchestrated by the CIA play book to gain power.

The internet, more than any other source of information has helped us to understand what is going on in the world. And how powerful people around the world are abusing their power for their own ends.

And the fight back has begun,

“We The People”

March for Independence – Edinburgh

Saturday 2 October 2021

1:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Holyrood Park

Gathering Early – Leave 1 pm sharp

Holyrood Park, Queens Drive, Horse Wynd, Canongate, High Street, Lawn market, George IV bridge, Forrest road, Middle Meadow walk, The Meadows.

If you can not make it follow us on line.

Stay safe.

Featured

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, sung Audrey Hepburn, in My Fair Lady.

It was a glorious morning here at St Andrews, and although my morning ride was short it was sweet. Now to tackle my slow running kitchen sink. The local hardware shop supplied me with a plunger and a bottle of Mr Muscle drain gel (Clears total blockages Guaranteed or your money back) first I poured the gel down the sink, now I had a sink full of gel to contend with, so I left it for a while and it did eventually go. Now read the instruction – wait for 5 minutes, for tougher clogs, leave longer. Run drain with hot water. I boiled a kettle of water and poured that down the drain, still clogged, ho-hum. Set to work with the plunger squelch, squelch, all sorts of gunge coming out of the overflow, then it was clear. I filled the sink to the brim then pulled the plug, the water disappeared at a great rate of knots, making a spectacular vortex as it went. A big, old age pensioners cheer went up Hip, Hip Replacement.

I had just settle down to a well-earned cup of tea and a banana sandwich, when the door went, on opening it, the site manager bad me come with her, saying

“I need you” best offer I’ve had all day.

She leads me into the toilet where one of my neighbours was trying to stop a full flow of water coming out of the water heater over the sink. I found the inspection hatch on the pipe box and managed to reach the stopcock but it was solid, had not been moved in a decade. Off to the workshop for a large screwdriver and claw-hammer, with these, I was able to prise the front from the pipe box and let the dog see the rabbit. I used the claw of the hammer on the handle of the stopcock and moved it back and forth until it became free enough to screw shut, phew, the water stopped gushing from the heater. For safety sake, I went back to the house for a small screwdriver and removed the fuse from the wall socket that feeds the heater. I was soaked to the skin, trousers shirt, oh well, I was contemplating a shower anyway. I feel quite exhilarated now.

To me foreign food aid, be it to war-torn countries or via food banks here at home is the wrong approach to helping people in need. Just as refugee camps are not the answer either, they are a sticking plaster on the symptoms but not a cure, and certainly the last thing such people need, driving them into a downward spiral of poverty.

Which leads me nicely onto migrating birds, migrating birds, whit? I watched a documentary on The Fens,

a part of the country I know well having cycled and camped there on occasion. Once drained over centuries by windmills, the Fens flood planes now have a cared-for drainage system of dike and dams with pumps capable of shifting tones of water per minute. With the water table lowered (but sometimes flooded again in winter) the Fens soil is rich, you can grow almost anything there. One of the new crops to be grown is Sunflowers, the company that grows them is the biggest Sunflower seed merchant in Briton. Much of the crop goes for birdseed.

Did you know, that an estimated 17 million households spend £250 million a year on more than 150,000 tonnes of bird feed? That is enough to fee the entire breeding population of the 10 most common feeder-using bird species year-round three times over? “Not many people know that” as Michael Cain would say.

Yes, it was those Victorians, that did it, “tuppence a bag” for seed to feed the Trafalgar Square pigeons have morphed into a national pastime. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, sung Audrey Hepburn, in My Fair Lady.

You could put that girl in a old flour sack and she would still look beautiful.

I know by the number of bird feeders that appear in our garden here at City Park that many of us have discovered the joy of attracting birds into our gardens, more so during the pandemic, with less opportunity to visit the wildlife in its natural habitat. So good for humans but what about the birds?

There is an average of 100 bird feeders per square kilometre across the UK so most birds will not have to travel far for food. It is estimated that we humans provide 75 percent of the daily intake of the diet of some species. Hardly surprising that the dominant ones have monopolised

resources and become habitual feeder-user, now relying on the unlimited year-long supply of food we provide. In the last 25 years, the UK has gained 700,000 additional pairs of great tits, a 40 per cent increase. Blue tits, nuthatches and great-spotted woodpeckers have never had it so good.

All good, I hear you cry, but is it? Well not if you are a migrating bird or one that you would normally find in the countryside. For woodland species, the situation is less rosy. Marsh and willow tits, lesser-spotted woodpeckers, several migrant flycatchers and warblers have been slowly disappearing from the British landscape since the1970s, begging the question why?

Many of the species in decline are “subordinate” – (please do not say, lower down the pecking order.) And as we know through Darwin’s studies, to survive you may have to diversify. As modern farm methods force change and the increase in bird population of dominant birds has the monopoly of the food and the monopoly of the nest sites. The willow tits now excavate their own nest holes so they do not have to wait for nature to do it for them – anyway, the dominant species would probably take them anyway. This means they can occupy new sites, like woodlands, which are unsuitable for their more imposing relatives. Marsh tits collect and catch food and store it for a rainy day. It is quick to find new food resources and had a strong bill capable of dealing with harder food items. However, when bird feeders provide food 24/7 and are gobbled up by the dominant species, sending their numbers soaring, the subordinates will still lose out.

Spare a thought, too, for the pied flycatcher, arriving back from Africa to ever-more unpredictable spring weather in the UK to compete with species such as great tits for food and nest. It is known for Great tits to kill flycatchers in scuffles over nest sites.

There is another problem with bird feeders apart from competition between species. More diverse species at the same place at the same time for years on end (no social distancing) provides conditions for the spread of diseases, within the species, and worse still, from one species to another. (think coronavirus). This happened in a spectacular way in 2005 when the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae, jumped from feeder-using wood pigeons to finches. Resulting in the greenfinch population declining by 66 per cent a year – 280,000 birds, between 2006 and 2016. the advice given at the time was to wash feeders more often, too little too late as it turned out for chaffinches, which are still on the decline.

For declining species of farmland birds such as tree sparrows that suffer badly on cold nights, they can lose a third of the bodyweight that must be replaced quickly, bird feeds are their lifeline. Likewise, house sparrows and starlings in some cities would fail if handouts ceased. But feeding blue and great tits may be the final nail in the coffin for their scarcer relatives.

In good faith we humans have tried to help wildlife, however, in doing so we may have inadvertently given a leg-up to generalists over the specialists.

We badly need a better understanding of the consequences of bird feeding. There is one clear lesson we must learn. If we are truly concerned with bird populations. Then possible, improving habitat and quality in our gardens is a vastly more important gift to nature than any birdseed handouts.

We can plant beneficial native plants and provide seasonal bursts of resources, from nuts to berries and caterpillars. We can dig a pond, swap fences for hedgerows, or choose rumbustious wildflower-covered lawns. Even rewild parts of our garden, nature has been running the show for millennium I think we can trust it to run the show for us now 

Stay safe.

Featured

 “Blue” Hydrogen is not Green

Halfway through another week and for the first time in many days I can safely say, I am free of that dreadful head cold that has plagued me. OK, I am still a little weak from its effects but in much better spirits. So looking forward to extensive travelling on bike and bus once more.

Charlie Watts, drummer of the Rolling stones, died at the age of 80, he had a good inning but when I hear of the demise of people that I have lived with all my adult life, it is a reminder that we are not immortal.

One other that has been part of my life, Toyah Wilcox, seems she has produced a new album that will be released on Friday, this week. Do you remember those mad pop videos she made, if you do you are older than you think?

For all the talk about electric vehicles, there are some forms of transport, that will never successfully be electrified. Is hydrogen the answer?

Hydrogen-powered vehicles is now being hailed by The Hydrogen Council as a silver bullet, a group that includes the oil companies BP, Total and Shell in their numbers, (is that an alarm bell I hear?) They predict that “Blue” Hydrogen will account for 18% of all energy demands by 2050. Now hydrogen has been with us for some time in fact, I have been onboard hydrogen-powered buses in Dundee.

“Hydrogen is not a panacea or silver bullet but it could be necessary for decarbonization of hard-to-electrify, sectors such as long-haul heavy trucking, international marine shipping and some parts of heavy industry.” said Mike Fowler, director of advanced energy technology research at the Clean Air Task Force.

At the coal-fired power station at Longanet, now closed, they ran an experiment for Carbon Capture and Storage, (CCS), the idea was to take the carbon from the flue gasses and pipe them out into the North Sea and down the old oil pipe lines to the sea bed, there they would be captured by the pressure at that depth. The experiment ran until the Westminster government pulled the plug on the funding. The biggest problem with the scheme was it used a lot of energy to run the system. So it did work, but who would pay for the clean air in a commercially-run power station?

But what has this got to do with hydrogen power, I hear you cry? Well, bear with me. Some time ago I wrote about a system, down at Leven (Fife) where they were producing hydrogen using electricity to crack water, the brilliant part, it using wind power to produce the electricity required. So successful has it been that they are now proceeding to put the system into practice, by offering it as an alternative to gas in and around Leven.

So what’s my grip with hydrogen?

A large $1 trillion, infrastructure bill passed by the US Senate and hailed by Joe Biden as a key tool to tackle the climate crisis. This bill includes $8 billions of dollars to support, a supposedly clean fuel, (“Blue” hydrogen) that has the potential to pollute even more than burning coal. Whit.

The problem with, so-called, “Blue” hydrogen, being pushed by the fossil fuel industry, and falls under the definition of clean hydrogen in the Senate bill, begs the question, is Blue hydrogen really that Green?

Blue hydrogen involves spitting gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and then capturing and storing the CO2, a global warming gas. However during the process, methane, a potent greenhouse gas is also produced, this method also uses a huge amount of energy to separate, then store the carbon dioxide, and some will escape anyway, (all this was understood at the CCS experiments at Longanet Fife.) The production of “Blue” hydrogen actually creates 20 per cent more greenhouse gases than coal, commonly regarded the most polluting fossil fuel. Furthermore it is 60 per cent more polluting than burning diesel, according to a new paper published in the Energy Science and Engineering journal. Help ma boab, is that right?

Robert Howarth, a scientist at Cornell University who authored the paper alongside Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University researcher, said “Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push, but it’s far from carbon-free. I don’t think we should be spending our funds this way, on these sort of false solutions.” Well, that’s you telt, president Biden.

Dozens of gas companies have jumped on the bandwagon, in the US and started producing hydrogen (fill your boots with free dollar handouts from the US Senate) – or at least testing its viability in existing gas pipelines. This is madness, according to climate campaigners, saying it is a step towards entrenching fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when the world needs to rapidly move to net-zero emissions, outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC).

“Looking at this Biden bill, you can not fail to see a big giveaway to the fossil fuel infrastructure that is incompatible with serious climate action” according to Carroll Muffett, chief executive of the Center for International Environmental Law. “Congress went out of its way to not specify green hydrogen (hydrogen produced by renewable electricity, such as being produced at Leven Fife), and so this funding just helps prop up the fossil fuel industry. The potential of these technologies are being routinely overstated even as the impact are being understated.”

So why despite all the evidence does the US Senate still pass such a bill? For not only is it decremental to the US but the rest of the world too.

“He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

Now, do you hear those alarm bells more clearly?

As a footnote, the Scottish government in the past have put much funding into the research and development of new green technology, wind, wave, tide, CCS alongside this hydrogen. Scotland has done much to promote such development, but it is Westminster parties, funded by big companies such as oil companies BP, Total and Shell, it is they that call the shots. Scotland has the resources of wind a plenty, strong tides, and endless wave, to power and drive, not only the development of The green revolution, but also the hard-won, and paid for, by the Scottish taxpayers, development, technology and expertise in this new green renewable energy revolution. Sadly Scotland is being held back from becoming the riches, greenest country in the world, by being part of the UK, why can’t Nicol Sturgeon see this?

What do we want – Independence – when do we want it – NOW!

Stay safe.

Featured

 I got a whole egg when I stayed with my gran.

The film came on the television at 9 o’clock in the evening. I was having difficulty concentrating on it and was dropping off to sleep, so took myself off to my bed. It smelt of fresh sheets, pillowcases and duvet cover. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Sunshine was flowing like a golden waterfall into the bedroom but it was the noise of scaffolds dismantling a chimney pack across the road that had wakened me. The hammering and clanging of steel did not keep me from turning over in my cosy cocoon and disappearing once more into slumber. It was after 10 am when I finally arrived back in the land of the living, feeling good, if a little wobbly. Must get myself out.

As a boy, I suppose I lived in my own little world, I was not really interested in what gown-ups were saying around the table, so my sessions with my older brother has been a real eye-opener.

When the long school holidays came along we, or at least we that were still at school, would be hived out to stay with aunts and uncles or in my case my grandmother, on my father’s side.

When first I was shipped off to gran’s she stayed in the ‘Happy-land’ a collection of miners rows that backed onto the old shunting yard. The rails and sleepers had been lifted but because it was mostly covered in hardcore it would have taken a great deal of effort and sweat to turn it into anything resembling an allotment.

My gran run a shop from her kitchen, it was not uncommon for a child to turn up at the door, sent there by their mother,

“Mum wants to know if she could have two Woodbine and a couple of slices of bread?”

Whoever had sent the child knew perfectly well that her man would not go down the pit the next day unless he had a Woodbine before he went down, and a Woodbine for when he surfaced again. His wife would make sure he had them or the wage packet would be light at the end of the week, and it would be her housekeeping money that would be short.

The two slices of bread was optional, the men would go down the pit without their peece (a Scottish sandwich that would be carried with you to work) but not without their Woodbine.

Gran would hand over the goods and enter them in her little black book.

My uncle John was a cripple and walked, rather awkwardly with two sticks, when a boy he had suffered an injury to his foot, it never healed and finally turned to gangrene, the leg would have to come off below the knee, granddad would not hear of it.

It was many years later when dad returned from a visit to see his father that he told me, with an almost shocked expression, that when he and the old man had been sitting opposite one another across the fire, his father suddenly burst out crying,

“I have never seen my father cry before” he told me, “I did not know what to do, I just sat in silence.

Granddad to my father was always the strong oak beam that held up the roof, he went down the pit at fourteen years of age. Came through the Great War without a scratch, and straight down the pit once more, never missing a day. He was seventy years old before the NCB (National Coal Board) discovered he should have been pensioned off five years earlier. Grandad took it badly when they said he would have to leave. The locals organised a retirement party for him, and there he would be presented with a trophy, from the Mayor, and the press would be there to record the occasion for prosperity. Grandad never turned up, the committee, the Mayor, and the press had to go round to Minto Street and present the trophy there, and get their story and pictures.

I remember reading in the local paper about Jimmy Hamilton, starting down the pit at 14 and working there until he was 70. Mum always said it was his stubbornness that brought him through the depression and Great War.

Dad went on, “Then in a quiet voice, choking back his tears, the old man said,”

“Why didn’t I not let them take John’s leg he would have had some sort of life, I committed him to a life of pain and misery?” Some mistakes we carry with us to the grave.

John served his time as a cobbler, a good trade to be in with all the pit boots needing mending. Not able to go gallivanting he would sit with his cobbler’s last over his thighs and mend boot by the fire.

Gran suggested that they rented the old shunting yard from the NCB and keep hens for eggs and food, John could still mend boots but it would be his job to look after the hens. Gran of course would find a road for the eggs and meat, well there was a war on.

By the time I was old enough to be hived out at grans during my school holiday, John had around 500 hens on the land. I would be set to work, cleaning out hen huts and coating them in coal tar, as protection against the weather and red spider. The coal tar I would carry the mile or so up from the gas works at the bottom of Station Road.

I loved it at grans, for not only was I away from “Bedlam Hall” you would not believe the constant noise there is in a house with five women in it. Not only that, I got a whole egg when I stayed with my gran.

There were two other uncles Uncle Alec, and Uncle Willie. They were seldom over at grans since they were both married, were pipers, in fact they were both Pipe Majors in their turn, in the Lochore and Glencraig Pipe band, so when not out with the band they were at work down the pit. I did not realise it at the time but Willie was a compulsive gambler.

My brother would tell how Willie worked harder than anyone down the pit and made good money. On his way home he would throw his unopened wage packet on the ground and on the toss of two old pennies, either waked home with a roll that would choke a horse or empty-handed. If he had won he would go to the dogs at Thornton. It matters little, whether the dog won or lost, he would show no emotion, money had no real value other than catalysis to gamble. Little wonder his wife left him.

Strange looking back how I was totally unaware of these things going on around me, then again, to me grown-up were alias, and sisters more so. I lived in my own little world, free from care and strife. Sadly it also made me a very poor student, if the teacher was boring me, I simply escaped into myself, I switched off. Hardly surprising therefore that when I left school, I was so poorly educated and had to start all over again in my own time.

Someone once asked me,

“What is the worst thing about growing old?”

I have no idea what answer I gave then, but I would say now,

“Remembering when you were young.”

Stay safe.

Featured

Life’s a blind migration to some unknown destination.

Monday as ever is my allotted time in the laundry, I stuffed the washing in the machine. Breakfast was then followed by some less enthusiastic housework.

The maid was standing in front of the housekeeper, who had just drawn a finger across the top of the sideboard then proceeded to show a pristine white glove – now with one rather dusty finger, to the girl she proclaimed,

I could write my name on the furnisher in this room”

To which the girl retorted,

Isn’t education a wonderful thing?”

The bicycle had taken priority over anything close to serious housework, the day was still and overcast but I really needed to be out and about once more. Not a long run, down to the Eden, up to Dairsie, and home, but today if felt like 100 miles of cycling, recovery, from whatever alls me, will be slow.

Back home I started looking through some more of my old runs, that had been stored on CD, can’t remember if I mentioned the run Tim and I did down the Grand Union Canal, but If you have read it already stop now.

This was written when I was living down in Yorkshire so a while ago. I had just recently turned 65 and had all sorts of plans for myself, no longer a white slave from Monday through to Friday, free at last, free at last, thank you lord, free at last. Mum had other plans for me she suffered a stroke, not deliberately I’m sure, but it did put pay to my plans, I became, by default, my mother’s carer.

Although a thankless task most of the time and very tiring, as much mentally as physical, all of the time, and financially unrewarding, I never regretted one moment of that quality time spent with my mother.

Mum had gone into rest care so I could go off for a wee holiday, just get away from the seven-day routine. The position of carer for mum, also gave me custodianship of mum’s little Yorkshire terrier Tim. Wherever I went Tim would go too. With Youth Hostelling now ruled out, it would be a camping trip. I had bought a ‘new to me’ children’s bike trailer for Tim to travel in, but Tim was having none of it. I then purchased a basket, this was fixed to the rear carrier, allowing Tim to ride up at my back. Tim was in his glory, sitting high in his own little castle, anytime I left him to guard the bike and trail, that had now become a depository for our camping gear, outside shops or visitor centre. Tim was quick to exploit the situation, busking for attention from all who passed by.

Since much of the route chosen would involve off-road and since I would be pulling a two-wheeled trailer loaded with all our camping equipment, and Tim’s chunky meaty bites, I chose my off-road bike, with no rear carrier his basket was now strapped to the handlebars.

Tim and I journeyed overnight down to Thame,

which is just east of Oxford and found a safe spot to leave the van (a converted van that would take mum’s electric buggy) ideal for all our needs. I later found out that I had parked opposite the home of a member of the Bee-Gees, for all my younger readers, the Bee-gees was band big in the 1960s.

The melodic bell in the church tower had just chimed seven o’clock as we set out to stretch our legs after the long journey south. Tim introduced himself to a little Jack Russell and then to the dog’s owner, who then introduced himself as Tom. Tom, like his dog, turned out to be ever so friendly and offered to show me where I could join the disused railway track at the start of our cycling adventure. As we walked Tom kept up a running commentary on the village and from his enthusiasm clearly a village he dearly loved. History oozed from every building from its church, barn, and pub, named ‘The Bird Cage’, a timber-framed construction in the towns Corn Market. I was told it derived its name from having once been used to house French prisoners of war during Napoleonic times. Finally, we arrived at the cycle track, Thames best-kept secret since it is found by making one’s way through a modern housing estate on the outskirts of the village, out of sight and with no guiding signs.

Back at the van the trailer was loaded and attached to the bike then off we went on our ‘Big’ adventure a round trip that would take us through some of the most beautiful countrysides in England.

By midday, we had travelled via Princes Risborough, Owlswich, Kimblewick, Marsh Mill, and on to Ellesbourch. It was here as we sat eating ham sandwiches, or more correctly, I was eating bread, Tim was scoffing the ham from my sandwiches. We were approached by a lady delivering the parish newsletter, Tim had that magnetic charm. In answer to my inquiry about a distinctive hill, not too far off, I was told it was Beacon Hill, overlooking Chequers.

Tim’s eagerness to go when I lifted his lead soon turned into disillusionment after half an hour of climbing in grass a little long for his liking. However, the view from the top was magnificent since we were now able to see for miles in every direction and certainly well worth the effort to get up here.

Near the little village of Tring, we turned off for the Grand Union Canal, but not before vising the village and its magnificent church in the centre of town.


First recorded in The Doomsday Book as a church and belfry in 1089, the lovely church of St Peter and Paul on the high street is open every day. As a magnificent medieval church, of St Peter and Paul is the place to visit to learn about the church’s architecture, the medieval Tring Tiles and the Victorian Gore Memorial, and our George Washington connection.

Turned off onto a path that would lead us onto the Grand Union Canal towpath. On reaching the canal we found it a little short on ‘Grand’, more an overgrown ditch. The water was shallow and crystal clear with small islands of vegetation scattered at random along its length. The banks were covered with self-seeded hardwood in autumn profusion. The towpath, that we would now follow was deep in fallen leaves that dappled sunlight played upon. There was an abundance of water hens that scurried into their moat surrounded fortresses as we approached. The chunky shoulders of our tyres caused the dry leaves to spin up and dance unrehearsed alongside our wheels in an exhilarating manner, then billow in a kaleidoscope of streaming colour in our wake. One small boy, his faithful dog, and a bicycle all setting out on a great adventure, it does not get much better than this.

We joined the Grand Union Canal proper at Bulbourne

where we stopped for refreshment. Tim had a large bowl of water me a large pint of keg beer. The next part of the journey down the canal towpath was uninspiring when you’ve seen one canal you have seen them all, so when we reach Uxbridge, I had already made up my mind to throw caution to the wind and take to the minor roads.

As we pulled into camp that night, fellow campers must have thought they had sighted the Grey Man of Ben Macau. The limestone hardcore, which made up the path on which we had spent the day travelling had left us covered from head to toe in fine white dust. My first task, after establishing the camp was to head for the toilet and shower room. Picking up a towel and soap bag from the back of the trailer sent Tim hot-footing it into the tent, where he hid inside my sleeping bag. Like all small boys, he has an allergy to soap and water. I had most everything I owned tumbling and spinning in the washing machine so it was now time to set about washing down the bike and trailer at the same time checking them over for any signs of breakage of problem tyres. Sitting now with only the light of the campsite to see by we ate supper and I downed numerous cups of tea. It had been a long day, still, I felt very fresh and if light permitted could easily have pressed on, Tim, however, was more than content to curl up in the tent, one eye open less I go off without him.

By daybreak we were packed and ready for the road, in Slough I found a greasy spoon café and sat down to a full breakfast, the first for some days and certainly a tribute to ‘hunger’s good kitchen’. From Slough to Windsor Great Park then into Windsor itself where the Tourist Information gave us directions to a campsite. It was early yet but we were in no hurry so booked in, did the chores, then off we headed for the town and a few pints, just to clear the dust from one’s throat, you understand.

By sun up we were once more on our road, heading this time for Wantage,

in the vale of the White Horse, for a land that is so flat all around, the road down the valley to the hill on which you find this incredible sculpture is anything but. We parked the bike and started the long climb to the hill fort. a group of lads were flying stunt kites, they looked impressive. a fair distance to the top of what would have been a Bronze Age fort. Yet again, well worth the effort. It was dark O’clock by the time we reached our campsite at West End near Stanton Harcourt. Batteries recharged we were off next day into Oxford, not a dog-friendly town, no dogs allowed signs at every park and riverbank. In fact, the only dogs I saw belonged to the Big Issue vendor.

All to soon the sands of time had run out on our holiday, so on back to Thame and our transport home. It had been a great trip, the weather warm, sunny, and windless. We had only two punctures, both in the trailer, which had no puncture protection in the tyres. The first was on the Grand Union Canal. With the new tube fitted and the tyre reinstated I was searching in the trailer for a pump. When we set out everything had its place and a place for everything, now it resembled a midshipman’s sea kist, everything on top, and nothing to hand. Just then a chap pulled up on his bike, it had two large panniers front and rear. The halo effect said cycle tourist but as it turned out he worked at a cafe in the nearby park and presumably his panniers were full of goodies for the cafe. Anyway, he whipped the pump from his bike and started attacking the wheel before I had a chance to retrieve ours. Off he went again, at a great rate of knots, with my thanks ringing in his ears. The hand drying machine in the campsite was used to help in the repair of the tube which would be required the following day. Once back on the roads however no further problems were encountered.

Stay safe.