The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep safe.                     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank God it was not India”

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

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

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

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

“Good Luck”

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

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

Keep safe.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julian Assange,

Guantanamo,

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

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

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

Keep safe.  

The wind was light and although the cloud was bubbling up it may not come to anything other than the odd shower, was my read of things. I was setting out towards Pitscottie, and from there I would head over the hill and into Cupar.

My niece had e-mailed me to say she had now moved into her new house, best go and have a look. Their new home is a bungalow, her husband, now an invalid, could not make the stairs in their old flat.

Ann had seen me as I approached and come to the door to greet her guest, I deposited the bike and moved back to take a photograph.

“I have not come to help with the flitting, just to see what you have and go tell the neighbours”. I greeter her.

The wife next door is flitting, do you ken,

keek cannie through the window bell and see”

Ann of course is overjoyed with her new home.

Her bairns were over to help out, cutting the grass and putting up shelves, so I only stayed long enough to have a cup f tea and guzzle down a teacake, I just could not resist.

Home and went to work, hanging a picture for my neighbours, it was one of those that needed a nail at both sides, so a bit more tricky and the measurement hand to be spot on, a wee test piece for Hamilton.

I started on “The man who cycled the world” even with all the advice and back up it was clear from the start of the book he was not a long time cyclist and was making all the ‘Schoolboy Mistakes’ of a non-touring rider. I recognised much of his faults he was making from my early day of long-distance riding. HSS (high saddle syndrome) giving him knee trouble. The sickness I sure was more down to not eating regularly and not taking sufficient water on board.

In my early days of Audax riding I experienced much the same. I had done many long trips before this but not at a pace, where you were riding against a clock so had to keep a constant mileage regardless of the terrane and unable to take long rest periods, for it you did that time would have to be made up further down the road. So you tended to push on in too high a gear rather than settling into a steady cadence and change up and down the gears to keep that cadence regular. Once you learn how to do this you can travel for hour after hour in a sort of Zen like manner.

When I first moved up from 200K to 300K rides I suddenly got myself into all sorts of trouble, I was being sick and could not hold anything down, even water just came right back up like a fountain. I would stop and rest, feel better then start again and as soon as I started to cycle the sickness would immediately return. With only 50K to go back to my parked car, I persevered, not much choice really.

I arrive home early on Sunday morning and when mum saw me she insisted I call the doctor. You did not say no to mum.

The doctor was not my normal doctor being Sunday and when I arrived in his consultant room and explained what had happened, he told me he had been a doctor for the British Olympic Team, and put me right. He told me that my body was eating itself. (fall backwards in my chair) I had to drink more, and snack more often as I went.

I went onto the internet and looked up a company called Oz who sold, energy bars at much reduced price to the local cycle shop, I bought a boxful and chowed on one every hour, later I was able to reducing this as I got better able to cope and was drinking much more water and taking the odd energy drinks, throughout the day.

The other mistake I felt Mark made was thinking he could constantly do a 100-mile day after day without building in a rest day. Doing a 200K day is not that great a problem all you have to do is turn peddles for something like 8 to 12 hours, but get up the next day and do another 12-hour stint and carry on like that day after day and you will soon run into trouble.

I have done 200K days every day for a whole week – but only at a pace averaging 10mph and on a very light bike, carrying only the bare necessities. Also because I was not in any race against the clock I stopped off regularly to sight see, lots of breaks recharges the batteries at every stop, this makes all the difference even if the days is a much longer one. No mater so long as you are comfortable.

Still, Mark is a smart kid so I’m sure by the time I get into the book he will have sussed all this out for himself.

Keep safe.       

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

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

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

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

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

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

One morning at breakfast, Barack had mirthfully told her,

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

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

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

“What do you think of Police?”

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

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

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

“I get that a lot”.

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

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

“I had my periods”

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

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

Stay safe.

Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe

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

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

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

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

Greta Thunberg said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain still has occupation troops Iraq

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

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

And on and on…………

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

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

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

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

Oh I love my planes I do,

They are designed to kill that’s true,

But the more I have in my collection,

Why the bigger my erection.

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

Scotland needs out of this Union, like Now.

Stay safe

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, laundry day.

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

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

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

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

Bairns not Bombs.

Stay safe.