The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The devil finds work for idol hands”

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

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

Keep safe.

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

Weeds, free for the pick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I

Same room
My lady’s chamber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.

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

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

“But we are closed today” she told me.

The second question I asked sealed my fate,

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

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

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

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

The strong smell of summer flowers was overpowering

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

I then went on to visit the laundry,

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

Then onto the stables,

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

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

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

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

Keep safe.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reversed Robin Hood Syndrome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep safe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep safe.

No Names, No Pack Drill.

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

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

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

SCOTLAND’S CHOICES – LIFE OR DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

Keep safe.