The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elie Beach (not taken by me)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to look forward to.

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

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

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

I pressed the bicycle trailer into service,

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

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

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

Keep safe.

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

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

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

The How and the why

Posted on February 19, 2021 by Kenny MacAskill MP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe.

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

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

Just a bit of fun folks, keep well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clyde Built

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

Keep well.

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

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

And strictly on the QT

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

Keep well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Mary Astor and Peter Lorre).

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

They would later marry

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

“Is that a dagger I see before me?”

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

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

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

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

“I was misinformed”,

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

“Here’s looking at you kid”.

Stay safe.