Friday, 27 November 2009


Hullo ma wee blog,

Tonight my lovely G and I took a short 20 minute trip across the border into England - well, Berwick upon Tweed, which was stolen by a long legged English king centuries ago and has been trying to get back ever since.

Anyway the purpose of going across to 'the dark side' was to go and see 'The Unthanks',a folk band from the north of England. They were nominated for a Mercury music award a couple of years ago and are seen to carry a heritage of traditional north east folk music into modern music and culture in a very special way. Rachael and Becky Unthank have a unique way of delivering what can be very bleak themes with sparse orchestrations and yet are very captivating to listen to - for a while at least.

We went to see them early this year in Glasgow and enjoyed it - well, the lovely G did more than me - I struggled with 2 hours of mainly morose songs. But I was keen to go again and see how I reacted a second time, so when a friend dropped out and there was a spare ticket I was taken out tonight to see them. I am more of a folk music fan than the lovely G and for most of the evening I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were times though when I couldn't help thinking that Geordie's are a dour bunch who like to wallow in sadness and wishing that the two Unthank sisters would just crack a smile and give a couple of lighter stories to lift the mood, and of course they did eventually but again I struggled a bit to get there with them.
They are very good at what they do but I cant class them as being casual entertainment. Fascinating, thought provoking, deep, dark and sobering perhaps and the grils themselves keep up quite a cheery banter with the crowd but after a while I do find it uncomfortable and a bit relentless both in theme, arrangement and mood.

Maybe I'm shallow.

The video at the top is the title track of the new album and one of the happier songs we heard tonight.

I think I'll stick mainly with 'The Corries'

see you later.

listening to REM 'Shiny Happy People'

Tribunal - interesting times.....

Hullo ma wee blog,

Well the time for the unfair dismissal tribunal to hear my case is fast approaching, scheduled for 3rd and 4th Dec, and my colleagues who agreed to give statements and evidence have all stepped up to the mark and confirmed attendance at the hearing which makes me feel both very supported and grateful to them for having the courage to do that when they may need to reapply to the company for employment at some stage. To cover them as much as I can I have asked the tribunal to summons them in effect, which demands compulsory attendance and gives them some scope for stating that they were not 100% willing to come but had no option.

I had a lengthy meeting last Thursday with the very expensive solicitors which my insurance company has provided for me and they have again agreed that my case is valid and are totally confident that any tribunal will decide in my favour. But the decision is only the first part. The next thorny issue for them to decide would be any financial award in compensation of my claim.

My specialist employment law solicitor has advised that this could in effect be a complete lottery, and very hard to forecast due to the high level of redundancy and length of service money in my redundancy payment, which already puts me within sight of the maximum that can be awarded, but he has advised what he thinks would be the likely figure based on his experience.

My former employers representatives have already made an initial offer in an attempt to settle out of court which I have rejected strongly. My solicitor said he was surprised at the level of offer which was high for a first attempt and he said he felt that this reflected their concern at the strength of my case. I turned the screws a bit more on checking who would be attending from my employer to find that it would only be my head of dept by asking my solicitor to instruct a summons to 4 directors to come up from London for two days as, in my opinion, they have accountability for and questions to answer on the fairness of the process used and the lack of high level review and sign off as per the corporate process.

Today I have received a substantially increased offer for settlement out of court and I am going to take some time to consider this over the weekend. I am very much minded to have my day in tribunal and to have my fight fully vindicated. I feel in many ways that my self esteem almost demands it. I am very bitter with my employer for treating me this way after 32 years and so I would also dearly love to see if a few newspapers would be interested in a story of how a high profile company, and one which is regarded as an icon of British industry is using such negligent and underhand means to reduce the workforce in these difficult times. I think they would. I know our local paper would be only too keen as they are not fans of my previous employer and have written several articles about its impact and high handed attitude locally.

Part of me is surprised I feel this way but it has grown in me having gone through the redundancy process and the laughable procedure of two levels of farcical appeal which is now, having experienced it, only really designed to further protect the companies interests and has no value whatsoever as an unbiased protector of your rights as an employee. I have already proved the company incorrect when they failed to advise me of my right to move redundancy payment to pension untaxed, and they have admitted that the process is going to be amended to avoid this in future, but how many thousands, and it is thousands, have been made redundant this year without that information.

I will ponder my options over the next few days.

see you later.

Listening to Satie...... various recordings

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Brothers and Sisters - I Have A Dram......

Or more properly 'I have a Dream' and perhaps a wee bit of dyslexia too

What a night! I'm exhausted and not this time from insomnia. No, this time I'm exhausted because of a dream.........

I'm in a group of several women and a man. We are in a bar high up in some kind of tower restaurant above a seaside town that I don't recognise and the group have been drinking. A lot it would seem. They all look familiar but I cant put a name to any of them. I seem to be in charge of them as I am the most sober, but not by much. We are having a great time but the man seems determined to get closer to one or all of the Ladies and I don't seem to think that would be a good idea and let me feelings be known, but its all in a good natured banter kind of way.

As we are leaving the bar I have to go to the loo. As I do this I pass a mirrored section and see my reflection, its not me - well it is but I look like a really young Ewan MacGregor {?} from the pre 'Trainspotting' days.

{ I know why as I have seen him on TV looking like that as I channel hopped earlier and passed by Dennis Potters play ' lipstick on your collar', but that's all by the by.}

By the time we get outside I see the man is wearing a kilt outfit and a green jacket. Him and the girls are piling on to an old 1950's style single decker bus and as they do this he throws me some keys and says

" You'll need to bring the car. I'm too drunk to drive!"

I'm a bit annoyed, concerned and worried by this and he winks at me as he gets onto the bus by helping one of the younger girls on by clutching her bum and pushing theatrically to help her up. She giggles in a tipsy way as do the other girls and they are gone onto the bus. I head for the car, which is an old style mini - think 'Italian Job' - but on the way there I see an old colleague who worked for me years ago sitting on a bench looking very forlorn. I go over and we talk for a bit. She tells me her woes and that she doesn't have any money and wont get paid for a couple of weeks and how will she live. I tell her that I, along with almost everyone we worked with new about her lesbianism and that it didn't matter to any of us, she is liked for who she is and she shouldn't try and hide it any more. I give her all the money I have. She seems to take the news quite well and is very grateful for the money. I'm happy that I cheered her up but explain that I have to go as the bus is already beginning to pull out onto the road.

I get in the car and start to follow and, in a very blokey way, am really enjoying driving a classic car, checking out what all the switches do {and there are a lot of them}. I'm keeping up with the old bus no problem as it putters on along highland roads at the side of a wooded loch. Every now and then I can hear the bus gears grinding as the driver changes gear. I can see the gang in the back seat at least. They seem to be doing a lot of drinking and singing. I don't feel any less worried about them for some reason. The car radio is complete rubbish, and the only thing I can find playing is Andy Stewart singing ' Campbeltown Loch'. I realise the guy on the bus is Andy Stewart. I'm a bit surprised I didn't recognise him to be honest as he played a large part in my growing up years in a musically very damaging way. I realise I'm in a dream and think its all a bit weird but enjoyable and decide to go with the flow.

The bus passes a road sign which says in capital letters 'CAMPBELTOWN LOCH' which I stare at as I pass it too. Shortly after this the bus pulls into a lay by and the gang get out along with the rest of the passengers who head for loos and a cafe. At this point I realise the bus is being driven by Norman Wisdom. My gang seem to have several bottles of wine which they have been drinking and they head down to the water where a small burn feeds into the loch. The five girls are now wearing long red tartan skirts, white blouses and red tartan sashes across their chests. Its not what they were wearing before but I don't seem fazed by it at all. Actually I find it funny as I recognise them as the famous - and non existent - singing group 'The Alexander Sisters'. As they pass I am given a bottle of wine and sit down to have a drink and watch them join Andy Stewart in the middle of the burn splashing about with water lapping at their ankles as they all sing Campbeltown bloody Loch again. I find this hilarious and so do they and they have a bit of a water fight trying to splash me with burn water. No chance, as I'm just out of reach, which I find to be unreasonably funny too.

We all get back on the bus as its ready to go. I have explained to Andy that I'm too drunk to drive but secretly am determined to try and make sure he behaves himself with the ladies. I wont have him making fast and loose with the 'Alexander Sisters' I tell him. He winks at me again.


God I hate that!

Apart from us the bus is almost full of folk, mainly elderly women in coats and nice hats, but they don't seem to mind too much about the noise we are making in the back of the bus. Andy Stewart is telling filthy and very funny jokes which we all find hilarious, and they all sing 'Campbeltown Loch'. Again. Even the auld dears in the front of the bus join in. Well, everybody except me. I hate that song as I was made to sing it at every new years party I went to between the ages of 6 and eleven or twelve. Back in the bus we are all still drinking but I realise I have no idea where all this booze is coming from. One of the sisters decides that her feet are wet and uncomfortable with her wet socks {?} on and she takes them off. I am standing in the passage between the seats of the bus facing backwards at the edge of the group so I guess I must be trying to protect the other passengers from our excesses, or of course I could be trying to protect the group from complaining passengers too. The girl who has removed her sopping wet socks tells me she bets she can knock the hat off the head of one of the ladies several rows down and launches her sock at the lovely headgear perched on that blue rinsed dames head. Thankfully I manage to catch it just as it passes me and again we all find it hilarious. Soon though all five of the girls have removed wet socks and are all trying to throw them past me at the hats at the front of the bus, and I am doing my damnedest to make sure that none of them get past me but of course some do. I can hardly catch them for laughing anyway.

We get thrown off the bus - luckily we have just got back to town and I ask everyone to come back to my hotel to dry off and sober up, but only on the condition that we all behave or I will get thrown out of my room by the landlady who is a complete tyrant. The girls agree and Andy just winks at me. I realise that I haven't heard him speak or, thankfully, sing Campbeltown Loch for quite a while.

As we approach my hotel we all get a fit of the giggles and I spend a lot of time in between fits of laughter telling them all to " wheesht! or I'll get thrown out." On entering and trying to get up the stairs, the landlady comes out, catches us and tells us to go away. We decide, reasonably enough in our condition, the best place to go to sober up is to a bar. I know the very place and we head off laughing.

At this point, and in reality, I am laughing so hard that I wake myself up and after a moment to get my breath back and to get used to real world again I quietly head off to the toilet. Just as I put my hand on the door the lovely G asks me if I'm awake and when I say yes she asks what on earth I have been laughing about for the last twenty minutes as she hasn't had the heart to wake me even though its nearly 4am, but has been lying beside me trying to work out what on earth has been going on in my head. {there's little chance of that sweetheart} When I come back I tell her about the bus and Andy and the Alexander Sisters who I now recognise as the Nolan Sisters, an Irish, family singing group from the 80's. At 4am it doesn't feel quite so funny trying to explain, but my lovely G seems to still enjoy the story with me and there are a couple of times we both have a wee giggle to ourselves before we both fall quiet and drift back off to sleep.

Soon I am back in my dream with Andy Stewart and those bloomin Nolan Sisters. Thankfully they have stopped singing Campbeltown Loch and sensibly I don't mention it. This time we are on the Eurostar train on our way to Paris. Andy and the girls are on the seats at a table on one side of the train and I am on my own for the moment at a table on the opposite side to them. They're still having a party. I always suspected those Nolans weren't as clean cut as they made out but I'm not going to get involved.

Soon I am joined at my table by two ladies and a man. Now ok, I know its a dream, but this time I recognise them straight off. Its Dawn French, her husband Lenny Henry and the ditsy blond girl from 'The Vicar of Dibly' and the film 'Notting Hill'

Dawn is beside me and we are all having a great time chattering away like old friends and I have completely forgotten about that lot across the passage. Dawn French is lovely, actually extremely beautiful if the truth be told, and is really charming and witty. Worryingly she does have her hand on my thigh though. Still, Lenny doesn't seem to mind, and in fact has made a raised eyebrow gesture at me and her hand a couple of times and just smiled. I am quite comfortable about it all and conversation is just going along nicely. The other lady sitting beside Lenny, I have never been able to remember her name in real life, so have no chance in a dream, I have always found fascinating too and in real {dream} life is very witty and great company.

Lenny has been talking about his upbringing and how he met Dawn and how he fell for her the first time he saw her when he looks at her and says

"For goodness sake, do you have to do that? That's not funny you know."

I turn to her and find she has taken her top off.


I wake up.

I can't take any more of this tonight. I need a coffee. Aye, and possibly a psychoanalyst...

I slip out of bed and quietly, gently open the door and leave my lovely G sleeping peacfully behind me.

I fret about my mental health while I descend the stairs, but still manage a smile too.

Where's the kettle..........

Listening to 'Campbeltown Loch' going round and round and round in my head.


Friday, 20 November 2009

Where day and night split

Hullo ma wee blog,

My lovely G is just behind me as I step from the house out into the drive and unlock the car for the short 10 minute trip to Dunbar and her morning train to Edinburgh and work.

Just a normal day.

The wind had been loud and loutish during the night with some periods threatening to reach so far into my consciousness as to wake me thoroughly but thankfully stopping at just being a reminder it was there. But by 4.30 I was awake for the day and, as there is no point in me staying to harrumph and wake the lovely G with my tossing and turning, I followed my habit and got up to head for the kitchen and my chair at the table in the corner by the patio doors. The wind, decreased in volume, was still hard to ignore through the double glazing of the doors and windows. Early reports on the radio were full of dire stories of heavy rainstorms and flooding further south and west and a sad report of a policeman missing when a bridge collapsed while evacuating folks from some of the rural areas worst affected. Cockermouth on the Cumbrian coast, a town we know quite well from previous visits, appears to be at the center of the worst weather and has had 12 inches of rain in 24hrs, the worst since records began.

The first thing I notice on opening the car for us is that the morning is warmer than over the last few weeks and the sky has an incredible feel to it this morning. Its deep with colour and still night to all intents, an inky dark brooding mass of seething cloud.

As we head off down the driveway and on to the road out of the village and turn towards Dunbar we change direction and at the top of the hill the first hint of real dawn is threatening to follow the slim slit of grey and pale gold showing on the horizon way off out into the North Sea. A few minutes later and clouds appear in the increasing light away on my right, out across the water beyond Torness power station. A long line of low cloud almost the visible length of the estuary, it looks like something a child would paint on a picture of seascape, not quite real somehow,with a clear but dark sky above, but its there none the less. As we move on I am thinking about those clouds, how unusual they look and it occurs to me that they look like they are parched and hungrily sucking up sustenance from the sea close below, perhaps to replace what they unloaded on the land during the night, but urgently, before they are noticed and chased away by the wind coming in off the water.

The radio leads us through the inane chatterings of a changeover of DJ's and by the time that's over we are reaching the outskirts of Dunbar with its dark grey roads glistening iron hard and slick with last nights rain. The light now is perhaps my favourite time to drive; neither dark or light and the headlights having no apparent visible effect on the road ahead, but a marker to see and be seen by. Its a time that lasts only for a few precious miles in the morning or evening. A time to be savoured, at least by me. This is the time for the deer, the fox and the morning birds, the hare and the heron, with the last of the predators gone or going and the stragglers of nights life anxious to be away out of sight.

Each morning, the station gives me the opportunity for a curmudgeonly tut at some hopeless driver, holding up the rest of us with his inability to find an out of the way location to disgorge his passengers or for a thoughtless pedestrian stepping into harms way. And of course lets not forget that sleepy cyclist with the death wish and no lights. Perhaps its the horn blowing that is his real alarm call. One of these days one of us is not going to stop in time, I guarantee it.

Soon G is is gone from my side leaving the memory of a kiss lingering on my lips and a breathless "see you later" to prepare me properly for the day ahead. I turn about to retrace the road back to the A1 and home, past Cromwells camp site and the battle stane memorial to that sair fecht in 1650. I think its incredible that the battles of 1296 and 1650 took place on pretty much the same piece of land and with the same auld enemy. It seems to me they sit like quotation marks either side of the start and end of Scotlands forlorn fight for Independence.

As I drive past the stone, sitting hump-backed and largely ignored by the side of the road, the night colours are still solidly there on my right out the window and on my left the steel grey of day has charged up with the wind. Somewhere above me is where day and night split. Night still clings on by the fingertips but soon it will be gone, chased beyond the horizon by the cloudy battalions of dawn to regroup, re-arm, and reappear.

See you later.........

Listening to Mike Oldfield ' Five Miles Out'

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A Philosophy of French Toast

Hullo ma wee blog,

3am. Kitchen, coffee and computer. Banshee winds.....

It truly is the wee small hours and my sole companion is my faithful friend insomnia. Even our pair of cats, Jess and Bailey, blink scornfully at me and shoulder cosily closer together in an unspoken 'Aw jings! Not again!' when I have the audacity to put on the light in the utility room in my search for the fridge. Jess watches me with one disdainful open eye to make sure I put the light off as I skulk out with my prize of a pint of cold milk. Its pathetic when a cat can make a grown man feel guilty and uncivilised.

I smile ruefully as I put on the kettle and plan revenge via worming tablets or maybe even a bath. I can be so petty at this time of the morning.

I had driven in to Edinburgh to meet my lovely G from work and take her for a simple dinner out before chauffeuring her home as she has been struggling with a cold this week. One of those deceitful colds that robs you of your voice and some energy but somehow leaves you still feeling well enough to go to work, although she did spend the day with me yesterday in silent, voice repairing companionship as she was due to be at another of those pointless meetings that employers often hold just to prove that they actually do have communication sessions. You know the ones. They hold you prisoner all day in a place that's difficult to get to and talk to you the whole day without saying anything meaningful before pushing you out again at evening rush hour to take twice your normal travel time to get home. Sure, they pay travel expenses but don't pay for your time involved to get there and back. { I know, I'm bitter and twisted, especially at this time of the morning.}

It was good to spend the day with her. A nice break from my solitary days and mostly
spent sat together at my usual work station in the kitchen with me scoping the job sites and her doing email and various other bits and pieces on her laptop. She is one of these strange beings who gets 50 or 60 emails a day from various sources. Mainly friends but somehow she also seems to get offered lots of cheap viagra via various Internet sites who also seem to be extremely concerned about the size of her [ahem} manhood.

So, you now know who wears the trousers in this relationship, don't you!

During part of the afternoon yesterday we were discussing French Toast for some very strange but now unremembered reason. Its was probably about our completely different upbringings. I was brought up by very conventional working class Scots parents and the lovely G was raised by a, to be frank, pair of quite eccentric, but beautiful and amazing, parents. Her Mum was Swiss German and her Dad was the product of some pretty expensive private education. You know - one of those ones where the kid is packed off at 5 to be returned, university loaded, at 16 or 17 as a tightly packed bundle of neurosis with a deep understanding of ancient Greek and Latin and a Victorian attitude to women and sex. Thankfully her Dad was both a bit of a rebel and a sickly child so managed to return only slightly malformed having cleverly avoided many of the most damaging hazards and having totally escaped the clutches of private school by the age of 14 to start work in engineering at Rosyth Naval Dockyard. { bet his headmaster cringed at that one.} He then had the luck some years later to meet and fall head over heels for a young Swiss girl working in Edinburgh as a nurse and the rest as they say is history.

But anyway. Meanwhile back at the ranch as we used to say.

One of the first times my lovely G and I noticed our different 'cultural' upbringing was when we had just started living together and I had offered to make her one of my childhood favourite dishes which was French toast. I described to her how I made it and it all went well - as you would expect with such a simple thing - until I started to lay out the table for serving it. I put out salt, pepper, tomato and brown sauce when she started to get quite agitated and ask about the sugar and cinammon mix and the fruit.

"Eh? What ARE you talking about?"

"French toast should be served with a sprinking of cinammon sugar and with pears or peaches or apricots to go with it. Certainly NOT with tomato sauce! Not ever, in any circumstances. Good grief!!!"

And so we had a long and frequently 'entertaining' discussion about how this delicacy should be treated and at the end, while I of course, being a gentleman, even if a complete and unreconstructed plebian gentleman - shouldn't those two be mutually exclusive? - made sure that she got hers then and to this day with cinammon sugar and the required fruit on the side, - well, at the end we agreed to disagree. But we have still to this day, twenty odd years later, long and heated dabate and completely opposing views about what goes best with French toast.

She likes it sweet and I like mine savoury. {salt and pepper and with a hint of tomato, brown, worcester or even soy sauce} I know from years of research that I'm in the minority. I could be unique even. I don't think I have ever met anyone outside of my family who enjoys it served the way I do.


I'm not saying she's wrong. She's just not as right as I am..........

see you later.

Listening to........ the wind howling past the gable end.
Time for a cuddle I think........

p.s. don't even THINK about trying to convince me on this. I know I may be in the minority, but you are just wrong. And I couldn't find a picture of French Toast with tomato sauce on it anywhere on the web. Bah!!!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Can anyone see the drummer........

Hullo ma wee blog,

Another concert and another trip to Glasgow. This time to the 02 academy to see The Flaming Lips in concert. From Oklahoma, they're described as a space/Neo-psychedelia/Indie rock/Alternative rock band.
They're also acclaimed for their elaborate live shows, which feature costumes, balloons, puppets, video projections, complex stage light configurations, giant hands, large amounts of confetti, and frontman Wayne Coyne's signature man-sized plastic bubble, in which he traverses the audience. In 2002, Q magazine named The Flaming Lips one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die".

I can understand why.

It was one of the most fascinating spectacles I have ever encountered at a concert. At one point, with hundreds of orange and yellow balloons of various sizes from small to extraordinary bouncing around inside a fairly small venue, being stunned by long strobe effects and masses of confetti explosions, it was like an out of body experience of music inside one of those lava lantern lights you used to get.

It was just surreal......and hugely enjoyable.

And the music just throbbed through you, lifting your very being to the beat and being held there by a combination of Waynes eclectic personality, strange lyrics and Neil Young on acid singing style. It was just, well....fascinating. And very...Orange; from the stage crew to the speakers and kit it was like Christmas at the Easy Jet fantasy land store.

Not a gig I'm going to forget in a hurry.

Support was 'start of the white dwarfs' I think....... they didn't do an awfy good job of lodging the band name in the conscience, but they were interesting and competent for a group of 4 young lads who hadn't really got too far beyond just letting rip when they could. Unfortunately they may have been given some of the less experienced stage hands to help their performance cos whoever was managing the smoke machine was a wee bit heavy handed and often you couldn't see the band at all. The drummer did a fabulous solo on one track but he was nowhere to be seen which was a shame for all the effort he must have been putting in somewhere in all the fug. I thought the lead singer also sounded like Neil Young and during the gig Wayne mentioned that the lead singer was his nephew. That'll explain it then.....

It all gave us plenty to talk about as we drove back home in the early hours of Monday morning. And on a school night too......

Well.....for the lovely G anyway.

see you later.

Listening to The flaming lips 'Yoshimi battles the Pink Robots'

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A Night in the Enchanted Forest.

Hullo ma wee blog,

A couple of weeks ago Saturday saw the lovely G and I head off for a night out at the invitation of her brother and his girlfriend to join them, her sister and partner and a couple of other friends. A leisurely drive of just over a couple of hours north across the Forth Bridge and on up the A9 past Loch Leven to Perth and onwards towards whisky country until we reached our final destination of Pitlochry.

The weather on the way was bright and blowy to start with but by the time we crossed the Forth Bridge an hour or so later had begun to close in and the first eager drops of rain started to show on the newly washed and polished car just as we reached the Fife coast. Its always the way of it isn't it. Life is like a far side cartoon some times.

At Pitlochry mid afternoon we found a bustling wee town jumping with what were obviously visitors who had probably come, like us, for the Halloween festival and particularly to see the 'Enchanted Forest'. Pitlochry has become well known over the last few years for this event which turns a nice enough woodland walk into a spectacularly lit Halloween trail with the forest path picked out by small lamps lighting the way and with the forest and Loch Faskally lit in multiple layers of light and with scenes from history and folklore laid out in specially created little grottoes.

The lovely G's brother and girlfriend were already at the hotel so the first thing we had to do was find a place to park as the hotels own car park was full. We managed to find a space a few hundred yards away on the High St and lugged our overnight stuff down to the hotel to be checked in by the by now all too familiar, for visitors to British hotels bars and restaurants, eastern European member of staff.

{Don't get me wrong here, I don't have the slightest problem with immigrant workers coming to the UK, as long as they are legal, law abiding and tax paying, and also that they are doing a job that is paid at the right rate and is also open to British people if they want to apply, although I do have some concern that the numbers of particularly Polish coming in to these jobs does in itself keep wage rates low and will do until there is parity across the whole EU which is decades away if it ever happens at all. On holiday in Poland this year we were told that the average monthly pay in Poland is about 20% of UK average earnings so no wonder that Poles now account for almost 10% of Edinburgh population.}

It was to be an evening of good food, easy conversation and happy companionship. Times to be reflected on and enjoyed again and again that make life worth living.

To prepare us for the cold walk through the forest we headed off to a fantastic local restaurant where all the staff were dressed for Halloween as ghouls, witches and warlocks, and very atmospheric it was too. The meal was fabulous and I had probably the best steak I have had in a couple of years. It was absolutely beautiful and the pepper sauce which I had asked for on the side was also perfectly ticketty boo; warm, spicy yet still creamy soft. Just fantastic. I was left the choice of wine and luckily hit on a super wee red. So much so that we had another bottle and could easily have had a couple more, but of course the night was young and we needed to pace ourselves...

After dinner we took a special bus from the hotel up to the forest.

and spent a leisurely hour walking and enjoying the light show. Its the first time the lovely G and I had been, but we all agreed we had such a good time together that we are doing it all again next year.

I'm looking forward to it already!

See you later......

Please note the fantastic photos on this post were taken by Dave Wardle, a professional photographer, who was part of the group and are copyright. Please don't reproduce them. Thanks...

listening to Glinka Overture to 'Russlan and Ludmilla'

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Porage Diaries

Hullo ma wee blog,

The weather has dropped a few degrees now and the morning run to the station is now in 2 or 3 degrees rather than the 7 or 8 of a week or two ago. Not that cold really but you have to factor in a bit of chill coming in with the sea wind.

Porage has become a mainstay of breakfast now winter is here. I make mine with water not milk and a good turn of salt to the mix when its being made, not on top once its served. Then again, I am only making it for me. 45 - 50g of oats to 350- 400ml water and five minutes later its pretty much good to go. As good a fast food as you can get. Strangely I used to love it as a child, loaded with sugar on top of course, and then went through about 30 years of hating the thought of it so much I was never tempted to try until one day I had some in a hotel while away working somewhere and it was so good that it kind of reopened my mind to it.

Reality has come home to roost with a rejection letter after my parole board interview. I shouldn't be that surprised, it was always a big leap for me, but one that I felt I could justify. Guess I invested too much emotion in it which isn't a good thing when your unemployed I suppose but I'm gutted none the less. I put a huge amount of effort into that particular venture and to have it miss the point is hard to take. But I have asked for feedback to help me understand where I fell short. So its back to the grindstone of looking for jobs which often aren't there even if you actually want to do them. I'm quite hacked off today as its all rubbish that's on offer. I have talked it through with my lovely G and I am definitely going to give the Parole Board another crack when the next raft of recruitment comes along regardless of what work I may be doing by then. It won't be for a year as appointments run for fixed terms but hopefully now that I know what the interviews are like.....

Insurance money is beginning to kick in fully which keeps those worries mostly at bay but even that is a double edged sword as it doesn't really make me HAVE to go and get a job, and while its good not to be in that position, the lack of impetus is something that any potential employer could read any way they choose. Actually as far as insurance is concerned I have found yet another policy which will pay us even more so that is in place now too. How unreal to have more money coming in than when I was actually working!

The divisiveness of unemployment is also to be seen in frustrated wee moments and criticism given to and from each of us based around thoughts of 'its been a while now/what are you doing around the house all day' to 'do you have any idea how stressful it is doing nothing/do you know how lucky you are not to be in this situation/have something to get out of bed for in the morning'. Luckily these are few and far between but they are there, an unspoken resentment which is in reality about the situation but in vulnerable moments could be read as personal and aggressive in either direction. We know about it and have spoken it through and are on the watch out for it. Our relationship is the most important thing for both of us and its a strong one. But its a debilitating experience for drive, enthusiasm and confidence this malarky and hard not to wallow in self pity. I'll be glad when it can be over. Like millions of others I suppose. I see a table in the paper which says unemployment in the county is just nudging 8%, one of the lower ones in the national average. Not very comforting though, nor is the fact that the rate of unemployment is slowing. {Yeah, and your point IS Mr. Politician?}

So I am forcing myself to spend a couple of hours daily doing the rounds of the web sites and keeping in touch in the forlorn hope of a contact coming good, making lists of jobs around the house I want to get done and trying to get them ticked off, mostly unsuccessfully for the last couple of weeks for sure. But its a temporary thing I'm not going to lie down to. Things will get better, truly better for us in time. At least we have the finance to let us tough it out.

Meanwhile its back tae auld claes 'n' purritch

see you later.

Listening to Sting 'dream of the blue turtles'

Monday, 9 November 2009

Lest we forget

Guillemont Rd.

Guillemont Rd Cemetary

Hullo ma wee blog,

We observed the 2 minute silence at 11.00am as did millions of others and like many considered the loss and sacrifice of millions of dead and injured in many countries and from many war in those private moments.

I thought selfishly of my own family and was grateful that for all the involvement we had our folk returned to us to carry on with life and love. Most are gone now but their families live on and grow in many ways.

Sam Robertson RSF Gallipoli and Western Front 1915 - 1918
Tom Hughes RFC France 1914 - 1918

Sam Robertson RAF 1944 -1945
Bill Robertson Fleet Air Arm 1944 - 1946

This year, as the last of the Tommies died, there has been much remembering of the first world war as the direct links have now been broken. It brought back many memories of my own Grandfather who served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

This from the history of the regiment by John Buchan.

The Attack on Guillemont. July 23rd 1916.

" The enemy second line having been won from Pozieres to Delville Wood, the next main objectives became Pozieres and Guillemont - the first because it was part of the crest of Thiepval plateau and the second because its capture was necessary before we could align our advance with that of the French. Guillemont presented an ugly problem. The approach to it from Trones Wood lay over perfectly bare and open country.
The attack was delivered by the 89th and 90th brigades and in the latter was the Manchester regiment and the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The Fusiliers assembled just east of Trones Wood, an indifferent jumping off ground - with D company in trenches north of Guillemont - Trones Wood road, A and B companies were south of the road and C in an improvised trench near to D. The frontage of the battalion was about two hundred and sixty yards.
The attack started at 4.45am and almost from the first things went wrong. The Manchesters were late in starting. Colonel Walsh was to move forward in support with the Fusiliers battalion headquarters and two companies of the 16th Manchesters but the two companies never appeared, and communication with the first wave very soon became impossible.
Meanwhile the Scots Fusiliers had made straight for their objective, but the advance on both their flanks halted, and presently they were a lone spearhead without support. There was a heavy enemy barrage on the east front of Trones Wood and the Guillemont Rd was swept by machine guns. It would appear that D company and about one third of A company reached the east side of Guillemont village and that B and C companies were on the western face.
The commander of D company Lt. Murray, forced his way back to headquarters about noon to say that without immediate support the battalion would be cut off. He himself had been right through the village. But there were no adequate reserves available and soon nothing could move and live on the ground between Trones Wood and Guillemont. Everywhere, except in the Scots Fusliers sector, the attack had failed, and the battalion had to pay the price for its lonely glory. Colonel Walsh could do nothing but hold the trenches east of Trones Wood until relieved on 1st of August.
The Royal Scots went into action with 20 officers and 750 men. Of these 3 officers and 40 others, chiefly headquarters staff, remained with Colonel Walsh at the close of the day, and later nearly 100 others dribbled back through another brigade. The rest of the battalion were dead, wounded or captured. Total losses were 633 men.

The division commander wired to Colonel Walsh during that day 'I cannot tell you how grieved I am for the loss of your splendid battalion and above all for those still left in Guillemont. They did grandly and all that men could do'

The scanty remains of the battalion moved north on 11 August to Bethune, where for two months while it regained it strength it stayed in a relatively quiet part of the front."

Thursday, 5 November 2009

McKenzies Coat Of Mail

A rewrite of an earlier post.

Another one from my hobby of Scots history

The Mutiny Of the 78th Seaforth Highlanders.
Edinburgh, North Britain, September 1778.

Thirty five years after the mutiny of the Black Watch regiment in London, a Highland regiment once again felt it necessary to take up arms to prevent itself being treated dishonourably. Since Samuel Macpherson, Malcom Macpherson and Farquhar Shaw stood in front of 300 tearful men of The Black Watch who were made to witness the execution of their three comrades, much had changed in their distant glens.

The final Jacobite attempt to reinstate a Stewart to the throne of Britain had ended strewn across the field and in bloody ribbons in front of redcoat lines on Culloden Moor on a sleet cold April morning, signalling the start of the final chapter for the old clan-based way of life. This age old system, which had been decaying for generations as the power and influence of the south had turned clan chiefs heads and purses to focus on things other than their people; on profit, on influence and on preferment, had its head chopped off on Culloden moor, although the body would not see this for many years. The rebelling clans, and they were the minority, were torn from loyal disloyalty by way of musket, bayonet and rope, by transportation and execution, the imprisonment and exile of their chiefs, the robbing of homes, the burning of glens, the carrying off of cattle and by the harrying of their homeless men, women and children. It was a hard time to be a Gael.

Even those clans loyal to the crown found that their chiefs too were relieved by law of that ancient authority of legal rule - the medieval right to control by pit and gallows - and the power to independently raise men in times of war or neighbourly conflict - and therefore too now free of any inherent responsibility to their people in return for that feudal homage. Needs would force them even more to look to the south and the example of lowland gentlemen or English squire.

Vestiges of the past remained, in the loyalty of the people and their lack of recognition of changing times. The clan chiefs now regarded their tenants as commodities to be charged rents instead of feudal warriors, to be cajoled and coerced with threats of lost tenancy to provide manpower for regiments to be used in service of the crown. A visible and protective example if one was needed, of the loyalty of the clan chief and his potential importance and usefulness to the King in London.

The disarming act had forbidden the highlander to bear or own weapons and;

'from and after the 1st August 1747 no man or boy in Scotland shal on any pretence whatsoever wear or put on the cloaths commonly called highland cloaths other than shal be employed as officers or soldiers in the Kings army'

For a first offence there was a prison term of 6 months, a second meant transportation for 7 years.

The Act was meant to break the aggressive spirit of the clans but it also offered a way for those young men, those likely trouble makers and high risk subjects, to be channelled, separated from much of the rebellious influences of their society, and most importantly it allowed them to be controlled, reducing threat of further rebellion. It had a secondary facet in that it also in some ways held those men in ransom for the good behaviour of those left behind. This chance to wear the tartans of their heritage and to bear arms as their fathers and grandfathers had done, even if in the service of an English King had made it easy to recruit ten regular regiments from the highlands in the years following 1745. Once mustered these regiments were quickly sent away overseas. A lesson learned from Ladywood and the Black Watch in no small part perhaps.

The use that might be made of these sons of highlanders who had charged so successfully at Prestonpans or Falkirk and so disastrously at Culloden wasn't lost on the hierarchy of the British army. Where else would courage be so usefully used and losses be so little regretted. General Wolfe, one of the heroes of that army, who had faced the charge at Culloden and would later find immortality on the Heights of Abraham said of the highland soldiers who would help him become the English legend that he is,

'They are hardy, intrepid and accustomed to rough country and no great mischief if they fall. How can you better employ a secret enemy than by making his end conducive to the common good'

In fairness to general Wolfe, he is also known for his refusal in the killing time at the end of the battle on the moor of Culloden  , to pistol an injured highlander. {An act of humanity perhaps, but no biographer I know of has thought to record his reaction on the order then being given to another who had no such qualms. But perhaps I judge him harshly. I am partisan and not a fan.}

So started the illustrious history and enforced tradition of Scots service in the British army and the imperial blueprint for subjugating far off lands. It was a lesson well learned. Scotland since those days has consistently contributed higher levels of its population to the forces than any other part of the realm. By the time of the American Wars less than ten percent of the national population was supplying more than twenty percent of its standing forces..

While by the time of the American Wars, the highlands had given many sons to the army, those left behind were feeling the combined effects of a changing world and economy. When it became known that the government again proposed to raise regiments from among the clans, chiefs and tacksmen {absent chiefs representatives} were eager to curry favour by supplying this need, especially as each man supplied would provide a bounty from the government for his service.

Simon Fraser of Lovat {an ex Jacobite who's father had been executed at Tower Hill and who had himself fought for Charlie at Culloden}  raised 2300 men for two battalions of the new 71st regiment of foot and personally delivered them to the boats in Glasgow which would ship them on to Boston, neglecting of course to join them on board himself.  But available and willing manpower in the highlands was becoming scarce and this also meant that the fee paid by recruiters out of the recruitment bounty was raised to encourage every last drop of available manhood, and in many cases too this resulted in money over promised to recruits not being paid for their service as agreed, leaving recruits being owed significant sums of money for their enlistment. Agents recruiting would themselves also often try for the chance of preferment as an officer in the regiment and would also barter their recruits for a higher price or to a preferred regiment or for a higher seniority for themselves. All in all it was often an unsavoury and corrupt situation.

It was in this scenario that the Seaforth Highlanders were recruited.

                                                   Crest of the Seaforth Highlanders

The head of the Army in North Britain, as Scotland was now officially called, General James Oughton, advised the government that with so many men having gone from the region that it would be very difficult to recruit.

"No effectual service can arise from the Act { of recruitment} in this country"

Lord Seaforth had offered to raise 1000 men for a regiment from his lands of the MacKenzies and Macraes which stretched from the Great Glen and Easter Ross in the east to Lewis and the wilds of Kintail in the west. His family had come out for the rebellion of 1715 and paid heavily for it, and he himself had been successful in gaining reinstatement to his title from the resulting dispossession the year before. It was both a statement and a test of his loyalty to the crown.

The chief of the Macraes was promised a commission in the regiment for his son and he dutifully delivered his full quota of men for his overlord accordingly. The loyal Macraes were the hereditary bodyguards of the McKenzies senior chief and known since early times as 'McKenzies coat of mail' Both clans had been decimated at Sheriffmuir in 1715.

The London living Lord Seaforth found with some difficulty that he was able to provide 90% of his regiment from his own northern lands and the remainder was supplied from elsewhere - mainly the lowlands. As they mustered he would have been happy no doubt that McKenzies coat of mail still shone brightly. The only tarnish, and it would be a critical one, was that of the 38 officers required only 8 came from the Seaforth lands. Most officers joined from other regiments and these men, used to regular army and its harsh and - to our modern eyes - brutal discipline, also contained many with no understanding of, or indeed contempt for, highland people, old enemies and an ancient clan system which had delivered the raw material of the regiment which in their eyes needed to be licked into shape.

The thinking of the day dictated that a soldier should be in fear of his officers to ensure his obedience at all times. The main method of enforcing discipline was the lash. Strapped to an A frame, the subject would be whipped on the bare back by teams of muscular drummers, in front of the regiment, in numbers counted slowly in tens, scores, hundreds or thousands depending on the offence. It could literally be a deadly affair. While English soldiers were conditioned to this treatment and often either bore it stoically or in some cases with perverse pride, this was not the case with highlanders. The thought of it horrified them as an inhumanity and an overwhelming affront to their dignity. The lash flayed their self respect as much as the flesh on their backs. Highland regiments were therefore by nature of duty and honour and by fear of humiliation, normally very docile and compliant to command. There were other disciplinary methods of course, a man could be put in the pit for two days on limited rations for a first offence of being late for parade increasing to a week for a second offence, but even these were seen as humiliating and rarely required for highland regiments where men were conditioned from birth to respect and obey authority without compulsion.

Just as it is hard to understand the brutality of the day, its also difficult to understand the effect this treatment would have on someone who - however reluctantly - had followed tradition and the instruction of the clan chief to put on the red coat. These people were bound by duty and by honour in a way that is almost incomprehensible to us today and yet also subject to a discipline that could be applied at whim by an officer without the need for sentence of a court martial.

                                            a 'cat o nine tails' as used for military flogging

The men of the 78th Seaforth Highlanders would complain bitterly about the treatment they received from their officers, the frequent use of the pit and the kind of verbal and physical abuse that was common to the English soldier accustomed to the hierarchy of social structures and class system of the south. This was foreign to highlanders who could not understand the need for abuse and the requirement to receive a blow from a member of your own race or clan without being able to return it. Forbidden to swear or curse, an ordinary soldier was faced by officers who thought that this was the normal way to command and subjected soldiers to constant harangue and pushing, prodding and petty beatings; anything from a slap in the face to a cane across the back.

By the time Lord Seaforth had joined his regiment on the long march south to Edinburgh and its castle he was aware of the growing discontent in the men at the harsh discipline, poor treatment and long overdue arrears of pay. However, he did nothing constructive to address these complaints. He did urge General Oughton that the regiment be sent on as soon as possible, but by the time the regiment was in place at the top of the Royal Mile the east coast was being targeted by that rebellious American brigand John Paul Jones and his crew and the seas needed to be made safe before the transports could arrive. The regiment therefore was billeted in the castle and subjected to drill parades morning and evening. The regiment had also now been told that it had been raised to go to America to deal with the ungrateful colonists who were rebelling against the proper rule of His Majesty. How they felt about going to fight against forces that would obviously contain members of their own race - and even clan - is unrecorded as far as I know, but in any case when the word came they were ordered to the Channel Isles to replace a regiment there. This appears to have been the final straw to the men who were fearful of being duped and sent to the Indies {the Caribbean, a destination incredibly feared because of its plagues} and may have seen this as both a broken promise made to encourage enlistment and a short stop on the way East instead of West. It came to a head on the morning of 22nd September when the men were assembled to march to the waiting transport that could be seen from the castle battlements at anchor off Leith.

At Edinburgh Castle, the great Lord Seaforth must have felt his duty done and his position safer that morning as he stood in all the finery of a gentleman soldier of the day, cocked hat, white breeches and cutaway coat of finest cloth, and watched his regiment be pushed and pummeled into lines by the sergeants, their halberds, red coats and polished weapons bright in the sun and plaid of their kilts moving gently in the breeze. But when the order was given to begin the march down the Royal Mile towards the Palace of Holyrood through the windowed glen of high tenements and closes of the Royal Mile there was a huge commotion in the ranks. A swarm of red coats and raised voices demanded that they should not be sold to the Indies, demanding overdue pay and redress for the brutal treatment by their officers. A large group of Macraes at the heart of the disturbance ignored the call of their chiefs son to obedience and order. They screamed in fear and frustration and shook their muskets at Lord Seaforth, these same people who had died for his family over the years, moved forward from the ranks in their fury and need to confront him. In the confusion of the moment swords were drawn, muskets charged and men fixed bayonets as officers and NCO's attempted to bring order and force the men back to line. Shots were fired and the officers withdrew. Some men tried to shoot one particularly vicious officer but missed. Muskets were hastily reloaded and the ranks of the dissenters were swelled with more angry men of the regiment who had initially been caught off guard.

Soon there were literally hundreds of men angrily shouting and waving weapons.

For Lord Seaforth, humiliation. For the army, perhaps another spectre raised its head. Once more there was a rebellious highland army in Edinburgh

The men moved down castle esplanade in good order, four abreast with muskets and bayonets at the ready and behind a piper and the regimental tartan held up, banner like, between two halberds that had been wrestled from the sergeants in the struggle. Out into the mouth of the Royal Mile itself Mackenzies Shirt of Mail marched away followed closely by their sergeants and the officers. Within a short distance, the commotion began to raise attention in the local community and soon people were pouring out of the closes and peering from the windows as hundreds of armed men marched past with arms at the ready. There were shouts of encouragement to the men and abuse at the officers chasing after them and the throng grew as the men marched away down the cobbles, past the tall spire of St Giles Cathedral and the old Parliament Halls.

Back on the castle esplanade there was stunned silence and the five hundred men who remained looked on in fear and astonishment at the officers before them, their bloody faces, wigs torn off and coats torn from the struggle that had just taken place, before they were commanded to form up and under control of their officers to follow after their mutinous comrades. I don't know if Lord Seaforth and these troops actually intended to physically bring the mutineers to heel but he must have been in turmoil with open disloyalty before him and uncertain loyalty at his back as he marched after the rebels down the hill through the jeering crowds around him. He was soon to find himself faced with the men in front turned to face him in open challenge, lined across the street and with bayonet and swords to the fore in open defiance and in public before the Tron kirk.

He tried to speak to the men in front of him, approaching with open arms and a plea to return but he was shouted down, and in the thronging press was either forced to his knees or, as some said, fell to his knees to beg his men to obedience. He narrowly escaped with his life as two officers pulled him away and in the ensuing tussle several men were bayoneted or cut with swords before the mutineers turned and continued down the hill. Seaforth witnessed more defections from the ranks at his back, but initially marched his men after them but then turned his remaining troops across the North Bridge and away on down the road towards the sea, unsure of their loyalty but determined perhaps to get them to Leith and the isolating security of the waiting transport ships.

The mutineers continued down the Royal Mile, past the vanishing perimeter of the old Flodden wall and the inn still known as the 'Worlds End', followed by a mob eager to see what happened next. They halted at the Canongate Tollbooth which was the regimental guard house and demanded the release of comrades unfairly held, in their eyes, and forced their way in to release them at gun point. As they left some turned and fired a volley at that dour icon of institutional repression that can still be seen on its face today. By this time  sympathetic townsfolk - and not just the baying crowd - came forward and offered gifts of food and drink in support of those angry men wearing the red coat and green tartan.

                                                        Canongate Tolbooth, Edinburgh

By the time Lord Seaforth and his men had arrived at the links where the transports waited they found that the mutineers had outpaced them and were yet again arrayed in front between the remains of the regiment and the waiting ships, calling to their comrades not to board and become prisoners of the King. This time Seaforth did not hesitate and called his troops to attack. There was a charge and a brief and bitter struggle before again there was a bizarre breakdown of violence into groups of heated debate. Officers were seen to be arguing with the men once more, giving promises that the regiment was bound for Guernsey and nowhere else. Lord Seaforth called again on the men to have loyalty to the King, to clan Kenneth and to him, promising that outstanding money and grievances would be addressed as soon as the troops were boarded - but he was roundly denounced as a bare faced liar. An enormous crowd was now milling around with many more on the way across Constitution Street and over the links keen to see what would be the outcome. The mutineers fired volleys over their heads to keep them clear and by the time the musket smoke cleared the mutineers were on their way back to Edinburgh in the direction and defensibility of the rocky viewpoint of Arthurs Seat. With them went another two hundred of Seaforths men, having perhaps decided when faced with the reality of waiting transports that they should at last trust their fellow clansmen over anyone else.

By night-time on the 22nd of September General Oughton was faced by several hundred armed men well laid out across an easily defended position with commanding views across Edinburgh in all directions. From his official residence in the mansion of Caroline Park a couple of miles north by the edge of the river Forth he could probably see the watch fires of the mutineers studding the rocky outcrop. It must have occupied all his immediate attention although he also had a rowdy city with now no real military presence to keep the crowds under control,{ this was the duty of the army in those pre- police force days} as well as pleas from various towns for arms and ammunition to defend themselves from the threat of John Paul Jones.

Oughton is an interesting man. Apart from service in Flanders and a spell as Lieutenant Governor of Antigua, he had served all his military life in Scotland. He had fought and felt defeat at Falkirk and victory at Culloden with Wolfe but unlike him had a keen respect for the culture and the martial values of the Scottish soldier. Considered to be a soldiers soldier, he was well read, had learned to speak the Gaelic and unusually for the day - and to be understood in the harsh terms of his time - was regarded as a humanitarian. He had been Commander of His Majesties Forces in North Britain for only three or four months. He firmly believed it was right that an Englishman had authority and control over Scotland and regarded the population with a stern but compassionate eye. He may have genuinely wanted to end the affair without bloodshed - but he had also ominously once written of the rebelling Americans,

'Treating with rebels while they have a gun in their hand would demonstrate a weakness which no victory could compensate for'

He sent for troops from Glasgow and any unit within a days reach of Edinburgh to make haste as Seaforths officers made a last late night attempt at reconciling the men to their duty. Shortly the 11th dragoons, the Duke of Buccleuchs Fencibles and the Glasgow Volunteers were on their way to the capital. Oughton meanwhile was worried that the mutineers were receiving solid support from all elements of Edinburgh society and was no doubt alarmed when informed they had even been supplied with powder and ball. He could not stop it and with no force to hand could only fret on the situation for now. It would be 24 hours before help could arrive and at least 3 days before any reply from London.

By the end of the next day the dragoons were close by and Oughton had begun to talk via intermediaries to the men on the hill. The reports back were that the men believed force would be used against them and that they had been sold to the Indies. Lord Seaforth, who had been present, had again been harangued for his betrayal, his lies and his poor leadership. The men on the hill insisted that before they would come down they must have a written promise that they would not be sold to the Indies and that the grievances against their officers would be investigated and that every man should have a pardon for the actions taken.

On day 3 while troops began to position at the foot of the crag another team of negotiators attempted to persuade the men from their stubborn refusal to obey orders. This time they included men of the cloth, perhaps to persuade them that God would not be served by the spilling of blood on that windy hill. They received the same message as those the day before.

That evening Oughtons representatives again climbed the steep hill. They told the men that Oughton would meet all their demands.

It would appear that Oughton had done some investigation into the claims of the men's grievances but what he thought of them in reality is unknown. He was aware of the honour code of the highlands and the often simplistic world view that gave, but I think it is more likely that he chose not to assault the hill for mainly purely military reasons. He probably thought that any arrears could and should be paid to the men immediately and that the claims of brutality should be investigated as they were focused on two or three officers in the main , but the over riding factor must have been that in effect the country was at war and could not afford to lose so many men. While he had proven time and again that he was a capable leader and unafraid to send men into danger he must have considered how much life would be lost in the fight between the well positioned highlanders on Arthurs Seat and the other Scots regiments below. That would also have had a huge impact across all other Scots, and especially highland, regiments.

The six hundred men marched down off the hill to meet Oughton on Friday morning, piper in the lead and in proper military order. As they appeared in the throat of the valley exit a huge cheer arose from the Edinburgh crowd that had gathered which must have been hugely embarrassing for Oughton and Seaforth who waited below. On flat ground, by the side of Holyrood palace the regiment formed three sides of an open square where Major General Robert Skene read them the terms of surrender. Slowly, line by line, it was translated into the Gaelic. They would be sent to the Channel islands. They would not be sold to the Indies. Arrears would be paid and there would be a court of enquiry into the grievances of ill treatment heard immediately. Bonnets were lifted high on muskets as the men cheered Skene and Oughton. Seaforth must have been squirming in humiliation in his saddle. It was a bloodless victory for common sense and the men from the hill.

What Oughton could not tell the men of course was that he had capitulated without approval from London and that he did not have the authority to promise that the regiment would never be sent to the East at some time in the future. They were also not told that Seaforth and the officers of the regiment would fight the enquiry tooth and claw, that many in the Army believed that Oughton had acted too leniently, too out of character for a senior officer and against the best interests of ongoing discipline. Or that in many ways Amherst, commander of all the Army would agree with them.

The court of enquiry was a farce. Few men from the regiment appeared before it and the evidence they gave was loudly condemned as lies by their officers and found to be hearsay by the court. Although argument would rumble on, the case was dismissed. Those men appearing were anxious not to be considered as ringleaders of the mutiny to be singled out for future punishment perhaps by the officers, and this may be why so few of the men would testify in the cold light of the court room. The court amazingly also found that no pay was in arrears and dismissed this claim too. By the time the men found out the detail they had been boarded on the transports and ready to depart for the Channel Islands.

As a precaution before they arrived in the Channel Islands, the regiment of highlanders who were already serving there were boarded for their return to the mainland to prevent them being infected with the disease of mutiny. They were after all largely from the same clans.

The 78th served in the Channel Islands for two and a half years during which they endured the same harsh treatment they had originally complained against. Lord Seaforth it seems preferred the society of London as he did not join his regiment until the next transfer. When Seaforth did return the men were again shipped on to transports and this time sent, not to the feared Indies but to the equally frightful India. The official terms of their surrender and probably their spirit had been finally been broken completely.

By the time they arrived in Madras eleven months later Seaforth and two hundred and fifty of his men had died of illness en route. Less than half who arrived were fit for service. Those who were fit were transferred into another regiment and went on to fight with red coat, bonnet and plaid in the heat of the Indian sun. At the end of the American Wars when they were legally entitled to discharge from the Army. Few chose to stay on. The men who refused the ten guinea bounty to remain were entitled to be repatriated back home but there is a record left in the form of a Gaelic poem called the lament of Sergeant Christopher Macrae:

'When we got the order
from the consul we were not pleased.
Our discharge put in our hands,
free to go where we wished but without a bounty
and there was no ship no boat and no sail.

They were left where they were, a final betrayal. The army able to say that the regiment had not been disbanded and therefore was not due to be repatriated home at that time. Many men never came home and the scarce few that did took several years to make the journey.

{Lieutenant General James Adolphus Oughton avoided most of the blame which was directed at him and continued to control the forces in North Britain. Perhaps his critics and his own comments on treating with rebellion were right. In the next year he would face three more highland regiments who mutinied in the face of harsh treatment, overdue pay and lies over postings. Shortly after he would be dead. But before then he would not again be so lenient in his reply to mutiny.}

See you later........

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

You Have Two Cows.........

Hullo there ma wee blog,

Some different types of political ideologies..... have two cows. Your Lord takes some of the milk. have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them and sells you the milk.

PURE COMMUNISM.... you have two cows. Your neighbours help you take care of them and you all share the milk.

APPLIED have two cows. You take care of them and the government takes all the milk.

DICTATORSHIP..... you have two cows. The government takes them both and shoots you.

MILITARISM..... you have two cows. the government takes them both and drafts you. have two cows. Your neighbours decide who gets the milk.

REPRESENTATIVE have two cows. Your neighbours pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY...... Candidates for president promise to give you two cows if you vote for them. On election the cows are not delivered, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures and the cows sue you for breach of contract.

EUROPEAN have two cows. The government regulates what you can feed them and how/how often you milk them. Then it pays you a subsidy not to milk them. It takes both cows shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. You have to fill in forms to account for two missing cows to avoid tax implications.

BRITISH DEMOCRACY...... you have two cows. They are fed infected feed and go mad, have to be shot and burned. The stock market crashes and millions are out of work. The government does nothing. have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

HONG KONG have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company using letters of credit opened by your brother in law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four back with tax relief on five cows. The milk rights for six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by you as major shareholder. You sell the rights to all seven cows milk back to the listed company. The annual report states you have ten cows. You kill two cows because of bad feng shui.

other interpretations welcomed.

see you later......

Listening to The Killers ' Are you human'

A Plethera of Postings.......

Hullo there ma wee blog,

5.30am and the day starts with a solitary coffee in my usual place at the kitchen table. The kitchen is cold and a vicious wind whips round the corner of the house behind the patio doors a few feet from my chair. Bailey cat has already demanded release from the house and been sucked into the garden through the same patio door opened just enough to let her through. No doubt she will be back once her ablutions are done, wide eyed and fur puffed against the cold, and probably with an accusatory air about her too. That's cats for you.

As usual I open my laptop and crank it up as I wait for the water to boil. Once connected I set the radio to play my favourite station, all talk with just a little music at this time of the day, and return to my home page. I have a gadget there which shows me the traffic situation across Scotland and also give a rundown of how long the delays are in miles and minutes. I see that there is pretty much a clear road network. Not surprising at this time of day but it still prompts me to say out loud a line from one of my favourite films, 'Comfort and Joy' by Bill Forsyth.

"Its Dickie Bird on the breakfast show. Traffic is clear across west central Scotland so if you leave now you will have a clear run to work. You'll be three hours early but what the heck!"

I go to the blog dashboard and there are two comment waiting for me thanks to Scudder and Mornings Minion, two regular contributors, and I publish them without checking the content as I will pick them up eagerly in a moment when I have that cup of coffee that's calling to me. Cup in hand I return and sit down again and also check if any of my favourite blogs have published anything and find a veritable plethora of postings.

My day begins with a smile and the knowledge of a pleasurable hour ahead.

Cheers, one and all.......

see you later.

Listening to the 'Dawn Patrol' on BBC radio2

Monday, 2 November 2009

Times, they're not a changin'......

Hullo ma wee blog,

I know its morning but I've already had a wake up call thank you very much, and I don't normally need more than one. But wake up calls come in more than one fashion, don't they? They did this morning anyway.

As usual I get up and, still with half closed eyes, head downstairs. Better this morning than sometimes actually, for although I did get up for a couple of hours in the night, I'm quite refreshed. Bright eyed and bushy tailed almost. So by the time I hit the bottom step I'm raring to go. I do my usual first task of getting a bit of lunch {and breakfast} for the lovely G, just a couple of filled rolls, usually a sweet and a savoury, some wee treats and a yogurt or a bit of fruit. I know she usually has the sweeter { jam or honey} of the two as a breakfast once she gets to the office but before the working day gets started and grabs the other some time later in the day.

This morning goes exactly to form and I'm putting on my shoes as G comes into the kitchen adjusting her scarf and bag and taking the goodies left on the kitchen work surface to pop in her bag as we head to the door and the car in the drive. A couple of minutes into the journey I make a bit of a maneuver to get past some slow coach as we {as usual} only have almost the exact clear road journey time to Dunbar and the twenty two minute journey to Edinburgh Waverley station.

G says,

"Whats the hurry this morning? Its only 7.25..."

"No Hun, the clock in the car is two minutes out"

"Didn't you adjust it when the clocks changed last weekend?"

"Aye, but for some reason within a day or so it reverts back to being two minutes slow. Tried it several times but its always the same. It always loses exactly two minutes and then no more. No idea what the problem is"


and then, after a tiny hesitation,

"Why don't you just set the clock two minutes fast?"


Ah bugger, why didn't I think of that. After all I am {normally} highly practical.

"I.......... I have absolutely no idea!......."

A moments silence.

We start giggling.

Made the train too.

{Out of curmudgeonly principle, I haven't yet changed the clock. After all I KNOW its two minutes slow!}

See you later........

Actually that story makes me think of Mum, who would have all the clocks and watches in the house set to run 10 minutes fast in an attempt to make sure that a certain father and recalcitrant small children wouldn't be running "at the coo's tail." I remember too after years of living 10 minutes fast having THAT conversation. You know the one. It starts with " But what difference does that make? We all know that the clocks are fast and by exactly how much." travels through " Why don't we just change the clocks to the right time and behave like sensible adults?" and ends with a discussion closing....,

" Because......"

Listening to Terry Wogans breakfast show on BBC radio 2

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...