Sunday, 31 October 2010

Call it Synchronicity, Call it Deja Vu........

Hullo ma wee blog,

Music connects many of us to incident, time and place and here are a couple of pieces that do that for me. I spend a lot of time while on the computer with earphones on listening to music, be it via radio, you tube or uploaded CD.  {I'm not that into downloading music yet}  A few days back I was listening to Classic FM and Rossini's Thieving Magpie came on through my headphones and I was taken back to a dark Edinburgh night in the 80's sitting in 'The Playhouse' waiting for a concert to start when the lights went down and cheers of anticipation and whistles of approval grew until after a few moments, the sound of this piece began to pour out of the speakers all around the pitch black hall. It started very quietly and slowly but deliberately someone in the background began to raise the volume very gradually so that over a few minutes the sound had become almost deafening. The anticipation of the crowd had grown along with the volume of this uplifting bit of music and roars of anticipation, cheers, whistles and cat calls would at times come through the sound as people become more and more whipped into fever pitch by the amazing sound until quite suddenly at the end of the piece the curtains whipped up and the unmistakeable sound of local superstars 'Marillion' took over the volume as they launched into 'Incommunicado'.

At the end of this video you can hear the crowd chanting "Geeza Bun" {give us a bun} during which time lead singer Fish and the band would traditionally be pelted with bread rolls by large parts of the audience. It was very funny and enjoyed by all - probably less by the band as the years passed - but I've no idea where the tradition came from.

It was a welcome memory and led me to play a lot of my Marillion favourites over the next few hours and days and has taken me back to many exciting concerts of the time in small intimate and deafening venues.
Perhaps thats why I love my music played so loud.


Does it sound better when upright or is it best savoured horizontal on the floor or laid out on the couch?

Now 'horizontal dancing makes me think of  'Gregories Girl' and the final scene.......

ignore the ad at the start and concentrate or you might fall off!

See you later.

Listening to Marillion of course.........

Friday, 29 October 2010

A Night at the Oran Mor

Hullo ma wee blog,

On Tuesday night we went through to Glasgow to the 'Oran Mor', a music venue in an old kirk, to see Lissie perform. This was a new venue to me. I'd heard about it but never been before even though it's been around for some time. It was easy enough to find, sitting as it does on the junction of Great Western Rd and Byers Rd,  two famous Glasgow streets on the western side of town. For once parking was straight forward too and we found a place on street within a hundred yards of our destination. A quick look around showed there were also several restaurants to choose from for a quick bite and we settled on an inviting looking little Italian place almost next to where the car was parked.

An hour later and we were ready to make our way across to the venue and check out whoever might be on support. The small space was quite packed by the time we got in and, as is often the case, it was going to be a hot night all packed in together. Luckily we had both left our jackets in the car.  Despite the crowd at this mostly all standing venue,we managed to find ourselves - well me really - a couple of nice soft seats with a view of the stage, although that would change later as more people arrived. The crowd seemed to cover a large range of ages, which I always find reassuring as I hate to feel that I'm the oldest swinger in town, mainly because it usually tells me I'm not going to enjoy the music as much as I hoped. The support act, a one girl, two boy trio called 'Ramona', presumably after the lead singer, were well into their set and comfortably banging out some tight guitar-driven rock which reminded me of 'James' or 'Texas' meets 'REM', but with a bit more modern edge to it. She had a good voice for lead vocals and I was quite sorry to see them go after only a couple of songs. I would have happily listened for a lot longer. 

The roadies efficiently handled the small amount of kit change and after only about fifteen minutes Lissie appeared on stage, with the small band from the video above, to kick off the first night of her first UK tour as a headline act in her own right. I'd heard of few songs from her on the radio and the first song which I ever heard - which I've chosen for the video -  struck me with the similarity between her voice and Stevie Nicks, one of my all time favorite singers. Much of her material is American folk-based rock and fairly mainstream, but my goodness she has a great voice and needs just a microphone to hold you spellbound. Her voice just soars out over the band across the audience in a way that almost no-one does these days. The vocals are the key to her success. Her voice is very friendly and yet commands attention. I like it. A lot.

I'm going to finish here due to some computer problems which mean this short post has taken almost an hour to write.......

back soon.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

There's A Fundamental Problem With Multiculturalism...............

Hullo ma wee blog,

Jings! I huv'nae half been a serious wee fella this last week or so. Aye, I'm afraid this is another one but I hope you'll forgive me. Hopefully I'll be a bit more lighthearted soon but this has been bugging me for a considerable while.

In among all the stories about spending last week I was caught by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's statement that in her opinion multiculturalism has failed in Germany. I firmly believe in the ideals and the principals of multiculturalism but she sees western Europe going down under the tide of radical Islam. Rather than liberal society creating the utopia of harmonious cultural pluralism, it's being swallowed whole by a giant predator whose voracious mouth it encourages in the spirit of tolerance. The very act of liberality, it would seem ,ensures its downfall as it invites enemies and friends equally and empowers them with all the worthily inclusive legal protections that it would use to defend itself. It is in effect being eaten from within by a self- inflicted parasite for which there is no known cure.

I felt a comment like that coming from Germany in particular to be somehow more telling than some of the stories heard from other European countries. I don't know much about Angela Merkel, her policies or her politics. I don't know for instance if such a comment from her could simply be political opportunism or even political diversionism, taking the focus away from some other aspect of European politics. I do feel that given their history, German mainstream politicians are potentially less likely to make inflammatory statements on race, to stoke any fires of religious bigotry without careful consideration.

There's been many signs of concern, discontent even, within the liberal countries of western Europe over the last year around the increasing impact of Muslim culture, particularly the more fundamental aspects of that culture and its apparent demand for us to accept change on what are seen by many to be basic aspects of western values and culture. I've spoken here about the debate on acceptance of the burqa and the niqab and this year has also seen some fairly radical steps taken by nations that directly affect Muslim populations. France and Belgium have banned the burqa and other countries are debating doing the same.; Switzerland has banned the building of any further minarets; Denmark has imposed ferocious limits on immigration.

It would seem that battle lines are being drawn whether we {or they} like it or not. There has been a culture, radically different to our own, planted in our civilisation and while it seems to want to take advantage of the commercial and political freedoms it doesn't seem to want to integrate with our culture and its more tolerant views on religion, marriage, sexuality or morality.

But is that really true? Have we, as a society, done enough ourselves to integrate these populations into every aspect of our lives? Have we really welcomed them with open arms or gone to them and encouraged their engagement with us? Have we actively built bridges with them and welcomed them into our homes and our lives, made sure that we have explained our expectations of them as citizens, told them what their responsibilities are as well as their rights. Have we done everything we could to protect them from bigotry and exclusion by elements of  'oor ain folk'.  I'm not convinced that we have and until we do I don't think multiculturalism is going to work. {it also has to be reciprocated by the other party too.}  It's not something we are naturally good at. Think how we behave when us Brits move abroad. Not exactly known for embracing the local culture and integrating into society are we? More likely we're known for doing the opposite and creating a 'Little Britain'. [Historically we have done little but dominate other countries and exploited their natural resources and manpower to our own ends.]

I think it's important that we are allowed and encouraged to keep the best aspects of our culture. It's beneficial to all that heritage is strong. It keep us unique and enriches, not denigrates whatever society we are part of and that goes too for Moslem or any other culture that comes here. I believe that we are all better for having an understanding of our roots and heritage and the roots and heritage of others. It's important that the best parts of all are used and spread to the benefit of all. Many parts of differing cultures get on perfectly well together, it's only in certain areas that conflict or confusion arises and these need to be carefully and calmly explored. Above all, it's important the indigenous culture and values of any host country are respected, protected and preserved and where change happens that this is done naturally and organically, freely driven by the host coming to recognise and accept the change as a beneficial development, not by imposing or demanding an uncompromising and inflexible set of conditions. To me that's not integration or even immigration. To me that's domination. That's invasion. It's where a host society, is being forced to change and in a direction that's not welcome. When this happens decisions have to be made. I believe this is what Angela Merkel and others are really saying. When a minority wants to use laws designed for tolerance and freedom to protect itself while at the same time spreading intolerant attitudes which threaten our core values then measures have to be taken to protect those values. These measures should be debated, taken openly, and be appropriate and just and should at all times uphold our values of tolerance and human rights for the benefit of society as a whole.

 Good and Evil.
Too close for comfort.

I do think there is a problem with Islam though and it's one that needs to be tackled urgently and ferociously within the framework above. Although I say the problem is with Islam I would qualify that and say that it is not a problem with the Muslim faith. I absolutely uphold the right of anyone to practice their faith. While not a practicing Christian it's how I was brought up and they are fundamentally the values I carry. I believe everyone has the right to follow the religion they choose without interference so long as that religion is not aggressive or bigoted against other religions or lifestyles. I believe that within Islam there is a crisis where radical hardline fundamentalist views are hijacking mainstream opinion and deliberately moving towards conflict to achieve domination of non-Moslem cultures. Their ability to do so lies at the heart of modern western unease with Islam and needs to be tackled by the Moslem populations themselves. But those who do this radicalisation are doing exactly the same within Islam as they are trying to do with our tolerant principles of individual freedom in the west. They use the very structure of Islam to protect themselves while promoting views which are very non Islamic. But by it's very nature confrontation or conflict isn't something that moderates are good at. Just as there is a radical risk built into any religion, Islam appears to stand ever closer to the moderate and tolerant majority losing control to fundamentalism by failing to curb negative tendancies, even sometimes seeming to protect fundamentalist ideals when criticism comes from outside the faith. Our western perception therefore is that Islam has moved away from a progressive and tolerant attitude to more conservative views. Holding to these semi-conservative views could be a way of using appeasement in preventing a swing to an even less tolerant outlook by potential supporters of a fundamentalist viewpoint, acting to show willingness to preserve and protect rather than modernise and adapt the faith as we have done in the west.

So, what is the problem with Islam?  It's that Islam is not just a faith but is also an ideology. This issue is 'fundamental' in several ways. In the west we are used to faith being almost completely separate from the state. While the states values may be based on religious principles, just as Christian principles shape Britain's laws, religion here no longer dictates the law of the land and has no control over it or the functions of the state. State and religion are completely separate and there are controlling structures for both.  In Islam, faith is the state and faith dictates the law, which controls every other aspect of life; justice, welfare, commerce, health, police and politics. There is no separation.  Religious leaders and their interpretation of  faith, and therefore how the faithful should behave, are important in ways we haven't known in the west for several hundred years, when the word of a Pope could send hundreds of thousands of believers on invasions as 'crusaders' - a term that Islamists of a conservative/fundamentalist mindset still use as an inflammatory description of westerners .  Religious interpretation can be polarised or hijacked to promote a particular agenda in radical or 'fundamentalist' ways. It is this reality, linked to Islam as an ideology that is it's greatest threat. A strong Islamist population with fundamental tendencies is a huge potential problem for western political systems. This is the fear and the reality which is at the root of statements such as 'multiculturalism doesn't work'. See this piece from 'The Telegraph' on how this is affecting politics in Tower Hamlets in London.

Islamic fundamentalists have become adept at manipulating ideology and faith for their own agendas and in turning the liberal values of others against themselves in the attempt to impose fundamentalist beliefs on others. They have also become adept at manipulating the faith of Muslims who are not fundamentalists themselves by stoking their fears and prejudices against other faiths or ideologies. This is what we are seeing in the conflicts in the middle east today.

I read a report about City University, central London, which states that a hard-line Islamist ideology is being promoted through the leadership of the university’s student Islamic Society, leading to increased religious tensions on campus and to the intimidation and harassment of staff, students and members of minority groups by extremists and increasing the risks of students turning to terrorism. It shows very clearly how this minority group has attempted to create huge influence within the university and to dictate or influence the actions of other groups to it's advantage. While it's a lengthy and academic piece - I took about 40 minutes to read it - it shows in microcosm how fundamentalism works to manipulate others to it's own ends. That this is amongst 'educated' students and not poor or uneducated people, shows faith is a powerful weapon when manipulated by experts.

In essence, if you don't have time to read the whole chilling report the method used is this;

There are four contributory factors which are:

1. Exposure to an ideology that seems to sanction, legitimise or require violence, often by providing a compelling but fabricated narrative of contemporary politics and recent history.

The report states;

City Univerity ISoc {Islamic Society} events and particularly Friday sermons given by ISoc members have additionally explicitly advocated the murder of individuals who do not pray, for women to be ‘forced to wear’ hijab, for the ‘prohibition’ of homosexuality and the ‘killing’ of apostates. Furthermore, extremely conservative opinions are advocated by ISoc speakers, such as that Muslim women must ‘walk as close as they can to a wall’, that women ‘should try their best to stay at home unless there is a necessity’, and that men should only speak to women ‘in times that are necessary’. Simultaneously, the ISoc have promoted a warped understanding of current affairs in which Muslims are the innocent victims of complex plots and conspiracies. This serves to reinforce their narrative of a global religious war between Muslims and non-Muslims. For instance, attacks on ISoc members by local gangs were deliberately and explicitly equated with foreign conflicts such as those in Kashmir and Palestine, while the attempted Detroit airliner bombing was dismissed as anti-Muslim propaganda.

2. Exposure to people or groups who can directly and persuasively articulate that ideology and then relate it to aspects of a person’s own background and life history.

Through material made available on their website, City ISoc have exposed students to a number of extreme Islamists whose pro-jihadist teachings are likely to prove a radicalising influence. These include Anwar al-Awlaki and Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, both of whom have directly radicalised a number of prominent terrorists who have subsequently carried out attacks in the Middle East and in the West. Through its website, City ISoc has also exposed students to a number of extreme Wahhabi scholars who promote an intolerant and hard-line version of Islam. Such Wahhabism has historically helped to nuture pro-jihadist ideologies and to fuel religious tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, and between Wahhabists and other Muslims. · In addition, the president of City ISoc, its ‘ameer’, appears to be a significant radicalising influence in his own right. A number of students have described him as a “hypnotic”, charismatic figure, who is capable of inspiring unquestioning obedience and devotion among his immediate followers.

3. A crisis of identity and, often, uncertainty about belonging which might be triggered by a range of further personal issues, including experiences of racism, discrimination, deprivation and other criminality (as victim or perpetrator); family breakdown or separation

'Partly through promoting its false narrative of victimhood and partly through its separatist and confrontational Islamist ideology, ISoc members have sought to create a globalised ‘grievance-based’ Muslim identity that is hostile to non-Muslims and paranoid and suspicious of outsiders. The ISoc’s president particularly sought to shape this identity. ISoc sermons, for example, deliberately reinforced this ‘us and them’ outlook, for instance through the use of phrases such as ‘the black heart of the kuffar [‘infidels’]’. · In order to push Muslim students into adopting this binary ‘us and them’ outlook, the ISoc has manipulated genuinely disturbing incidents and presented them as being part of a global conspiracy against Muslims. For instance, following the gang attack on Muslim students, the ISoc’s Friday sermon used war-like language to urge students to unite behind the ISoc’s leadership to the exclusion of other religious and social groups, saying ‘let us as Muslims stick together, united as one. One brotherhood, one sisterhood, united at all costs’.  Additionally, Islamist policy proposals advocated by the ISoc, such as stoning adulterers and killing apostates, are presented as being core Muslim beliefs and as being at odds with the ‘western value system’. Such phrasing deliberately creates a conflict between students’ ‘western’ identity and their ‘Muslim’ identity; effectively a laying down of a ‘with us or against us’ ultimatum for Muslim students – who are also told by the ISoc to defend such ‘Islamic’ acts against non-Muslims and not to become ‘apologists’ for their religion.  Moreover, they engaged with other members of the university campus, and student politics, in religious terms. For example, they advocated voting as Muslims – and what would benefit Muslims – rather than as members of a democratic, secular student body.'

4]  A range of perceived grievances, some real and some imagined, to which there may seem to be no credible and effective non violent response.’
As shown above, ISoc members have repeatedly taken Muslim students’ perceived and genuine grievances and amplified them by combining them with the ISoc’s Islamist ideology and with the ISoc’s preferred grievance-based identity. A typical ISoc strategy was to create a crisis between the ISoc and various members of the university population, to depict this crisis as evidence of Muslims being persecuted by non-Muslims and then to advance Islamist or separatist policies as a solution.  For instance, the ISoc has depicted the university’s closure of Muslim-only prayer facilities as evidence of an institutional hostility to Muslims. The ISoc, using religiously-loaded language at one Friday sermon, described this as an example of ‘the non-Muslims, the polytheists, the university officials who are driving us out of our homes’. Ultimately, they projected the conclusion that ‘no longer is it easy to practice Islam on campus’.  In addition the ISoc fostered a sense of grievance by presenting all criticisms of the ISoc as examples of wider society’s intrinsic Islamophobia. ISoc members writing on the society’s website abused individual university staff critical of the ISoc as ‘having an outright hatred for the Islamic way of life’. Similarly, staff and students critical of the ISoc’s activities have been repeatedly described by ISoc members as ‘Islamophobic’, implying that their opposition to the ISoc was based on irrational, anti-Muslim prejudice.  The ISoc leadership also used the incident over the campus stabbings to their advantage. By taking a genuine grievance – a serious and alarming incident in itself – they managed to draw parallels between their ‘plight’ and the people of Kashmir and Palestine, declare the university to be throwing them “out of their homes” and cast the police as the “kuffar” whose promises “mean nothing”.
khutbas (Friday prayers) have repeatedly promoted an extreme Islamist ideology that combines many aspects of jihadist and Wahhabi thought. Potentially, this ideology, as laid out by the ISoc’s leaders in their Friday sermons, calls for an ‘Islamic state’ in which shari’ah law will be instituted. It also calls for, in the words of the ISoc leader, ‘offensive jihad’ – i.e. unprovoked attacks on non-Muslims

It seems incredible that such exhortation to violence should be made by anyone who purports to be a leader of any community within a civilised country.

It really does require a reading of the whole report to explain how such radical views can be disseminated through an educated population, but this reinforcing and expanding of an 'aggrieved and threatened' culture is at the heart. I would urge you to read it.

But what of multiculturalism?  Is it really dead?  Should we simply discard it as 'failure to launch'?

I don't think so. To discard it would be to play the hand of the radical and retreat behind city walls and man the ramparts. We shouldn't either allow ourselves to become 'aggrieved and threatened' as a society.  We have to embrace multiculturalism. We have to find ways to make it work.

The alternative would surely be too horrible to contemplate.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

How To Get More From Less............

Author - Wealth of Nations

Hullo ma wee blog,

It's now a few days since the govt released details of its spending review aimed at reducing the national deficit and getting the countries finances back on an even keel. The Chancellor George Osborne went to great lengths to make sure that the country got the message that the situation was bad,that something was being done to reduce the deficit urgently and that the measures being taken were fair to all parts of society with everyone paying their fair share. During the hour he took to explain the outline of the measures he used the words fair or fairness repeatedly, over twenty times in fact.

But listening to it all I was struck by thoughts of justice and fairness, particularly about the fact that what is just isn't always fair and what is fair isn't always just.

Now the dust has begun to settle and proper analysis has begun it's become obvious that what many feared has been enacted and it is the poorest sections of society who are bearing the greatest burden. The Govt is making much of the fact that it is the highest two percent of earners who are most heavily hit but have not mentioned the fact that it was actually the previous Government who put these measures in place.  Every Tory or Lib-Dem political interview I have heard - and there have been plenty over the last couple of days has also trotted out the "this situation has been inherited from the previous Govt" line. At it's most basic level this is true; the situation was there when the new Govt took office. However the situation arose over a much longer period as part of a global banking crisis and the action taken to support our banks and prevent them from collapse - which is the reason why finances are in such a state -was debated and agreed by all parties as being the right thing to do, as was the defence spending which was a cross party decision.

Sadly the Chancellor took another £7 billion from the welfare budget which is there to support the poorest parts of society - after already having reduced the welfare budget by £11 billion - therefore hitting this poorest, traditionally non Tory-voting sector hardest. Affordable housing investment is also being reduced by 70%. There is no doubt where that is going to hit . More families trapped in the poverty trap. But did the Govt need to hit this sector for the extra £7 Billion?  I think it should have come from the banks and from the middle class sectors least hit by these measures. Alternatively what difference would it really make to the lifestyles of highest earners if the impact on them went to 6% or 8% or even 10%.

It appears that the vast middle income -and significantly more Tory-voting - sector is being hit the least especially after the furore they kicked up about potentially losing the child benefit. The odd decision finally implimented to remove this benefit if there is a high tax bracket earner in the household means that families with two incomes just below this threshhold can still earn in excess of £85k per annum and qualify while a single income household of £45k a year won't as that income falls into the high earnings bracket. It's one example of what the Government considers fair. {It would be more fair and just to set a total household earnings threshold to avoid such an anomaly.} The Govt decided not to reduce the final age of qualifying for child benefit to 16 as planned but to leave it at the current 19 years after significant rumbles of discontent from the middle classes. This reduction would have saved how much?  Yes, that's right, £7 billion, same as subsequently taken from welfare by the additional hit.  The Govt will also keep free bus passes, free TV licences and winter heating subsidy for all over 75's regardless if you live in a damp hovel or in luxury, if you have a retirement income of £10k a year or £500k a year. Wouldn't it be fair to remove these benefits from any household with a retirement income of over £20k a year and save this waste or give a free bus pass to the unemployed to encourage them to look wider afield for jobs.
Who pays most-June 2010 budget and spending review combined

Now the independent 'Institute of Fiscal Studies' has weighed into the argument saying the poorest are indeed unfairly shouldering the biggest share of cuts, but despite this august body being regularly used as a think tank and sounding board for Govt financial decision making the Govt says they have their figures wrong and the Chancellor's figures are correct, that choices made are fair to all.

It's interesting to note that the 'unwarranted' bank levy, set at just £2.5 billion, pales into insignificance with the £7 billion bonus' the banks have awarded this year and that as stated in my last rant - sorry - post - banks have been allowed to offset losses of £19 billion from the last two years against future tax over the next three years. In my view while this may help banks stabilise further, it should be a temporary measure, a deferment, repayable within 5 years and there should be further penalties if banks do not - as it would appear they are failing to do - make cash more freely available for small business'

So is this spending review fair? Perhaps - depending on your perspective. Is it just? Absolutely not. Does it penalise the poor who predominately vote against the Tories and who have no financial buffer while protecting the middle classes and traditional Tory heartlands. Absolutely yes.

Will it solve the problem?

We'll just have to wait and see

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

All at Sea on A Tide of Spending Cuts

The British Navy of the Future......

Hullo ma wee blog,

Well, what an interesting day it's been today. Mr Cameron, our duly elected 'High Heid Yin' has announced the result of the defence review. This is a defence review which is "in no way related to" the spending review being announced tomorrow but rather "takes into consideration" the financial climate that we currently find ourselves in as well as the strategic direction we need to take for the defence challenges ahead.

Aye Right!

So apparently what we need to defend ourselves over the next few years;
17,000 less forces personnel. {Including 18% less deployable manpower}
25,000 less Ministry Of Defence support staff.
Ark Royal aircraft carrier withdrawn immediately.
Existing Harrier fighter scrapped.
Replacement Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft scrapped.
Tanks and artillery reduced by 40%.
Two new aircraft carriers - with no fixed wing planes available to fly off them until 2010
RAF Kinloss in Scotland - with no Nimrod - to close.
Any final decision on the future extent of Trident nuclear programme delayed until 2016.

Get rid of an aircraft carrier and the aircraft  which use it before a replacement is available? Get two new carriers, mothball one of them immediately then wait ten years to get any aircraft to fly off the one that's in service?  Hmmmm........ So, if we don't need planes on aircraft carrier for ten years, why would we need them after ten years??????   How does this make sense?

Apparently 'some' tornado fighter squadrons may go and some bases will close but which ones "have not been decided yet".

Aye right.

You mean you have already decided to close Lossiemouth, also in NE Scotland but want the RAF to announce it separately so you don't take the heat for impacting Moray with job losses which are equivalent per head of population to 80,000 jobs in London. Now you wouldn't stand for that politically would you Mr Cameron. Oh No. Not all those nice Conservative voters, but well, no one in Scotland voted for you anyway so what the hell difference will it make to you if it's up there.

OK I admit, I may have you wrong. It's not announced so I'll wait and see. {Notice how I'm not holding my breath though}

I do know that the banks are back in profit, bankers have already returned to the big bonus culture AND have wangled an agreement with you to offset previous losses against tax so they don't pay £19 billion over the next four years. That's clever of them - and generous of you if you don't  mind me saying, but I'm sure you took the current financial climate into consideration on that one too, didn't you?

Sorry, I CAN'T HEAR YOU.........

Can't wait to hear the spending review tomorrow. Apparently half a million public service workers will get the chop with probably the same again in the private sector losing theirs with the knock on effect. Of course more private sector jobs will be created later, but these will be at lower salaries and with worse pension provision. And of course how much you can put into a pension before paying tax has been reduced so we can pay more tax on money we have already paid tax on.

Even more competition to come for me in the job market then - and I'm already looking at jobs with half my previous salary.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Take The Long Way Home............

Cove Harbour by Patricia Sadler

Hullo ma wee blog,

On the wall at the side of the bed is a painting by Patricia Sadler, a local lady with a talent for colour which shows in her wonderful paintings of  flowers. The painting across from me and which I see as I wake almost every morning isn't one of her flower paintings though. It's a small painting about twelve inches by twelve, framed in a broad, gold painted frame, of the beautiful little harbour at Cove, a mile, maybe a little more, from the house. It's an impression of the harbour from above, corn gold grasses and stone coloured walls frame waters painted deep in the colours of summer. It often puts a smile on my face as I wake up and it's often the last thing I look at before putting off the bedside light. It's familiar and comforting both as an object and as an aide memoir of a lovely spot which is just what you want as you put your head down on the pillow. I think so anyway!

The Lovely G and I found it tucked away in a corner of a tiny little art gallery on the west coast of England a few years ago. As I often do, I'd wandered away on my own after a bit to explore the gallery which was an old house with lots of nooks and crannies. I turned into what I thought was a corridor to find it was in fact an ancient and blocked off doorway to another part of the house. The painting of Cove was on the wall there where the door should have been, instantly recognisable and completely unexpected. I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be coming home with us. It was so out of context where it was, as if it had been put there because the gallery owner had nowhere suitable to put it or thought no-one would want to buy it. It was the only painting of Patricia's in the gallery and the only one in that style I remember. It was strange to bring it back to where it had started life as an idea in the head of someone we know and who's work hangs here and there around the house.

It certainly took the long way home.

Cove Harbour Today.

The Lovely G and I enjoy Cove with its confusing combination of proximity yet solitude. It feels a timeless spot. There are only a couple of small boats working out of the harbour nowadays, mostly creel fishermen with lobster-pots and the like working the coastline up toward Dunbar and down to Eyemouth. Just small scale like it always was. The harbour, now privately owned and managed, offers good protection tucked away at the bottom of the steep slopes and surrounding cliffs  In bygone days Cove gave its shelter to the boats belonging to the families of the hamlet that shares its name at the top of the cliff . It made an ideal base for smuggling and plenty of illicit contraband has been hauled up the path to the top of the cliff and away or been hidden temporarily in the side passages of the tunnel cut through the headland.

The hamlet of Cove was never a big place and, sitting proud near the edge of the cliff, is often cruelly exposed to the elements. There is a poignant little memorial to the loss of the men of Cove in the great storm of 14th October 1881 when many fishing communities on this part of the coast were devastated. The memorial sculpture shows the widows and children left behind looking out to the sea for the return of their men. Cove was the worst hit community proportionately, losing four of its five boats and 11 of its 21 fishermen.

Cove Memorial

It makes it easy to understand why even now the lifeboat and RNLI  is such a big thing locally even when the numbers of fishing boats has declined and pleasure boats have taken over the harbour at Dunbar. Especially as we head towards the colder parts of the year.

See you later.

Listening to Supertramp, 'Take The Long Way Home.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Ghost Writing

Hullo ma wee blog,

As I left the house two days ago I heard a familiar voice.  One I recognised instantly for its distinctive sound, as if  spoken through a smile. The soft rumble held me mid-stride, keys in hand and I heard familiar strength in my ear.

"Driech, eh?"

I put my head down as my eyes pricked until I reached the car where I sat and pushed tears to one side with the back of my hand. I took a deep breath and reversed past the end of the house, down the drive and onto the road, swallowing back the lump that had come.

I was several minutes down the road when my father's voice came again, quieter now.

"It's ok ye know."

Yesterday my lawyer brother phoned to say,

"Good news......."


Black Agnes - Dunbar, 1338

Dunbar Castle today.

Agnes, Countess of Dunbar is well known here in East Lothian for her role in defending Dunbar Castle against an English army in 1338. There's not much left of the castle now but what there is seems to rise fully formed from the red stone of the local area like it's part of the rock itself. In any case what little still remains around the harbour today isn't Agnes' castle of 1338.  That earlier stronghold was later 'casttit doune' on order of the king to prevent it falling into enemy hands.

The Celtic Votadini or Gododdin, are thought to have been the first to defend this site, the Brythonic name Dyn Barr, (the fort of the point) is still in use. By the 7th century Dunbar Castle was a central defensive position of the Kings of Bernicia, an Anglian kingdom that took over from the British Kingdom of Bryneich. During the Early Middle Ages, Dunbar Castle was held by an Ealdorman owing homage to either the Kings at Bamburgh Castle, or latterly the Kings of York. In 678 Saint Wilfrid was imprisoned at Dunbar, following his expulsion from his see of York by Ecgfrith of Northumbria. Later, Dunbar was said to have been burnt by Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Scots. Certainly he is on record in possession of the castle in 879.

Let me describe some background to set the scene that propelled Agnes to her destiny.

By 1338 Scotland was in a chaotic state. Robert The Bruce had been dead almost ten years and his presence no longer blinded its enemies and shadowed the land with confidence, optimism and determination. He'd lived long enough to sign the treaty which recognized him as king of a free country and send it south for an English king's signature and hollow promise of peace in perpetuity. It was carried by a hundred knights on safe-conduct pass to Edward in York, a place they had recently passed through equally safely without such protection. The treaty was ratified by the English Parliament at Northampton but seen by the aristocracy for the capitulation it really was. As part of the peace process,  David, The Bruce's five year old son was married to Edward's child sister, Joan, aged seven.  Edward too renounced all claim upon Scotland and recognised  'His most dear friend and ally, Lord Robert, by grace of God, King of Scots.'  All documents relating to Scotland removed over the previous decades were also to be returned, although it would be 600 years and many sovereigns later before it happened.

{Intriguingly there appears no mention of the Stone of Destiny even though it's hard to believe given its historic importance to Scotlands kings. It would take even longer for that relic to be returned.}

Stone of Destiny under the coronation
throne, Westminster Abbey.

Peace, such as it was, was superficial. It didn't stop cross border raiding by either side. Power in Scotland was in the hands of a Regent - Mar, the young kings cousin - also heir to the throne should the boy-king die. South of the border the exiled King John Balliol's son Edward was receiving tacit royal support and encouragement in his aim of restoration to what he saw as his birthright. He was supported too by those Lords and sons of Lords who had lost lands, titles and influence when Bruce came to power. This eager group, known as 'The Disinherited',  were an ideal audience in which to foment rebellion and trouble north of the border to keep the situation unstable and pressure on the troublesome Scots.

 The Disinherited and their English allies sailed on 31 July 1332 from several Yorkshire ports to Kinghorn in Fife to get round the terms of the Treaty of Northampton that forbade English forces to cross the  River Tweed which at that time marked the border. Moving inland they were met by a Scots force at Dupplin Moor, near Perth. The battle that ensued lasted from dawn until noon and by that time English bowmen, in an early indication of the power and potential of the longbow, had destroyed most of the Scots army, including Regent Mar. . In that gleeful medieval way, it was said that Scots bodies piled up the height of a spear on the field. Victorious Balliol was crowned King at Scone six weeks later, surrounded by the disinherited and many who had previously supported Bruce. He offered the English Edward homage as liege lord and lands in the south which effectively brought England to Edinburgh's doorstep, asking for David's marriage to be set aside so he could marry the young Joan in his place and establish his own dynasty. By December though he was forced to flee half-dressed into the night on an unsaddled horse, back across the border to Carlisle, when a force under Randolph and Douglas, loyal to the boy-king of Scots caught him unprepared at his camp in Annan. King Edward was furious and now openly showed his support for Balliol, claiming the Scots had broken the Treaty of Northampton through their cross border raiding and by raising an English army to invade Scotland once more. Archibald Douglas, younger brother of crusading James, who had thrown Bruce's casketed heart ahead of him before charging to his death among the Saracens en route to bury that same item in the Holy Land, was made new Regent of Scotland until David reached his maturity.

In 1333 Edward came North at the head of an army to take Berwick once again and met the Scots army at Halidon hill, two or three miles north of the town. The Scots had seemingly learned little or nothing from the defeat of Dupplin Moor and now no longer faced the inexperienced boy king who years before had wept in frustration as another Scots army, against overwhelming odds, outwitted him and melted away in the night to live and fight another day. He was now the warrior tactician who, just a few short years in the future, would destroy French chivalric power to win at Crecy, and his army reflected his new understanding of firepower, heavy as it was with men practiced from childhood in the spine crushing discipline of the longbow and the cloth yard arrow, fletched with goose and tipped with steel. The old Scots tactic of the spear tipped 'schiltrom' formation densely packed with men finally proved itself out of time and tragically inadequate.This time Edward had picked an ideal position and there would be no mistakes allowing the enemy to escape.  As the Scots ranks attacked in their lumbering hedgehog formations that windy morning they began to slip on the grassy slope even before clouds of arrows were driving into them. It was said that the onslaught of the bowmen was so fierce that the Scots turned their heads as if walking into sleet. When finally they broke and ran,  death rode close behind, armour clad with steel mace or sword at the ready. The notion of confidence, of invulnerability, which had been Bruce's hard won legacy was gone.

 It had lived less than a lifetime.

Schiltrom fighting 

For Edward, it was the kind of victory that his long legged Grandfather would have been proud of. It was vindication of his tactics and bloody rehearsal for victories yet to come. For the Scots it was utter disaster. Those Barons quick enough to find a fast horse and flee the field, quickly sent the boy king and his queen to France and the protection of its king before heading for the hills or throwing themselves at the dubious mercy of Edward and Balliol. Scotland lost 5 Earls, 70 Barons, 500 knights and countless thousands of spearmen. The English lost virtually no-one. Records show their losses at 14, a dozen of them archers. With the loss of its army, Scots resistance returned to the old ways of guerrilla tactics, isolated strongholds and lightning raids from the wilderness. For the next twelve years there would be no peace, but a virtual civil war as Regent after Regent resisted the usurper Balliol in the name of King David.

It was this world that Black Agnes inhabited.

Agnes Randolph, Countess of Dunbar, was the daughter of the Earl Of Moray, one of Bruce's most loyal supporters, who had fought beside his king at the Bannock-Burn and other places. Her husband, Patrick, Earl of Dunbar and March { the border lands were called 'Marches'} was also of royal blood and a supporter of David II. The vulnerable and volatile border lands needed a trustworthy hand and a strong sword arm.  The Dunbar's epitomise a loyal and trustworthy pedigree of support for David in the trying times of his exile. In 1338 Earl Patrick was absent from his lands fighting for the cause in the north. Agnes was left in control of the stronghold of Dunbar castle with a skeleton force and her retinue of servants. In those days this was no unusual thing but it is more noticeable for the fact that she was left during such dangerous times. This may be an indication that it was felt Dunbar was the safest place or that there was no-one capable enough, or trustworthy enough, to be left in her stead. History would show that it was indeed fortunate that Lady Agnes and no other was in charge at the time. She's come down the years known as Black Agnes, perhaps from the jet-black of her hair or from the combination with her olive coloured skin. Both were noted. Both are possible, but we don't know for sure. What we do know is that in January of 1338 Lord Montague, Earl of Salisbury, an experienced soldier, arrived at Dunbar with an English army and instructions to take the castle. He was in high spirits and felt sure that he would be a match for the Lady Agnes. In that belief he would find himself sadly mistaken.

Asked to surrender the castle, Agnes declined, reputedly stating,

"Of Scotland's King I haud my house, He pays me meat and fee, And I will keep my gude auld house, while my house will keep me."

Pleasantries over, the siege began in earnest with an extended bombardment by catapults. During three weeks of almost continuous assault, Agnes showed her contempt for Salisbury's efforts by walking the battlements between salvos, her retinue of ladies in waiting dressed in all their finery, all ostentatiously dusting off the damage done by the English missiles with handkerchiefs of white linen to indicate that it was no more than a minor inconvenience. It's easy to imagine Lord Salisbury's reaction. No matter when he attacked, Agnes was prepared, her small force ready to act. This was recorded later in ballad form as if from his own mouth,

 "She makes a stir in tower and trench,
That brawling, boisterous, Scottish wench;
Came I early, came I late.
I found Agnes at the gate."
Agnes was an early master of one-upmanship. Faced with her captured brother being brought to the castle by the English, a rope around his neck, she answered their threat to hang him before her eyes by telling them to do so as she would then inherit his lands and titles. {Her brother was not hanged but taken away to custody in England.}  On one occasion she narrowly missed capturing Salisbury himself, leading an attempt to gain entry to the castle - having bribed the gatekeeper - who in turn advised Lady Agnes. Instead she sprang the trap too soon and shut the portcullis down on an attendant instead, but sent caustic word to Salisbury later that evening that 'she had hoped to dine with him and was sorry to have missed him.'  Salisbury responded by sending for a huge siege engine called 'The Sow', a battering ram with a wooden roof. He attacked the castle entrance only for Agnes to destroy it before any damage had been done by dropping, from the ramparts, a huge rock previously fired into the castle by English catapults. It went through the roof  of 'The Sow' killing many of the men who were operating it.  In yet another episode she had Salisbury targeted by a bowman at range and only narrowly missed him, striking and killing the man at his side.

 Even the English quipped admiringly, "Black Agnes' love-shafts go straight to the heart!".

Salisbury continued to besiege Dunbar for five months by which time things were desperate and starvation was near. Hope came when a small force from the castle on Bass Rock managed to get supplies through the naval blockade by disguising themselves as fishermen returning to port. With typical crushing mockery Agnes sent Salisbury a fresh baked loaf of bread and a bottle of fine wine.  By this time Edward's attention was elsewere and he was beginning to cast his eye at France. This new focus caused him to relocate forces in support , leaving Balliol to manage Scotland as best he could. By June 10th Salisbury was ordered to lift the siege and left in disgrace. His nemisis would go down in Scots history as Black Agnes of Dunbar.

Even hundreds of years later Agnes is recognised by many in Scotland as a true heroine and an inspirational leader. Her name and values were used several centuries later to rally support and inspiration in the name of the womens suffrage movement in the early years of the twentieth century.

She was voted in the top 100 in the millenium list of influential Scots.
Sketch of Suffragette Banner

see you later.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

John Lennon would have been How Old ???

Hullo a wee blog

A tribute to the genius of John Lennon through the genius of Peter Sellers.

One of the blogs I follow posted on the fact that today would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday. The realisation of this was quite a shock. People who have been lost are always thought of in terms of how old they were when they died and not how old they would be now. Although at the time I was never his greatest fan, I've come to appreciate him much more as I've got older and it's a fact that he was both a prodigious talent and a huge loss to world society as a musician and as a humanitarian. Who knows what he could have achieved if he hadn't died that day in 1980.

Go to 'Scottish Nature Boys' blog to listen to a lovely tribute to him and his music played by various contributors on ukulele. I know, the thought of it sounded a bit odd to me too but it's well worth a listen. This informative and well written blog is also worth a look for anyone interested in wildlife, particularly in Scotland, written as it is by a professional biologist.

see you later.

Listening to The Waterboys, 'Fisherman's Blues'

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Symbols and The Interpretation of Dreams.......

Hullo ma wee blog,

 I'm sitting at the patio table. It's a late summers day and the apple trees are occasionally twitching as sparrow squadron flits in and out to the feeders hanging there or back to their positions on the garden shed, the driveway fence or in the hedge just behind the trees. I'm reading a book and there's a glass of wine nearby, but as I often do, I'm paying attention to the comings and goings of the local wildlife. There are the usual noises;  fluttering wings, excited cheeps, the occasional argumentative bickering, when something else registers. A new noise. My ear tunes in to listen for whatever has attracted my attention and a few moments later I hear it again. I can't quite identify where it comes from and I haven't heard enough to know if it's something normal just misheard, distorted somehow as half-heard things can be sometimes.

A sparrow lands on the branch closest to me. It has a beak full of seed and bends to tap a seed against the rough bark of the tree. I hear it again. A short, high pitched 'wheep' kind of noise. I sip my wine and consider what on earth it can be when I hear it again from deeper in the tree, hidden by leaves. It comes again from yet another place, now in the other tree slightly behind me.  I read the next few lines of my book unable to properly concentrate on them, still listening and automatically channeling the possibilities. It comes again and I smile, a small smile that widens as it changes into a grin and I burst out laughing. In a second I'm laughing so hard I have to push back from the table to avoid hitting it and spilling the wine. By now I'm running out of breath and I barely manage to get some air in between uncontrollable high pitched giggles that makes me sound like I've been inhaling helium.

I get an enormous dig in the ribs and the lovely G's voice comes to me from out of the ether.

"Good grief, what are you laughing at?" 

She groans loudly.  A soft light comes on a she checks the time on her mobile phone.

 " you know what time of night it is? I have to get up in a couple of hours."

I try to explain just how funny it is when you realise you've just heard a sparrow fart, but from the reaction I get I don't seem to do it justice...........

Aw well.

see you later.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

RIP Norman Pitkin.........

Sad news today with the announcement that Sir Norman Wisdom has died at the age of 95. A fabulous entertainer and a legend of British cinema and entertainment. A true gentleman.

You made me laugh - and not because you were a fool

Say hello to Mr Grimsdale for me when you get up there......

A bad Case Of The Bends

Hullo ma wee blog,

We took breakfast on the balcony of the apartment in Jausiers every day. For the first few days of our holiday here in the Alps of Haute-Provence we used the local cheese and bread we had bought in  a small deli and artisan bakers in  nearby Barcelonnette on that first evenings walk through the streets of the small town. We'd also supplemented it on the second day with some jam bought in the local supermarket. It felt strange to be sitting on a balcony in the middle of September and feeling the first warm rays of the sun hit the bottom of the valley, feeling it warm enough to sit in comfort to eat outside. We'd left rainy Edinburgh in 13C and arrived in Marseilles in 29C. It felt good to be back in France. We feel somehow at home here, there's just something which gives us a sense of peace and makes us promise to come back again and again.

Every day we would decide where we were going to head to and set off in our hire car. No motorways for us on holiday, not that a promise like that was hard to keep with the village in such a remote valley and at such a height. The sign in the photo at the head of the post was 50 yards from the exit from the apartment onto the road. The high pass that is the Col de la Bonette was the first one that we tackled, heading off after breakfast that first day. The illuminated sign above is only one of many signs in that first few kilometres that tells any driver passing that this road, which is only open for a couple of months a year, isn't to be taken lightly. But, I like to think I'm an experienced driver - and a reasonably careful one too - and as I've driven on mountain roads many times I felt confident that I would be able to handle anything we would meet. After all, didn't I get through that tiny road that G took me up a few years ago? The proximity sensors on front and  both sides were all going off at the same time trying to get through one tight pinch point that day and, although I was smiling through gritted teeth at her beside me, we made it and laughed a bit more genuinely in the Bar a Vin in Carcassonne that night after a couple of glasses of local wine.

So, we felt ready for anything as we set off past the warning signs and the last few houses of the village with the road already beginning to rise at a pretty steep angle. I was glad that we'd gone for a more powerful car than we normally do in expectation of just such terrain as we were now driving on, glad too that the long drive from the airport had given me a chance to get properly accustomed to the Renault, especially on the narrower and twistier roads coming into the Ubaye valley. As the road began to rise up the hillside out of Jausier it began to twist too, firstly in nice looping turns that gave a clear view of how high we were getting, lovely views coming with every turn. Interesting houses in the alpine chalet style became the norm  as we got further away from the village, some with hand written signs indicating 'vente du lait' or 'vente du miele' as they offered the produce of the farms for sale. The road surface was fantastic, looking like it had been newly laid just for us and I was both impressed and feeling more confident about the journey ahead. We chatted easily as you do when seeing new things together for the first time, each of us pointing out to the other things of interest we had spotted along the road.

The landscape soon began to change from small fields to small pastures and woodland and the ever sharpening and more frequent bends showed we were climbing steadily. The early part of the road acclimatised you to the style of driving quite quickly and you soon forgot just how steep the road was as you concentrated on gear changing and keeping the engine revs up, correct acceleration out of the bends to stop the car hesitating. It was some time before I realised corners now were almost all hairpin and every straight was a slow steep climb to the next. The last village we had passed was a dilapidated looking affair with large houses roofed in rusty corrugated iron. I was a bit shocked to notice the tidy blue signs that showed that this was a bus route and offered up a silent 'please no' kind of prayer. Now there were no animals, no farms, the road surface too had become much worse and there were regular potholes that had to be negotiated. The road had narrowed significantly too and the side sometimes sheared or crumbled away into a valley below, the trees looking like they had been planted in a schoolboys model train landscape, the other other side of the road was so steep that it was to all intents a wall of grass or increasingly,  just bare rock. Conversation had dwindled and now for some time had stopped completely as we mutually held an unspoken need for me to pay attention just to the road. I sometimes would give an annoyed tug at the seat-belt which had begun to tighten, uncomfortable and restricting on me as we swung round the bends.

 For some time the only thing that we met on the road was the occasional motorbike, their German, Swiss, French or Italian riders obviously revelling in the hairpins and the lack of traffic even on a clear sunny day at this time of year. It was difficult too to keep an adequate eye on anything coming up behind, so much concentration now going on the car and road ahead and the view behind limited by the distances between bends. More than once I was caught by a motorbike suddenly appearing close behind with its headlights full on, rider waiting patiently for me to get round the bend so they could scream past in exaltation for a road made for powerful bikes. I looked at the dashboard and realised that we had been climbing for the best part of an hour, were doing only 40km an hour on a good straight and that I'd long ago lost count of the number of hairpins we had gone through. "Thank God for power steering" came to mind more than once. I could add thank God for a decent second gear too as it seemed like that was all I was now using.

Throughout the journey I'd been thoroughly enjoying the drive. It was great fun and the car handled really well even if I was questioning if we'd gone for a big enough engine. Or maybe we should have gone for a four by four? Although the road had got really quite narrow it was quiet and the couple of cars we had met had been nice small ones which we managed to get past quite easily. In fact my confidence was up and the last one I hadn't even slowed down for. At one point as we came round a corner I looked up and saw with horror that there was a huge camper van coming down the hill towards us but at that moment it was still a few bends and some distance above us. I felt pretty confident that the driver would have time to see me coming up the hill and would find a nice wide spot on the road, at a bend maybe where the road was considerably wider, and he would wait for me to come sailing past with an insouciant wave to a fellow traveller. After all, the highway code says that you should always give way to vehicles coming up a hill if there are any obstacles or difficulties. Surely the same common sense rule applies on the continent doesn't it?  I couldn't see him any more due to the twisting road so it looked as if he must have stopped. "Good stuff mate! Well done!" and "Jings am I glad about that!" were all things that went through my mind as I came round a bend to meet him head on and - of course - at one of the narrower bits of the road. Some nice kind French road worker had also chosen that exact spot to start and not complete some road repairs, having cut a nice chunk out of the road width and left it marked with a nice big sign of an exclamation mark and a 'Chausee Deformee' written boldly on a yellow metal sign that looked like it had been left in the middle of the road.

I said "Aw Bugger!!!" and put the brakes on.

We both sat and looked at each other. Him in his huge bloody four apartment on wheels and me in my wee Renault. It was obvious that he wasn't going anywhere other than forward and so I looked at the view in my rear view mirror. It looked horrible. I turned in my seat to get a better look back through the rear window. Hmm, not much better actually. It looked tiny and a bit of a chicane with a solid rock face on one side and a crumbly edge, no barrier and complete absence of anything solid at all on the other. I stuck the car in reverse and indicated that he should wait and give me a bit of space and began to edge back down the hill through the chicane towards the last hairpin which was about 50 or 60 yards away. About half way I saw another car come round the bend behind me, see the predicament, and pull into the wide bit of road that I had been heading for.

Aw Jings!!

I kept on heading back towards the latest arrival thinking he would realise that I had to get there and move back a smidgin so I could get in too, but as I got closer I could see that he was firmly staying put and was engrossed in watching progress ahead.  I wracked my brain for the French for "move over the bed a bit old chap" but failed miserably. It was at this point that I realised the camper van hadn't waited where he was but was about 10ft from my front bumper. I was in fine position to get a nice view of his DE plate. Bloody typical! Just as I was feeling a tad under pressure I realised that the road had opened up a bit and by squeezing tightly into the rock face there would just about be enough space for him to get past me, so that's what I did and pulled on the handbrake with an audible sigh of relief. The camper van driver stopped and looked at me like I had two heads, making a gesture with his hand that maybe I should just go on backwards but to be honest I'd had enough. I gave what I hoped was a Gallic shrug of indifference and indicated with my two hands to the huge space he could get past me with. He looked at me again and I again shrugged and folded my arms with a pantomime exhalation and glare at the space. As he edged past me - on the sheer drop side - he managed by about the thickness of a good coat of paint but I didn't feel too guilty. He was a bit grey though.

I bet he'll stop at the first opportunity the next time it happens.

Or get a smaller camper van...............

see you later.

Listening to Sting, 'Fields of Gold'

Friday, 1 October 2010

Chi M'in Geamhradh /Alba.

A couple of favourite Runrig songs. In Gaelic but with English translations. The first fits the time of year I think and the second still fits the political situation pretty well.......

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

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 ...