Saturday, 31 December 2011

Wishful Drinking........

Feeling philosphical: I drink, therefore I dram!

A Happy Hogmanay to one and all!

What does Hogmanay actually mean and what is the derivation of the name? Why do we Scots more than any other nation celebrate the New Year with such a passion? Why should a tall dark stranger be a welcome first foot visitor after midnight, carrying a lump of coal and a slice of black bun?

There are many theories about the derivation of the word "Hogmanay". The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was "Hoggo-nott" while the Flemish words (many have come into Scots) "hoog min dag" means "great love day". Hogmanay could also be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, Haleg monath, Holy Month, or the Gaelic, oge maidne, new morning. But the most likely source seems to be the French. "Homme est né" or "Man is born" while in France the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged was "aguillaneuf" while in Normandy presents given at that time were "hoguignetes". Take your pick!

In Scotland a similar practice to that in Normandy was recorded, rather disapprovingly, by the Church.
"It is ordinary among some Plebians in the South of Scotland, to go about from door to door upon New Year`s Eve, crying Hagmane."

Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence, 1693.

Hogmanay Traditional Celebrations
Torchlight Procession
Historians believe that we inherited the celebration from the Vikings who, coming from even further north than ourselves, paid even more attention to the passing of the shortest day. In Shetland, where the Viking influence was strongest, New Year is called Yules, from the Scandinavian word.

It may not be widely known but Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. The reason for this has its roots in the Protestant Reformation when the Kirk portrayed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast and therefore had to be banned. Many Scots had to work over Christmas and their winter solstice holiday was therefore at New Year when family and friends gathered for a party and exchange presents, especially for the children, which came to be called hogmanay.

There are traditions before midnight such as cleaning the house on 31st December (including taking out the ashes from the fire in the days when coal fires were common). There is also the superstition to clear all your debts before "the bells" at midnight.

Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns' 'For Auld Lang Syne'.  Burns claimed it was based on an earlier fragment and certainly the tune was in print over 80 years before he published his version in 1788.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

An integral part of the Hogmanay partying, which continues very much today, is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality and of course a kiss to wish everyone a Guid New Year. The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.

"First footing" (that is, the "first foot" in the house after midnight) is still common in Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house, the first foot should be male, dark (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble) and should bring symbolic coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky. These days, however, whisky and perhaps shortbread are the only items still prevalent (and available).

"Handselling" was the custom of gift giving on the first Monday of the New Year but this has died out.

Torch and Bonfire Ceremonies
Torchlight ProcessionThe magical Firework display and torchlight procession in Edinburgh - and throughout many cities in Scotland - is reminiscent of the ancient custom at Scottish Hogmanay pagan parties hundreds of years ago.

The traditional New Year ceremony of yesteryear would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village being hit by sticks. The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires, rolling blazing tar barrels down the hill and tossing torches. Animal hide was also wrapped around sticks and ignited which produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective to ward off evil spirits.

The smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.

Some of these customs do continue, especially in the small, older communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland where tradition, along with language and dialect are kept alive and well. On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, the young boys form themselves into opposing bands, the leader of each wears a sheep skin, while a member carries a sack. The bands move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme. On being invited inside, the leader walks clockwise around the fire, while everyone hits the skin with sticks. The boys would be given some bannocks - fruit buns - for their sack before moving on to the next house.

One of the most spectacular Fire ceremonies takes place in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen on the North East coast. Giant fireballs, weighing up to 20 pounds are lit and swung around on five feet long metal poles, requiring 60 men to carry them as they march up and down the High Street. The origin of the pre-Christian custom is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice of late December with the fireballs signifying the power of the sun, to purify the world by consuming evil spirits.

And it is worth remembering that January 2nd is a holiday in Scotland as well as the first day of the year - to give us all time to recover from a week of merry-making and celebration, all part of Scotland's fascinating cultural legacy of ancient customs and traditions surrounding the pagan festival of Hogmanay.

All the best for 2012

info from;

Think and drive - or else!


Scottish Wonderings

Think about it.......

Technically,  every true Scotsman was originally a Scotch egg..........

see you later.

listening to:

Friday, 30 December 2011

Unusual wonderings.

Blind people wear sunglasses.

I wonder why deaf people don't wear ear-muffs??????


see you later.

Listening to:


Shame about the colour though

Was Santa good to you? He was to me!

Amongst the lots of goodies I received was a hands-free headset like these. This cracking bit of kit allows me to do lots of things with the laptop while wandering around the house. I can use the voice recognition system to control the laptop operation, create letters, post blogs, listen to music and the BBC I-player etc from almost anywhere in the house. So, I can amble through to the kitchen and make myself a coffee without missing any of my favourite music. One of the downsides is that now I wear the headphones almost all the time and there have been times when my lovely G has been calling to me not realising that I have the headphones on and of course I haven't heard a word she said. Sorry – one of the best things about it is that now I wear headphones almost all the time, if my lovely G is looking for me to give me jobs to do etc, I can’t hear a word of what she's saying. Blooming marvellous!

One of the other useful features is that the headphones work even in the smallest room in the house. Yes guys – technological advancement now means I can go to the loo and be perfectly cocooned while occupied listening to my favourite stand-up comedy routines or youtube music at the same time. Add a book or newspaper and I can be gone for ages. 

Technology is all about making life better for us and as far as I'm concerned these little beauties are a major step forward. Even better, as an extra bonus, the even keep your ears warm. Must have been developed by a guy!

And now you'll have to excuse me. I've just picked up my newspaper and have an appointment to attend to in the smallest room. Don't wait around for me – I may be gone some time………….

Isn't technology wonderful!

See you later.

Listening to:

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Internet Wonderings

I wonder if you can order stuff from Amazon if you're actually IN the Amazon?

See you later.

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Christmas tale.

An Uncle, who was a baker, drowned at Christmastime. In a very unfortunate accident, he fell into the bowl of Christmas pudding mix. He would have been ok because he was a good swimmer but he didn’t realise that just under the surface there were some very strong currants..........

see you later.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

The Christmas Sunday Post

The silhouettes of leafless trees,
Are etched against the sky,
With branches spread like outstretched arms,
Forever reaching high.
The ebony of bark and bough,
Is bathed in pearly light,
As silver frost like tinseled thread,
Is glistening clear and bright.

It seemed as if a Winter sprite,
All dressed in frozen rime,
Has woven with an icy hand,
An intricate design.
By scattering his fairy dust,
On every naked tree,
Has clothed each branch and bough and twig,
In jeweled embroidery.

'Winter Sprite'
By Kathleen Gillum.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas folks..

Just a line to wish you all a peaceful, happy and {relatively} healthy time this Christmas. While I'm not overly religious this is a Christian celebration so here is a favourite version of a well known Christmas song. While the music is beautiful the video is well cheesy, so sorry about that.

I See Winter In The Wind..............

Chi mi'n geamhradh 'as a' ghaoith
Chaneil an sheachd' fada bhuainn
Sgothan dorch' 's na craobhan ruisgt
Tha an oidhche nochd fuar

I see Winter in the wind,
The snow is not far from us.
Dark clouds and the trees are losing leaf.
The night is cold.

Shaoilean fhein gur ann an de
Bha teas an t-samhraidh 'gar leaghadh
Fad an fheasgair air an Dun
'S tu laighe leisg ri mo thaobh

So often it feels like it was only yesterday,
The Summer heat melted us,
All evening long out on the dun,
And you lying lazy by my side.

S iomadh oidch' a rinn sinn suiridhe
'S iomadh oidhch' a rinn sinn gair
'S ionadh oidhch' a bhithinn a'smuaintinn
Gum bitheadh tu comhla ruim gu brath

Many nights we loved,
Many nights we laughed,
Many nights I thought,
That you would have stayed forever

Chan fhan a' ghrian chan fhan a' fad na bliadhna
Cha sheas an uair mar a tha i
Dh'fhalbh thusa gu'n a'cheo
'S dh'fhag thu mi le mo geamhradh

But the sun never shines all the year,
and time will not stay as it once was.
You left me for the city,
Leaving me to my winter.

'S iomadh oidch' a rinn sinn suiridhe
'S iomadh oidhch' a rinn sinn gair
'S ionadh oidhch' a bhithinn a'smuaintinn
Gum bitheadh tu comhla ruim gu brath

Gum bitheadh tu comhla ruim gu brath

Gum bitheadh tu comhla ruim gu brath

Many nights we loved,
Many nights we laughed,
Many nights I thought,
That you would have stayed forever

Photo - The Tree. By Alistair.

Listen to it here

Winter Wondering

I wonder what colour a Smurf goes if you leave him outside in the snow?

See you later.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Driving Home For Christmas.

I can't help thinking how much I love driving a newly serviced car as I turn out of the garage forecourt and onto the main road. The engine is silky smooth and purrs quietly as the accelerator is pressed and the car surges eagerly forward and picks up speed. The steering feels tighter too, altogether more satisfying, comfortable and more responsive to my hand on the wheel. This year, for the first time, I've invested in a full set of winter tyres – a direct result of my experiences in last year's horrific winter driving. The expense is something I could well do without so close to Christmas, especially the combination of tyres and service, but somehow that thought is far from my mind as I approach the first roundabout and appreciate the better grip on the cold roads surface. Confidence plays a large part in my enjoyment of winter driving, realistic confidence in my own abilities and confidence in whatever I am driving. The car feels in tiptop condition and that breeds confidence. I can't help but smile at the feeling. 

Stopped at the roundabout I wait for the traffic to pass by and my eyes are drawn to the scene across the road and fields in front of me where the slope of the escarpment overlooking Dunbar and the surrounding area rises steeply from the flat farmland. I follow the slope upwards in the late afternoon light, appreciating a beautiful but subtle green that’s somehow clear yet barely showing in the fading light. On the crest of the hill there is a line of evenly spaced, low trees silhouetted perfectly against the petrol blue sky that you sometimes get here in the earliest part of an encroaching winter evening. The sky is pristine in its clarity and my eyes continue to be drawn upwards through the imperceptible changes to the inky blue that shows at high altitude - this evening seemingly lit from behind. The view is breathtaking in its simplicity and heart stopping in its purity and it captures my attention for a long moment where thankfully no other cars come up behind me. To set the scene off there is one single star hanging an inch above the tree line. I look left to right across my view but there is nothing else in this perfect sky.

I smile again as I put the car into gear and move off, taking the first left and the road to the village. The scene I've been looking at moves to my right shoulder and I glance again thinking that it would be perfect on a card.

Somehow, it suddenly feels like Christmas.

 See you later.

Away in A Manger

The Reindeer Song

More from the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre I'm afraid...........

and still more to come over the next few days.

Be Warned!

Pantomime Wonderings

I wonder what Captain Hook was called before that crocodile bit his hand off????

see you later.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Man Rules

We've always heard ” the rules ” from the female side.
Now here are the rules from the male {AKA the right} side

Please note.. they are all numbered 1 ON PURPOSE!

1.We are NOT mind readers.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down.
   We need it up, you need it down.
   You don’t hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sport is like the full moon or the changing of the tides.
 Let it be.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Subtle hints don't work!
Strong hints don't work!
Obvious hints don't work!

Just say it simply, clearly and preferably more than once!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do.
Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.
In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 Days.

1. If you think you’re fat, don’t ask. If you ask a question you don’t want an answer to, you'll get an answer you don’t want to hear.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. Either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during the adverts on TV.

1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. Men see in only 16 colours.
Peach is a fruit, not a colour. Pumpkin is also a fruit. I have no idea what colours mauve/russet or antique linen are. Indigo is a blogger pal.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say “nothing,” We will act like nothing’s wrong.
We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine.. Really

1. Don’t ask us what we’re thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football, politics or current affairs.'

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

Thank you for reading this.
Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but  that's ok -  It’s like camping.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Sunday Post

Sunset over the house

Don't matter if the road is long
Don't matter if it's steep
Don't matter if the moon is gone
And the darkness is complete
Don't matter if we lose our way
It's written that we'll meet
At least, that's what I heard you say
A thousand kisses deep

I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat
You see, I'm just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second hand physique
With all he is and all he was
A thousand kisses deep

Don't matter if you're rich and strong
Don't matter if you're weak
Don't matter if you write a song
The nightingales repeat
Don't matter if it's nine to five
Or timeless and unique
You ditch your life to stay alive
A thousand kisses deep

The ponies run
The girls are young
The odds are there to beat
You win a while, and then it's done
Your little winning streak
And summon now to deal with your invincible defeat
You live your life as if it's real
A thousand kisses deep

I hear their voices in the wine
That sometimes did me seek
The band is playing Auld Lang Syne
But the heart will not retreat
There's no forsaking what you love
No existential leap
As witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep

Leonard Cohen

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Sunday Post

Reach me down my Tycho Brahe,
I would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.
Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, 'tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.
But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men's fellowship and smiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles!
You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant's fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

The Old Astronomer to His Pupil
By Sarah Williams

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Sunday post

Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

'Jenny Kissed Me.'
By Leigh Hunt.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Sunday Post.

The Spell Chequer.

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
It's letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Martha Snow.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Dear Santa......

Dear Santa,

Are you the good guy we think you are?

 Sure, Christmas is great and all that - but are you really the benevolent character we all take you for? You certainly have some incredible housebreaking skills and all this do-goodery is a great cover story for some good old-fashioned burglary or a multitude of other nefarious activities. Your P.R. skills are also certainly up there with the best considering we spend so much time and effort these days telling our children to avoid strangers except in safe environments like school. Heck we’ve even turned our schools into virtual mini-prisons to keep out unsafe adults – an example of creating anxiety in our kids where there is almost no risk - yet we happily tell them that you will come into their bedrooms at night and leave them presents – if they’ve been good. We even tell them not to be afraid if they wake up hearing someone in their room and that they should just pretend to be asleep and not to look at you { that’ll work very heavily in your favour in any potential ID parade you clever old rascal }

And that disguise? Genius! You’ve made a disguise out of the most identifiable and high visibility clothing you could possibly wear, making sure that even CCTV Camera’s won’t be able to pick out any identifying personal features. With all that bulky clothing you could be anything from the most obese burglar in history to a complete anorexic with access to industrial quantities of padding. You’re supposed to be old but you might not be – you certainly aren’t as old as the stories suggest. What an incredible feat! Way to go sunshine!

There are some weak points in your strategy though, which I’m sure you must be aware of; all those mince pies and sherry have to slow you down a bit { and make me veer towards ‘the most obese burglar in history’ theory } and the getaway vehicle not only isn’t the fastest option you could have come up with but is also stand out conspicuous in all but the most rural areas. Despite this, probably due to the laxity of our police and the ineptitude of air traffic control staff over the holiday period, you’ve managed consistently to evade detection. Yes we have all seen the photos of Santa being given a parking ticket or the videos on ‘Youtube’ but these aren’t you are they? This is yet another genius stroke in the master-plan. You’ve generated – spawned even – a whole slew of impersonators with which to confuse and convince society that it’s all a fantasy. Absolute bloomin’ genius mate. Well done indeed.

Yes, you’ve created a cover story perfect for the most gullible or sentimental elements of our society, built it up over a significant period of time { clearly a master of planning and organising } and woven it around the most fantastical garb that hides you in plain sight. Your transport appears ridiculous but evades the most elaborate detection systems modern technology can produce. You telegraph the time of your crime yet create a perfect alibi by ensuring multitudes of lookalikes may be culpable – some of them who don’t even get dressed up because they’re in their own homes – and at the appointed hour you do your stuff and apparently disasppear like you’ve just gone up the chimney.

Or is the there an even more elusive side to the story? Are you simply an extra savvy entrepreneur who's moved to the Arctic Circle because of tax breaks, lower environmental standards and an abundance of cheap elf labour?

Whatever the truth I'm still waiting for the flamethrower I've been asking for for the last three years. This year Santa, please – get your act in order. There are so many places I'm planning to visit with my new toy.

See you later.

Listening to:

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Fair and Balanced View.

An essential fair and balanced view

I'm becoming more than a little unhappy with the BBC. It seems more and more obvious lately that the powers that be within what is supposedly an independent, objective news organisation are aligning themselves more and more closely to the established government line, to the detriment of fair and balanced reporting.

For several months I have been annoyed by the political discussion show "Question Time" chaired by David Dimbleby. The panels are increasingly weighted on the side of government argument with one Cabinet minister, one Tory MP, one LibDem MP and as often as not a celebrity supporter of Conservative policy with a token Labour voice or independent panellist. On top of that I feel that Mr Dimbleby's chairing leaves much to be desired when it comes to objectivity and the ability to provide a fair and open discussion. Often he will question the antiestablishment voice on the panel again and again in supposed "clarification" when he rarely does this to other panel members and he's much more likely to interrupt any non-government speaker or curtail the time allotted to them to answer a question. I've also found him irritatingly dismissive of clear and sensible questions from the audience pertinent to the discussion at hand for no explicable reason. He also allows Tory and Lib-Dem {or is that Con-Dem} to veer off piste, usually prefaced by the "Of course, we inherited this terrible position from the previous govt who failed to......" or "What the previous govt failed to do was ...."  before waffling on about some twaddle which clearly the party want on the agenda but certainly isn't a direct answer to any question put to the panel. And OK, to be fair ALL politicians are prone to this nonsense - but it's the role of a good chairman to keep the panellists in line and stop this infuriating and insulting rubbish out of it. The question is usually "What are you going to do about" something or "Do you feel this is the right way to deal with" something. When asked this, all we want to know is what you are doing about it and why - not what the other party have failed to do or what they have done that's "made things so very much worse than they first appeared". To be honest if you didn't know exactly what was going on then your a bloody poor opposition - and if you couldn't find these things out then you can bet your doing just as much you want to keep hidden too.

 I'm beginning to wonder why I watch the damned program.

Even the main evening news on BBC1 the other evening contained what I consider to be biased reporting and subliminal messages elevating the position of the government both in national and international issues regardless of other relevant points of view. For example; a news item showed the three main party leaders visiting a factory together in support of a jobs initiative. The first shot showed the three leaders entering the factory floor together while a voice-over explained that David Cameron and the other two party leaders had visited the factory. The narrative continued explaining that "Mr Cameron" was leading an initiative to improve jobs and apprenticeships in British industry. The next 3 min went to great lengths to explain "Mr Cameron's" visit and each shot showed only the Prime Minister and not any of the other party leaders. David Cameron was heard to ask questions of workers on the shopfloor and was shown posed in statesmanlike poses amongst the workers as he listened attentively to them. The voice-over continually referred to him as Mr Cameron, something I don't remember happening before when the previous prime minister was referred to as "Gordon Brown" or simply "the Prime Minister". It seemed obvious to me that the whole tone of the article was designed to increase David Cameron's stature in the public eye and though he was visiting with the other party leaders in this instance, to focus on him as being the only relevant person.

Almost the next item in the news was about "Mr Cameron's" position on the euro financial crisis. As the newsreader read the article a photograph was displayed behind her – a compilation of two images – one of Angela Merkel the German Chancellor, the other of the Prime Minister, but in this instance these head and shoulder portraits had been manipulated so that her figure appeared slightly below that of Mr Cameron and his arm appeared to be wagging a finger at her. It seemed to me that this was designed to give the impression that he was on the higher moral ground and was reprovingly warning her off. Interestingly, when you looked closely at the picture it was clear that this hand was in fact not David Cameron's but hers.

It may be a sign of modern times or it may just be a sign that I'm a grumpy old so-and-so but I'm really disappointed when at almost every news program I can pick out something that is being emphasised in a particular direction with no balancing point of view. I'm no intellectual but I'm no idiot either and I resent being treated in a manner that offends my sense of justice and appears to assume that I haven't the ability to smell bullshit when it's propped directly beneath my nose.

Okay – rant over.

See you later.

Listening to:

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Sunday Post

Cockburnspath, Scottish Borders


I'm waiting for the moment
when the train crosses the border
and home creeps closer
at seventy miles an hour.

I dismissed the last four days
and their friendly strangers
into the past
that grows bigger every minute.

The train sounds urgent as I am,
it says home and home and home.
I light a cigarette
and sit smiling in the corner.

Scotland, I rush towards you
into my future that,
every minute,
grows smaller and smaller.

 Norman MacCaig.
January 1989.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day - A Poem for the Boys

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - an Excellent Film

A poem for Remembrance Day.


Lie in the dark and listen,
It's clear tonight so they're flying high
Hundreds of them, thousands perhaps,
Riding the icy, moonlight sky.
Men, materials, bombs and maps
Altimeters and guns and charts
Coffee, sandwiches, fleece-lined boots
Bones and muscles and minds and hearts
English saplings with English roots
Deep in the earth they've left below
Lie in the dark and let them go
Lie in the dark and listen.
Lie in the dark and listen

They're going over in waves and waves
High above villages, hills and streams
Country churches and little graves
And little citizen's worried dreams.
Very soon they'll have reached the sea
And far below them will lie the bays
And coves and sands where they used to be
Taken for summer holidays.
Lie in the dark and let them go
Lie in the dark and listen.

Lie in the dark and listen
City magnates and steel contractors,
Factory workers and politicians
Soft hysterical little actors

Ballet dancers, 'reserved' musicians,
Safe in your warm civilian beds
Count your profits and count your sheep
Life is flying above your heads
Just turn over and try to sleep.
Lie in the dark and let them go
Theirs is a world you'll never know
Lie in the dark and listen.

In loving memory.
Sam Robertson  - Bomber Command, 1944-1945
Thomas Hughes - Royal Flying Corps France, 1914 -1918
Sam Robertson  - Royal Scots Fusiliers, Gallipoli and Ypres 1914 -1918

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Old Dogs. New Tricks

Having worked for a company for 32 years I was made redundant in 2009. Hurt and angry at the time I proved they failed to fairly apply company selection procedures during the process and won damages from them. At the time I was confident about the future. We had good insurance cover to protect us financially and I had many years of experience working for one of the UK's most respected companies in an area which was both high pressured and had many transferable applications for the skills I used. Things were getting tough in the job market but I was convinced I would be back in a job in a fairly short time. I had bags of experience, bags of drive and lots of technical skills. I wanted to work. I wasn't one of those workshy wasters who would live off benefits. The next few months carefully removed all of my conceits. Not only didn't I get a job, I didn't get any interviews either despite applying for hundreds of jobs. 

The introduction to benefits through jobseekers allowance and the joys of JobCentre plus and its institutional bureaucracy, while giving me the occasional chance to post a rant or make fun of the ludicrous side of the situation, soon took its toll of my good humour and tolerance. The lack of any improvement in my situation and the absence of any hint of potential jobs soon began to erode my self-confidence. The absence of interviews or indeed responses to applications across that winter though made me even more determined. Surely something would come my way?

For the last few years of my employment I had volunteered in the children's hearing system and my employer had been given an award for their support of my participation. I found this role really rewarding and realised that ideally I wanted to take my career away from big business towards this direction but unfortunately, I also realised that financially I couldn't afford to do this because of the commitments of mortgage and modern life. Now, with a redundancy package and solid insurance protection behind me, I wanted to make that move so much of my efforts went in that direction.. Despite my best efforts this continued to bear no fruit so I was forced to combine job applications back into my previous employment arena. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of applications elicited no response, not even the acknowledgement that they had been received. Those who did respond listed lack of formal qualifications, failure to meet specific criteria and worryingly, lack of recent employment history. This final comment more than any other caused me some real despair and certainly many sleepless nights. Despite that, I rewrote and rewrote my CV numerous times, tailored each application to the specifics of the job advert and continued hammering home application after application, sometimes eight or 10 a day, week after week, month after month.

When I started applying for jobs I looked for salaries around the earnings I'd been making. By the end of the year I'd reduced my expectations by 20%. As time went on and more and more applications disappeared into the void those expectations reduced and reduced 25%, 30%, 40% and finally 50% but still there was no sign of any takers.

Finally, a week ago I had an interview. This, in the area of social services that I so desperately wanted to get into, was for part-time work, but by this time all insurance cover had ended and I have never been entitled to any financial benefits beyond 26 weeks of unemployment benefit long since ended. The interview seemed to go well but as is the way with these things, you can never tell.

Last night, I got a phone call from my interviewer offering me a job. Not just the part-time job had applied for, but a full-time job in recognition that I have the kind of potential they are looking for. I was stunned, in fact I still am. Finally, someone other than family and friends, believes in me. Two bloody years of Purgatory but finally somebody believes in me.

At last. 

Once all the checks have been done to allow me to work with vulnerable groups and once my references have been received I will be back in the land of the working and finally my working life will be moving in the direction and  in the kind of area I want. I will be working with people suffering from autistic spectrum disorders.

Time for this old dog to learn some new tricks!

See you later.

Listening to.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Sunday Post.

Wanting to go,
all the leaves want to go
though they have achieved
their kingly robes.

Weary of colours,
they think of black earth,
they think of
white snow.

 Stealthily, delicately
as a safe breaker
they unlock themselves
from branches.

And from their Royal Towers
they sift silently down
to become part of
the proletariat of mud.

Norman MacCaig.
September 1982

photo: Alet Les Baines, Languedoc, France by Alistair.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Sunday Post.


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

by William Henry Davies

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Sunday post

See these hands folded now,
Hands that wrought for so many,
Tended and tidied a family,
Soothed them and calmed them,
Fed, clothed and reared them
Almost on nothing.

See these hands resting
That in the old hard days
Picked blackberries for pennies
And gathered dry sticks in bundles,
In dim March days I scarcely remember
When beech woods were a mystery
And fox cubs played among daffodils.

See these hands resting,
That raked hay in the fields
Of a summer coloured with butterflies,
That brought tea and sandwiches
To tired men at harvest,
And scattered wheat and Argentinian maize
To hungry hens.

See these hands, hands never still,
Hands they have folded now,
Hands that are resting,
That will never be active again,
Long though I kneel for their blessing.

Frank Mansell.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.

I wonder what she was thinking?

It's nice when visitors come to stay. Sometimes in fact, it's brilliant!

Passports please!

We recently had our Swiss niece Julia come to stay. While we were on holiday in Switzerland during the summer we visited the lovely G’s cousins and while there 12-year-old Julia had asked if she could come to stay with us in her October holidays. We said it would be fine as long as her parents were happy and they replied that they would be quite relaxed about it as long as Julia realised that for the first time she would be travelling completely on her own, which is no small thing when taking an international flight from a major airport. Her parents were confident that arrangements could be made to ensure that Julia could be escorted and kept watch over during the journey to make sure that she was okay, if we could make sure that she was met off the plane in Edinburgh.

Unusual sheds, Lindisfarne.

Over the following weeks flights were investigated and arrangements made to make sure everyone was happy and, after what seemed like no time at all, the time arrived for Julia's visit. The lovely G and I had just returned from holiday in France the day before and luckily the forecast weather for the week of Julia stay looked promising for the most part. Numerous texts flew back and forwards between us and Switzerland making sure that we knew of Julia's progress with her parents to the airport, on to the departure gates, then onto the flight and that the flight had departed on time. We arrived at the airport in good time and make sure that the lovely G was in place to meet her with all the proper required documentation to ensure that the airline would relinquish their charge into her hands. This done, Julia was free to enjoy her holiday with us.

What goes up must come down and get wet feet

Julia had been to the house before, on holiday with her parents and her older brother couple of years ago and had loved being in a place so different from her home. That holiday introduced Julia to the nearby beaches, coves and coastline of East Lothian, something that was entirely new to a wee girl from a completely landlocked European country. Julia had probably never seen the sea before, only beautiful Swiss lakes. She was amazed to look out to sea and not see land on the far shore, in fact she was amazed not to see a shore at all. Much of the hot summer fortnight spent with us back then was spent on beaches and in particular on rocky shorelines investigating rock pools at low tide or watching breakers crash down onto the shore in front of them. These things, ordinary to us, completely fascinated Julia and she soon amassed a collection of shell's and stones as well was the odd empty crab shell or claw which were carefully packed to be taken home as treasured possessions.


Two years later Julia was just as excited at the prospect of spending time by the sea. As young girls do, she had prepared an itinerary for her holiday which covered almost all the available time with things she hoped to do. Many of those meant being by the water – not necessarily the best place to be in Scotland in October. Luckily for Julia (and for us) the forecast good weather came as scheduled and even managed to crank up the temperature a notch or two above expectations. This gave us the opportunity to spend lots of time with Julia outside doing the things she hoped to do, as well as gave us the chance to do things she hadn't thought of and show her places she hadn't been before. There was plenty of time to indulge her fascination with rock pools, investigating seaweed draped corners and carefully turning over stones to investigate the wildlife hiding underneath. Julia and I spent hours on the nearby coast scrambling across rocky shorelines in the hunt for the perfect pool as we collected and examined shrimps, hermit crabs, starfish and all the other creatures that can be found on the local coastline. As I trundled across seaweed draped rocks, slipping and sliding at almost every step, she skipped like an elf sure-footedly across wet rocks and water filled channels, fearless and unaware in her excitement. More than once I'd to call her back closer to me so that I felt more in control, or to remind her of how quickly incoming tides can come in and the dangers of being left stranded on rocks, especially when accompanied only by an overweight middle-aged man, no matter how proud that same man may be of his junior Lifesavers badge earned 40 years ago in a lovely, heated indoor swimming pool.

......... and wildlife

Julia's gone back home now. A week goes very quickly.. If I was a curmudgeon I could mutter on about how nice it is now to be able to get into the bathroom when I want, to have a shower without checking where our guest is, or to be able to walk around the house without switching off lights as I go, but I won't because those things are unimportant. I miss her smiles and the dozen grateful hugs I received across each day of her holiday. I miss her frantic energy and her enthusiasm. But - I don't miss the responsibilty of being a parent - no matter how temporary it's been.

To busy to pose for photo's

Sweetheart! Should we take her to the doctor??

It's good to have visitors. Sometimes in fact, it's brilliant!

Thanks Julia.

see you later.

Listening to

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Sunday Post


 She was a small dog, neat and fluid –
even her conversation was tiny:
she greeted you with a bow, never a bow-wow.

Her sons stood monumentally over her
but did what she told them. Each grew grizzled
till it seemed he was his own mother's grandfather.

Once, gathering sheep on a showery day,
I remarked how dry she was. Pollochan said, ‘Ah,
it would take a very accurate drop to hit Lassie.’

She sailed in the dingy like a proper sea dog.
Where’s a burn? – She's first on the other side.
She flowed through fences like a piece of black wind

But suddenly she was old and sick and crippled....
I grieved for Pollochan when he took her a stroll
and put his gun to the back of her head.

Norman MacCaig
January 1974

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Gentlemen Take Polaroids?

Early Morn, Villa 'Les Rosiers', Aude, Languedoc.

{Post title is a vague reference to a track by 'Japan' in case you're trying to make a connection.}

Well, that's the final holiday of the year over and the sad return to cold, damp, rainy Scotland happened on Sunday afternoon. We had a great week of good weather in the Languedoc, with temperatures in the high twenties and low thirties each day apart from the last couple before we flew back. In some ways this actually helped us prepare for coming back to the weather that we heard was covering Scotland in rain and windy conditions.

It was great to be back in the Languedoc again. It's an area we've been to a couple of times now and always felt completely at home there, so much so that we have looked at buying a house in the area (should the finances ever allow) at sometime in the future. For now though we have to make do with renting a holiday home, which this time was in the village of Trauss, just to the north of Carcassonne. The house is owned by a British couple, one of two gites attached to their own house, which they bought when they moved to live in France permanently four years ago. {lucky people}

The house was lovely. A typically French affair with shuttered windows, open beams and exposed stone walls, well kitted out with all mod cons and comfortable furniture. Having a nice pool was a definite bonus, despite advice that it would probably be too cold to go swimming as the temperatures now were a lot cooler than the summer temperatures of a few weeks ago. Of course with temperatures at 30 degrees, hotter than the normal Scottish summer, that advice was largely ignored and I was often grateful to have a cooling dip after a long day out on a hot day, especially if that day had involved a long drive or hoof up a mountain to explore a castle or two.


Distant Queribus

We spent our time returning to old haunts, exploring new ones and finding those wonderful, unexpectedly amazing restaurants you sometimes find in the farthest corner of the smallest village. We had some amazing meals at bargain prices and certainly didn't lose any weight while we were there, despite doing plenty of walking. We walked through picturesque villages, drove mountain roads covered in fallen chestnuts whose spiny shells carpeted the road as far as you could see. We were amazed by the incredible colours of autumn that were beginning to come to the fore despite the heat and were mesmerised throughout one unforgettable drive through the montaigne noir which lay close behind the village we were living in.


Alet les Bains

We spent time in the World Heritage site of Carcassonne old city with its incredible mediaeval walls and soaring towers, glad that the crush of summer tourists had gone leaving space for everyone and time to take photographs undisturbed. We spent the final night of our holiday in a hotel in the old city and I had the amazing buzz of being able to drive through the narrowest streets to get to our hotel at six p.m. when the curfew on cars was lifted, something I've repeated again in the early hours of Sunday morning when we left to go to the airport. An absolutely unforgettable experience.

One of the entrances to La Citie, Carcassonne.

There's always a cat!

or two!

Although the week didn't seem to go too quickly it was over far too soon and it did rekindle our love affair with the area and make us determined to come back more regularly in the future, to explore the area even more thoroughly and perhaps to look further afield at some of the other areas around the Languedoc too.

Cloudy day, Rennes le Chateau 

La Tour Magdala

See you later.

Listening to.

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 ...