Showing posts from August, 2011

If I was illiterate..........

I really would judge a book by it's cover!


Aye, ok.


It's Got To Be Purr-fect

Hullo ma wee blog,

It's late.

I'm cold and I’m tired. This isn’t surprising since it’s silly o’clock in the morning and the house has been quiet for hours, soon after My Lovely G had come to kiss me goodnight, yawn and make her way upstairs to bed, taking time to perform her nightly ablutions before switching off the lights in the hall and closing the bedroom door, leaving me to follow on behind when I feel I'm tired enough to make sleep a possibility. In the past weeks I've tried every combination and convolution of routine in trying to find a way to get a decent night's sleep. Despite this, I've not found a consistent solution to the problem. Eventually, to avoid waking my lovely G with my constant tossing and turning, I've resorted to staying up until tiredness hits me. Sometimes, that's four a.m. Tonight it's a little better.

Several hours have passed since G went upstairs and eventually weariness has begun to set in making me think that perhaps …

For You dbs.......

Sometimes - you get an impression of someone.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Seems like blogger pal dbs has a problem. He's got too many apples and is struggling to know what to do with them. While this may not solve the problem entirely, I hope it goes some way to making the solution that more enjoyable. If I have you sussed out properly - and I think I do, this may make quite a dent in the problem.


This farmhouse pastry method was taught to me by my wifes's Aunt {and Godmother} in Switzerland who uses it to make the most incredibly delicious tarts {called 'dunne' doon-eh} which we love. There's no need for any of the ingredients to be chilled or to go into the fridge at any time and the speed of making the pastry is breathtaking for a completely hand-made pastry which is used raw without any need for baking 'blind'. While it's ideal for these little tarts, giving a really crisp thin pastry shell for them, I wouldn't use it for tarts wher…

Death of a Prince – Bonnie Prince Charlie

On the south bank of the River Arno in Florence, on a quiet corner of the Via Mazetta in the Piazza Santo Spirito stands the Palazzo Guadagni. This sixteenth century building is lost amongst Florence's incredible Renaissance architecture and most tourists generally pass it by. If like me you're fascinated by Scots history, it's worth paying attention to.  Behind these thick walls and huge wooden doors far from home the Jacobite dream finally ended. Here, Charles Edward Stuart fought and lost his last battles to be recognised as King of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. Here too took place a squalid, violent and chaotic marriage with his beautiful and vivacious young wife, Louise de Stolberg.

The marriage of Charles Stuart and Louise was a disaster right from the start. He married for a male heir she never produced; she for a kingdom he would never deliver. He was arrogant and authoritarian with an unshakeable belief in his right to the throne of Britain: she was vivac…

The Sunday Post

The way it goes.
Reality isn't what it used to be,
I mutter gloomily
when I feel like Cortes on his peak in Darien
and then remember it wasn't Cortes at all
and feel more like him than ever.

Norman McCaig.
January 1979

One day...

Hullo ma wee blog,

My Lovely G and I went to the cinema the other day. We went to see ‘One Day’, the film based on the book by David Nichols. We saw him at last year's Edinburgh Book Festival talking about this book which he had just completed and on the back of enjoying the evening we both read the book. I thought the book was really good. I thought the idea of using one repeating day the across some two decades to catalogue and tell the story of the relationship between a boy and a girl/ a man and a woman was a unique idea.
The book is partially set in Edinburgh, where the two main characters meet during the University time and then follows on elsewhere across the years and a relationship where they are emotionally never too far apart but never quite together in one of those familiar tales where teenage angst develops into adult confusion, longing and the fear of having let something incredible slip away as you settle for an uncomfortable friendship rather than risk losing someo…

Courage beyond fear.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Sometimes things come unbidden to mind. Sometimes you've no idea what triggers memories and sometimes you know absolutely what the trigger is and yet it's not something you have any control over. For instance, I've written a lot about my Dad in the course of this blog, but even then you of course have hardly scratched the surface, because life's like that; it's complicated. I've written extensively about his time in the RAF during the Second World War where he served as tail gunner in Lancaster bombers. He was merely a tiny part of something enormous and yet it's interesting to realise that there are things out there, often much bigger things that somehow make you remember tiny details.

 Research for the 153 Squadron postings piqued my interest in the Second World War in general and RAF bomber command in particular. Nowadays, I watch a number of programs relating to World War II in the air. Some of them are good, some not so good, but of…


Hullo ma wee blog,
On October the fourteenth 1964, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, was deposed by his rivals in the Soviet central committee. When his successor Leonid Brezhnev took over he found on the desk in his office a hand-written note and two sealed envelopes from the defeated predecessor. The note said, "Keep these letters safe and when things go wrong and you don't know what to do next, open the first letter. The next time things go wrong and there is no escape from disaster open the second letter." 
About a year into his new office the situation was precarious and Brezhnev was on the brink of political defeat. Having tried everything he knew and his advisers being unable to come up with any kind of solution, he was sitting at his desk when he remembered the note and letters from Khrushchev. In desperation he rifled through the drawers of the desk until he found the note. He re-read the note and tore open envelope one.

Inside was written two words…

Annie's Song.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Don't tell my lovely G, but I may have feelings for another woman. Don't worry, it's not what you might think, but I have to confess I do love Annie Lennox.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been suffering from terrible insomnia.  During my night time sojourns to the internet I've spent a lot of time listening to music on the laptop while I've either been reading or checking out the latest from the blogs I follow.

During that time I have rekindled my love affair with Annie Lennox, rather – with her voice. I've always loved the quality of her voice, which I feel has a rare perfection. I thought she had tremendous range and clarity and also I thoroughly enjoyed most of the music she was making at any time. She is a great singer/song-writer who can create some beautiful, intelligent lyrics. Oddly, for someone like me who loves live music and has been to numerous concerts over the years she's one performer I have never seen. She's ofte…

The Sunday Post

{One of a series written in memoriam for his friend A K MacLeod. It follows on from last weeks Sunday Post}

Highland Funeral.

Over the dead man's house, over his landscape,
the frozen air was a scrawny psalm
I believed in, because it was pagan
as he was.

Into it the ministers voice
spread the pollution of bad beliefs.
The sanctimonious voice dwindled away
over the boring, beautiful sea.

The sea was boring, as grief is,
but beautiful, as grief is not.
Through beliefs dark ugliness I saw that beauty
because he would have.

And that darkened the ugliness... Can the dead
help? I say so. Because, a year later,
that sanctimonious voice is silent and the pagan
landscape is sacred in a new way.

Norman MacCaig
January 1977


Massed Bands.
Hullo ma wee blog,

Last night we went to see the Edinburgh Tattoo. This is one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Festival and is - I am reliably informed by My Lovely G - the worlds top tourist attraction and we love the festival in all its guises. Why not? And after all Edinburgh is only a short drive from the house.. She and I had been to the Tattoo about 20 years ago but had never been back. Last year, we gave my brother two prime tickets as a Christmas present and he invited one of my uncles, who had always wanted to see it, to go with him. They both enjoyed the show so much and were so enthusiastic in telling us about it that we decided that this year we should treat ourselves and go back.

We decided to go to the late show, which takes place on a Friday, starting at nine p.m., as it incudes a firework display over the castle as part of the finale. The show lasts for two hours and, as you would expect, is an incredible spectacle and is watched by a crowd of several t…

Holding Back The Years.

Hullo ma wee blog,

I have an incredibly positive view of the generations that have gone before me in my family. To me it's something completely natural, born in love and nurtured through my childhood. I daresay some of it is incorrect, seen through the rose tinted glasses of others and myself over time. But it's important to me; helps keep me grounded knowing that I was secure in something good that has continuity from the past and continues today and onwards into the future.

I was made to reflect on that recently when I was watching a program on the BBC I-player. It was a documentary called "My father, the Nazi commandant" which told the story of a woman now in her mid-sixties who has had to come to terms and live with the realisation that her back story was false and that what she had accepted in her childish innocence was based on lies, half-truths, and denial. That would be hard enough for anyone to do but it was made more difficult because this woman had to do …


Hullo ma wee blog,

Last night was the first visit to the Edinburgh book Festival this year. As has become customary I took my brother-in-law, Tony, to see one of our favourite authors, the Scots writer of fiction and science fiction, Ian Banks, or Ian.M.Banks as he's known as in sci-fi circles. We've both seen Ian Banks at events several times over the years, usually here in Edinburgh. Tonight, Scotland’s first Minister, Alex Salmond, interviewed him. It's unusual to have such a well-known figure host the event and I hoped that it would make the evening even more special. Tony and I had arrived at the venue good time and managed to get seats in the front row only a few feet away from the action.
Alex started off his introduction to the session by admitting that he never fully read Ian's last sci-fi novel, but he also said that if anyone was going to ask questions on a topic he knew nothing about and hadn't thoroughly researched, then a politician was probably the be…


Hullo ma wee blog,

This may look like an ordinary blog. As you read it, it may even sound like an ordinary blog, but from this end of the laptop it's a different beast altogether. The reason for that is that this blog is being written without me even touching the keyboard in any way. I can absolutely promise you that my dainty little fingers have not been banging away in the usual four, five or six – fingered typing style in order to allow you to read this.A few weeks ago I bought and installed a voice recognition system for the laptop which allows me – when connected to the laptop by a headset – to dictate speech into a microphone and have it translated into type automatically. It's taken me a while to get used to the system but now I've been using it for some time it's become used to the nuances of my speech patterns and so the words are typed as fast as I speak them.Hopefully this will encourage me to do a bit more blogging although that hasn't happened this we…

Insomniacle Me

Hullo ma wee blog,

Another sleepless night. The insomnia which has come and gone over the years has come again recently and I spent all of last night wishing I could get to sleep, either from the duvet wrapped depths of my bed or from the sofa in the lounge or the comfy chair in the library.

It's one of the worst feelings I've experienced, being dog tired and yet being unable to sleep. When I'm in one of these periods I often find myself resenting the fact that I get tired, hating the torture of knowing that no matter how knackered I'm feeling that the bed is just a temptation and won't give me the rest I crave. I come to hate my bed at times like this - so different from the comfortable place it normally is, I begin to see it as almost deceitful with it's promise of a soft embrace and a good nights kip.

Insomnia laden nights leave me exhausted and barely able to function during the day after a while and again resenting the fact that when you want to be awake …

The Sunday Post

A. K. McLeod.

I went to the landscape I love best
and the man who was its meaning and added to it
met me at Ullapool.

The beautiful landscape was under snow
and was beautiful in a new way.

Next morning, the man who had greeted me
with the pleasure of pleasure
vomited blood
and died.

Crofters and fishermen and womenfolk, unable
to say any more, said
"It's a grand day, it's a beautiful day"

And I thought, "Yes it is."
And I thought of him lying there,
the dead centre of it all.

Norman MacCaig.
March 1976.

Who You Gonna Call......

Sometimes, your mind is a strange place. I know mine is anyway. There are times when the strangest thoughts come to mind, or even images set me off on a train of thought. Sometimes weird thoughts come unbidden and interject into whatever is going on at the time. Sometimes these thoughts bring a smile or make me laugh.

 I was walking the other day when I saw something at the side of the road. My first instinct was that it was something that had been hit by a car so I walked over towards where it was. I looked down, and realised that it was someone's handkerchief. Slightly relieved, I turned away and carried on walking and as I did so a smile crossed my face.

" That's a relief!  I thought for a second someone had hit a baby ghost."

Aye. Strange things indeed.

Listening to.

The Sunday Post

I'd heard of a stony look. Was that one
you turned on me? Was I to be petrified?
But it seemed to me as beautiful as ever
and I walked from the house whistling into a sunset.

I took the look home and became uneasy.
I couldn't see it as other than limpid and shining.
Are you water? Or diamonds? I prefer things shifting
and lucid, not locked in a hard design.

I mustn't look at you with wrong eyes,
inventing what I want to see. Turn to me now
and let me know if I'm a millionaire
of water, or a pauper of diamonds.

'Means Test'
By Norman MacCaig.
June 1975.

Putting Scotland On The Map {Part one}

'The North Part of Great Britain called Scotland.  By Herman Moll. Geographer, 1714.'
Imagine a time before Scotland; before Britain; before countries. There are no cities. There are no towns. No great castles or villages mark territory or give any hint of habitation; not even the tiniest of hamlets is to be seen.  No bridges span the great estuaries of the River Forth or Clyde and no ships, great or small, make their way up the rivers. There are no roads or railways and the skies are untouched by aeroplanes. No man-made modern light-spill interrupts a view of a night sky filled with a huge vista of stars and planets tracking across the horizon in a slow reassuring pattern that marks the changing seasons,years and centuries.  The only tracks across the land are tiny and infrequent, made by the feet of wild beasts more often than of any man.

 Beneath that double cone of Arthur's seat there's no Edinburgh spilling down to the river. To the east, in the distance, North…