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“HIP, HIP, HIP – REPLACEMENT”

The overnight rain has passed and left behind what looks to be the start of a fine and quiet day, (may have spoken too soon).

I watched a documentary on Sky Art yesterday the life of Tina Turner; I have lived with Tina’s music since 1959 but did not know much about the girl with such as strong voice and unique delivery. Then after her break up with Ike Turner, more and more of what had been a living hell for her came out in the press and on radio and television interviews. Then came the movie about her life and around the same time ‘Made in Dagenham’ an eye opener for many men, how they needed to change their attitude.

However some men will never change, they will always believe ‘it’s allowed for they will always be bullies. In the documentary, they interviewed Ike Turner (now an old man) asking him about Tina’s failed attempt at suicide and he told them,

“She was only attention seeking”

He was in denial, it was nothing to do with his drug abuse, abusing his wife verbally and physically, her beatings and rape, at his hands. What came over very strongly was how once Tina found the power to fight back, how quickly she herself moved on with her life. However, the press it seemed could not move on, for in interview after interview they would always associate Tina with Ike and ask about relationships now in the past rather than how positive her life had become and the great music she was now producing.  

Moving on seems to be difficult for today’s media too, they seem to get stuck in a grove and go over and over old ground till we switch off, (then again maybe that is their plan – protect the government by misdirection).

Today I read something that gladdens my soul, rather than the constant propaganda spewed out daily on our media (BBC, Sky News, Channel 4) ‘RUSSIA BAD’ there was a piece from Reuters.

“The west should consider how to address Russia’s need for security guarantees if Vladimir Putin agrees to negotiations about ending the war in Ukraine, French president Emmanuel Macron, said. He said, Europe needed to address Putin’s fear that “NATO comes right up to its doors”, and the deployment of weapons that could threaten Russia, as Europe prepares its future security architecture, Reuters reports.

Let’s give three big ‘Old Age Pensioners’ cheers for the wise head of Emmanuel Macrone,

“HIP, HIP, HIP – REPLACEMENT”

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‘even beaten the damn Tinkers’

The building trade in 1980 like the banks had been deregulated – no more did anyone work for a boss in a traditional sense, now we had SC60 where you worked in the industry and the contractor took away one-third of your wage (put it into safe keeping under taxation) and at the end of the year you’d be reimbursed any money that had been overpaid in taxation. The only other way to be employed in the industry was 714 (self-employed.)

Now companies could take someone on, to do a specific job at 8 am, and when they were finished – pay them off at 3 in the afternoon, the company that I was employed with at that time hired mainly through agencies, that recruited its men in a well-known pub in Edinburgh, and in the main, these were workers from Ireland, our boss himself coming from Cork. They were a close-knit group and once these lads came together I could not understand a word they said, so broad was their dialect.

Most had two P45s in their name (his beer money) – one for the agency man (who many believe was just a front for the IRA funds) one for their wife to take down to the Social Services to claim for the families funding (her housekeeping money).

These lads knew every trick in the book and would exploit every opportunity. I came down to the site one day and could not see the JCB and of course, no one had any idea where it had gone. Then I saw it heading back onto the site, and it transpired that it had been using it to take old scrap cast iron pipes to be weighed in.

One day Social Services paid us a visit two cars pulled up and two lads came into my office the others scattered across the site. The two lads that had visited me asked of the names and addresses of all the people I had working for me, “sorry lads” I said but I only have names you see they were all sent to me by the agency” (how real the names were is anyone guess).

Not long after my visitors had entered my office the others arrived, to inform their boss that there was no one working anywhere on the site. I found it hard to believe that the men in question had managed to get out of the tunnel and up a ladder without being spotted but sure enough after the visitors had departed I went down into the tunnel and turned off the compressors and generator, the site had been abandoned.  

My boss was a big strapping Irishman and as Irish, as they come, he could sell ice cream to the Eskimos. He had gone home on holiday and when he returned told us to pack up all our machines onto low loaders, we were going to do a job in Southern Ireland. This did not make much sense trailing all these machines all the way to Southern Ireland – more so when there were strict rules in Ireland at the time – only if a job could not be handled by contractors on the island would contractors from outside of Ireland be permitted to work there.  

The job as it turned out was to demolish old reinforced concrete tobacco warehoused, with low ceilings and no windows it was proving impossible to find another use for them.

Pitching up on the first day we immediately run into trouble – the television cameras were there as were some very angry men carrying union banners. In front of the cameras, the union man lied out their grievances. This job could have been carried out by local workers and these foreigners were stealing the food from the mouths of our children.

When the union man had said his piece Davie took his place in front of the camera,

“I’m ashamed – ashamed I am to call myself an Irishman, yes I am based in Edinburgh but nearly every man that works for me is Irish, and what is more – why is the union so against these men when each and every one of them is a union member. And like a magician, pulled a handful of cards from his inside pocket to show to the camera – unknown to any of us, we were all members of the union that was so apposed to us being there.

Davie had done his homework well; he had not only secured union cards but made a deal with a local joiner that they would strip the roofs for what they could get from them. Then peckers were attached and we set about breaking down the walls. We now had piles of large chunks of concrete with ugly lengths of re-bar sticking out of it,

“Where do we dispose of this?” I asked.

Davie took off in his car and was soon back – The council has given us permission to dump it on a piece of land that has, over the years, been used by gipsies, and is now become almost a permanent site, the council were finding it impossible to move them off the land. The idea is for us to dump the concrete there so that the site can not be used for parking caravans.  The first convoy of Moxies set off for the site but was soon back turned away by the gipsies who refused them access to the site.  

Davie armed with a large bottle of Bushmill and I good wad of notes in his pocket set off for the gipsy encampment, once there he asked for the head man. Invited into his caravan a deal was struck.  We would be allowed to dump there, but only in a hollow where caravans could not be parked and mostly used as a midden anyway. It was also agreed that the gipsies would supply Banksman for the Moxies to make sure the loads went to the right place, all good, and by the end of the week, the job was done.

Now whilst there we were housed at a local pub, the landlord was so delighted to have not only a full house, hungry men to feed and his bar till had not rung up such profits in a long time, so on the last day of the job he decided to have a farewell party in the pub. Some of the local dignitaries were invited such as the mayor, who gave a speech,

Standing with his arm around Davie, he said

“I have seen it all – I have seen it all, this man here has not only beaten the Unions – but also beaten the Council and he has he not, even beaten the damn Tinkers, I take my hat off to him” and with a flourish did just that.

Stay safe.   

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Whin and a girl coming into bloom

It was late onto the road this morning close to 10 am so it was nearly 12 noon before I returned after peddling into the extremely cold morning air, even my thermal cloves struggled, and my toes turned to ice, but it felt good to be outdoors.

Turning off onto the Kemback road was a respite from the wind. The Dura burn was a torrent of white water, and it was clear that yesterday’s heavy rain had caused the burn to overflow onto the road. The grass of the banks had been flattened by the spillage onto the roadway now strewn with gravel and mud, and potholes galore, dropping down from Kemback at over 40kph felt a little scary.  

The roads were very quiet and I only saw one group of four cyclists out, they were coming up the hill from Kemback. After the village, there is a second waterfall on your right and it was spouting out a good two meters from the wall, and yes, no camera.

Climbing up onto Knock Hill, and as I crested the summit the whin bushes were in full bloom, early I would say, but this is what global warming is doing to our seasons. From here you get a spectacular view of the River Eden estuary – the tide was low and white horses danced at Eden Mouth where the river meets the sea. Over the top and a downhill ride all the way into St Andrews, magic.

I had skipped breakfast (late start) so it was hunger’s good kitchen – soup with toast soldiers to dip – a treat for any hungry cyclist.

I watched ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ what a well-cast movie this was, Colin Firth playing Vermeer. Scarlett Johansson superbly casts as the beautiful Griet, I have actually seen the real painting and the girl they chose for Griet could not be closer to the real person in the painting.

Very much a coming of age (the 17-year-old Griet) not only matures physically but mentally as her mind is opened by the art she sees around her – seeing the world as if for the very first time. The master painter sees within the girl a spark of what he himself feels about his art and tries to bring it out in the girl and then captures that – almost as if he is trying to capture her inner self. His obsession with the girl leads the volatile family to jealousy and outright hostility as their relationship develops.

In the world of art this painting ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ is up there with the greatest works of art, but we have to wonder from this movie – at what cost.  

Another good day,

Stay safe.   

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One More COP Out

I managed out on my bike today, over to Cupar and back, not far, but an achievement nonetheless after a wet and windy cycling famine.

Speaking of famines, Cop 27 comes to a close – once more with nothing really settled, no further forward to any kind of agreement other than to agree to continue talks. We did have “partial” payments to countries most affected by climate change – but I would not go spending that money until it is in the bank, so many promises in the past of money for the “third” world countries – then the photo shoot, home and domestic policies kick in – kicking foreign aid money into the long grass.   

How many years now since The Paris Climate Change Conference, and No Change?

Offering money to poor countries that have had no part in the causes of climate change, to help them with the effects of climate change, you can’t be serious?

Treating the symptoms and not the disease, is not a cure,

Today I read how homes in Perth are being flooded – I remember when these homes were first built, and on the day of the first heavy rain they flooded. The housebuilder blamed the drains and the company that laid the primary drainage system, they were asked to come back to sort out any faults.

After many meetings and, I’m sure, many bills from high-paid lawyers, cameras were sent down the draining system – all was well with the drains – the problem was that planning permission had been given to build homes on flood plains.

I wonder what sweeties were handed out to allow the planning permission to go ahead at that time.  Now the council taxpayer is picking up a tab for the clean-up of flood damage each and every time there is heavy rainfall, which with global warming will increase year

There was an interview with a climate change “expert” on the BBC this morning, the girl was asked why big insurance companies and investors are not on-boarded, flocking to invest in the new green technology – what a stupid question. This kind of investment is simply too high risk, such technology may pay off in about 30 years’ time “may” pay off.

Take a moment to think where our illustrious leader is at this time – Ukraine – yes the smart money will be invested in buying arms company shares – guaranteed profit and low risk – more so now that they have their proxy war in Ukraine. With all the NATO countries now committed to paying in more and more money the arms companies (mostly in America – and arms companies in the UK owned by American companies) laughing all the way to the bank.

Not so long ago, the then president, Trump, wanted to pull out of NATO (sending alarm bells ringing on The Hill) and the French president likewise said that NATO was past its sell-by date and wished it disbanded or at least cut back on NATO spending.

How quickly America started beating the war drums and instigating a war in Ukraine. Saving NATO (a retirement home for high-ranking ex-military types) saving the American arms industry, (and all the jobs that come from the arms industry – jobs mean votes) saving the American political parties – filling their war chests for the next run for president and the power that comes with that office.  

Power corrupts – total power corrupts totally.   

Stay safe

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Soup of the Day

Very little, or no light, at all, fell into my living room this morning, on what has turned out to be another very wet and very windy morning – as I sit by my window the clusters of bright red berries on the holy tree, bounce unrehearsed on the end of long slender arms, heralding in the start of another long winter day

We know not whether it be right, or whether it be wrong,

We only know when we grow old, winter days are long,

When every day is like a year,

A year whose day is long.  

The rain let up for a short time allowing me to venture out to the supermarket for milk and whilst there I scanned the shelves for something nice for my dinner. Decisions, decisions,

I chose a carrot. Once home I put on the soup pot – lentils, grated carrot, grated turnip, and it smells delicious, I wish it was effter.

Received my first Christmas card today (from a friendly neighbour) too many friendly neighbours now – still, at least I do not have the expense of (very expensive) stamps. I normally make my own cards (the personal touch) and drawings, and printing out sometimes with a little verse or a little personal Christmas greeting. But the inkjet cartages are depleted on my printer and at over £50.00 for a new set – it would be cheaper to buy a new printer (complete with new cartages) which would make homemade cards very expensive indeed.

I did wrap my first Christmas present today; reducing by 50% my Christmas present wrapping task (economy of old age) we old wrinkles don’t give presents to one another, except for the Christmas (present) message of love for our fellow man (and woman) across the earth.

And we are a long way from that, on Aljazeera this morning I watch firemen tackle a fire in an apartment block in the north of Gaza Strip (Jabalea refugee camp, and open prison) the people inside all died, from smoke inhalation or the fire itself. The firemen who had attended the fire had no breathing equipment to enter a smoke-filled building – we will never know how many may have been saved if they had.

Madagascar (I believe it is the third biggest island in the world if you discount Australia, being a continent) is a republic situated in the Indian Ocean with a population of some 33,417,000 souls. The average age for a male inhabitant is 68.5 years and for women only 68 years, (less than the biblical three scores and ten) – this is drastically being reduced year on year as the effects of global warming bite. A people that have had little influence on the effects of global warming have now experienced four years of drought, fields barren, with what crops remain berried in the windblown sands. Women and children walk for hours to the river each and every day to carry discoloured water home for washing cooking and drinking. Years ago the government built a pumping station in the village – when it was finished the workmen left – no pipe work was ever laid over the five miles, between the river and the pumping station.

America is firing a $70,000 missile from a $28,000,000 drone flying at a cost of $3,624 per hour to kill people in the Middle East living on less than $1 per day.

We live in a country where if you want to go bomb somebody, there’s remarkably little discussion about how much it might cost. But then you have a discussion about whether or not we can assist people who are suffering, and then suddenly we become very cost-conscious.

Suffer the children to come unto me,

The man who said that died on a tree,

Yet as we rejoice at this time of his birth,

His children still suffering all over the earth.

Charles came to the door yesterday – depressed, lost and in need of some company. I was making dinner so popped in an extra potato – so it was mince and tatties all around. I find it very difficult to have a conversation with Charles (slurred speech) so on went a DVD of Shirley Valentine; it was nearly 11 pm by the time he departed – Charles needs to get a life.

Friday I normally go over to Dundee and pop into Wetherspoons for a pint – Worthington’s is so smooth a real treat. Failing that it is the Criterion in St Andrews and a pint of John Smiths (twice the price) this is the cost of living in St Andrews – swings and roundabouts.

What to do with the remainder of my day, finish ‘the teeth of the tiger’ (by Tom Clancy) look for something to do in my workshop, get out my sketchbook and doodle? Decisions, decisions

The soup is now ready and boy is it yummy, what could be more heartwarming on such a dreich and miserable day.  

Stay safe.  

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“Such a parcel of roughs in a nation”

What does one do on a wet and dreich day in St Andrews – well what I did was go to the Byre Theatre Film Festival. There was a good turnout for such a film 50 maybe as many as 100.

The film was set in the 1700s and just before the fall of the Bastille. The main character is a fine chef to the Duke – he makes small individual potato and truffle pies for the aristocratic dinner party – guests of the Duke. They are criticised by the priest at the table and like the king’s new clothes, the autocrats around the table join in the choir making a fool of the chef, now summoned before the Duke who is humiliated in front of his guests and at his own table – the chef will not apologise believing his pies to be ‘Delicious’ why must he? So is sacked for his impudence.

He returns home and vows never to cook again until a lady enters his life – she asks to be taught by the chef, his talents as a great chef has gone before him, but he refuses to teach her. She has hands that could only belong to a countess of a whore, he tells her – yes I was a whore in the most lavish brothel in Paris, she admits, of course she is lying – she is in fact a countess. They go on to open up the first restaurant in France.

We never think of the idea that someone had to start the first of anything, we just take it for granted that they have always been there. However at that time, people did not eat outwith the home, regardless of the size of their home was, now people of all classes were invited to the restaurant, seated, and given a menu from which they could choose, restricted only by the size of their stomachs and the size of their purse.

I loved the simplicity of the story, no computer graphics, or cast of thousands, yet the film contained greed, arrogance, lust, murderous intent, humiliation, comeuppance and of course love, I love movies with a happy ending.

I see that Opera-Met is returning in January, been a long time coming – before the coronavirus struck.  

Hip – hip – replacement – pensions will rise in line with inflation from next April. Alas, the inflation rate is not calculated at the 11% it is today, (and God only knows what it will be by next April) but 2.5% was the inflation rate………..eh, sorry, my memory is not what it was. And of course, they are still pushing the line that it is all Russia’s fault.

“Such a parcel of roughs in a nation”

Stay safe

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This rhetoric had preceded every war that the UK has been involved

I heard our illustrious leader’s speech – well not all of it, for within the first ear-full I knew where it was going. Telling us what was wrong with our rotten lives and who is to blame for it, and there is only one scapegoat Russia’s President Putin.

Raining down missiles on Ukraine whilst we (the cowboys in white hats) are gathered here in Bali to sort out the problems of the world, well if that were true you would be sitting around the table with Russia and Ukraine stopping an escalation in that war, not poring more and more weapons into a war situation along with UK and US boots on the ground in Ukraine and flying spying sorties over Ukraine and Russia to aid America’s proxy war in Ukraine, start sorting out your differences rather than grandstanding in front of the cameras.

Russia is cutting off the gas supplies to other countries pushing up gas prices sky-high and causing economic problems around the world. Excuse me PM – I thought it was Europe and America that started sanctioning Russian goods – stopping world banks from dealing with Russia – stopping Russia from paying their debts and stealing the goods of anyone connected to Russia and yes was it not Europe and America that stopped buying Russian gas and oil? I believe Putin said you can have as much gas as you wish but the banks of the world were closed to them so they could not exchange currency, pay their bills or receive payment from countries that wanted to buy Russian gas, to do so would incur the wrath of America.

Who stopped the new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe from being commissioned? Not Russia.

Who blows up the gas pipelines carrying gas from Russia to Europe? Not Russia.

Putin is causing global warming, and the collapse of world economies, he is the cause of people in Africa (already hit by famine) starving to death. In response the UK is cutting foreign aid to these countries that will work, anyway, we can blame Putin.

Global warming is hitting the poorest in the world and Africa already suffering from constant civil wars (fed by American arms) they have no wealth to build their way out of draught – no wealth to turn their barren lands green with new technology and all the rich countries have to offer, having exploited their lands for their own ends, now offering in return is a plastic tent and food handouts (like food banks here at home their answer to poor government decisions).

Plastic cities the size of modern city springing up around the world – and when the young of these “refugee camps” out of desperation, gather up their worldly goods on their backs and walk thousands of miles to what they hope will be a better life for their children, we now call, Economic Migrants.

Now the British taxpayers are stumping up and paying France more and more money to stop them from taking to rubber boats and crossing the Channel. The problem is not at the Channel the problem is what Britain has done to these countries in the past and their failure to tackle the aftermath of their failed foreign policies, they could stop the problem of people risking their lives in crossing the Channel tomorrow, simply hand out visas and make sure that people leave when their visa expires, it would also solve many of the problems of recruiting staff in the NHS too, much as before Boris Johnston “taking back control” Brexit. Johnston killed off the route for workers, coming short term, from Europe to work here – and many to take up permanent residence – young people we need, Scotland is fast becoming a geriatric home, the demography timebomb.

The best scientist in the world has warned over the years how global warming will be a catastrophe second only to all-out nuclear war. Yet have done little to stop the causes – man’s greed, and exploitation of world resources for bobbles.     

Putin is raining down missiles on innocent Ukraine – whilst we (the world leaders) hold talk in order to make the world a better place for all its citizens – ‘go tell that to the Marines’ the people of Afghanistan, the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Libya……………… bla – bla- bla.

After this preamble by a UK PM, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will stand in the Commons tomorrow and read his autumn statement, it will start with – we are in this mess because of Putin.

Then the bad news, telling us what we already know – inflation through the roof, pond down the toilet, paying inflated mortgages a nightmare – people losing the roof over their heads – family break-ups will be inevitable under such pressure, (as if Christmas was not bad enough), and at the end of it all higher taxes and bigger military spending.

This rhetoric had preceded every war that the UK has been involved in (and that is every war since the dawn of man’s understanding) world depression = more war.

Stop the Rhetoric – Stop the War.

Stay safe.

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Coal fires and cold winter mornings

The mist clung to the land like a cold white shroud – lights were mandatory now. By Strathkinness a watery winter sun appeared lifting the veil and leaving me under a pale winter’s sky. I dropped down into Pitscottie and the Dura Den, once more into a veil of mist as it stubbornly hung in the trees, the air now still and cold. As I passed through Kemback, the smell of smoke from a newly lit coal fire, the chimney still cold had little draw causing smoke, thick and grey, to curl lazily from the pot and tumble down over the grey slate roof. Coal smoke once a common smell and sight of my youth had been all but forgotten, once more rekindled memories. Back home and a welcome shower and a pot of tea, life is good.

I picked up a set of two DVDs – a six-part BBC series ‘Your Cheating Heart’ set around the Scottish country music scene in an unsentimental portrait of Glaswegian life and culture. The series was created by John Byrne (who also created Tutti Frutti a series set around a Scottish rock and roll band), ‘ Your Cheatin Heart’ is in much the same vain – pure fun and belly laughter, staring John Gordon Sinclair and Tilda Swinton, but I’m not sure that it will travel well outside Scotland. I loved the part where they are up in Aberdeen and the Aberdonian is asking “whit’s she saying” she of course being Glaswegian – and she was asking about the Aberdonian, who was speaking in Doric, “whit’s he saying” classic.

Anyway, to cut a long story short – too late – the theme song that runs all the way through, is of course ‘Your Cheating Heart’ and it has stuck in my head ever since watching it. Today I was cycling along singing at the top of my voice ‘Tears fall down like falling rain……………bloody song.

I have given the trailer building a wee rest, well it is a winter project after all. I was hoping to go for a run out on my motorcycle – maybe as far as Montrose but a low cloud base has set in and does not look like it will lift anytime soon – still the garden needs a bit of tidying so may just spend an hour there, and wait for the sun to come out, it always does.

Keep safe.

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9/11/22 Teardrop Trailer

Finally, I am getting some idea of the size of the pod and I have to say it is much larger than I thought it would be I will be happy and cosy inside this little trailer/tent.

I only put the sides on with some screws to get an idea of what the finished trailer would look like, it is simply too big to work on indoors now anyway I can not work with epoxy indoors.

However, there are some internal batons to place for the door and shelf so I can carry on with those, in the meantime, hoping for some better weather by the weekend.

The trailer has to take a back seat for an hour or two – a friend wanted a small kennel for a cat and I had some leftover sterling board – the material on the roof is for waterproofing – sad that I did not have enough to cover the whole roof, I still to trip the edges when the glue is dry.  

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How to Build a Teardrop Trailer

Part Two

To recap, having ‘spent up’ on a cycling holiday in Austria – five weeks last spring – I’m sure I told you, money will be tight, for any future trips, no B&B no YH, even campsites are very expensive now all are now out with my budget – a small sleeping pod would be better than a tent but sadly the car is a convertible, no solid roof – drat and double drat.      

I searched the internet and found some old plans for making a teardrop trailer. American of course and an old set of plans, using such material as angle iron rather than square hollow section (which is much lighter) and wooden framing covered with ply and aluminium sheet – I would use ‘stitch and glue’ once popular in small boat building (before cheap plastic and fibreglass) and rather than ½ inch ply (being American it is still in old money) I will use 6mm but it gives me dimensions to work too and the lad had made all the schoolboy mistakes for me.

I would then cover the outside with epoxy and fibreglass cloth, (the epoxy saturates the very thin fabric making it invisible – more like a good varnish job), and will protect the ply, so I will not require expensive marine ply just external ply. Teardrop trailers are traditionally four feet wide, perfect for one; it will be a bit cosy for two.

There’s a firm in South Wales that makes kits (and ready-built) teardrop trailers – they are so busy that they can not guarantee delivery. The kit is £2,000.00 (I don’t know what they take for the finished article) so there seems to be a big demand for small teardrop trailers – however, most start at around £5,000.00 (ready-made) and go up to eye-watering.

I am hoping for a figure around £500.00 for all the material – I started with some small sketches. Once I had something I liked I made a full-size paper template for the sides, (best to make your mistakes on paper, all that time spent playing around with old wooden boats was not wasted after all) you learn a lot getting it wrong, first time, most of the time, however education is never cheap.

Of course, being lightweight it will be fine to sleep in but if you wish to use it to take loads to the recycling centre then this is not the trailer for you.

I went over to Cupar and bought what material I required £200.89 (33.48 of that for the VAT man) I also ordered epoxy from East Coast Fibreglass a tad over £60.00 but that is more or less all I need since I have a small motorcycle trailer, had it for years and I can adapt that (after a few practice welds – been a while) so the final bill will be around £300.00 (you will not get much in the way of accommodation for that) the whole thing will weigh in at around 2 cwt. I am hoping to sell my motorcycle to pay for it all along with the ferry tolls and petrol.

I have already started and the plywood sheets have just arrived.

That will get the tongs wagging

You never know, I may get a few days in and around Scotland over the winter – Scotland can be beautiful on clear days with the snow on the upper slopes of the mountains, mirrored in crystal clear lochs. (And of course free from those two pests – midge and tourists.)

I did make a start with what I had lying around but first things first – measure the bedroom window, how silly would I look if I built the pod only to find I could not get it out of my bedroom?

I had to reduce the width to get it out of the window but not by much. The base/floor is now complete – I used 29X45 batons, to strengthen the 12mm plywood floor, I had a job, the plywood fought me all the way, for it had a big bend across the width, now that I see the size it is not going to be as poky as I thought it might be.

And no, it’s not a mistake the batons are not evenly matched for the rear end of the trailer will only be carrying the weight of your legs, your body will be at the front end of the trailer so that is where the supporting batons need to be. Oh, we are not just a beautiful face.

I need a dry day now to get out on the grass to clean it up and fix the side panels (temporarily) enabling me to fit the roof and epoxy that in place – then I will remove the top from the base so I can epoxy the ribbon inside along the joints, it would be a hellish job otherwise. Thankfully the epoxy only takes around 20 minutes to go off (longer when cold).

Danger: small boy at play – play safe.

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Less We Forget

At eleven O’clock on the eleventh of November, the people of the UK will be asked to observe a minute’s silence in memory of those that died in wars. This was started by returning soldiers, after the First World War, 1914 – 1918, who shared experiences, for only they could know the horrors of that war. Alas, the politicians have high-jacked their Day of Remembrance and turned it into a political circus, played out each and every year at the Cenotaph, and on the BBC Remembrance Concert in the Albert Hall.

When a country takes up arms against another – that country is simply saying – we failed. We failed our people as politicians and as human beings, and still, they fail us, those dignitaries that bow their heads at the Cenotaph, in remembrance, should bow their heads in shame and as an apology for all those that have died in such wars.

It was soldiers that suffered and died in the First World War, now war is high tech and those that suffer and die are civilians – ninety per cent of casualties of war are now civilians, no more returning body bags to America and the UK, to scare the voters.

Less we forget:

The most recent war to end was Afghanistan, yet we have learned nothing, from that war, not so much a crime but a blunder.

In 1898 the British Empire was at the height of its fame, Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, wrote:

‘I confess that (countries) are pieces on a chessboard, upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.’

At that time Afghanistan was strategic, the trade routes the British regarded as vital to their holding sway over Central Asia and the Caspian basin, and tells us much about what happened in Afghanistan’s modern history.  

The Afghan mujahedin and the Taliban and al-Qaida were effectively created by the CIA, its Pakistani equivalent the ISI and British MI6. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s, who was President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser in the late 1970s disclosed Carter’s secret directive to bankroll the mujahedin and America’s collaboration with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the British, and the Chinese to start providing weapons to the mujahedin (America’s proxy war).

The fly in the ointment for America was the coming to power of Afghanistan’s first secular modernist government, which promised unheard-of social reforms. This was formed by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which overthrow the autocratic rule of King Zahir Shah, and the king’s cousin Mohammad Daud, in 1978.

For Washington, the problem with the PDPA government was that it was supported by the Soviet Union. At Brzezinski’s urging the unknown to the American public and Congress, President Carter authorised $500 million o fund and arm the mujahedin:

In effect, to set up what the Americans would now describe as a terrorist organisation. The aim was to overthrow the Afghan government and draw the Soviets into Afghanistan.

In an interview in 1998, Brzezinski said:

“According to the official view of history, CIA aid to the mujahedin began in 1980, that is, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on 24 December 1979. but the reality, secretly guarded until years later when the truth came to light, it was on 3 July 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day I    wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to provoke a Soviet military intervention …. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but knowingly increased the probability that they would.”

Brzezinski was asked if, having seen the consequences, he had any regrets. “Regret what?” he replied.

The secret operation was an excellent idea. It has the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap …… the day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter:

“We now have the opportunity to give the USSR its Vietnam War.”

For almost ten years, Moscow had to carry on a conflict that brought about demoralisation and finally the break-up of the Soviet empire.

For seventeen years, the United State deliberately cultivated an extremist against which it would later proclaim a “War on terror”. ‘Central to the US-sponsored operation’, wrote Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in The War on Truth: 9/11, disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism,

“Was the attempt to manufacture an extremist religious ideology by amalgamating local Afghan feudal traditions with Islamic rhetoric ….. The extremist religious ‘jihadi’ ideology cultivated in CIA- sponsored training programs was interspersed with tribal norms, giving rise to a distinctly distorted system of war values garbed with ‘Islamic’ jargon.  Among the myriad of policies designed to generate the desired level of extremism, the US-funded – to the tune of millions of dollars – the production and distribution in Afghanistan of school textbooks promoting murder and fanaticism”

American administration poured $4 billion into the pockets of some of the world’s most brutal fanatics. Men like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received tens of millions of CIA dollars. Hekmatyar’s speciality was trafficking in opium and harassing women who refused to wear the veil. Invited to London in 1986, he was lauded by Prime Minister Thatcher as a ‘freedom fighter’. Following the fall of the PDPA government in 1992, mujahedin warlords attacked Kabul with such ferocity that an estimated fifty thousand people were killed. A report by Human Rights Watch estimated 25,000 people were killed in Kabul, most of them civilians, in rocket and artillery attacks. One-third of the city was reduced to rubble. Hekmatyar, the west’s favourite warlord at the time, rained American-supplied missiles on Kabul, killing two thousand people in two days until the other factions agreed to make him Prime Minister.

I remember all of this because I lived through those times, so I will not stand for a minute’s silence or watch on television the circus at the Cenotaph and certainly not the BBC’s coverage of the Remembrance concert. For it is all so de Ja Vue, now begin played out in Ukraine, by the same people, and for the same reasons – protecting America’s trade in Europe, and the protection of America’s power (NATO) – my only surprise has been that Russia (America’s bogie man) fell into the same trap they stumbled into in Afghanistan, and with just as devastating consequences. However America’s proxy war had far more reaching consequences for Europe this time around, because of their support for NATO, they are being dragged deeper and deeper into America’s proxy war on their very doorstep.  

Italy has now refused refuge for people picked up in leaky boats in the Mediterranean Sea, they have had enough. The British government is falling apart over the number of people crossing the English Channel in rubber boats and overland from across the world, Iraq, Syria, Yemen Libya and Afghanistan, we are now seeing an influx of people from the Baltic states, all wishing for a better life, sadly their arrival in Europe (including the UK) is anything but cordial.

A migrant problem into Europe (including the UK) can only be solved at source, starting with American foreign policy – stop America from using bogy men and proxy wars in their empire building.

Stop the War, Bairns, not Bombs, Climate Change solutions – not Greenwash or Cop-Out – Paris, Glasgow or Egypt…..

Stay safe.  

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“There are no problems in this world – only solutions” John Lennon.

With ever-rising costs, B&B has long been out of my reach – youth hostels are good but mostly in big cities and even they are starting to stretch my meagre pension, making trips less and less frequent.

“There are no problems in this world – only solutions” John Lennon.

To this end I have decided to build myself a very small teardrop sleeping pod, one step up from a tent which means I can go wild camping in both summer and winter, Scotland can be even more beautiful in winter and devoid of pests like the midge and the tourist.

This will be a teardrop trailer suitable for the smallest tow vehicle including large motorcycles. This design was inspired by the Eis Piccolo made in Germany in the 1950s and adapted to my needs and modern materials. The free Generic Benroy plans on the Teardrop and Tiny Travel Trailers forum (http://www.mikenchell.com/forums) can be used for the many details of building a teardrop trailer.

My pod will be built from plywood using the stitch and glue method that was very successful for small boat and kayak building from 1950 to 1960s, giving the structure great strength (mono-cock construction) the stand-alone body can then be bolted to a simple chasse.  

The trailer will serve its intended purpose well but is not suitable for other uses – if you want to also use your trailer to, say, collect scrap of frequent visits to the recycling centre, then you better pick another design.

To get the minimum size, the trailer has been designed to be low, no more than is needed to enable the occupants to sit up with their heads nearly touching the roof and to be not much longer than the bed length. To fit in two people in bearable comfort, the width has been kept at the traditional teardrop of four feet wide (or the width of an 8X4 sheet).

There is no galley and no hatch at the back, to save both weight and size. If a full galley is wanted, it can be built into a traditional camp kitchen box that sits inside the pod during towing and is taken out at the campsite, (the internet has many such lightweight camping kitchens that might be cheaper and lighter than homemade.)

There are no lockers inside – that would need a bigger trailer. But there is a shelf over the sleepers’ legs; this will provide somewhere to store clothes, while sleeping and storage for bedding during the day, (you will find this in many small cabins on boats.) Net pockets could be incorporated in the design to hold phones, laptops or valuables.

Warning: this trailer is designed for my need, so builders should satisfy themselves that it is large enough for their needs. This design is one size smaller than even a normal 8ft teardrop. I marked out and cut a pattern then laid it out on my bed, happy that the completed trailer weighs should be no more than 2 cwt.

So far all I have achieved is a paper cut out and a headache, but once I have the timber things will pick up the pace.

Years ago I was given an old fibreglass row boat as a punt to get out to my yacht in the harbour, it leaked but then you don’t look a gift horse in the month, (or an old boat for that matter.) I had some epoxy resin but no fibreglass cloth so after patching the holes I used a length of tartan cloth, and epoxy to cover the whole outer surface of the hull. I used it for a number of years and after I sold my boat I gave it to a lad in St Monans for the same purpose. When I visited there recently I saw the old boat still doing sterling service as a tender, taking him out to his yacht.

It has stood the test of time, which gave me an idea.

I wanted to cover my pod with thin fibreglass cloth and epoxy, this would keep it 100% watertight and would outlast me. But it would look not unlike an old tea chest (making in plywood tends to look like an old tea chest) so today when I was over in Dundee I popped into several charity shops and found just what the doctor ordered, a Duvet cover that looks very seaside in blue and white stripes £3.00 a bargain (always difficult to get the lines straight and if not never look right) but it will make the wee ‘Fife Pod’ look really something.

Keep safe.

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No Place to Hide for the SNP

Westminster’s SNP leader, Blackford, plays a blinder as recruiting sergeant for the Alba party when he marched his troops out of the Commons.

This week, Kenny MacAskill MP and Depute Leader of the Alba party, stood in a Commons debate and highlighted what was an important issue – Scotland’s vast energy bounty being cabled South with no benefit to Scotland.

This is an issue that independence supporters are aware of, Scotland energy-rich but its people are unable to pay their energy bills, energy poor.

Sadly, as Kenny stood to raise this important issue, the SNP staged a walkout instead of staying to listen and take part in the debate. Shame on you!

100,000s have watched the video already; it is ALBA, not the SNP that Stands for Scotland and the message keeps on spreading.

I believe this will be a turning point ‘the beginning of the end of Sturgeon and her SNP party. This stupidity by the SNP MPs walking out on a debate that needed saying in Westminster has shown their true colours.

Sturgeon has only one interest and one interest only and that is keeping the SNP party in power and Blackford and his cohorts polishing the green benches for a further 5 years.

Maybe the SNP will again win big in the up and coming General Election, but it matters not, that has just become a sideshow – nothing will change – Unionists (most Westminster MPs) will always outnumber Scottish MPs of whatever colour.  

The Scottish parliamentary elections are fast approaching and you can rest assured that Sturgeon will be out on her ear as First Minister the parliament will be ‘under new management for she has shown little interest in independence or the betterment of the people she professes to represent, (in fact the opposite is true Sturgeon has sold Scotland out) and the people of Scotland will not forgive her this time around, for all the mandates and wasted opportunities she has squandered.

Keep safe.  

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Life is much the same for man and chimpanzees a one-way ticket and no guarintee.

Each and every Wednesday I would go out cycling in the Dales with a group of cyclists they were all like myself retiring, but do not think because they were in their twilight years they doodled along like geriatrics wheezing up every hill. For you see many had made a name for themselves in local, national and international cycling. And amongst them you would find Ken Russell, winner of the 1952 Tour of Britain, (as a privateer) and Brian Robinson, the first Briton to win a stage of the Tour de France.

I knew both men well during my time in Yorkshire. I wrote about the 1952 Tour of Britain and Ken’s part in it, my big hero was (John) Ian Steel (from Glasgow) Ian won the 1951 Tour of Britain and competed in the 1952 race. Ian was a big (tall) strong rider and won the Peace Race (a race between Berlin and Prague twice in 1951 and 1952.) He was a great rider but never made it into the professional league. I interviewed him in his home in Ayr and he showed me one of the two Peace Race prizes a large crystal cup, he told me his daughter has the other. I was writing about the 1952 Tour of Britain race at the time of our meeting in his home and I asked him about his 1952 Tour of Britain race,

I was never allowed to move out of the pack, as soon as I showed any sign of going off the front I would be pounced on by the BSA team.  

Ken was persuaded to ride the Peace Race by Ian in 1952 but found it unbelievably difficult on incredibly bad roads, telling me he had to change gears between cobbles.

I spoke at length with Brian Robinson about his legendary Tour de France stage wins. He won stages in 1958 and 1959 and was also the first British cyclist to finish the Tour in 1955.

“The first win was so close that many disputed my win,” he told me.

Brian put everything into the race:

“I did not hang around after the stages, I went straight into the massage room and early to bed, unlike many of the British team I was determined to make sure the second stage win could not be disputed in any way, and this possibly helped me over the line.”

My friend Ken died on the 18th Sep 2017 age 87

Today I read that a second friend from those days, Brian Robinson died at age 91. Brian hailed for Mirfield West Yorkshire. Brian’s demise was announced on Twitter by his grandson and fellow cyclist Jake Womersley.

He Tweeted: “It’s with great sadness the family of Brian Robinson have to announce his passing yesterday.”

Brian joined his local cycling club as a teenager and later took up racing in between working for the family building company.

He competed for Britain at the 1952 Olympics before turning professional, riding the Tour de France for the first time in 1955 when he finished 29th overall.

The pioneering road racer also won the prestigious Criterium du Dauphine stage race in 1961 and was the first Briton to stand on the podium of one of cycling’s Monuments, Milan-Sanremo, finishing third in 1957, before retiring at the age of 33.

Brian Robinson is regarded as a trailblazer for the sport in Britain and his successes inspired the talents of Tom Simpson and Barry Hoban who followed him.

He was also an ambassador for bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014.

He suffered an accident the same year, having been knocked off his bike, but you can’t keep a good man down, he was back on his bike just six weeks after the accident.   

Stay safe

Featured

Stop The War – End Expansion of NATO

Stop the War CoalitionEvent Bulletin – 19/10/22 How Do We Get Peace in Ukraine? – Weds 26 Oct
The war in Ukraine has already devastated large parts of the country, killing thousands and forcing millions to flee. Both sides are set on escalation, risking wider war and nuclear confrontation. Only a negotiated solution has a chance of bringing this nightmare to an end.

The anti-war movement has opposed the Russian invasion and the West’s military response from the start. 

Come and join the discussion about how peace can be achieved…
 The People’s Assembly National Demonstration – Sat 5 Nov

There’s widespread anger about ever-increasing budgets for weapons and war while children go hungry and NHS waiting lists continue to grow.

Help us voice that anger on the streets of London on Saturday 5th November at the People’s Assembly National Demonstration!
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The More People I Meet, The More I Like Cats

I was halfway through my bike ride this morning when I had to stop and rummage in my pannier bag for my thermal cloves, clear night skies were the cause of my discomfort. I returned to St Andrews via Aldi to pick up bread and milk and why not treat myself to a chicken, costing a penny shy of four pounds.

I could not sit in the house on such a fine day so off I went to the bus station, in time to catch the X60 – “Elie Please” I told the driver. Cresting the hill at Drumrack is always special for it is from here that you get a panoramic view of the River Forth for the first time.

Over the waters on the south shore, there was a cloud formation – a phenomenon peculiar to these parts – a long white cloud stretching for miles along the south shore, in an otherwise clear blue sky, it never touching the earth – each time I see it I think of NZ land of the long white cloud.   

First, stop the harbour, I thought the sailing yacht would have been craned out by now.

I saw this notice in the window of the sailing club and it intrigued me I will follow it up, you never know you’re luck, could be a nice trip, I may have to get my sea legs again – it has been a while.  

I then headed for the Coastal Path for St Monans.  

The car park was full to overflowing and there were a good number of people with the same idea as I, out walking the Coastal Path. I snapped a photo of the lighthouse

Lady Anstruther changing room and tower

Lady Janet Anstruther

A bell would ring out around the town,

To tell that Lady A was going doon,

For her daily dip in the sea,

And since the lady preferred to bath starker,

She would wish no Nosy Parkers,

Can’t you see?

Historians tell us she was quite a lady, what my father would have called a ‘brazen hussy’ in this more enlightened world we would call her a ‘modern woman’ a trendsetter.

Ardross castle, or what is left of it,

then the ruined Newark Castle

The location will have been chosen for the natural defences on three sides – however, I am sure like us today the family who stayed in this castle over the years will have enjoyed seeing the shits plying up and down the Forth, and the fishing smacks working the inshore waters.

before dropping down to St Monans village.

There was a lad out in the harbour tending to the sails on his boat, I called across

“Would you be looking for a crew – by any chance?”

but alas no, he was clearing away, removing the sails for the end of the season, ho-hum. I kept my boat in the water all year beaching her on a spring tide to clean and repaint her bottom, there are very few days you can not sail, and anyway, boats are designed to be in the water – the water taking the weight of the hull, much less stressful on old timber boats as my boat was.

I found an old lad sitting on a chair on the harbour wall, we blethered a while – putting the world to right.

“Do you have a cat?” he asked – strange question.

“No, but I know a girl that has a few cats” (Charles’s sister) I told him.

“Well, there is this woman, a cat woman, called Audrey, who stays just across the road there. She has all this cat food and asked if I knew anyone with a cat, to give it to”.

Stranger and stranger

“Just tap on her window,” he said “and she will give you some of her cat food”

I did, and Audrey was an elderly lady devoid of company and readily invited me in.

Audrey’s kitchen the notice says it all

I told her of my conversation with the elderly man on the harbour wall and I was soon getting the story of how she had bought all this cat food and her cats will not eat it. That’s the trouble with cats they are such pedantic and fussy creatures, they get it of course from their mother.     

Out came the classes and a bottle of wine – “You’ll have a glass?”

I recognise an Edinburgh accent easily enough so asked how long she had stayed in St Monans “74 bloody years” she told me then went on to tell me that her claim to fame was that she had written a book (published by Ladybird Books) when she was 23 years old – spelling and grammar that is still used in schools today (just what I need). Although was quick to point out that she was a journalist and not a novelist.

She worked for Ladybird books as an editor – then on into the newspapers industry.

The house was gifted to her by an author friend she told me, I had written about the queen, (I take it she was referring to Queen Elizabeth the first and second) and given it to him, he had used the material for a book and had it published, I got the impression that they were more than just friends – more friends with benefits.

After two glasses of wine, I make my excuses and left. At the bus stop, I check the timetable – drat and double drat – missed the bus by 10 minutes. May as well continue walking into Pittenweem than standing here so that is what I did, arriving there with 10 minutes to spare.

Another fine day – that’s the great thing about being an OAP you can talk to anyone – male or female – and you are looked upon as just a friendly old guy.

No matter where I go I always find people have lived a far more interesting life than I have and are always ready to tell you their story.

Home, and over to the supermarket to unload sachets of cat food, to Charles’s sister (she is a shelf packer in the local supermarket) and pick up a leek. The leek and legs and wings of the chicken are now simmering away in a casserole dish in the oven thought I would have them effter – I wish it was effter.

Stay safe      

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Mary Queen of Scots Slept Here

It was still dark when I woke up on Saturday morning so I padded to the window and keeked oot from behind the blind – yuck! it was pouring it down. By the time I showered and shaved it was looking better out.

The weatherman on the television was telling me that tomorrow, Sunday, we would be between two fronts, no rain, but a bit windy. Now since my motorbike has not had a wee run for a week or so – out comes the maps.

I have a few places in mind to visit, and with the trees colouring, one place I did wish to visit (and if I was lucky) catch the Meikleour Beech Hedge in autumn glory -– Keathbank Mill – Glams Castle – Miegle Church – Tealing Earth-House the circle would be complete. However, I decided to do the circuit anti-clockwise.

The main reason for the anti-clockwise route was to clear Dundee in the early morning traffic got underway.

Black menacing clouds still hovered over the Sidlaw hills, but the winds were rising and the weatherman did say they would be clear of the east coast by around 9 am so as ever we travel hopefully.

The traffic was light and through Dundee onto the A90 with no hold-ups, and only a few miles on I turned off for the site of the souterrain. There are two properties to see here, both cared for by Historic Environment Scotland. First, the picturesque, lectern dovecot (or doocot) with nesting boxes intact, the style of dovecots appeared around 1600 the Tealing dovecot was on the land of the Maxwell family and was built in 1595.

But what I really had come here to see was the curved souterrain, probably constructed to store grain or other supplies to see them through winter months, more so at a time when the Romans occupied this area so a sort of hidden outdoor cold store. Alas open to the elements for many years has taken its toll on the structure, but well worth a visit.

I retraced my wheel tracks back to the A90 travelling north for a few miles before branching off onto the A928 for Glamis. Just outside the little village, we come across Glamis Castle, home of the Lyon family since the 14th century, although much of what we see today was constructed in the 17th century.

Mary Queen of Scots Slept Here
So did James the first

Clamis was the childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Born in 1900 Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was the youngest daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and his wife Cecilia (nee Cavendish-Bentinck). On the 26th of April, she married Prince Albert, Duke of York, second son of George V at Westminster abbey, their second daughter Princess Margaret was born at the castle on 21 August 1930 Glamis was used as a First World War military hospital.

What a beautiful and idyllic setting this is for any castle, lying in the broad fertile lowland valley of Strathmore, and hemmed in by the Sidlaw Hills to the south and the Grampian Mountains to the north and around 20 kilometres inland from the North Sea.

A few family pets
There are statues all around the garden but look more Greek than Roman to me.
I loved this little lion – to me he looked so much like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz – “Get em up”.
this ornamental dove cot was never about food and I believe it housed white doves

There is so much to say about Glamis Castle and its grounds I would be here all day, but we must press on.

This area was the home of the Picts in years gone by, and a stone, known as the Eassie Stone was found in the burn at the nearby village of Eassie, and where we are off to next.

Unfortunately, the stone is housed in a protective glass case and the glass acted like a mirror when I took the picture

Not far from the Eassie stone are more Pictish treasures – the Meigie Sculptured stone Museum, formerly a Victorian school contains a collection of more than thirty Pictish Stones. This was probably the site of an early medieval Pictish monastery and was again cared for by Historic Scotland. 

Only open in summer
The church is adjacent to the museum

On now into Blairgowrie and Rattray, hard to tell where one ends and the other starts so close together are these two villages. I came here as a boy on the back of dad’s motorcycle. It was the trade’s holiday and we had come to camp and pick raspberries, I remember the pub in the village full and overflowing with young people all here for the trade fare holidays, the first week of the Glasgow trades and the second week of the Dundee. The noise and music from the pub were at a crescendo, for all sang along to the folk songs being sung and played inside. this is a beautiful wee town.

The river that powered the jute mill a little upstream from here, you can see the lay sluce on the far bank

Today I had not come to pick raspberries but to visit Keithbank Mill, it was one of a series of water-powered textile mills along the banks of the River Ericht and dates back to 1820, the 8-bay jute spinning mill dates from 1864-5. The mill was driven by a large iron-framed water wheel (4.27m wide and 5.49m diameter) which can still be seen today. This was augmented by a horizontal single-cylinder, drop-valve engine by Carmichael and Co. Dundee. 

I retraced my tracks back into Blairgowrie and Rattray, to pick up the A93 for Meikleour and the Beach Hedge. The hedge was planted by Jean Mercer and her husband Robert in 1745 (note the date) on the Meikleour estate. It is said that the hedge grow upto the heavens because the man that had planted it were killed at the Battle of Culloden. The hedge is the longest and tallest hedge in the world reaching 30 meters (98 ft) in height and 530 meters (1,740 ft) in length. It is usually trimmed once every ten years, although the most recent trim, which took place in late 2019, was the first in almost 20 years. Owner Sam Mercer Nairne, last got the hedge cut and faces a bill of £90,000. The cost includes management of traffic on the A93, accessing the hedge via a hydraulic platform and the labour to cut and shape the hedge.

Sorry no autumn colour today
Time to go home

Speaking to the ‘Scotsman’

Claire Mercer Nairne, 45, said: “In the past it was quite straightforward – Meikleour estate did the work of cutting the hedge by hand.

“We just hired a hydraulic platform. If I remember the tourist board helped us out.

“It was perfectly manageable, considering it was every ten years.”

But by 2010 the costs had ramped up, as traffic management now had to be paid for separately – and with the job lasting six weeks, it was decided not to do so.

The mum-of-three added: “I thought ‘this is really not going to work – the big chunk was traffic management.

“It has become a very big job and a very difficult one.”

The hedge was planted by her husband’s ancestors in memory of soldiers who died in the Jacobite War.

Mrs Mercer Nairne was hopeful that the local authority, Perth and Kinross Council, might chip in with the cost of traffic management as it was within their remit.

“If we wait for too long, the hedge won’t be a hedge anymore – it will be a group of trees.”

SNP councillor Grant Laing, for Strathtay council, called the hedge, an “iconic natural phenomenon”, and said he wants to see it trimmed and back to its natural glory.

“I am not blaming anyone for the state of the hedge, but £90,000 for the owners is a lot to fall on their shoulders.

I really enjoyed my ride out today, the weather was good for this time of the year, a little cold first thing, and blustery as the day progressed. Sad that the preservation of such national treasures as this Meikleour Hedge comes down to money – or the lack of it.

Stay safe. 

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Forgive an Old Man’s Tears – and Thank You for the Years.

I was living in Edinburgh at the time of my story. Christmas was upon us, and I had popped into Bins, a rather smart store at the west end of Princess Street. I was searching for something a bit special for mum’s Christmas present, always difficult.

Mum loved flowers, in the garden and in the house, as did I, so when I spotted a display of Edinburgh Crystal, I was drawn to it, for in the display was a large flower vase, the perfect gift, for it would hold long stem flowers, such as Chrysanthemums.

Flower display doesn’t seem to be my thing

Since I would not be with mum on Christmas Day, I travelled over on Christmas Eve with her present now in a very large box. Mum was like a small child once more, and although I told her:

“Not to be opened until Christmas”

Already the paper was being ripped from the package.

“I hope its something nice and not some old vase”

Of course, it was not old but a new vase, mum tried to retract her words in an apology and give the vase her full attention and drooled over its beauty, but that magical moment had passed, replaced by silent embarrassment.

Mum died on the 13th of June 2006 at St. Luke’s Hospital Bradford, and when I emptied the contents of her home I kept the crystal vase, and every year in memorial to my mother’s life, I fill the vase with flowers, today is the 13th of October.

When I want to have you near me,

I stand in this quiet place,

With the silver light of countless stars,

Falling on my face,

They all shine so brightly,

And it comforts me to know,

That the ones that shine the brightest,

Died a long, long time ago,

Your love still shines – it’s one small star to guide me – helping me hold back the dark – your light still shining in my heart.

Keep safe   

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The King sits in Dunfermline toon – a drinking at the wine……….

I had sat up until after 1am this morning watching a movie on television and stepped like a log until 9 am. The day looked fine so I decided to jump onboard a bus for Dunfermline, had not been there since before the coronavirus struck, and it was in need of a visit once more. The Glasgow bus out whisks me there in a trice, warm, comfortable and free, so I can keep the ten-pound note, I would have spent on petrol, on another day. Being a limited-stop bus it eats up the road, although it calls in a Glenrothes. Now it would seem that the bus station at Glenrothes, with a regular bus service to Glasgow and Edinburgh, is its biggest attribute, judging by the number of people that are always there to escape on board any bus going anywhere, and today was no exception.

As the bus pulled into Dunfermline the skies were now ice blue, the witches had been at work, sweeping the clouds from the skies leaving only the merest wisp of a brushstroke visible.

The town hall is the most prominent building and in dominates the High Street. It is in fact the third town hall. The first burned down in the great fire of Dunfermline (1624). The second was demolished to make room for Bridge Street, (great story about how that came about and how it bankrupted a very rich businessman) – but I digress.

Yard from here is the ruin of the Palace, it was here in 1600 that King Charles 1st of Scotland was born, what we see here would have been the nursery wing.

Up until the time of the Union of the Crowns, this would have been used by every monarch before that so we can add Mary Queen of Scots to that number.

The original Abbey was razed to the ground by Edward 1st (King of England) when he left that was in 1304.

The abbey we see today is in two parts and two different forms butted one to the gable of the other,

The Old
And the New
And as Eric Morecambe would have said “You can see the join from here”
Ops!

King Robert the Bruce had always wished for this to become the Royal residence, but after the Union of the Crowns Dunfermline cessed in importance.

It is worth mentioning that the twin towers were not always like this, they were both identical when the building was finished.

Lightning was responsible for the right tower losing its spire. Again an interesting story that runs alongside that. When the Fourth Bridge was built over the River Forth at Queensferry, it carried passengers and freight south from Inverkeithing. However, there was no rail link from Dunfermline to Inverkeithing at that time so a shuttle coach was run from Dunfermline to Inverkeithing arriving there in time to catch the trains to Edinburgh. This service was known as the Fife Flyer. Unfortunately, the stables that housed the coach and horses for the Fife Flyer were situated under the right tower of the Abbey. All the horses died under the masonry that fell from the tower.  

Some other facts and pictures from the abbey

The rear of the Bishops House – no bishop ever lived in the house
Door lintel in front of Bishops House – the inscription says something to the effect that you should guard your tong, wise advice at the time of the Reformation
The front of the Bishops House
The plinth is all that is left of her shrine
Not very comfortable

Dunfermline was at one time best known for the weaving of linen. And just down from the abbey is Andrew Carnegie’s cottage where he was born, his father was a hand weaver, and the loom can still be seen in the cottage museum.

I have not been in the Carnegie library since I lived in Dunfermline and a whole new wing has been built to house what is mostly a local history museum. Here you will see a full-sized handloom, built by a local joiner Robert Hay for the weaver James Meldrum around 150 years ago.

Taken from the library window – the window cleaner must have been

Inside the library there is a selection of hats that would have been worn through the ages, you are allowed to try them on in front of the mirror – Hamilton in Tudor hat.

Hand weaving was a cottage industry right across the town of Dunfermline at that time. It was mainly plain cloth, bleached by laying the newly washed cloth out in the sun on grassy slopes and not surprisingly became known as bleaching. This all changed when Jacquard weaving was introduced by Flemish weavers. These weavers were suffering religious persecution so immigrated to Edinburgh. They of course wished to keep secret how they wove their fine and intricate cloth. A Dunfermline weaver went over to their weaving shop and acting like a daft lady, was able to gain access and steal their techniques, he set up his loom in what is now the ruined Abbey in Dunfermline.

150-year-old loom built by local joiner – Robert Hay, for the weaver James Meldrum

When steam-driven mills came to Dunfermline (mostly machines adapted from the cotton looms from the Black Country of England) producing linen much quicker and cheaper than the weavers could ever achieve, there were riots in Dunfermline – such was the scale of the riots that troops were sent from Edinburgh to bring calm. That was the end of the cottage weaving industry. However, the weaving industry went from strength to strength

Women for the first time found employment in the new mills, so short of women for the mills that coaches were run from outlying towns and villages, Kelty, Lochgelly and Cardenden amongst them. The dexterity of the women helped but being able to pay women lower wages I’m sure was a big incentive to go to such trouble as bussing them in from a distance.    

Weaving did have its subsidiary industries, loom tuning, and design studios for the making of new patterns, Dunfermline even boosted its own collage dedicated to the arts to feed the pattern studios with fresh talent. Still, today in Dunfermline High Street if you look above the shops, you will find studios – designed to bring in as much daylight as possible.

Much of this I gleaned in my first year at Lauder Collage when my Communications lecturer asked each of us to take the class on a guided tour in Dunfermline (we each chose our own subjects they were surprisingly varied). At that time there was no internet so I spend a lot of time in the Local History section of the old library building. I could have spent a lifetime there and would never have been bored. The modern addition would have made short work of that study now.

Stay safe  

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“The NHS can not be the last stop for all the countries’ problems”

My ride today was short, if not sweet; rain dampened enthusiasm, however getting off my bum and out is always the challenge, mission accomplished.

I have said in the past that I have given up on mainstream media, and to a certain extent that is true. This morning I flicked on the television (Sky News) someone from the NHS was being interviewed, and I was hooked for the first time on morning television I was hearing a man that I could totally agree with.

“The NHS can not be the last stop for all the countries’ problems”

He was of course referring to the pressures that the NHS is working under, picking up the tab for bad housing, bad welfare (for old and young) fuel and food poverty – for it is all of these things that feed into a nation’s poor health – we should be treating the problems that cause poor health (mental and physical) not expecting the NHS to fix these problems by treating the symptoms caused by poor government policies.

Oh, Halleluiah!

The news was quickly followed by the falling pound, the Bank of England stopping the buying of the government’s debt, and trying to stop jitters in the markets.

The rising cost of gas, and rising inflation causing such hardship (and we are not even into winter yet). Strange that no one was listening when the Russian President (Putin) said on television last February that this is exactly what the consequences would be of Europe’s sanctions on Russian gas, and how the world economy would collapse if western nations continued down this path.

Of course, the western governments will say:

This is all Russia’s fault – the war in Ukraine – this has nothing to do with us – begging the question – how can such stupidity and stubbornness prevail in modern society?

Treat the cause of Europe’s problems (the inability to communicate) not the symptoms – sanctions causing high gas prices, high cost of goods and rising inflation, against a background of poor income (growth) because of high gas prices, high cost of transport, and raw material costs…… round and round we go.   

If you read Russian newspapers (translated online) you will get a better understanding of what is going on here.          

The Minsk Conundrum

As fighting raged at Debaltseve, emergency negotiations, brokered by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France, took place in Minsk. These produced a ‘package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements’ (‘Minsk-2’). This document, signed on 12 February 2015 by representatives from the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Lahaska People’s Republic (LNR) has been the framework for subsequent attempts to end the war.

Article 9: the process of re-establishing ‘full control over the Ukraine/Russia border by the Ukrainian authorities. There is now no reference to Poroshenko’s buffer zone or an OSCE-monitored security zone. Instead, the process of returning the border to Ukraine’s control begins the day after local elections have been held and concludes ‘after’ the ‘comprehensive political settlement’ (i.e. local elections plus constitutional reform providing for decentralization) due by the end of 2015 – but ‘on condition’ that article 11 has been implemented ‘in consultation with and upon agreement by the Donetsk People’s Republic DNR and Lahaska People’s Republic LNR.

Article 11: constitutional reform. A new Ukrainian constitution will enter into force by the end of 2015. Its ‘key element’ will be ‘decentralization’, which will take account of the ‘peculiarities’ of occupied Donbas, as agreed with the DNR/LNR representatives. Ukraine will also adopt ‘permanent legislation’ on special status before the end of 2015. This law will include an amnesty; ‘the right of linguistic self-determination’; the involvement of the local authorities in the appointment of prosecutors and courts; agreements between Ukraine’s central authorities and the local authorities covering ‘economic, social and cultural development’; state support for the socio-economic development of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts; assistance from the central authorities to support ‘transnational cooperation between the occupied regions and regions of the Russian Federation; rights for local parliaments to create ‘people’s militia units’; and no early termination of the powers of local parliaments and elected officials.

Article 12: elections in Donbas. Election-related questions will be dealt with on the basis of the temporary law on special status adopted in September 2014 and agreed with the DNR/LNR. Elections will be held in accordance with the relevant standards of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

To be fair it was a hasty drawn-up paper and there are some big gaping holes in the final draft, (it could have been the bases for further negotiations). Firstly it was not signed by Russia but by Russia’s man in Ukraine – also it did not involve the US,- the US were never happy about the Minsk Accord from the start – the US had other plans for Ukraine and has been the main stumbling block to a settlement in Ukraine/Russian conflict from the start (and continues to pour fuel on the fire of war). America has treated stupidity as if it were a virtue and it is time for level heads to get around the table and sort this dispute out before it escalates regions out with Donbas.

Stop the War – Stop the Expansion of NATO

Stay safe  

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Selling Castles in the Air

Nicola Sturgeon: is the first minister running out of options for Scottish independence.

This was the headline from Sky News this morning – now I do not believe that any political correspondent worth their salt, working with Sky News, or any other mainstream media believes this headline to be true. For they will already know that Nicola Sturgeon does not give a shit about Scottish independence, Nicola Sturgeon wants one thing and one thing only – to keep her party in power and herself in the job as the first minister.

I listened to Sturgeon’s speech and the girl can deliver a good speech – but her speech could have, to a greater or lesser degree, been given at any SNP conference since 2014 the year she came to power, and when both she and her husband took control of the party, isolating everyone, including its members from any decision making and like a good snake oil salesperson – sells her devoted fans ‘castles in the air.

What about this road to independence – well, if the ‘English’ Supreme Court, tell us we can have a referendum, then we will have a referendum, next year, a vote, on whether the people of Scotland wish to leave a voluntary union and become an independent nation once more.

The English Supreme Court – you’re having a laugh. Say the court does rule that the Westminster parliament can not overrule Scotland’s ‘Devolved’ parliament. Westminster parliament will simply appeal the ruling, and then order their Lordships to amend the rules of devolution to make sure they can not overrule the Westminster government – the Supreme Court will then say – since the ruling we were asked to judge on no longer applies – case dismissed.

And if the court says – sorry the parliament in Scotland is a devolved parliament answerable to Westminster, Sturgeon told us:

“We respect the rule of law”

Oor Nicola has rather than ‘running out of options will go from ‘zero to hero’ – it is those terrible Tories – it is they, not I, to blame for your rotten lives by not allowing democracy to rule and the Scottish people have its say.

And of course the Tory party, despite all the name-calling of Sturgeon and Sturgeon of the Tories, the Tories are delighted to have such an adversary in their corner and will help Sturgeon in any way they can for Sturgeon to stay in power in Scotland and send as many SNP MPs to the House of Commons as she can – for it they are sitting on SNP green benches they are not sitting in opposition to the government, Labour green benches.

Scotland has been annexed by stealth; the cutting of the final strings came with Brexit. and make no mistake about it Sturgeon has helped in the prosses by doing nothing to stop it.  

Plan ‘B’

Turning the General Election into a de facto independence referendum, I can not think of a worse idea than that. What if there was a high turnout for the SNP and their “Newest Mandate” for independence all that will mean is the SNP MPs will collect their ill-gotten gains for a further five years – polishing their backsides on the green benches, and Blackford standing up in the Commons and telling the PM:

“Scotland will not stand for it”

What then, will the SNP MPs as ever sit on his hands for another five years of a Tory-led government at Westminster?

Where do we go from there?

In the Scottish elections to Holyrood, a two-vote system, (and the younger voters will have their say too) will Sturgeon be allowed ‘Both Votes SNP’ (to send a strong message to Westminster that Scotland’s voice must be heard) – fool me once…. Or have Alex Salmond branded unfit for government, going as far as perjuring herself in order to stop the only threat to her power in Scotland. 

Could we really see a Scottish Parliament filled with SNP, Alba, SIP and any other party dedicated to removing Scotland from the Union and taking control of at Holyrood, ending forever Westminster’s (Scottish Branch) Tories, Labour, Lib/Dem appearance there?

Could we see a Scottish parliament devoid of all Unionist parties and in the position to demand rather than ask the right to determine our own future? With the power of the Scottish people behind them, will they now hold the reins and boycott Westminster if Westminster will not play ball?

Even if all this came to pass, think of the Brexit negotiations – how long did they take, years? What would be left of Scotland? It would simply be ‘Sold off, piece by piece in Westminster’s garage sale.

Scottish independence – who is the snake oil salesman selling castles in the air?

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A Bridge Too Far

The bridge was named the “Crimean Bridge” after an online vote in December 2017, while “Kerch Bridge” and “Reunification Bridge” were the second and third most popular choices, respectively.

On 8 October 2022, at 6:07 a.m. local time, a large explosion occurred on the roadway leading from Russia to Crimea, starting a large fire and causing parts of the road bridge to collapse.

How stupid – whoever thought that taking out the Kersh Bridge was a good idea – then their heads are zipped up the back.

Whoever thought that attacking Russia direct was a formula for winning, then they were wrong-headed and misjudged Russia badly.

What started off as a civil war in the East of Ukraine quickly escalated when America’s started pouring more and more high-tech equipment into Ukraine and using all of America’s surveillance to aid the targeting of Russian troops there. Ukrainian is no longer a Ukrainian war on disputed lands in the east of the country; it is an escalation of America’s proxy war against Russia, a direct attack on the sovereignty of Russia.

(Oh no point in arguing over whether Russia Annexed Crimea, Crimea is Russian territory).

America’s proxy war has just come back to bite them in the bum. They have now attacked Russia directly and that has changed totally the war in Ukraine – the gloves will come off.

This all started out with America wishing for more control in Europe (empire building). Whatever you thought of Margaret Thatcher or her policies, she was a smart cookie.  Take heed:

“When the pound gains parity with the dollar, there will be no going back”  

American trade in Europe and sales of arms into NATO countries (Europe) are crucial to the American economy and control in Ukraine would have expanded their trade control (just as happened in the Baltic States at the collapse of the Soviet Union) and control of the Black Sea area.

They failed to get the gas pipeline from Russia into Europe stopped and failed in their attempts to get Ukraine signed up and into the EU (and therefore NATO) by peaceful means, so they are playing Europe as they played the countries of South America,

Try to sell oil onto the open market in anything other than Petrodollars and there will be a coupe in that country, or heavy sections placed upon you, much as happened in Venezuela.

America has been behind this war in Ukraine from the start (2014) and we see the consequences of their interference.     

Is it not time for the European nations to come together to end this madness before it goes any further, or is the American dollar, too sweet. This war has been contained, so far, to Ukraine, but a Russian rocket that can hit Kyiv can certainly hit any other European city, then what, all-out nuclear World War????

So many questions go unanswered

Who really was behind – the shooting into a peaceful demonstration in a square in Kyiv in 2014?

Who really was responsible for the severing of the gas pipeline from Russia to Europe?

Who really was responsible for the destruction of the Kersh Bridge?

Who has the most to gain from all of the above, and the clandestine means to carry them out?

Stop The War – End NATO Expansion.

Stay safe.

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The Twa Corbies

Nothing stirred as I rode my bicycle out of the car park, and into a strong westerly, but the skies were clear and cycling is such a joy. Now I am often alone on my bike but never of course lonely. My mind is forever making up silly rhymes or stories that I will often tell to the wind, (embarrassing when some sneaky cyclist, creeps up alongside and wishes you a good morning). 

As I climbed towards Strathkinness I notice the council must have been out cutting the grass verges. Here the adjacent fields to my left are higher than the road so a grass dyke is formed from ditch to field; a poem from your schooldays soon entered my head.

The Twa Corbies by Sir Walter Scott,

As I was walking all alane,

I heard twa corbies making a mane;

he tane unto the t’other say,

“Where sall we gang and dine to-day?”

“in behint yon auld fail dyke,

I wot there lies a new slain knight;

And naebody kens that he lies there,

But his hawk,

his hound,

and lady fair.

“His hound is to the hunting gane,

His hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame;

His lady’s ta’en another mate,

So we may mak our dinner sweet.

“Ye’ll sit on his white hause-bane,

And I’ll pike out his bonny blue een;

,And I’ll pike out his bonny blue been;

Wi a lock o his gowden hair

We’ll theek our nest when it grows bare.

“Mony a one for him makes mane,

But nane sall ken where he is gane;

Oer his white banes, when they are bare,

The wind sall blaw for evermair.”

I dropped down from Knock Hill to the Eden Bridge, and set off up Dura Dell – the road is closed further up for through traffic – here workmen are hanging a steel mesh curtain over the rock face to stop loose boulders from trundling onto the road – but the pavement gives access by foot and bike around the obstacle.

With no through road the leaves, which had been torn from the trees by the strong wind, and not been swept away by the passage of cars, lay like a strewing carpet of colour – not unlike petals dropped before a bride on her triumphant march to the alter – I was now a knight on a charger, greeted into the small village of Pitscottie like a conquering hero.  

At Pitscottie I turned for home, and with the wind now on my back, the speed rose rapidly. The skies were clouding over, driven now by an increasingly strong wind, if I put on a bit of a spurt I may be home before the rain arrives.

Stay safe.

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Where have all the Suffragettes gone?

I really have given up on the BBC, Sky News and “Scottish” television news programmes, all have been waxing lyrical over the newest ‘SCOTTISH’ wind farm in Scottish waters and how it will help save the planet from global warming that will be a catastrophe for the world, second only to a nuclear war.

There was a large piece in The Guardian newspaper telling us how Steve Wilson is a little windswept after stepping off a rocking boat in choppy North Sea waters. Wilson is the programme director of Seagreen, Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm, which this week began producing power.

What the Guardian newspaper failed to mention is that although Seagreen is in Scottish waters, Scotland or the inhabitants of Scotland, had no say in it being constructed in our waters. Has no control over the electricity it produces. Has no control over the cost of that electricity when supplied to Scottish homes, and will not make one penny from the sale of any electricity produced by the winds that blow over Scottish waters.

“EDF is predominantly owned by the French government, German company E. ON Energie AG own E. On and Npower, and Scottish Power is owned by Spanish-based Iberdrola. SSE was bought out by OVO at the start of 2020”

So all would have heard those fine words by the PM at the Tory conference and no doubt all those fine words from Nicola Sturgeon, at the SNP conference this weekend will change nothing, both are only interested in one thing, and one thing only – telling you what is wrong in your rotten lives and who is to blame of it (the boggy man this year is Putin) that folks are how you win elections and keep your job as leader of a political party.

And as the media turn its spotlight on the conferences – at the same time turns its face from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia……. Where the same policies that have caused the rise in energy costs here at home (because of failed foreign policies of the US and Europe) have devastated these people’s lives.

In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, up to 811 million people — more than 10 per cent of the world’s population — still go to bed hungry each night. In 2021, there were 45 million people in the ‘emergency’ phase of food insecurity, just one step away from a declaration of famine. In Afghanistan, 55 per cent of the population is suffering from acute food insecurity – and the country’s needs are surpassing those of the other worst-hit countries, including Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and even Yemen. But what is famine and how can we stop it?

Shamha

Famine is not just a lack of food, it is a lack of basic human rights, the right to clean water, medical care and affordable medicine, and the right to good government, these are the right that every child should have wherever the stay in the world, for without such basic rights we have famine, decease and death on a biblical scale. Oh, we will get the G7 or 27 countries pledging “Aid” and may even get another Christmas Band-Aid record out to bring help fill the coffers of the Aid Agencies. But pledges of aid are not enough if you only treat the symptoms and not the cause – failed foreign policies.

At five years old, Shamha was diagnosed as malnourished and given a pink wristband to show people at Mazraq refugee camp in Yemen that she has not been getting enough to eat. The little girl had been sick since she was a baby but thanks to the high-energy food she received at the camp, she made a slow recovery. Like Shamha, 2.2 million children in Yemen under the age of five are at risk of suffering from acute malnutrition.

A new shop has opened in Market Street, St Andrews – it is a Christmas shop selling very expensive Christmas trinkets to decorate your home or office.

Suffer the children to come unto me,

The man that said that died on a tree,

And as we rejoice at this time of his birth,

Those children are suffering all over the earth,

So as we sit at the table at this Christmas time,

And stuff the roast ham and the turkey inside,

Don’t think of the children in the land far away,

Or those, hundreds of children, that will die today.

I will not visit the Christmas Shop in Market Street St Andrews this, or another day.

We really do need to start to think about what governments are doing in our name…. ask why people are risking all to journey across continents and dangerous seas to get to (what they believe) will be a better life?

We need to ask why the EU is handing out money to the Baltic States when they know that only a fraction of that money reaches the place it was intended for, the rest goes to corrupt racketeers.

We need to ask why in Scotland we have Oil, Gas, wind, and tide that can deliver us enough energy to supply our needs 100 fold – whilst at the same time acute fuel poverty?  

Made in Dagenham is a 2010 British comedy-drama film directed by Nigel Cole and Starring Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, and Miranda Richardson. It dramatised the Ford sewing machinist’s strike of 1968 that aimed for equal pay for women. (it is interesting that the theme song was sung by Sandie Shaw a native of the area that was once Ford Dagenham.) The successful strike led to the Equal Pay Act – but women are still waiting for equality.

Two parts stand out – when the boss’s wife comes to Rita and tells her that the bullying teacher has gone, “We won”.

“That she herself has an honours degree from one of the most prestigious universities in Britain – and my husband treats me like a fool” (I think the modern woman is winning that one), and encourage her to fight on, with the strike.

The other is when Rita is heading out for the bus to go with her workmates to lobby at the Trade Union Congress. Her husband and she are having an argument. Eddie (her husband) gives her a back-handed compliment.

Eddie

“Just listen to me – look, if I ain’t appreciated what you’ve done recently” – Rita impotent wishing to catch her bus, tries to interrupt,

“I really am sorry right, but – you ain’t been perfect in all of this either. You know – ‘cause it needs saying” ………………….

“I mean, Christ, I like a drink, but I ain’t out on the beer every night or screwin’ other women – or yeah, and I’ve never once raised e hand to ya- ever – or the kids.”

Rita gives him an “I give up” look and turns to go.

Eddie,

“What? – why you lookin’ like that?” he asks

Rita

“Oh, it’s – you’re a saint now, is that what you’re telling me, Eddie? – ‘cause you give an even break? – That is as it should be, Jesus Eddie! – what do you think this strike has all been about, eh? Oh, yeah. No actually – you’re right. You don’t go on the drink, do you? You don’t gamble, you join in with the kids, you don’t knock us about, oh, lucky me. For Christ’s sake, Eddie that’s as it should be! You try and understand that! Rights. It’s not a privilege. It’s that easy! It really bloody is!”

That is how it should be! (in a properly run world) You try and understand that! Right. It’s not a privilege. It’s that easy! It really bloody is!

Stay safe.

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Rain and thought of other things

Below the narrow streets of St Andrews – the skies look down and weep, so wet and with the wind, seemingly coming out in sympathy, it is not the best of mornings to climb on my bike, so back to the old keyboard.

I have always been a film buff, oh I don’t mean I buy film magazines or subscribe to ‘Hello’ magazine or anything like that – but I do like watching a lot of movies, and not just for entertainment. There was a time when I went three times a week to the cinema now it is DVDs on my 52-inch television.

Lately, I have gravitated more and more to Romantic Comedy, then again, like the character played by Jude Law alongside Amanda (Cameron Diaz) – (brilliantly by the way) in The Holiday, I’m a weeper, good book, card, movie, although The Holiday only made me feel happy at the end.

One genre I have never really gravitated to is war movies – films like the feel-good moves they churn out to make you patriotic towards America’s latest conflict, propaganda rubbish they like Green Beret (fighting soldiers from the sky…. Big John Wayne) came out around the time of the Vietnam blunder, by America.

That said, there have been many great movies where the story is not about war but set within the background of war.

I buy most of my DVDs from charity shops and the other day at a street stall I picked up half a dozen DVDs for a little over one pound. This is brilliant for I can pick up DVDs that I would not normally consider, but at less the 25 pence each it is always worth a punt. In the bundle was – Saving Private Ryan, not a war film but an anti-war film. I should have known it would be brilliant – directed by that genius of a director Steven Spielberg – starring Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg and Jeremy Davies. Private Ryan, (Matt Damon) did not appear until late in the movie but instantly started stealing scenes.  

The battle scenes were very real, and like all good American war films – the cavalry came to the rescue of the platoon at the end.

The dyeing scene is that of the war grave and that was so poignant:

The countless white crosses in mute witness stand,

To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.  

One other anti-war movie that will stay with me was – Gallipoli. A 1981 anti-war drama, directed this time by Peter Weir. The movie stars Mel Gibson (for he was the best known of the two main characters) and Mark Lee, with his Queensland joker face.

Then in 1916, the country said “Son, it’s time to stop rambling, there’s work to be done”

So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun and they marched me away to the war,

And the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’ as the ship pulled away from the queue,

Amidst all the cheers, flag waving and tears, we sailed off to Gallipoli.

Oh, how I remember that terrible day when our blood stained the sand and the water,

And how in that hell that they called Seuvla Bay we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter,

The Turks were waiting, they primed themselves well, they showered us with bullets and they rained us with shells,

And in five minutes flat they had blown us to hell, nearly blow us right back to Australia.

Some other movies that were directed by Peter Weir, were Picnic at Hanging Rock, (1975) and ANZAC (1985). The recurring themes of his films were the Australian identity, and to a degree – like the Dunkirk Spirit in Britain – the   ANZAC Spirit.

And the anti-war film to trump all anti-war films the Apocalypse Now. produced and directed by that other genius Francis Ford Coppola (1979) the film was very psychological following the journey of Captain Benjamin L Willard (Martin Sheen) also staring Marion Brando as Colonel Kurtz, a high-ranking officer that had gone off the reservation – or maybe he had just seen the war for what it was. The story takes us on a journey, travelling up the river and through the war in South Vietnam all the way into Cambodia.

Apocalypse Now is widely considered one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. Nominated for eight Academy Awards at the 52nd Academy Awards, including best picture, best director (Coppola) and best-supporting actor for Duvall, and went on to win the best cinematography and best sound. In 2000, it was selected for preservation in the United States, National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally historically of aesthetically significant”

For me, the line that stands out as significant and telling was when Captain Benjamin, now on his second tour (he had been home and knew now he was never going to make it back home, not after what he had lived through in Vietnam) – “I took the assignment, what the hell else could I have done?”

Stay safe.

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Falkland Palace

Monday once more and another laundry day arrives – once the washing was out of the machine and into the dryer I set about moving Pat’s perennials to the back of the plot so that she could display some pot plants that she had bought, now at the front and near to the path.

11am and all was well, the skies were overcast but a sharp wind tore the clouds a thunder as the morning went on so I decided on a trip over to Falkland Palace, – take every opportunity you can Hamilton – it could be a long winter.

I love this little palace as did Mary (Queen of Scots) it was her retreat from the bear pit that was Holyrood house, her official residence.

There has been a castle here since 1337 and may have even been here in the previous century, strategically placed between the Firth of Forth and the Tay. The castle originally belonged to the Earls of Fife. The castle was confiscated along with the Falkland estates in 1425 by James 11 (reigned 1437-60) and after the murder of his brother – the prime suspect being Murdoch Stewart, the Earl of Fife at that time. The castle and grounds along with the now vacant Earldom were given to James’ wife, (Mary of Gueldres). Between 1453 and 1460 James made additions to the castle and made it their official residence. The small village was elevated in status to Royal Burgh. However, it was King James 1V (1488-1513) and James V (1513-42) that created the Renaissance palace we see today. The masonry speaks with a very French accent and it is believed that is why it was so loved by Mary (Queen of Scots) reminding her of her childhood, growing up in the French court.

Mary first visited the palace at Falkland at Ester 1562, along with the Earl of Bothwell, who was plotting against her. He is reputed to have commented that the queen could quickly be seized since it was her habit to ride frequently to the nearby woods, where stags were kept. Mary was an expert horse rider, having been introduced to hunting from an early age whilst in France. It is said she enjoyed nothing better than hunting with horses and hawks.

If you do live in striking distance of Falkland Palace and have never been before then you are in for a treat.  

The Cross House – housing the royal apartments
The grounds are extensive and the army of volunteer gardeners work hard to keep them pristine

Inside Mary’s bed chamber is her coat of arms above the fireplace. I paced the room and it seems to be 24 feet by 20 feet.

Mary’s dress – I believe it will be a replica
Mary’s bed Oak is everywhere floors to ceiling
Mary’s bed Oak everywhere floors to ceilings word short trousers to play tennis and possibly when riding – this seemed to shock the door people of Scotland
.
A long gallery runs from the residence to the Chapel Royal
The tapestries at 17th-century Flemish – Acquired by Lord Ninian in 1906
The Chapel Royal
The Real or Royal Tennis Court was built in 1539 for James V and is the oldest in Britain
Uniformity is the destruction of art and individuality.
A posh doocot

Stay safe

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Aspen trees to light the way

Today’s ride took me over to Leuchars an as I travelled along the cycle path the wind was rustling the leaves of what I believe are Aspen trees. As a schoolboy my history teacher was telling us about the Romans and their road-building skills, mainly Ermine Street, now the A15, and how they planted Aspen trees along the side of the roads. The leafs of the Aspen tree as they moved in the wind acted as a guide for the troops passing along the roads at night. Today I could understand why that might work.

I had decided to visit an ‘A’ listed dovecote near here, once the doocot for Leuchars Castle. Now cycling shoes are brilliant on a bike, but they have their limitations and walking across a field of foot-high grass, wet through with overnight rain, not one of their attributes. By the time I had reached my destination they were waterlogged, still, I had my pictures. The building was seriously in need of restoration, with large cracks running from foundation to roofline in both the front and rear. Large steel bands have been placed around the structure to preserve it from further damage until funds can be found for its reconstruction. The cost of repair will be high, although possibly not as high as the surveys and technical reports that will be required before the National Lottery pays up.

The stone ledge (t window level) is to stop vermin entering the loft and scoffing eggs or birds

Leuchars Castle (Motte),

the best way to see the Motte is to go to the roundabout and down the side of the hotel that leads you along the old railway embankment. You can’t get to the castle from here but it is clearly visible only a hundred yards or so into the adjacent field. The site consists of a man-made oval, flat-topped mound, about 80 metres long by 50 metres wide and standing 8 metres high. Originally it was topped by a mediaeval wooden tower dating to the 12 century and would have been the work of one of the Norman lords, who were given lands in Scotland by King David 1. Later the wooden structure was replaced by a stone castle itself demolished in the 18th century.

I could not visit Leuchars without popping into see St Athernase Romanesque church, St Athernase (still in use by the Church of Scotland) as a parish church, and again a listed ‘A’ category building.

The chancel and half-round apse date from the 12th century with the exterior featuring blind arcades with typical Norman arches. The church was granted by Ness son of William, Lord of Leuchars, to the canons of St Andrews in 1185. Around 1700 a belfry was added, and in 1858 restoration was carried out to the nave.

The patron of Leuchars is not known for certain, but some medieval sources indicate a local cult of St Bonoc, a name unknown outside the parish of Leuchars, and a chapel of St Bonoc, complete with chaplain, is known to have existed.

Athernase may be an anglicised form of the name Itharnán, found also in Fife at Kilrenny, and on the Isle of May an Irish missionary who “died among the Picts” in 669 according to the Annals of Ulster.

Home, another few miles under my belt, time to tie up the Chrysanthemums, just coming into flower.

Stay safe.  

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When the power love – overcomes the love of power – there will be peace in the world. Jimi Hendrix.

Last Friday, I called the plumber when I found a leak around the pan in the bathroom, he came but could not find where the water was coming from – he said it may be a small crack in the pan and told me he couldn’t do anything until after the weekend – I’ll be back Monday or Tuesday. No plumber on Monday – I waited until 10 am today still no sight of a plumber or any message to tell me he would be here today. I was not going to hang around for someone that may or may not appear so I pressed my bus pass into service and headed for St Monans.

St Monans is a small coastal fishing village on the north shore of the River Forth; the name derives from a 9th-century hermit who built a cell near the point where the burn joins the sea. Monan (for that was his name) was killed by raiding Vikings and a shrine was built in his honour.

Pilgrims started to visit the site of Monan’s cell, some settled and the village grow. A rough chapel was founded in the saint’s honour, then around AD 1265 a stone church was built, or rebuilt, depending on which source David 11 to give thanks for his delivery from a storm.

Another version of the story said it was not David 11 but David 1st (1085-1153) who built the first chapel at St Monans. The king had been wounded by an arrow, during a battle with English troops – the monks of St Monans healed the king of his wounds, and in gratitude he built them a chapel.

It is possible that both stories are true for the work could have been started by David 1st and completed by David 11.

The church that later became the parish church, was built within 25 feet of the cliff edge, it is often claimed the Auld Kirk is built near the sea more than any other church in Scotland but was never finished for it lacks a nave. However, it is still a striking church built to the traditional cruciform plan. It has a striking spire above the crossing the most interesting feature of the church’s interior is the beautiful vaulting, painted ceiling over the choir.

The coats of arms include those of the Earl of Douglas, the Earl of Fife, and the Earl of Annandale. The Royal Arms of Scotland is set above the original altar would have been sitted.   

In 1471 King James 111 gave the kirk to a small monastery of Dominican friars – in 1544 the chapel was burned in an English naval attack on the Fife coast. The chapel became a parish church in 1646.

Everyone that visits the church remarks on the 18th-century model of a ship suspended from the ceiling. This is a reminder of the strong links between the church, the people and the sea.

Auld Kirk at St Monans is one of the last remaining medieval churches in Scotland still in use. It is also listed as one of the 10 most beautiful churches in Scotland. I certainly agree with that.

The tide was out so I was able to follow the Coastal Path under the retaining wall that keeps the sea at bay. You will notice that the stones that make up the are laid, end to end not crosswise – this is so that the sea pounding on the wall has less chance of lifting the rocks (less resistance, the waves simply ride up the wall) you will see this in many of the harbours of Scotland – it is believed that it was Stevenson (of lighthouse building fame) that started the practice.

Onwards up to the dovecot – alas my memory had failed me the dovecot was not dry stane as I had remembered it but random rubble held together by lime mortar, ho-hum.

Newark Castle, to which the dovecot once belonged, is pretty much a ruin now, there has been a building on the site that probably dates back to the 13th century, at which time the Scottish king Alexander 111 (1241–1286) spent some of his childhood.

The current building was begun in the 15th century by the Kinloch family. It then passed, through marriage, to the Sandilands of Cruivie, who sold it in 1649 to David Leslie. Leslie was a prominent figure in the English and Scottish Civil Wars, becoming Lord Newark after the wars. Following Leslie’s death in 1682, the castle passed to the Anstruther family, and finally to the Bairds of Elie

Sad that the castle is now a ruin, for the castle had attracted the attention of Sir William Burrell the Glasgow shipping magnate and collector of art and antiques, in the late 19th century when Sir Robert Lorimer produced a plan for its restoration. The scheme never went ahead as the owner of the site, Mr Baird of Elie refused to sell.

The last couple of decades have really taken their toll on the ruin and it is now surrounded by fencing to keep people away. Looks like the caravan club will have to find a new site.

I was only a couple of hundred yards from the road when the big yellow X60 bus passed along, oh no, missed the bus. Close behind was the 95, in and out of the dusty bluebells, we went all the way up the coast for St. Andrews.

Another day killed off.

Stay safe.

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Teasses Dovecot

The weekend was a little different for me as my niece and her husband arrived for a visit. He is into dry stone walling in a big way and gives lectures on the subject, but if you ever meet him don’t mention dry stone walling he can talk the hind legs of a donkey on the subject.

He is forever on the lookout for new dry stane dykes to photograph and add interest to his lectures so when he heard of a new dry stane dove cot having been built on the grounds of Teasses (about 10- 15 miles from here), he arranged to meet up with the builder (a sculptor) to look over the new dovecot. I decided I would love to string along, but since his van only had two seats I travelled over on my motorcycle. As happened I forgot to take my camera with me, (you can find short videos of its construction on the internet). The cot provides a home to 32 white doves.

Dovecots are found all over Fife, every landowner had one for eggs and meat, however only the lord of the manor was allowed to have a dovecot – the local farmers supplied feeding for their lordships pigeons from crops in their fields.

Some years ago I did visit many of the dovecots in and around Fife – so I knew of at least two other dovecots built exclusively without lime mortar (dry stane) one listed near the castle at Leuchars, (it has been banded in steel bands to stop it from falling apart until complete restoration can be done) and one near to Newark church and on the coastal path at St Monans. Since many of these dove cots are in the middle of fields, this is the best time to visit – after harvest and before ploughing and winter planting.

If the weather stays with us I may just go out and take a few photographs of dove cots to e-mail down to my niece in Wales.

Stay safe.  

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St Andrews under clear skies and sunshine all the way

St Andrews under clear skies and sunshine all the way but I am pleased to be wearing my thermal gloves. My ride was more or less a carbon copy of yesterday, short and sweet, as I have to get home and start cleaning the house from top to bottom before the arrival of my niece and her husband, I would not want word to get around that I was living in squalor – mum would be black affronted.  

To our tale

In August 1548 Mary, now Queen of Scots arrived in France, after being cooped up in Dumbarton Castle for five months whilst negations between the Scots and French dragged on. Mary was five years and seven months old at this point, with her came an entourage – Mary Flaming her governess, and the four Maries, Mary, Seton, Beaton Fleming (her mother was their governess) and Mary Livingston, all were about the same age as Mary. Her mother Marie of Guise remained in Scotland to look after Mary’s interests.

Sadly, much as I would like to, I can not go riding off for France and follow in the footsteps (or should that be hove prints) of Mary, but it is worth saying a few words about her life there.

In January 1558 Mary’s Uncle, her mother’s brother the Duke of Guise, won a great victory by recapturing Calais from the English – their last toehold in France. This increased the standing of the Guise family and as a result, Henri 11 decided to bring forward the marriage between Mary and his son Francois. The wedding would move Mary from a mere house guest to becoming a member of the royal household.

Royal marriages were all about power so although Mary was 15 and tall for her time, near six foot, and had always been a very precocious child, her husband of only fourteen years, was never a well child, and possibly never reached puberty. He was most of the time a very shy person who stutter a lot. The two had grown up together as children and seemed to have a genuine affection for each other, it is believed by many historians that the marriage was never consummated.

Politically

The ceremony was held in the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in April 1558, and by marrying Mary Francois also acquired a claim to the English throne. Encouraged by Francois’ father and their French relatives François and Mary added the coat of arms of England to their already Scottish and French coats of arms. This did nothing for Mary’s relationship with Elizabeth and soured relationships between the two women for the rest of Mary’s life. Elizabeth feared the return of Mary for she now posed a threat in England – she could become a rallying point for a large (although in the minority) Catholics in England.  

Henri, the king, had been jousting with Gabriel de Montgomery, captain of the Scottish Guard, formed in the early 1400s as an elite military unit, now bodyguard of the French monarch. Montgomery’s lance broke during a joust, and the splintered end penetrated the king’s eye and brain.

“The King is dead – long live the King”

Francois was fifteen when crowned King of France – Mary Queen Consort of France was now in her sixteenth year. He husband was granted the crown matrimonial of Scotland, meaning that they ruled Scotland jointly, and in the event of Mary’s death Francois would rule Scotland.

Tragedy struck a double blow in Mary’s life for on the 11th of June 1560 Mary’s mother Marie of Guise – who had ruled Scotland on Mary’s behalf – died.

On December 5th of the same year just two days before her eighteenth birthday Francois also died (an ear infection that led to an abscess in his brain.)

Many in Scotland would not have been too upset over the death of Francois, in particular, the Protestant faction; it had always been a concern. Had Mary and Francois had a son, he would have grown up in France to rule both Scotland and France. A French Catholic king of Scotland – could this lead to a re-establishment of the Catholic religion as the official religion of Scotland?

After her Husband’s death Mary decided it best she returns to Scotland – her marriage contract included a 16th-century prenuptial, which stripped her of her power after the death of her husband. Catherine de Medici (Mary’s mother-in-law) now ruled as regent on behalf of her young son Charles and the two women never really hit it off, Mary had become an inconvenience.

Mary returned to Scotland on 19th August 1556, having spent the last thirteen years in France. Without a doubt, Mary was now a French aristocrat, she was still only eighteen years of age, and a very rich girl – in the contract of marriage she would be allowed to keep an income from some properties in France in the event of her husband’s death. However, Mary was ill-prepared for the bear-pit of 16th-century Scottish politics.

The two galleys that carried the royal party from France to the port of Leith in Edinburgh had made good passage arriving early, so there was no welcoming party. Still, as she made her way into the city word went ahead of her and the crowds turned out to cheer their beautiful young queen.

Although Mary was a Catholic in a Protestant Scotland, it was agreed by the (war)lords the real power in Scotland, that she could practice her religion just so long as she did it in the privacy of her quarters. Still, there was always the fear that she would be a catalyst for the re-emergence of the Catholic religion in Scotland.

In her first year back in Scotland Mary travelled widely as part of a royal tour or progresses as they were then called. She travelled extensively in the borders, Fife and up the east coast as far as Dingwall. but she never did visit the Hebrides, Orkneys or Shetlands. Mary travelled on horseback for most of her sojourning, for the roads of Scotland were so poor as to make travelling by carriage problematic. This would not have been a problem for the young queen an accomplished horsewoman, who loved to hunt with horses and hawks. Although in later years she is known to have suffered badly from arthritis, which would have caused her great pain whilst riding, and living in cold and damp old Scottish castles, would not help her condition.

So time for me too to climb into the saddle and visit some of the places she visited during her years spent in Scotland.

These will not be as a timeline and sites only visited as and when in the area or have the where-for-all and weather to do so.

Stay safe.     

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Hands up – all those that have heard of Jennifer Krill? I don’t see too many hands.

The morning ride started off cold and dull but as I neared Pitscottie along the B939, the sun came out to greet us. Here I would normally turn off onto the Kemback road but it is closed – possibly to do with stabilising the rock face where rocks have been trundling onto the road, so today it was up and over the hill for Cupar, onto the A9 before turning off onto the road down past Dairsie Castle and over the Eden Bridge, where I turned left up over Knock Hill – Strathkinness and home.

I was watching the life story (part one) of Mohamed Ally, (formally Cassias Clay) of course boxing was big then and I put my hand up, I did enjoy and did watch boxing at that time. During his days at school, young Clay, was not much of a scholar, (dyslexic) so used to clown around a lot to compensate for his inadequacy. We all have weaknesses and compensate for them throughout our lives. Mine was an inability to remember names or dates and since history (at school) was all about remembering dates and names – I struggled.

I was thinking about all of this as I cycled along and remember my history jotters from that time; they were not full of written notes – to be repudiated in an essay – but full of naive little drawings – my memory aids.

James 1st was stabbed to death in a sewer – his own fault for it was he that had ordered the sewer outlet to be blocked off, he kept losing tennis balls down it.

In my notebook, I made a drawing of a footballer with the number 1 on his back – but wearing a crown and with a large cloth peg on his nose.

Then came James 2 and the drawing was an explosion with pieces of cannon flying from it – including a crown. The second drawing was of a grave marker with his name and the date of his demise.

I do the same with numbers, I needed to remember the door number of a new girlfriend so I substituted 16 for DJ (D having a straight line, J looking a little like a number 6) – now don’t ask me why it is easer to remember DJ than the number 16 – unless I am able to associate DJ with real characters such as Tony Blackburn – Emperor Roscoe…….

We watched sport on television back then too, but you would only see the football match or whatever sport it was you were interested in (the BBC seemed obsessed with cricket at that time), we watched the match then discussed it fully over a pint with our mates down the club or pub. Today we have an endless possession of ‘so-called’ experts to give us their very speculative pre-match briefing – and after the match a post-match briefing of why it all went so wrong from their pre-match scenario.

Much the same has happened with the news – in 1950-1960 we had news readers who read the news, now it is all speculation – about what the new PM may or may not do……. Numpty coming on daily and giving us their version of events (heavily biased on the government’s side), today I saw a headline to say that there has been opposition to the Russian president’s conscription into the army. Well, I would hope there would be, I for one would be the first onto the streets in protest at the war if I had been a Russian citizen. I only wish that many more people around the world would come out onto the streets and chastise America and any other country around the world that incites war. Then I’m biased – a member of Stop the War, CAAT, and having signed the Pease Pledge.

But what I can not stand is the hypocrisy of it all; on every news channel and banner headline on all the front pages of newspapers in the western world, the story is of people being arrested for protesting on the streets of Russia against a call to arms, conscription.

Oh, did I not hear about people in Scotland being arrested for protesting in the streets of Edinburgh, during the possession of the coffin of the late queen. Arrested for voicing their opposition to the monarchy and the succession of Charles the third.

(Oh! And on that note, the carcase in the coffin (if body there was in the coffin) was not that of Elizabeth the 2nd but the first (of Scotland) and second (of England) or was that part of the cunning plot too?)

I remember dad telling me

“Something that doesn’t seem right isn’t.”

Why was the queen in the last days of her life (for it must have been known) in Scotland? Was she actually at Balmoral at all?

If she was there, why not simply transport the coffin to Aberdeen and fly her home?

Why all the charade of a grand funeral procession????????

“Something that doesn’t seem right isn’t.”

In America too, we had people arrested for protesting in the streets, hands-up all those that have heard of Jennifer Krill? I don’t see too many hands.

Walter,

I just got arrested with 12 other Executive Directors from national and community climate and environmental justice organizations in Washington, DC. We risked arrest at the Capitol to denounce Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer’s dirty deal.

This dirty deal must be stopped! If passed, it would fast-track fossil fuel and dirty mining projects, weaken environmental protections, and strip people of power to protect their own health.

Just yesterday, Senator Manchin formally released the text of his dirty deal that would be an environmental justice disaster. 

It is not only our right to question our representatives – it is our duty to do so.

Stay safe

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Thinking of Yesterday

I was very lucky with the weather yesterday for come this morning it is raining, not heavy but still….. I did not want to neglect my cycling for it has kept me supple, and still able to climb on board my motorcycle, so off we went into drizzly rain and rising wind, this is not good so out to Strathkinness, down the hill and home, no more than 5-6 miles.

There was a tractor working in the field ploughing the land and a strong scent of newly turned soil assaulted my nostrils. 

The weather is changing fast now and shortening days are upon us, so my travelling days may be curtailed somewhat, but my cycling days will remain all-be-it shorter runs.

I watch the birds chase after the plough,

Turning over land bare and barn now,

No longer school children stoop in the field,

A potato monster now gathers the yield,

We are losing that closeness, we once had with the land,

To simply ignore, is not to understand. 

Stay safe

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Another Pretty Awesome Day

In my quest to take in all the sites, associated with Mary Queen of Scots, around Scotland, we first travelled to Linlithgow Palace, the place of her birth today I continued on my quest by visiting Stirling Castle and on to Inchmahome Priory a round trip of just over 150 miles. 

I was blessed with good weather all the way, and on arriving in Stirling (not to be missed on a tour of Scotland) – the last time I was here I drove over with my sisters Irene and Rita and before the renovation of the castle, so you know how long ago that was at least a decade.

I visited Inchmahome Priory before returning to Sterling arriving there at just after 11am so time to visit Wetherspoons for a ‘Full Scottish’ breakfast – which I’m sure will be the same as a ‘Full English’ breakfast south of the border, those cunning marketing men. However, at £4.50 and all the tea you can drink from their teapot of plenty, it was not only good value for money but very welcome indeed.

Our story so far

Following the death of her father James V, and fearing that the infant Mary would be kidnapped by Scottish lords that wished a union (in marriage) between Mary and Edward (son of Henry V111) the Treaty of Greenwich – however when Henry hears that the Scots were reneging on the agreement he sent troops into Scotland to burn, pillage and cause mayhem (then Henry always had a bit of a temper and like things his own way). 

The time became known as the “rough wooing” to terrorize the Scots and obtain their agreement to the marriage.

“ Put all to fire and sword, burn Edinburgh, so razed and defaced when you have sacked and gotten what ye can of it, as there may remain forever a perpetual memory of the vengeance of God lightened upon (them) for their falsehood and disloyalty………and as many towns and villages about Edinburgh as you may conveniently.”

With English troops prowling the land, Mary’s mother felt compelled to move her daughter to the newly built renaissance palace within the castle, for her safety.

On September 9th 1543 at only nine months of age, Mary was crowned in the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle. The one we see today was built in 1590 for the coronation of James V1’s son Henry, the old Chapel Royal having been demolished to accommodate the new.

Entrance to Stirling Castle

Mary and her mother were relatively safe in Stirling Castle whilst much of the southeast of Scotland and Fife were burned and laid to waste by the English troops.

The Great Hall

was restored on a grand scale, having to have its roof replaced. In fact, my brother was one of the consultants at that time and was sent off to Finland to see trees felled, cut and dried before testing, for strength and durability, before being shipped to Scotland. When you see these timbers in place it truly would have been a Herculean task (and very costly, it will take a lot of visitors paying their entry fees to pay for the renovations I’m sure). The Great Hall can sit 500 people for dinner and is the largest of its kind in Scotland.

The Great Hall will seat 500 guests for dinner

This stair leads you into the palace proper and was known as the Lion’s Den – for it is believed that the king housed lions in these quarters.

The King and Queens quarters – Lion’s Den

The small lion statue crowns the four posts at the foot of the stairs leading up into the palace.

Inside the rooms are spacious, for the royals, with sitting rooms and bed chambers. The décor is spectacular (although not the original as close to original as possible).

Where the King and Queen would dine

What you do get from the windows of these rooms is panoramic views across to the Ochil Hills, and down the valley to the west.

Lots of tourists getting in my way
The Ochil Hills from the bedroom window

After the invasion by an English army in 1547 and the massacre of the Scottish army at Pinkie Cleugh, (badly led by the Earl of Arran – he asked the Scots to leave their defensive positions and charge the English – they were cut down by artillery (much akin to “into the valley of death rode the 600, only on foot) when the fighting became intense Arran turned tail and fled the field, this provoked a major retreat of the Scots, they were fair game to the English cavalry and slaughters by the thousand.

Once more the young queen’s safety was in question, trapped in Sterling Castle. It was decided that the young queen be moved to France out of the reach of the English. 

Mary was spirited out of the castle on a litter in the dead of night and sent to Inchmahome Priory, at the time an Augustinian priory on the small island in the Lake of Menteith, (the only lake in Scotland) the Lake of Menteith is only seventeen miles from Stirling Castle but it is very isolated at the foot of the Scottish Highlands. Had the English troops managed to find Mary the plan would have been to move her swiftly into the Highlands where she could be concealed and protected by the highland clans.

I already knew that the Priory was closed – for safety checks, but since I was here why not pop out to Lake of Monteith
Like a mill pond – this is the fishing club near where you would catch a boat to the island and priory

Mary would remain at the Inchmahome Priory for three weeks, the pillaging English army had by now left the area, so Mary could be moved back to Stirling Castle – however with English troops garrisoned in Southern Scotland, the only solution was to move the young queen out of the country. Mary was taken to Dumbarton Castle (situated in the estuary of the River Clyde) she would remain there for a further five months whilst negotiations went on between Scotland and France over Mary’s future.

Mary’s mother was a French aristocrat from the powerful Guise family, she was well connected to the French royal family and this must have helped with the negotiations.

The Scottish Parliament agreed that Mary would live under the protection of the French King, Henri 11, and when old enough would marry his son Francois, who was destined to become King of France.

The problem, this would give France control over Scotland, and create a permanent threat to England, French troops on her northern border, in the on-and-off war between England and France.

In August 1548 Mary arrived on French soil.          

I could not go to Stirling and not visit the Holy Rude (the name holy rude simply means holy cross) church that stands close to the castle itself.

Holy Rude

The original church was destroyed in the great fire of 1405 it was rebuilt over the following decades and that structure has survived for over 500 years and is the best preserved Medieval church in Britain. On the 29th of July 1567, King James V1 was crowned King of Scotland at Holy Rude Church, of all the churches that staged coronations, only Holy Rude and two others are still active today.

The sun’s shining now on this green field in France,

The soft wind blows gently and the red poppies dance,

The trenches are gone, long under the plough,

No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now,

But here in this graveyard its still ‘No man’s land’

The countless white crosses in mute witness stand,

To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,

And a whole generation that was butchered and dammed.

Stay safe

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Thoughts on my trip to Linlithgow Palace

In the early 1500s, Northern Europe was in religious ferment, with the Catholic Church being challenged in many countries by the new Protestant religion. Both of these churches struggled for supremacy, and both churches were bigoted and intolerant, seeing their rivals as heretics rather than fellow Christians.

Scotland was a poor nation with a small population, and although difficult to give a true and accurate number it is generally accepted that the population of Scotland be around 600,000 by the mid-16th century, whilst at that same time, the population of England and Wales would have been around 4,000,000 and France – the European superpower, approaching 20,000,000. Therefore Scotland was never a threat to English power unless it was allied with France.

In many ways Scotland at that time was not unlike Afghanistan today; a country with a weak central government, where much of the real power lay with warlords. And the similarity did not stop there, much like Afghanistan the country had been racked by war and the intervention of foreign powers. In the case of Scotland, we had England and France, in Afghanistan, the French, the British, the Russians, (although they were fighting on behalf of the central government against rebel fighters in the pay of the CIA) and NATO forces under US control.

I was reminded of all of this as I sat on the grass bank on the grounds of Linlithgow Palace, where in 1542 a young girl was born to Marie of Guise the second wife of King James V of Scotland. Marie had been married to Louis, Duke of Longueville, who died of smallpox, leaving Marie a widow of only 21 years, with two young sons, one of whom was to die in infancy. Her name was linked to Henry V111 as a possible marriage; Henry was reputed to have said, that he was a big man and needed a big wife, (Marie was nearly 6 foot tall as would her daughter grow to be) replied to friends – that although she was big, she had but a little neck. This was in reference to Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn’s remark when she was going to the executioner’s block, about having only a little neck.  

The King of England at the time was Henry V111, who had usurped the Pope’s authority and taken over, what was formerly the Catholic Church of England. The lines were now drawn; the Scottish King was a Catholic (as was his wife from the strong French Guise family.) This made for a fractured relationship between James and Henry and therefore between Scotland and England.

Marie gave birth to two sons by James V, both boys died in infancy within days of each other, in April 1541. Marie’s third child by James V was Princess Mary, who would become Mary Queen of Scots.     

When James learned of the birth of a daughter he is reported to have said,

“It came wi’ a lass, it will go wi’ a lass”

James 1 of Scotland was the first Stuart to become king through his marriage to Robert Bruce’s daughter. James thought it unlikely that a woman could successfully rule Scotland, and therefore he expected Mary’s reign to be short-lived, and for Mary to be the last Stuart monarch.

Mary was to spend the first seven months of her life in the palace at Linlithgow and was Christened in the Church of St Michael and at that time just outside the palace walls.

Following the death of her father, Mary as queen became a great prize, she had a kingdom to pass on and also a strong claim to the English crown, (a double-edged sword as it turned out.) it is to Mary’s credit that she was to rise above her expected role of marriage (as junior partner) for at that time it was male relatives that controlled the destiny of royal or aristocratic young women.  

Marie of Guise was very protective of the young queen, following the death of her father. The Scottish nobility was in dispute over who was to be regent and to have custody of Mary, having custody would allow the noble to control Scotland – rule in her name.

On the other side of the Scottish border Henry (like Broderick), had a ‘cunning plan’ he would have his five-year-old son, Edward, marry the infant Mary. This way he would win Scotland (something he could easily have done through invasion but holding it indefinitely against guerrilla warfare would be very costly.)

The Protestant lords wished for the marriage to go ahead for they saw Henry as an ally in their battle against Catholicism.

Mary’s mother was a committed Catholic, and French, and not only wished for her daughter to be brought up in the Catholic faith but for Scotland to remain a Catholic country, so she opposed the marriage.

In July 1543, after much politicking and no doubt, large bribes by Henry, the seven-month-old Mary was contracted by the Scottish Parliament to marry Prince Edward when she reached her 10th birthday, (The Treaty of Greenwich).

It was at this time that Marie moved her daughter from Linlithgow to the much more defensible Stirling Castle. Mary travelled in a litter with an escort of 3,500 troops provided by the nobles who were still in support of Marie; the fear was always that the infant would be kidnapped, for her mother was trying to get the Treaty of Greenwich annulled much against Henry’s will. So the risk from agents in the pay of England was real.

On the 9th of September 1543 in the Chapel Royal in Stirling Castle the nine-month-old, Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland – the coronation ceremony conducted by Cardinal David Beaton, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland was very much in keeping with the Catholic tradition.  

The way that James’ ancestors from James 1st to James 4th met their ends gave some indication of the difficulty of ruling Scotland at that time.

James the first was stabbed to death in a sewer while trying to escape from a group of rebel nobles.

James the 2nd died when one of his canons exploded at the siege of Roxburgh Castle, which was being held by the English.

James the 3rd was killed or murdered, immediately after a battle against rebel nobles who wanted James’ son to rule instead.

James the 4th was killed by English soldiers when leading his troops at the Battle of Flodden. James the 4th was the last British monarch to die in battle. After James British monarchs allowed their armies to be led by professional soldiers, if they did attend the battle, they stayed well back!

This was the monarchy that Mary was heir to!

My next journey on the trail of Mary Queen of Scots will be Stirling Castle and the continuation of this story

Stay safe.   

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Train, Churches and a palace

Today was a bit special – with the weather holding steady, although a bit breezy, I decided to go for a wee run on my motorcycle, and if you don’t know where you are going then, of course, all roads lead there. I headed west Cupar, Kinross, where I stopped to top up the tank, no fuel gauge means you top up a lot. I was now on the A997 that takes you through Crook of Devon, Powmill and Forestmill. So I stayed on this road, all the way into Kincardine, before crossing the bridge and on into Bo’ness, home of my ancestors.

The Bo’ness railway museum is a first for me and it was well worth a visit, problem, I did not spend the whole day there.

This was a large shunting yard that would have at one time handled coal from the Kinneil Pit, iron goods from the foundry and cargoes from ships that came in and out of Bo’ness harbour, so much to see.

Thankfully they allow small boys like me to clamber into and onto some of the exhibits, such as the mail train carriage and one of Glasgow’s early underground trains.

The workshop from above
Old Glasgow underground train

Next, I stopped off at Linlithgow Palace; this was the birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots.

A ruin now,

Entrance to the Palace

The grounds on which it sits are stunning and a great place to spend time with a picnic lunch.

Keep an eye open for fore coming events in the park, (I did notice that there will be an up-and-coming Folk Music Festival in Linlithgow).

St Michael’s church (on the grounds) is well worth a visit – looking good after 500 years.

Mary Queen of Scots

Before taking off for home I stopped in at one of the many cafes for a pot of tea and a scone.

I had topped up the tank before I left and again when I arrived back at the same filling station £8.00 spent, good value for money – I would say.       

Stay safe

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I am going to be most controversial today, sorry.

On Tuesday I was sitting outside my favourite pub in South Street, I was with a friend; she was drinking coffee, I, a pint. Who should appear in our presence – another friend of both of us, Agnes, she ordered a coffee then the three of us fought over who was going to pay for her coffee.

Agnes is a bustling wee biddy, Mrs Never-in,

“I can’t stop long” she announced as she sat down, “I am off to Edinburgh, meeting up with a friend we are going to watch the queen passing in her coffin” she rattle off, then continued “I had to cancel my chiropodist appointment and sorry Walter we will have to make new arrangements for you to put up my pictures, I will be staying at my friend’s house tonight.” This all came out in one long breath; she was so excited about the trip you would think she had a personal invitation from the queen herself.

I sat quietly saying nothing; I did not wish to burst my friend’s bubble, being anti-royal and all. Sadly we do not have free speech in this country so no derogatory remarks will be tolerated over the blanket coverage on the television and mainstream media, of the sceptical of dragging an old diseased carcase around the country to make us all feel patriotic, sorry it is just not my thing.  

“The Queen is dead – Long live the King”

This funeral will go on for weeks only to be replaced by more pomp and pageantry, the crowning of a man who by accident of birth will be kept in the luxury he has been groomed to expect, along with his entire entourage of hanger-on.

Now I’m not saying a head of state is not needed, for greeting like-minded visiting dignitaries, but when you go over to Holland and cycle alongside their reigning monarch, who will perform such tasks without all the expense and fuss, well…..

No, I think there is more to this than meets the eye, the United Kingdom is not a country it is made up of England, two other countries Wales and Scotland and part of another country Ireland. All held under the control of Westminster power, so provoking the Dunkirk Spirit, the Spitfire, Armistice Day, State Opening of Parliament, Coronations and big Funeral Cortège is all part of keeping the plebs in their place, something the elite – the real power behind the throne – Westminster, have managed to maintain over the centuries.

I wonder how long it will be after the coronation that our illustrious leader (PM) will go to the country to win a landslide victory at the poles for her Party, like Thatcher before her, who wrapped herself in bunting at the conclusion of the Falklands War. (A war instigated simply for political gain). Sorry, Nicola, your arse is out the windy if you thought you had any hope of clinging onto power, just put it down to bad timing.

Sorry, you didn’t really believe you lived in a democracy, did you?

From a distance, the world looks blue and green
And the snow-capped mountains white
From a distance, the ocean meets the stream
And the eagle takes to flight

From a distance, there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
It’s the voice of hope
It’s the voice of peace
It’s the voice of every man

From a distance, we all have enough
And no one is in need
And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease
No hungry mouths to feed

From a distance, we are instruments
Marching in a common band
Playing songs of hope
Playing songs of peace
They’re the songs of every man

God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance

From a distance, you look like my friend
Even though we are at war
From a distance, I just cannot comprehend
What all this fighting’s for

From a distance, there is harmony
And it echoes through the land
And it’s the hope of hopes
It’s the love of loves
It’s the heart of every man (every man)

It’s the hope of hopes
It’s the love of loves
This is the song for every man

And God is watching us
God is watching us
God is watching us
From a distance

Oh, God is watching us
God is watching
God is watching us
From a distance

Songwriters: Julie Gold

Stay safe.

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Getting Crafty

I have tried painting in the past but have no real talent in that department; however, I have always loved to draw. Some years back I bought the book “The complete book of drawing by Barrington Barber – the best £15.00 I ever spent, for Scotland’s winter days can be cold, dark and long.

I have a dear friend and neighbour who will be 80 years old in a couple of weeks’ time, so I wanted a card but not bought but something personal from me.

What will be the theme of the card, well; she is a retired English school teacher, loves the sea, and travel and she is a writer – she has already, locked away in her broom cupboard of a den, managed to produce three novels, to date.  

I started with a simple cover – less is more.

Then I thought 1942 was the year of the horse. I needed the horses to be Chinese, those beautiful simply black and white paintings they do so well.

Drawing the outline was easy peasy, then I tried shading them in with pencils, photocopy came next but it did not look right, I had to print off a copy and go over the pencil shading to get something close to the finished drawing.

I tried printing on both sides of the paper but it was really too thin and the ink showed through from the other side. Finally, I added another sheet of paper.

Writing is easy – all you have to do is cross out the wrong words

Mark Twain.

People born in the Year of the Horse are sociable, hard-working, friendly, and tend to be popular. On the flip side, they tend to be impatient and short-tempered. Horses get along with tigers and dogs, but not with rats. 

Then I had to add something about the sea and the shore, so remembering the time I had Tim (my little Yorkshire terrier) I started writing silly little poems. We would daily walk the sands of Elie, and this is where all the words came from.

Lady Janet Anstruther

A bell would ring out around the town,

To tell that Lady A was going down,

For her daily dip in the sea,

And since the lady preferred to swim starker,

She would wish no Mr Nosy Parkers.

Wee Tim (my Yorkshire terrier)

Today snow came to our shore,

Already maybe an inch or more,

But bother our Tim, not a puff,

He finds it most exciting stuff,

By lunch, the snow has turned to sleet,

Wet and mushy under foot,

Now Tim, in doggie coat and Wellington boots,

Now wouldn’t that be a real doggie hoot,

But Tim preferred to keep his paws bare,

Well at Tim, other dogs would stare.

Sometimes Tim forgets his age

Get our Tim oot and down the shore,

Chasing the wee dug from next door,

Running around like a loon,

Until he is almost falling doon,

Home stretched out, now totally spent,

You never saw a dog more content.

Once treasured

I picked a garnet from the shore,

Once in vogue, alas no more,

Polished by the lapidary’s sand,

Then set in silver by a craftsman’s hand,

Hung as a pendant from her throat,

Or warn, Sunday best, upon her coat,

Now it lies at the bottom of a drawer,

Neglected, forgotten, out of vogue.

The beach

Tim and I explore the beach,

Wide-eyed in wonder at all it does teach,

Watch a gull, hang in the air,

No string holds her there,

The mighty sea, that ebbs and flows,

But where does all the water go?

The shore

I love when waves crash onto the beach,

Retreat, regroup, and advance once more,

Feel foaming surf between my toes,

Halcyon days I do adore.

House martins and swallows in erratic flight,

Gulls dive seaward from astonishing heights,

Curlews nest in rough grass nearby,

A Skylark sings its song so clear,

High, high, up in the sky.

Commercialisation has made cards and decorations very professional at a fraction of the cost of making your own. But who does not long for Christmas time when we as children cut up strips of paper and made colourful chains and fairies, Christmas bells, to decorate the tree or to hang from the living room ceiling?

When I add up the cost,

What we have gained,

What we have lost,

I can’t help but think,

We have all been taken for a ride.   

Stay safe

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With Jam On

The smell from my kitchen is absolutely wonderful

I had been doing recognisance of the hedgerows over the past weeks looking for the best Brambles to make homemade jelly; the summer had been very dry so not the best start but we have had rain over the past few days so looking better.

Sunday was overcast but very quiet weatherises so I strapped a bucket to the back of my bicycle and cycled off for Strathkinness. Oh no, help ma Boab, trampled grass the locals have been here before me, so it was off to a new location.  

Now when you pass on a bicycle scanning the hedgerows there seems to be an abundance of Brambles, when you get close up you find that not too many are full fruit, (they have not set properly, lack of insects, bloody farmers and their insecticides). Tying the luggie to my belt I set out to pick berries, it took me two hours to pick this much. Not only did I pick berries but I also picked up small thorns, and nettle stings, ho-hum.

Today (Monday) I went up to the big Morison’s for preserved sugar, lemon juice and a cooking apple,

let’s get cooking. I remember mum putting a cooking apple in her jelly, she said it was to help it set, so better to be safe than sorry.

My biggest pot was not heavy-bottomed or a jam-making pan, but beggars can’t be choosers, you made do with what you have. Not only was it not a jam-making pan but it was not really big enough for all the fruit, so boiled over, oh well I’m sure the messy cooker top will clean up.

Drip, drip overnight, now some will tell you that next morning you squeeze the bag to get the last of the juice out, mum said, never squeeze the bag it makes the finished jelly cloudy, and as we all know, mum knows best. 

After all that I ended up with half a litre of fruit juice so 375G of sugar all back in the pot, to simmer away for a while.

And at the end of all that the berries have been reduced to two small jars of Bramble Jelly. It’s gid tell yir ma’

Stay Safe

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Mud In You Eye

My brother is ten years my senior so he was more like an uncle, in my school years than a brother, he had completed an apprentice, done his National Service, and married, whilst I was still wet behind the ears.  In our latter years, that time difference shrunk, and I found my brother. And since both of us are retired and have no encumbrances we meet up more and more for a drink and a blether. I love it when my brother can fill in the holes in our family’s history, with his anecdotes, and my visit down to Formby to see him last week was no exception.

Our dad was very much in the Victorian mould, he lived in a much more disciplined age, even compared with my mother, 10 years his junior. Dad joined the Royal Navy as a lad of 16, towards the end of the First World War, then after three in the colours (and three in reserve), he enlisted in the Merchant Navy. They say you can take a man out of the services but not the services out of the man and this was true of dad. Dad always found life at home with a growing family alien; he was never comfortable in that scenario, he was much like the cow in a field that sees the green grass on the other side of the fence, filled with frustration that he can not go there.

So to our tale

We are now in the Second World War, and dads ship is in dry-dock for repair, he has been given eight weeks’ leave of absence. Home he went to his wife and three bairns. However dad could not settle even for eight weeks and one day he came in and announced he had joined the Home Guard, mother was not amused.

One dark night he was on sentry duties down at Methil Dock, there was dad in tunic, kilt and a gun marching back and forth, up and down the dock.

Click, click, click – a woman coming towards him.

“Halt, who goes there?” he called out

Click, click, click – a woman, still coming on

“Halt, who goes there?” dad calls out, this time even louder

Click, click, click – almost upon him now

“Halt or I will fire!” he threatens in his best authoritarian voice

“Jimmy its me you daft old fool, you don’t even have bullets in the gun” it was mum, she had walked all the way from East Wemyss to Methil Dock to tell him to give up his silliness and come back to the house and his own bed.

The next day the CO called dad into his office telling him that it had come to his attention that he was on leave from the Merchant Navy. Although he appreciated his enthusiasm and dedication, maybe it would be best if he were to return to his wife and family.

What, the CO omitted to tell dad was that the information received had come from his wife and she had made it very clear to him that if her husband was not home and out of uniform by tea time, this would not be the last he would hear of this.

Having spent many a camping holiday with dad in the early 1950s I did know that he had joined the Home Guard – but since I also knew he was in the Merchant Navy at the time was never sure how it all fitted together.

Sitting around the campfire dad would spin a yarn about his life, I was all ears. He told me about an incident when he was in the Home Guard.

“A group of us lads had gone out to the local pub, and on our way back to barracks, just outside Anstruther, they came across the camp’s CO, he was rather inebriated and had apparently fallen from his bicycle and was now asleep in the ditch. Not wishing to disturb him from his rest, we gathered handfuls of mud, lifted his kilt and slapped it on his arse.”

Amusement spread across dads face as he re-lived that time and the telling of the story.

Stay safe.

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Troubleshooting.

I have just returned from Formby where I was visiting my brother, who has not been well, a long and tiring trip, which had taken time to bounce back from. Whilst there we visited the local hostelry, with a friend of my brothers, this lad really knew his stuff when it came to computers.

He was telling me that he had worked for Honeywell for thirty years, then out of the blue, they sent him an e-mail telling him he did not have a job anymore, how much is worker loyalty worth to an American firm? Anyway, it did not take him long to find the present job that takes him all over the world – a troubleshooter, sorting out problems.

We in a way were doing a bit of troubleshooting ourselves – sorting out the ills of the world, as you do over a few pints when he told me that when he was at university he had a hankering to go to Israel, so he did, I was shocked with what I saw there, he told me.

On one side of the road, an Israeli farmer had a massive tractor pulling a multi-furl plough that revolved at the end of each run so they could come back on the same track.

On the other side of the road, a Palestinian farmer had a donkey and what looked like a tree branch scratching at the soil, it was almost biblical.

I was a good few months into his gap year when I met and started dating an Israeli girl. She was doing her National Service as all men and women have to in Israel. One day when she was showing me around an area of Jerusalem, a shot rang out,

Stay her she ordered and ran off in the direction of the shot. When she returned she showed no outward sign that anything was amiss, but when I asked,

“What was that all about?”

She answered “Nothing, it is all over, I’ve dealt with it”  

“Dealt with what?” I asked

“I told you,” she said, in her don’t ask questions sort of way, “There is no longer a problem”.

At the time I did not know that she carried a loaded pistol with her at all times and that her having ‘dealt’ with the problem had involved shooting a Palestinian, in the street in broad daylight.

She was a beautiful girl, and I might even have ended up married to her, but not after that incident, how could I have married a girl that carried a loaded gun and was prepared to be judge, jury and executioner?

My time in Israel opened my eyes to what is going on over there, with American money and backing, the Palestinians will remain a suppressed people, trapped in poverty and living in an open prison, without parole.  

Stay safe    

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Well worth the re-telling

This article first appeared in ‘Yours for Scotland’ and should be read by everyone (not only in Scotland) but across the UK.

Power from the Glens, Power for the Glens was a tagline from the 50s and 60s and in essence, it was true.

The state, or a state-owned company or board, built power-generating assets and the power was then sold to the populace at whatever price the politicians thought appropriate. And if the state decided to make an operating surplus or not, it did as it saw fit.

But in the 70s and 80s that all changed. Under the risible guise of people’s privatisations, Thatcher sold off the state-owned assets. Not to the people as was generally purported but to the corporates whose sole interest is corporate profit. And if you saw Sid, as one privatisation ad ran, you were to tell him. 

And look at it now, all of our natural assets sold off and corporate money-making now the only agenda in town, and all wrapped up in corporate trading structures that mask the true wealth being extracted from a hapless populace now struggling to even heat and light their homes—poverty in a land of plenty.

Oh, how how how we should reflect. Our gas and oil were worth nothing. It delivered immense wealth to other countries but not to Scotland. And our hydro. Blessed with lochs, mountains and glens our natural environment was perfect for hydro generation, with additionally, the benefit of pump storage to store huge quantities of baseload power from other sources when demand was low. Cheap electricity one would have thought. After the cost of the dam, the pipework and the turbine construction, it would certainly seem so. But no somehow it isn’t. Well not for the populace of Scotland.

And ditto gas. We were blessed with lots of that. They even piped it out of our waters direct to storage caverns constructed in the North of England. What benefit then from our gas? 

And now wind. Unlike our oil and gas which we were told was worth little, and was due to have run out around ten years ago, the wind is in a different category again. We, or should I say the corporates might be building lots and lots of wind farms, but we should understand that wind energy is really no energy at all. No, we should realise that because the wind doesn’t blow all the time, it’s really in truth no good. And that sadly is the latest myth to be visited on poor poverty-stricken Scotland. All that no good wind power, that will feed the national grid, inter-connectors, and allow power to be shared around, no good, no good at all. Why do they bother? Moreover, in Scotland, wind power, or any other source of power, can even be stored by pumping water up a mountain in times of surplus, to thereafter run it back down the mountain when needed, This of course bringing us back to Power from the Glens but not For the Glens, and why a start is just about ready to be made on the Coire Glas scheme in the Great Glen, and a scheme that will double the ENTIRE UK’s pump storage capacity. And this is only one scheme out of another half a dozen planned Scottish pump storage schemes waiting on the shelves of the corporates to be commenced.

Ah, what value Scotland’s natural resources. None it would seem. Well, not for most of us.Fuel poverty in a land blessed with resources. Gas has gone up because the wholesale price of gas has gone up. Priorly until about a year ago around half, or £500, was apparently the wholesale cost of a household’s heating and lighting bill. Now with the shortage of gas and the huge wholesale price surges, the average household bill predicted at over £4,000 a year by next spring will be composed of around £2,500 of wholesale costs. And so, with Scotland blessed with gas, oil, hydro and wind, who is making money, big money? We must ask Sid if we can find him!

But let us turn away from gas, oil, wind and water. Let us turn to aggregates and the little matter of Glensanda quarry near Oban. Hidden away from view unless you are a sailor, Glensanda is one of Europe’s biggest granite super queries. With coastal access, the quarry has over the last thirty years shipped nearly 300 million tonnes of granite to markets around the world. Texas USA, all over the EU, the channel tunnel, the HS2, it is a big export worth a lot of money. And, according to reports, there are another 760 million tonnes of identified reserves to go. And so, who may you ask owns this super quarry that is literally demolishing a Scottish mountain? Well, not Scotland. 

Seems it was found by an English man some thirty years ago whilst on a sailing holiday. Mr Yeoman was his name, Foster Yeoman was his Company, prior to him selling out to the absolutely huge global Swiss-registered Aggregates Industries. Should we be surprised?

But there you have it, we’re dismantling a Scottish mountain, over a billion tonnes of it in fact. What benefits from it then? It’s a good question. Probably like the oil and the gas and the hydro and the wind, not a lot.

But one last thing, and this is maybe a huge question. Since the commencement of nuclear power generation a permanent site to store high-level radioactive waste for the next hundred thousand years has never been identified. Still hasn’t but Scotland, although they will not say where, has always been a preferred choice. And so, with deep water coastal access, and granite strata, could Glensanda or similar be the plan? It’s a secret, but with all that high-level nuclear waste being temporarily stored waiting for a National ( Scottish or British ) and with England’s new fleet of reactors being built, I certainly would not bet against using a site like Glensanda for multi-millennia nuclear waste storage.

Scotland the land that just keeps giving – away!

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Scotstarvit Tower

I was out for a wee run today – first Scotstarvit tower and for the first time in two years of popping in there, it was open, this gave me a chance to show the inside.

The tower is well constructed and in remarkable condition and so long as it keeps its roof in good order will last a few hundred years more.

In the first room, you visit you can see clear up to the ceiling of the second floor the wooden floor of the second floor would have been the ceiling of the first-floor room. However, it allows us to see how two of the floors had vaulted ceilings/floors giving the tower its strength. You can also see the thickness of the walls, in the window recesses, where one would sit to read and write of work in the best light.

There would be no kitchen in the tower but each room had its own fireplace – however being a tower (much like a chimney fire in the lower room would percolate up to the top of the building.

To reach the floors above you climb the spiral staircase (I a nice hoos Jimmybit yir never gone’ie get a coffin up young stair)

And at the top, we see what would have been the attic rooms and the fine roof beams and sarking boards.

Not sure they would have had fire extinguishers in those days.

Outside you can still see where a lean too was built against the tower; this may have been the kitchen. When it was occupied of course it would have had many outbuildings for farm

animals and stables for the horses.   

I headed over to Falkland and two tour busses had just dropped off their passengers, now since this was only 9.30 and the Palace would not be open until 11 am they were all milling around taking photographs of everything from churches to street planters.

At this stage, I took off and followed the A92 then onto the B937 for Lindores (this is a beautiful wee road) then doubled back into Cupar, then home.

Keep safe.

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Sunday Morning – Early

Today the skies were overcast when I set out on a wee run up the coast to Arbroath. One place I still had to visit on the way north was Barry Mill. This is a fully working water-driven mill and in remarkably great shape.

The morning had been overcast and a sea mist hung around the coast, the sun broke through as I crossed the Tay Bridge and the water was indeed silver.

The first, stop would be Broughty Ferry for what they call on the Tour de France a comfort stop.

If you have never visited the castle at Broughty Ferry well you have missed out, I have visited the museum many times and always manage to see something new. The castle was home to Patrick Gray, 6th Lord Gray (died 1612) a nobleman and politician during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots and James V1 of Scotland. Nigel Tranter’s historical novel Master of Gray is a fascinating insight into the decadence, of the French and Scottish courts at that time.

On to Barry  Mill –

the mill hearkens back to the monastic grange, or estate, which King William the Lion bestowed in 1178 on his newly founded abbey of Arbroath.

In the early 1980s, serious damage to the mill lade resulted in the cessation of commercial operations at Barry. The building deteriorated until in 1988, with the aid of a generous bequest from Miss Isobel L Neish, the National Trust for Scotland bought them to prevent further decay and to conserve them for the nation. There then began a programme of conservation repair, the mill was opened to the public in 1992, and not just the mill but extensive woodlands and orchard. I was there before opening time, so to kill time I walked a half mile or so along the side of the burn, the water was very low and almost dry in places.

When the caretaker arrived and opened up he ran the mill for a short time to show me the mill in action, the water in the lay was so low it could hardly lift the sack from the floor but I did see the stones in operation and the sieve shake and a lot of noisy wheels and cogs revolving.   

An art society exhibits their work in the mill, and I could not resist a picture by H. McDiarmid (impressionist work) Glimpses of Gold at the Mill.

From the mill, I travelled up through Carnoustie, before joining the A92 into Arbroath. I left the bike down at the harbour

Iwalked into town, stopping off at Wetherspoons for a tea break, I was as dry as a bone and managed three mugs of tea. The Nickel and Dime shop was open so I bought a frame for my new art masterpiece.

Then the Abbey a must before heading south once more the day remained overcast but that suited me fine, home by just after 2 O’clock and time to visit the kitchen – “throw it on the table mum” the call that went up when we arrived home from school.

Stay safe

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Loch Leven and a Kawasaki GPZ 500s

When I dropped a motorcycle on my leg, breaking it in three places, my ankle and two leg bones, my sister, who lived next door to me at that time, persuaded me to hang up my motorcycle boots. I did and bought a small car, which served us well so we could go together to the supermarket and use it for gallivanting around the country. When I moved to St Andrews a car became superfluous, I was now on my own and the bus station was only yards away from my front door.

Mostly I have had to steel myself past motorcycle shops but the day arrived when I saw an advert for a Kawasaki GPZ 500s, a motorcycle I had new back in 1988. When the Kawasaki first came onto the market in the UK in 1987 my old BMW R80RT was now five years old and I needed a change. The GPZ 500s was billed as half a GPZ 1000RX (the fastest production bike in the world at that time.)

On visiting the Kawasaki dealership and settling my bum on the bike I was sold, (I could get my feet on the ground without tipping it over on its side something I could never do with my beemer) this bike was so much like a small 250 cc motorcycle with a big 500 cc parallel-twin engine, part exchange complete I never for one minute regretted my transformation away from all things BMW to ‘Jap crap’, as many died in the wool British riders referred to them.

Although the weather is starting to turn autumnal, I felt I could get a few trips in before the winter set in proper, but were to on my first trip? Now since I have not ridden a motorcycle for some years, it had to be close to home. More so someplace that I had always wanted to go but was difficult to get to by bus. 

Sunday

Hot, hot, hot, out for a couple of hours on the bike this morning whilst it was still cool, I had to be back by 11 am. A lad was coming over from Kirkcaldy to pick up the road bike he had bought from me on eBay. He was on time and seemed very pleased with his purchase, I have seldom ridden it since I bought my folding bike, so it was a good move selling it.

In the afternoon I looked over the motorcycle and took it round to the filling station to check the tyre pressure and top up the tank. £13.00 is not cheap. Back home and on with my motorcycle jacket and helmet for that first crucial ride, the bike sounded like a bag of old nuts and bolts being rattled, possibly it has been lying in a showroom for months. I went out to Pitscottie then left up over the hill and on into Peat Inn before dropping down to Largoward, Kilconquhar, and Elie. I ran along the coast road into Anstruther before taking the B9131 for St Andrews. By now the bike was settling down.

I was a bit nervous to start with – been a while, but surprised how quickly it all started to feel normal. These roads are not for speed and I was never over 50mph at any stage in the journey. I have lost much of my smoothness (throttle control) but like everything else, practice, practice, practice.

I have ordered a top box for the bike – you need someplace to put your helmet, gloves and waterproofs – I was surprised how inexpensive they have become, I also ordered Oxford mitts, (they go over the handlebar ends as a shield from the weather (especially rain) and this allows you to wear thinner gloves. I also discovered the bike is fitted with heated grips.   

Today’s ride was far enough to get the hang of motorcycle riding again, but it will be strictly touring even though it is a fast bike – if you wanted to push it, but I am very content just bumming along these days. I will continue my cycling and when winter comes the motorcycle will remain under wraps, for my life now is all about going downhill slowly.

Mrs Sinclair is back from her holiday in York and brought me a wee present two summer shirts. (For all the wee jobs I do for her).

Wednesday

The life of Mary (Queen of Scots) has always fascinated me, and there is one place associated with Mary that is close by and I still have not managed to visit and that place is Lochleven Castle. Oh, I have visited Lochleven on numerous occasions over the years but never out to the castle, would this be my opportunity to do so?

How and why did Mary end up a prisoner in Lochleven Castle – well, Mary was a Catholic queen in a country that was divided, between Catholics and the new Protestant religion. And although Mary was well educated and a clever woman she made some terrible choices in the men she married.

Bothwell, her husband like Darnley before him, was arrogant and overbearing, although Bothwell was at least courageous. Soon a group of Lords, known as the Confederated Lords, were scheming to overthrow Bothwell and take control of Mary (in other words, the country). Many of the nobles now conspiring against Bothwell had signed the Ainslie Tavern Bond supporting Bothwell. Such was the fickleness of the nobles’ Loyalties. Their outward message was that they planned to “rescue” Mary from Bothwell, but their intentions were clear.  

Holyroodhouse (Edinburgh) was not a safe place to be so  Bothwell and Mary decamped to Borthwick Castle, a massive tower house twelve miles south of Edinburgh, and began putting together a small army. As troops of the Confederate Lords began to converge on the castle Bothwell escaped to muster his men, leaving Mary in the castle. Mary escaped the castle the next day by being lowered from a window dressed as a page boy, (a big page boy, Mary was six feet tall) and made her way on foot, passed the Confederate Lords forces and joined up with Bothwell.

The two armies faced each other on Carberry Hill, near Musselburgh, east of Edinburgh. The Battle was a stand-off; neither had any real desire to fight and kill their countrymen, Mary decided to negotiate, rather than risk bloodshed. In the end, she surrendered to the Confederate Lords on the condition that Bothwell was allowed to go free. 

Mary expected to be treated with respect – after all, she was their queen. Back in Edinburgh, the crowds jeered her return, not the way to treat a reigning monarch. From Edinburgh, she was taken to Loch Leven and imprisoned on the island’s castle in the middle of the loch. Out of sight and out of mind the Lords now had control of Mary and Scotland.

Mary spent the next eleven months in the castle, the home of Sir William Douglas, from June 1567 to May 1568. Mary was pregnant during her stay at the castle, with her two ladies-in-waiting and a doctor, since she was not in good health. Her escape from the castle is a story in itself.

I set off for Loch Leven and it was beautiful on the bike today, through Cupar and Auctermuchty and on to Millnathorp and finally Kinross. The castle was closed to visitors, but I already knew that from the internet but this is an idyllic place on such a day as this. I went around to the Boathouse to ask about fishing on the loch, not a problem, you get a boat and off you go – after paying your £25.00 or £30.00 if there are two of you. So when my brother is back to health I think it would be a great day out for us both.  

Stay safe

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There’s a hole in the road and the councils looking into it.

Travelling over to Aldi first thing this morning I came across road works. The gas workers had cut a trench half a meter wide and a meter deep from one side of the road to the other in order to lay a new mains gas pipe. As I passed four men were leaning on the barricade looking into the trench,

There’s a hole in the road and the councils looking into it.

Not wishing to cast dispersions on anyone, I’m sure they were just awaiting the arrival of backfilling material. Now backfilling like everything else has rules, 150mm layers compacted between layers, and no matter how well this is done and the final layer of tar macadam covers the backfill you can bet your bottom dollar that within a given time this trench will become a patchwork of overburden.

Alas old pipes will have to be replaced and new ones installed under our roads, however, the road having a trench newly cut across its width was only resurfaced in early summer, why?

Extensive resurfacing work had been carried out in St Andrews over the last few months still when out on my daily ride it was as ever ‘in an out the dusty bluebells’, trying to avoid drain and manhole covers that were sunken and much of the newly laid tar macadam around them cracked and breaking up.

Now maybe I’m just spit-balling here but if a road surface has been pounded to destruction by road traffic over the years – will the manholes and roadside drains not have suffered in the same manner? Now would it not make sense to check (and if necessary repair) all drains and manholes before laying a new road surface?

When in Germany and Austria the roads and cycle paths all had drains and manhole covers all part of the road concept, but I could not help but notice that all were flush with the road surface (to within a millimetre)  – is it me?  

Stay safe

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Off to Inverness

Back in my own home once more and boy does it feel great to be back where everything makes sense.

As you know my flat was having a new bathroom fitted so I took off for Inverness during the renovations and I had a marvellous time. I stayed at the Youth Hostel in Inverness and this is the story.

The youth hostel in Inverness I know well so thankfully no smartphone require, it can be very confusing – Confucius say local knowledge is better than a smartphone.

Inverness itself is a gorgeous town, clean and inviting, all the big name shops have been relegated to the out-of-town shopping centre so the town has been given back to the local people and the numerous visitors that flock to the town, that was once the capital of Scotland.

Arriving late afternoon and after my bus ride, I decided to stretch my legs along the banks of the River Ness. Passing under the Ness Castle which was closed off as extensive work was being carried out;

you come to Edith Cavell Garden.

Edith Louisa Cavell was born on 4th December 1866; she was a nurse and is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides in the First World War 1914 – 1918. She did not discriminate between the two sides of the conflict and helped 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium, for this she was arrested under martial law, tried for treason, found guilty and shot by firing squad on the 12th October 1915. Her last words were

“Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred of bitterness towards anyone.”

It is not a big garden but kept in emasculate condition, as is Inverness itself, holding its head up alongside any European town or city.  

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

Further along, the river bank I could not resist crossing the little bridge to the magical secret island, well maybe not so secret but certainly magical.

Crossing the river I walked back to the opposite bank

Outside the theatre

I visited the cathedral on the way. It is distinctive in that it has no spires and there is some controversy over whether it was designed in this way or as a cost-cutting exercise. One thing for sure is it has all the hallmarks of French architectural beauty, which you see all over Scotland when so many masons from France worked on the great cathedrals and churches, you will see similar fetchers at Dunfermline Abbey, Leuchars, and St Andrews. 

Back to my billet for a freshen up then back into town for a meal and visit The Galleons, a pub in the centre of town with a reputation for good live music. On a large board were displayed the names of all the artists and bands that would be performing nightly over the month of July. Underneath it said,

‘All dates subject to change – Bloody Musicians’.

The next day was a special trip that I had promised myself for ages, a visit to Fort George. After Culloden and to stop any further risings the English built garrisons right across Scotland and Wade built his roads to move men and materials around the highlands, this was an Anglophone social structure acting as a form of cultural control and representing the main force of national and colonial oppression, intended to keep the Scots ‘doun – hauden’ (held down), in their own land. This was not unlike the experience of numerous other indigenous peoples such as the Maori, the Australian indigenous people, Bushmen and native North American,

They had taken by the sword and in the name of their lord.

So it was that I made Wetherspoons my first stop of the morning a large mug of tea and the promise buy one get the rest free, I was now set up for the short journey on the number 10 bus for Ardersier. This is a terminus for the bus so the next 2 kilometres would be on foot. The Ardersier Common would once have been just that common land that villagers could use to graze their animals, today it is a wildlife haven.

I followed the path that skirted the Moray Firth, the shore was pebble rather than sand and mostly the pebbles were flat, I could not resist skiffing stanes over the placate waters, boys will always be boys.

Nothing could prepare me for the size of the structure here at the extremities of the Ardersier peninsula; it is out of all proportion to the land it commands. Entering over the drawbridge the esplanade is vast and sheltered by high embankments so you are cooried down out of the wind that can blow fierce in these parts. The guard house as you enter through a tunnel under the wall, on the right the enlisted men and on the left the officers quarters,

I

Officers and men – In the Catherine Cookson novel The Wingless Bird, the young officer asks – Officers and Men, are Officers not Men? No, he is told we are young gods come down from Olympus.

Fort George is still an Army falsity but the more significant part is open to visitors and when I was here there were plenty of them. The main building is a military museum with regimental regalia from the time of Culloden to the present day, the guns that stand silent on the battlements are much as they are here in St Andrews made from fibreglass – replica which reminded me of the Goon Show sketch Dartmoor Prison.

Sound effect – feet stomping, rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

Prison Guard – The prisoners are restless sir; they want to go on holiday

Warden – we can’t let the prisoner out to go on holiday

Prison Guard – no sir, we will take the prison with us

Warden – will it not be missed?

Prison Guard – we’ll leave a cardboard replica.

On my return, I took my fishing rod down to the river and cast from the bank. My second cast caught a lovely trout, and as I was about to put it back in the water, a lad standing close by asked, “If you do not want that fish I will have it”. I added two more to his plate – maybe I should have joined him for dinner.

My trip to Inverness was a great success and although the skies were mostly overcast, the winds were light and no rain spoiled my trip.

Arriving home is always welcome no matter how well the trip went, I really wanted to make a proper meal so armed with my trusty fork it was off to the garden to dig up a potato shaw or two. After dinner, I settled down to ‘In the heat of the night but by around 10pm tiredness had caught up with me, so it was time for bed.

Stay safe.   

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“Shut up or get out.”

Today I am busy moving quarters and making preparations for my mini trip to Inverness, I’m sure I will find something there to write home to mummy about.

I said in an earlier blog I wrote that it is said that Nicola Sturgeon fired the pistol, for the start of the independence campaign – for me, the starting pistol was fired, not by Nicola Sturgeon but by the Speaker in the House of Commons when he so verdantly told the Scottish MP (Neale Hanvey) “Shut up and get out”

An article was written by – Neale Hanvey MP.

When I entered front-line politics in 2012 as an SNP councillor, I was clear that my guiding ambition was to play a lawful part in the restoration of independence to Scotland. Over the past 10 years, that commitment has only strengthened as the need for independence has grown ever more urgent. From oil and gas to wind, tidal, wave and hydro Scotland’s vast energy resources keep the UK powered and Her Majesty’s Treasury pumped full of cash. 

Make no mistake Scotland is the broad shoulders of the UK.

Our reward for that vast contribution of energy, food and drink and water? To be fleeced of those resources, charged for transmitting our energy, denied access to associated revenue and berated, ignored and ridiculed in the “mother” of all parliaments. But it’s the social injustice that results from this distortion of governance that is finally beginning to dawn on many as the cost-of-living crisis deepens and more Scots find they are paying through the nose for energy when Scotland produces far more than we could possibly need.

When I rose to my feet on Wednesday 13th of July, I had no doubt about the words I was going to say. I had no doubt about who I would be speaking to, and I had no doubt about who I was speaking for. As Kenny made to leave the chamber after his rebuke from the speaker, I began to deliver my assessment of the current impasse on Scotland’s constitutional future. 

The moment was chosen for maximum political exposure. The most dishonest and disreputable Prime Minister in UK history was about to begin his swan song and we were determined that Scotland would be heard and our mandate for independence would not be ignored. For my point of order, I addressed Boris Johnson directly “Mr. Speaker, that charlatan has no mandate, no right, and no authority to dismiss the voice of the people of Scotland” I started, going on to say“ Someone who no longer commands the support of his own party, has no right to hold our nation hostage. Not him or his unelected successors. Scotland’s Claim of Right must be respected!”

For those who dismiss what we did, make no mistake our action that day amplified the cause of independence far beyond the Common’s chamber. Our intervention in parliament was no mere stunt, it has been reported across Europe and beyond to Mexico, China and many places in between. As a consequence, the following Wednesday the ALBA party leadership held a very successful press conference with the Foreign Press Association such is the interest in democracy denial for Scotland. Gaining interest and recognition of this is a vital component of building the national support for Scottish independence

The cost-of-living calamity being endured in Scotland is a direct and wholly unnecessary consequence of Westminster rule. It’s not Scotland that should fear independence, be in no doubt it is Her Majesty’s Treasury who fears the double whammy of losing Scotland’s ‘free money revenue and having to pay an independent Scotland a fair rate for our energy surplus, our water, and our exceptional food and drink. 

Scotland’s people need not suffer this iniquity, but we need to corral the justified anger into peaceful and persistent public demonstrations and build an unstoppable drive towards independence.

On Wednesday 13th of June Scotland was given a clear ultimatum from the Speaker; “Shut up or get out”. Scotland won’t shut up, so now’s the time to get out. 

Neale Hanvey MP.

Stay safe.

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Welcome to Brexit Britain

The British media, including the BBC and Sky News, are trying to paint this as:

“It’s those bad French Frogs again, did not turn up for work”

DOVER TRAFFIC – LIVE: TRUSS URGES FRANCE TO ACT OVER ‘ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE’ PORT GRIDLOCK

Wish you were here

The boss of Dover Harbour was on Sky News, telling us that they knew there would be extra paperwork after Brexit and this is why they put in the extra infrastructure and did lots and lots of forward planning to avoid this happening – the trouble is the French did not turn up in sufficient number.  

Oh, So the British want to tell the French how many French passport control staff they need on any given day, yes, that all sounds very British.

Now I have no idea what the problem is, why the French have not been able to supplement the border control staff, on what was always going to be a busy holiday weekend (school holidays starting – for me a time to avoid going off on holiday, but…) Maybe they should have restricted the number of booking to the capacity they had at Dover? This all sounds like a lack of communication to me. Like, are the French asking?

“Who will pay the wages of all these extra staffs?”

It may be that simple, however, it may be something to do with the fact that the Tory party are hell-bent on tearing up international treats, negotiated in good faith over years with the EU, and now find that Northern Ireland’s economy (still technically in the EU) is doing well – thank you very much – whilst mainland UK – well we all go to the shops and buy petrol for our cars, after all, we ‘Got Brexit Done’ this is making us look bad.

Hay wait – a done-gone-minute there Hamilton the high cost of living, runaway inflation and our economy down the toilet, this has nothing to do with Brexit, that is all to do with those Bad Russians. (Sorry slipped my mind)

I don’t believe this lack of border control staff is the last we will hear about the Nothern Ireland protocol. The man from Dover was at pains to tell us how much work they had put in to avert this unfolding disaster, but did he tell his counterparts in France? Were they up to speed with the plan?  And I don’t believe that the war and all the destruction, and suffering, and displaced peoples are down to Russia either – as they say:

“It takes two to tango”

Is it not time for this Tory government to stop the blame game and start proper grown-up and diplomatic relationships and communications, with our neighbours.

Or is it just me?

Stay safe

How to make a teardrop trailer part 3

I have been rather busy but I was able to spend a little time on the trailer yesterday, and see how difficult it would be to bend the plywood around the curves. Imposable as it turns out – still, as John said “there are no problems in the world only solutions”.

Try cutting groves across the width of the ply sheets – that will work – nope. All that did was allow it to break across the weakest part, the grove.

The next move is to buy some Flexiply (shot grain) however as you can see the idea of stitch and glue was successful enough – one great thing about this system is that you can eye-sweeten the curve simply by tightening or loosening the ties – the gaps (looks much worse than it really is) and will not matter since gaps will be filled with epoxy filler as a fillet before the fibreglass ribbon is applied.  

Stay safe.