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Self Publishing

I have now self-published The Magic of the Sea ISBN number 9798375057354 – cost for download is $0.99 kindle or 2,88 paperback

Scotland, Germany, and Austria by train, bus and folding bicycle ISBN 9798375060088 costs £0,80 for kindle or £1,70 paperback on Amazon if anyone wishes to download them.

The first is about my father’s time at sea – the conditions he and his family endured – First World War,  the depression – whaling, home trade, whiskey runs, during the American prohibition, and Second World War, including the Russian convoys.

The second is my trip to Germany and Austria in 2022 and how it restored my physical and mental health after two years of lockdown.

Writing my stories has made me a star,

Know from St Andrews to places afar,

And yes I know I shouldn’t bitch,

But has not made me,

Tall or rich.  

stay safe

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“Go tell that to the Marines”

I see Germany has caved into America’s demands to send tanks to Ukraine – not that they are really needed but it shows the world that it is not AMERICA but ALL NATO members that are sending tanks – 300 if the figures are correct – to Ukraine’s theatre of war.

This will do nothing to end this war only make a bad situation worse. Since, what started off as Russia supporting the breakaway states in east Ukraine, has now escalated into an all-out war NATO (America) trying to bring Russia to its knees.

We have gone from supplying a few DEFENSIVE armaments to now NATO countries supplying OFFENSIVE weapons – and nowhere in all the rhetoric spewed out by western media (on their daily propaganda bulletins) do we hear even an utterance of PEACE TALKS – a coming together to settle this escalating conflict.

Of course, 300 tanks are not going to make a blind bit of difference – and was never intended to make a difference to the situation on the ground, tanks can’t float – and from what I remember of my school geography – there is a bloody big river – the Dnipro River that runs all the way from Mizhrichynski (on Ukraine – Belarus border) to Kherson (on the Black Sea) – with the Russians on the east bank and the NATO tanks firmly on the west bank. This is why the Russian forces pulled back over the River and gave up land already held. The land was on the wrong side of the river leaving the Russian forces exposed. And why they fell back to these new defensive positions – there was no tactical advantage (a lot of bombed-out buildings) that would not have been worth the cost of holding.

The new positions that Russian forces have taken up now have a river between the two opposing sides, much easier to hold, and will be very difficult to take (even with 300 tanks) if the NATO tanks do reach the river the Russians will simply blow up all the bridges and dams (I’m sure they are already mined) making a crossing very difficult indeed. And, of course, Russia has learned her lesson with the bridge connecting Russia with Crimea, (and the undersea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany). These crossings will now be well guarded against American Special Forces.  

This is now and has from the start been a war of attrition. Russia has taken out all the services crucial for comfortable survival over the harsh Ukrainian winter and spring is still a long way off.

And when spring arrives these cities will still be in taters, so the millions that fled Ukraine will not be returning anytime soon, if at all, (another bill for the EU members to pick up). Will farmers be able to plant their crops in a war-torn landscape? What next for Ukraine RED CROSS PARCELS – or will America keep upping the ante until we have an all-out war in Europe?

It is past time for the EU to tell America – time to pull in your horns – and the EU to get around the table with Ukraine and Russia to sort this out.

Alas, there is money to be made from wars (keeping America’s economy afloat) and no bonus from peace talks, more so it a peace dividend means – no American (NATO) bases in Ukraine. (Oh! Sorry, they are not American bases – we are only supporting our (NATO) allies having bases in other countries – go tell that to the Marines.   

“Jaw, jaw – not war, war” – Winston Churchill  

Stay safe

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Hamish Brown “The fall of Singapore”

Been a funny old day and no mistake – the plumber arrived with a snagging list and spend a lot of time in my bathroom – still not sure what he did for I still do not have a control valve on my radiator so it is still going full bore at present. I had to leave him to it as this was Probus Club day – Hamish Brown “The fall of Singapore” – actually had little to do with the fall of Singapore.

His father was a Banker and travelled out to Japan – where Hamish was born. Then Hamish, along with his mother and baby sister, (leaving about two months before the fall of Singapore) travelled down from Japan. The boat called in at Shanghai, Singapore, the Philippines, and Kuala Lumpur before heading for South Africa (where they had relations) then back to Scotland, their father left much later and was always just one jump ahead of the posy.

He clearly had a varied upbringing and spent time at some of the prestigious schools across the world, so well educated. But I have to say it was all a bit disjointed. He would keep coming up with little anecdotes, mostly having nothing to do with the story.

I first became interested in what was going on in the Far East at the time of his telling but I really knew nothing. I had read The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart, a book not written by an officer as so many were, but by a serving soldier. When the British Empire armies surrendered to a rag-tag-and-bobtail Japanese army that was on its last legs, out of food, ammunition and riding on bikes with no tyres or tubes – it was the end of the British Empire, it collapsed came like dominos, following that fiasco.

Urquhart worked on the Burma railway (his account of the conditions, you would not believe, sleeping on top of corpses to keep himself out of the mud and water he was saved by falling ill and ending up in a hospital where the better conditions (under a British army doctor) saved his life. As the Japanese came under pressure they were evacuated by ship to Japan – his boat was sunk, before its arrival, however, Urquhart managed to survive, ending up in a prisoner of war camp just outside Hiroshima, and you know what happened there.

Urquhart was scathing about their treatment at the end of the war in the Far East, the Americans did not want them to go home and to tell tales out of school, about the suffering that had been handed out by the Japanese, the Americans wanted it to all go away, then they could get on with the business of making money in conjunction with the Japanese – they had the cheap labour we had the cotton, oil and steel. The prisoners were now a liability – no cheers and bunting for their homecoming – they were shipped off to America and six-month of recuperation – but only after they had to sign a paper, to say nothing about what had happened to them under the Japanese.

Now having read about the Soong dynasty, and how they used their wealth and power to gain control of the Chinese government, then asset stripping it, filling up their bankbooks in American, and European banks, and buying property in the most expensive part of New York, Paris and London. T.V would then set up a lobbying (propaganda) company in the swankiest part of New York to push the idea (through their mouthpiece Mayling and her husband Chang Kai-Shek) that China was reforming into a Christian and Americanised country. Mayling had the ear of President Roosevelt, (a man that spouted bile at the peasant Chinese and their peasant army. He gave away Korea to the Japanese believing the Japanese were the saviours of the Far East, who would win the heathens for America. And when Japan invaded Mongolia – he turned a blind eye – the Japanese buy half our cotton and our oils and steel, and that is what sets the bar.

Because of America’s poor (nil) knowledge of China, millions of Chinese, Japanese and others died. And when they decided to sanction Japanese goods and money (much like they are doing over Russians) so Japan attacked Pearl Harbour – how many lives were lost following Perle Harbour?

Millions would be alive today if it had not been for America’s ignorance of Chinese affairs and bad foreign policymaking.

I have just finished the chapter on Mao and his peasant army – the Americans branded him a puppet of the Russian Communists – but he was far from being a communist – he was a socialist. His army did not get paid, what they did receive was land – their land that they had worked then only to hand over at least 50% of their crop to the greedy landlord.  –They all wore the same uniform, and they communicated like family rather than an army – although like any family it still retained a leader (head of the family). Mao led them into the far north (on the long march) around six thousand miles – Mao was near death once or twice and his wife carried shrapnel in her leg. They crossed some of the biggest rivers and highest mountain passes in China. They were marching at an incredible 24 miles a day. Arriving at the town of Yan’an a sun-drenched, dusty region of loess soil, years of dust storms in the region had piled layer upon layer of this loess making it easy to dig into, and that is what his army did, they dug out caves, warm in winter, cool in summer. They carved out school rooms, recreation halls, and a university of military studies.

The soldiers were not allowed to smoke opium and the army did not tolerate the camp follower, women that serviced all big armies. What Mao set out to do is build a self-sufficient economy, like a latter-day Robin Hood; he took from the rich and gave to the poor, and that is why his army grow in size and strength – unlike Chang’s army of conscripts that had to be tied by the neck – one behind the other, and stripped of clothing at night so that they would not abscond at the first opportunity. Moe’s army was a long way from communise thinking. For the first time in Chinese history, an army was fighting for their independence.  

Last but by no means least; I finished the story about dad’s time at sea. Not a biography but taking the stories he told me and putting some meat on the bones – so giving it a posh name, historically novel. I have put it on Amazon – so it can be downloaded (if you are interested $0.99 on Kindle) and it is called Magic of the Sea.

Time to put on the dinner – mince and tatties – it’s gid tell yir ma’

Stay safe.    

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The Endless Thread that is Freindship

I received this from an old friend (college chum) in answer to my last e-mail – and my reply – though it was worthy of posting.

Ahoy! Sorry for the late reply, always busy dealing with offspring and dramas.  However, brief respite Saturday, managed to get in the sea at Silver Sands high tide at 14:00 which literally chilled me out a bit.  That was probably the coldest for a while but there were a couple of die-hards including a chap in his 70s.  A curious seal appeared again and leapt out of the water about 2 cables away, I often see him, must be wondering what the hell humans are doing in the water at this time of year the mad buggers haha.

Yes, I didn’t think about how much damage those ships are doing, to be honest, and as you say they are not reporting it on MSM to a great extent.  I don’t normally subscribe to conspiracy theories but I am now convinced the electric car revolution is utter nonsense and there are great and dark powers behind it.  Like murder, there has to be motive, means and opportunity.  I can only think that the power companies in cahoots with the government/s want to try and disenfranchise the oil-producing states in the Middle East and remove all power and wealth and dependency on them which, to be honest, wouldn’t be a bad thing in terms of dependency as it might nip in the bud these bloody wars.

The EV argument is ludicrous to even surely to the most non-erudite of laymen.:- 

The planet will be raped for lithium, and thousands exploited across Africa and Asia to work in the open cast mines.  

They don’t work in freezing temperatures, (I’m not as technically gifted as you but I know even my ‘Ring’ doorbell battery depletes in hours rather than weeks in sub-zero temps).  

If there are snow blizzards and EV get stuck, the batteries drain and no way to get the vehicles out.  

After 9 or 10 yrs the batteries deplete and have to be replaced costing a fair hefty sum 

They have no effective, environmentally friendly way of disposing of the batteries

It just doesn’t add up to me, something sinister is going on, they just can’t pull the plug (if you’ll forgive the phrase haha) on petrol vehicles in 2030, it’s abject nonsense.  Are they trying to isolate and contain the population? A possibility methinks, I’ve seen what I call the ‘de socialization’ of society through simple things like the destruction of the pub trade, it saddens me as an example to see a wee town like Milnathort, it used to have 2 major pubs right at the main crossroads, both gone now, One a private house and the other a bloody conference centre.  There is still The Thistle Hotel and a smaller hill up th brae on the old Perth Road but you know what I mean.

Even in my younger days, the pub was the centre of the community, you got to know your neighbours, and met new friends and there was a general ambience of community however hazy the evening got lol.  Times change as you know more than me lol.  I suppose we’re all culpable to a varying degree with home drinking and advances in home entertainment but you can’t beat a good night of convivial chat and laughter in a pub.

On that dreary note, if you haven’t visited Kirkcaldy Hugh Street of late then don’t lol you wouldn’t believe your eyes.  It’s a dystopian nightmare, all the major stores are closed and gone, Markies is now a vaccine hub, the Mercat is like a forlorn drunk with empty shops like rotten teeth marking the main thoroughfare like crucifixes on the Appian Way, Miss Maudes has lain empty for years and now Superdrug has announced imminent closure.  Unemployed foreigners hanging about in groups in minging attire and appearance and junkies shouting at the sky.  All the while the SNP-led administration pouring millions into the lovely, useless paving restructuring of the promenade where no one goes and or spends money, utter madness I tell you, Walter!

We are looking to move from Kirkcaldy, it is the pits these days, and all we hear are sirens, I think criminals have now got the idea into their heads (and probably correctly) that there aren’t enough police or the will to stop them, we have seen a rapid increase the last year or so in prowlers, break-ins, car thefts and all sorts, quite depressing really, welcome to Sturgeon’s paradise haha.

Apart from that everything is well hahahahaha. Must dash, Monday morning work madness to attend to, stay safe, hope you enjoyed ‘Fedora’.

Sounds amazing chum, excellent prose of review, enjoyable read.  I haven’t seen ‘Fedora’ must look out, haven’t been to the opera since ‘Carmen’ for many years which is a fav of mine.

Me

Hi again

You know of course that I love the sea – I learned to sail (dinghies) when out in Cyprus way back early 1960s. I have had a few boats over the years (sailing) the largest was 27 Feet and weighed in at around 5.5 tons. Sailed up and down the North Sea from North Berwick to Wells-on-Sea (out of Grimsby) it was a comfortable live-on-board wooden boat that kept the maintenance tools ready to hand – mostly scraping, sanding and varnishing – a lot of bright-work on these old boats. It was the boat that was going to be my permanent home in France, (the plan was to buy a piece of land adjacent to a canal and live there, but life got in the way. So, I have seen lots of those little comical heads popping up alongside my boat, big calf eyes and whiskers. I often wondered if it was the boat that made them curious or my lobster pots, and setline that I always dropped over the side along with the anchor. Fresh, live lobsters sold well in local restaurants – bought me some diesel.

With you 100 per cent on EVs why does everything need a battery now? From, yes, your doorbell to your vacuum cleaner, and yes open cast across the world, and when the finite resources run out on earth they will start dredging the oceans. And like you say – disposal – much like the awfully cheap nuclear power – leaving the cost of disposal and clean up to the next generation – our end is served.  

I cry over the demise of the local pub and working men’s clubs, they were the places of communication – discussion rooms, none of this one-sided crap on social media – we all had a say and our opinion were listened to. (Maybe that was the trouble – the truth came out about our governments). Also, the coming together of males/females at dances and socials, music, laughter, and a whole culture swept away with their demise.

When I add up all the costs – what we have gained and what we have lost – I can’t help thinking – we’ve been taken for a ride.

Home entertainment (to use your vocabulary LOL) the television must be the best cure for insomnia known to man.

Yes, empty shops, possibly due to online shopping, (which has not helped global warming all those delivery vans heading out Amazon’s gates and spreading out across Fife. However, what they need to do is turn those empty shops into homes, bring more people into the centre of town and you will get local (small shops) opening up again for the baker, greengrocer, butcher ….. this is how it was in the cities and towns I visited on my trip to Germany/Austria – and of course, there are no charity shops, food banks, people sleeping in doorways…. in Germany/Austria, the state social services works.

As for crime, if people see only a dark tunnel ahead of them, unemployment, poor wages when in work, living from hand to mouth, poor damp homes in some run-down housing estate (no longer owned by the council but buy to let investors, whose only interest in the house is how much money it can make to fill their retirement pot. Depressed nations of unhappy people will turn to drugs, and crime to feed their habits or kicks. I have a nephew – when his parents split up the kids wet off the rails (their mother had no control over them) the youngest two went on a spree of housebreaking – only caught when they broke into the Mayors home and found the liquor cabinet, got pissed and though that the goldfish in the pond in the garden would bring them a few bob or two, so they went splashing around in the pond trying to catch the fish. When they were in court Malcolm asked for 22 other cases to be taken into consideration – seems they had found something they did well. I asked Malcolm, years later, why he did it since he was a lad that was never into material things or wanted riches. He told me for kicks, he felt alive when he was housebreaking. I go right back to our education system, if you can not install discipline in schools, (see what happened in the school in Anstruther, fighting in the classroom) and channel young energy into worthwhile activities then you will end up where we are now.

You only have to go to places such as Bradford (where I lived for many years) and see how the Pakistani population have taken over the  city, the kids do what their parents tell them to do – they work hard at home and at their school work – (as soon as a little girl can press the keys on the cash register they are working in dad’s or granddad’s shop) – whatever you think of the Pakistani they do have a high work ethic – possibly because they are immigrants (even if they were born in England)

I saw the Green Party MSP on the telly the other day, he was telling us that the north of Scotland was a wilderness and should be covered in on-shore wind turbines (who elect these Numpies?) what we need to erect on any (wilderness or otherwise in Scotland) is a million home for young immigrants – we are living in a demographic time bomb (not helped by Brexit, England’s drawbridge mentality) – when we did have a much better system for people to move much more freely around Europe – we had the staff to keep our NHS afloat (without the high cost of agency workers) our care homes (a thankless task) were being staffed (happily) by people from the Baltic States (places such as Romania) the crops were being lifted in the fields – not rotting in the fields. Where did we go wrong?

Still, it is hard to keep a good man down for long. I have been walking down by the harbour over the years and seen the demise of the inshore and crabbing industry all but disappear (again Brexit) the French are buying their lobster, crabs etc. From the Faro islanders now, any way to cut a long story short one small crabber has been tied up in the river for some time now and I just happened upon the harbour master the other day – asking about the boat – it belongs to a lady whose husband died. Was she selling it – seems she can not make up her mind (possibly nostalgia stopping her from parting with it) but something will have to be done with it or it will deteriorate past saving. I have her address – so maybe another project for the bold Hamilton. I would like a wee boat again – do a bit of fishing and throw (three maximum, and for self-use only, before you need a fishing licence) lobster pots out.

I did not know you were into Opera, I got there by all the musicals that were the stable diet of the cinemas in the 1950s – Rose Marie, The Student Prince (I’ll do my duty for Carlsberg) Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, Seven Brides for seven Brothers, the sound of Music…… all stepping stones to my introduction to Opera. I have many DVDs of Opera (and musicals) but my favourite has to be Mozart – Le Nozze Di Figaro. So funny I could watch it over and over. In fact, I play the CD a lot around the house – or when in my workshop, you do not have to see the action, for the pictures are there in your head, all you need is the music to bring them to life. I wanted to go to a live opera when I was in Wien but they were booked out months in advance, boo-ho, if I had known this I would have booked months before leaving Scotland, such is life.  

Keep safe.   

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Fedora

Loved the opera (Fedora) and the attendance was as much as I have ever seen at Met Opera at the Byre. Why, well, I don’t really know – could be it has been some time (before lockdown) since we have had Met Opera at the Byre, withdrawal symptoms maybe? However, more likely that since St Andrews University has taken over the theatre, they have a policy of “Pay what you can”. When I first came to St Andrews it would have cost a couple around £50.00 for seats, and since I did not see anyone under 65 there tonight is suspect, getting a couple of tickets for £20.00 (you can manage that even on a pension) has brought the people (OAP) beating a path to their door.

The opera was Fedora set in Russia – Paris and Switzerland, and this is reflected in the music, heavy melancholy Russia, waltzing and dancing, Paris, and in Switzerland, light and gay, lots of (French) horns sounding very Alpine.

We open in Count Vladimir’s house in St Petersburg, which is very male, all gamblers and drunkards – the count we find out he is a gambling man and a womaniser – the marriage to Princess Fedora Romanoff, is due to take place the following morning (clearing his debts for Fedora is a rich widow – the Count has been shot and they have brought him home – he dies of his wounds. (Fedora had a lucky escape if you ask me) – questioning the servants, the name of the man suspected of firing the fatal shot was said to be Loris Ipanoff. Fedora swears to get revenge for her lover’s death.

Loris escapes the country to avoid capture pursued in Paris by Fedora, who seduces Loris and extracts a confession which she then passes on to the Police in Russia and arranges for her spies to abduct Loris and return him to Russia and justice.

Once the gears are in motion – Fedora asks Loris why he shot her lover. Turned out to be a crime of passion – Loris caught his wife and Count Vladimir (remember him) and in a jealous rage shot them both. Around this time Fedora sees the error of her ways and promptly falls in love with Count Vladimir.  

The couple flees to Switzerland to do a lot of kissing and cuddling (well. It was before the 9 O’clock watershed) – news finds Fedora that Loris’s brother had been taken in for questioning as being complicit in the death of Count Vladimir (although totally innocent he died in custody, whereupon their aged mother died instantly on heard the new. Fedora is distorted since it was she who started the ball rolling.

A letter comes to Loris – he has been given a pardon. Delighted with this news he intends to return to St Petersburg to be reunited with his brother and mother – he then receives the news of their deaths and that a woman spy from Paris had caused their death. He flies into a rage he will track this spy woman down and kill her. Fedora pleads for him to forgive her – then the penny drops – he realises it was Fedora’s doing. In grief – for the loss of her new lover and the happiness he would have brought into her life, she drinks poison – the fat lady sings her swan song and dies – as she lies dying Loris forgives her – Paper hankie time.

Fedora is sung by Sonya Yoncheva, the range of the woman, from very low to extremely high notes – she certainly earned her corn, a long performance for her.

Loris Ianoff (I think he is Polish) – in the very first performance of Fedora this part was sung by Caruso, (another piece of useless information).

There was a part in the first Act, for my favourite voice, a contralto playing the trouser part. (They are always cast as witches, bitches or trousers) but it was short and sweet.

A very enjoyable 2.5 hours that went in a trice.

Stay safe.  

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Shipping from early times has kept world trade afloat – now is shipping threatening to sink our world?

Not too many years ago I worked with steam raising plant, and we burned heavy oil, so viscose that heaters had to be attached to the pipes to keep it flowing. This oil was cheap about 50% cheaper than light oil, it burned fine, in oil-burning boilers and specially adapted heavy oil-burning engines even had the advantage of it lubricated as it drove the combustion engines. What we all knew of course was it produced a lot of smoke and a heavy flake of ‘Black Carbon’ from the stack so was phased out within towns and cities. However, it was still used extensively as the fuel of choice for shipping.

The biggest modern container ships will carry up to one hundred thousand containers, if you filled each of these containers with shoes from China to take to Europe then you would need 170,000,000 boxes of shoes. So efficient have these ships become – being able to time their arrival at ports such as Rotterdam to plus or minus fifteen minutes and unload within hours, makes them very efficient cutting the cost of delivery of a pair of shoes to only add 25p. That is less per ton/mile than it cost to carry coal in barges along English canals at the height of the industrial revolution.

These ships burn 380 tons of this heavy oil each day – that is around 240 barrels – each day. Ships now have to change to a lighter fuel when it near ports, or in rivers. So that the heavy fall out of black carbon does not fall on populated areas. Fine but we have heard so much of late about the Artic ice melt, and how now the North West Passage has become much more accessible to ships now sailing across the roof of the world for much of the summer – large modern ice breakers have helped to keep these sea lanes open for longer seasons too.

This means that many container ships are plying much closer to the ice packs than ever before and that black carbon laden with sulphur is not falling on the open sea, or going into the atmosphere but landing on the artic ice causing it to melt at a far higher rate than air pollution alone. We now have seventeen to twenty per cent of black carbon from shipping falling on the Artic ice cap. Shipping across the roof of the world has increased; eighty per cent now use the North West Passage for the cost of sea time is dramatically reduced. This has been used by shipping companies as a get-out-of-jail card – sea time is cut – therefore we are polluting less. However, the pollution they are causing is not out at sea but is now on the land (or ice to be more precise).

Ships now travel under ‘Flags of Convenience’ – so don’t expect such countries to do anything to stop shipping companies using heavy oil, and out with the laws and control of any country other than international law ship owners will always opt for the cheapest fuel (50% cheaper).

I had always thought that the G7 – G whatever and Davos were all about sorting out such problems in and around the world, but alas no, they spent all their time trying to persuade EU countries to escalate the war in Ukraine by shipping modern tanks into an already overheated situation.

As the Polar Ice Cap recedes, more and more open water will be available for shipping – already at eighty per cent. Most of this water will be Russian – now making noises about putting a levy on ships passing through its waters, since they are the ones keeping the passageways open with their, large modern icebreakers (which makes you wonder about the rhetoric behind America’s proxy war in Ukraine).  

There are of course alternatives to heavy oil, but nothing is going to change until international law forces change.

What are we thinking? Would 23p on a pair of shoes – drive us into poverty? Stopping the use of heavy oil at sea would give the Ice Cap breathing space for us to make the changes necessary over air prolusion.

Fact: one container ship puts more Sulphur into the atmosphere in one trip from China to Rotterdam than all the cars on the planet do in one year. Car engines are so efficient now that they are practically free of pollution – as you know when you go for an MOT. Modern cars are fitted with catalytic converters, reducing emissions even further. We really need to stop talking about e-cars as the saviour of the planet, and start to tackle the real causes of global warming – ships – military vehicles (exempt from the figures).

Shipping from early times has kept world trade afloat – now is shipping threatening to sink our world?

Well, must go, to Met Opera this afternoon – Fedora.

Stay safe.

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Or Voice Must be Heard

Are you not just a bit tired of the news broadcasts that invade our homes each day? Today it was the American spokesmen telling us how Russia is now using criminal gangs as mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, I’m sure they are, Stalin did, and America have used mercenaries in every war they have ever waged, although now they are called Civilian Contractors, no need for flag-draped coffins on the nightly news for these lads, so no scared horses – our votes are safe.

The images on the news this morning showing the American spokesperson standing at the podium telling us all this could so easily have been a re-run of the same man standing there years ago telling us about Weapons of Mass Destruction – same guy – same stretching of the truth.

What did we expect – America, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, and most of the Baltic nations sending vast amounts of high-tech military equipment, (first anti-tank handheld weapons, now we are way beyond that) NATO boots on the ground – manpower and intelligence from American surveillance, targeting troop movements, the killing of young lads, just out of boot camp – never fired a bullet in anger, (war crimes) and it is all Russia’s fault because we only ever hear one side of the story.

And now the talks in Switzerland that should have been about – the world economy, tackling global warming, a war on the world, so catastrophic, (no matter if we disagree about the causes) only second to all-out nuclear war, was high jacked by America to talk about sending more, bigger and better, weapons of mass destruction into an already escalating conflict. I have to agree with Germany, how sending German tanks into a war zone will do nothing other than bring the war closer to the EU member’s door. The Second World War that devastated the great cities of Europe is still fresh in many people’s minds, thank goodness for Germany, the pressure, in the end, maybe too much but like Hungary, they see the dangers of following American foreign policies.

Still reading The China Mirage (it is not a book to read all the way through it has to be put down and thought about as you go) we see how Roosevelt, had (secretly) handed Korea to Japan, even though Korea had signed a pact with the US that Korea would ever be independently guaranteed under US protection. Then when Japan invaded Manchuria – the US made some noises but in the end

On October 9 1931 Stimson met President Herbert Hoover and demanded that the US and the League of Nations jointly condemn Japan’s actions on the grounds of a number of international treaties. Hoover based the calculations of America’s interests in Asia on hard dollars and cents. The bottom line was that the value of US trade with Japan was many times larger than it was with China. While Americans might shed a tear for Noble Peasants Wang and O-lan, the Japanese were buying fully half of America’s cotton crop and Japan’s military-industrial complex bought large amounts of US oil and steel. Nelson Johnson – the US ambassador to China from 1929 to 1941 – wrote the Japanese control of North China would not cause “The loss of a dollar from an American purse.”   

I look at this and I look at what is happening in Ukraine at this time and see America’s proxy war (in which it has successfully involved Europe through its alliance with NATO) as nothing more than keeping the wheels of the American war factories well greased – for jobs mean votes – and votes mean power.

Now reading about Mao Zedong and how he ended the Soong dynasty (who helped themselves to China’s wealth, squirrelling it away in American and European banks and in property across the world) The Peoples Army. a small army of peasants that took on the might of the Generalissimo and won. fascinating stuff

Stay safe

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“We’d rather be Red than Dead”

At the height of the cold war for many Americans, the threat of a nuclear war was very real – you had the Hawks in Government (mostly making big bucks from America’s war factories) and the anti-war protesters – one of the slogans, in response to if we do not stop Communists they will take over our country.

“We’d rather be Red than Dead”

Now I have always been intrigued by the attitude of the Japanese towards direct threats by stronger nations from outside their country’s borders – I can’t remember all the details off hand – but more or less the East India Trading Company wish to set up in Japan and the Japanese were rather sceptical about the terms, so resisted – Britain protecting its interests sent a gunboat brisling with canon. The Japanese at that time had no defence against such weapons so capitulated. Then they did something I thought rather unexpected – they approached the only white man on the island, who happened to be Scottish, and asked him to show them what they needed to do to modernise.

“We’d rather be (savvy) than Dead”

In James Bradley’s book, we learn how an ill-informed, preludes and arrogant President Roosevelt looked upon the Chinese people. They were savages, unruly, and incapable of ruling themselves, what they required was re-educated to become Christian and Americanised. Much the same attitude that the new Americans had for the indigenous Native Americans whose land they settled.

Charles (Charlie) Soong had sailed to America to find work as a labourer, he chose the East coast rather than the West coast – for in the west Chinese, men women and children were being murdered – ethnic cleansing. Charlie ended up in the protection of the Southern Methodist Church in Carolina, they wanted Charles to be their man in China reforming the heathens to Christianity. He was educated at the best universities in America and sent back to his homeland as a baptised Christian to preach the good news to the people of China.

Charles, already knew that the people of China had no wish to be Christian or Americanised but he has seen the collection plates in the churches in Carolina filling up with coins and dollar bills for him to carry on their mission in China, (he had returned home with 2 million dollars, start-up fund).

The missionaries in China had little understanding of China since they lived mostly in western areas separated from the real folks of China. Soong used this to his advantage and strung them along, whilst the missionaries sent glowing reports home to America.

When Soong was in America he could not help noticing that everyone carried a bible to Church, they were issued to schools and even found in doctors waiting rooms. He suggested to the church that he could print and supply them with bibles and church books and material at a fraction of the cost and built up a large printing house in China supplying to the US, making him a very rich man.

Charlie married well in 1897 and the marriage produced three daughters (Ailing, Chigling, and Mayling) and a son (Tse-ven called T.V.) – all were sent to America to be educated, at universities of Harvard, Wellesley, and Georgia’s Wesleyan College. Like their father, they quickly realised that America did not accept them as Chinese but as Americanised Chinese Christians. The eldest daughter Ailing was a smart cookie, she was never interested in power but the money that power would bring her – she became the puppet master of the family.

Ailing Soong inherited her father’s drive. She journeyed to America, alone at the age of 14 years and graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, in 1911, before returning to China as Dr Sun’s personal assistant.

By 1911 the Manchu dynasty was on its last legs, its emperor only five years old. Numerous uprisings – some of which Sun Yat-sen led or participated in. on January 1, 1912, Sun was elected resident of what was now the Republic of China, but he did not have control of this unruly country, and in 1913 Sun and Charlie Soong packed up their families, boarded a ship in the dark of night and fled to Japan.

In 1914 the 26-year-old Ailing extracted herself from the sexual advances of her 48-year-old boss and married H. H. Kung, a Chinese Christian also in Japan who was reputedly China’s richest banker and a lineal descendent of Confucius.   

In 1918 on the death of her father Ailing gained the reins of Soong’s empire. The Wesleyan-educated Ailing, her husband H.H. Kung and her Harvard-educated little brother T.V. raised funds for the Nationalist Party (the party was very up and down sometimes having to flee into exile.)

At the end of the First World War President Woodrow Wilson entered the Paris peace talks preaching “self-determination” as a salve for a ravaged world – Wilson sold out the Chinese people – when the news hit the streets of China – the people reacted in protest. Communist Russia sent agents who soon established warm contacts with important Chinese intellectuals and political figures. Two decades of America’s efforts to Christianise and Americanise the Chinese people had been swept aside – almost overnight.  

The Nationalists were the rising star under Chiang Kai-shek, he had trained as a soldier in Japan and his idea of revolution was for the army to take over and control the country. He believed China could only be controlled under one leader (dictatorship).

The other side of the equation was Mao Zedong (Communist Party) he was a bit of a romantic and loved the idea and the romance of Old China, a cultural revolution.

The bulk of the people of China at the time lived in small villages scattered across the country. They were farmers, living in mud huts, with no electricity or sewers. Half the people died before the age of thirty. Landlords held sway, owning the vast majority of the land, and the farmers often paid them more than 50 per cent of their crops in confiscatory taxes.

By 1925 Mao was already talking about organising a peasant revolt. Peasants scattered across the country in small numbers could not be easily brought together and participate in the revolutionary movement.

Sun Yat-sen died in 1925 setting off a chain of events. Chiang Kai-shek was allied with the urban, Western-oriented moneyed classes and the banker of landlords who feasted on the situation as it stood, the opposite of Mao Zedong’s thinking, taking from the rich to give to the poor (90 per cent of the Chinese population).

Ailing steps up to the plate, she was a woman with a mind that forgot nothing and forgave little, a forceful woman that had she been male would have ruled China.

In July 1926 the Russian-funded Chinese United Front forces and Mao’s Communist followers launched the Northern Expedition of military effort involving a hundred thousand troops and were designed to break out of southeastern China, bet back various warlords, conquer central China and gain control of the vital Yangtze River.

Ailing Soong was alarmed by Mao’s peasant uprising and workers’ strikes. Ailing took a Bank of China steamer upriver to the city of Jiujiang, Chiang Kai-shek’s temporary headquarters on the Yangtze, and invited him aboard for a man-to-man talk. Ailing had taken control from the start by making the Generalissimo come to her. After hours of negotiation, she proposed an alliance between the powerful Soong Empire and the ambitious Chiang.

Ailing made three demands, which would later have a dramatic impact on the U.S. – China relations. Each demand concerned her family. Ailing told Chiang to appoint her husband H.H. Kung, as prime minister, for financial control. That her little brother T.V. would serve as Chiang’s finance minister. Third, that was both political and personal, Ailing possessed something priceless through her father’s support of, and Chingling’s being a widow of, Sun Yat-sen: around the Soong family hovered the aura of the fabled Mandate of Heaven. Ailing offered Chiang an unimaginable prize: marriage to the Soong clan and a stake in the Mandate.

Ailing had earlier told younger sister Mayling that she would offer Mayling’s hand in marriage to Chiang Kai-shek, 29 years her senior. Mayling was indeed a catch, cultured, rich Chinese Southern Methodist. She had spent a decade of her young life living and studying in New Jersey, Georgia, Tennessee and Massachusetts, learning to speak perfect American-style English. In 1917 when only 21 years old Mayling graduated from Wellesley College with a major in English literature and a minor in philosophy, she had lived half her life in the U.S. Mayling was later heard to say

“The only thing Chinese about me is my face”      

Ailing proposed a Soong-Chiang syndicate with her relatives in the Generalissimo’s bedroom, office and pocket. Ailing dismissed Chiang after making her proposal, saying she would await his answer, Chiang could not get home quickly enough to pack his wife off to exile in America and marry into the Soong dynasty.

In April 1929 Chiang moved to oust Sun Yat-sen’s Russian advisers and the United Front, eliminate Mao, and crush the peasant and labour union uprisings.

In one of history’s bloodiest betrayals, forces loyal to Chiang massacred between twenty thousand and thirty thousand presumed Communists in Shanghai alone. Generalissimo’s slaughter in the countryside was far-ranging taking hundreds of thousands of lives, yet it was little reported in America. Chiang had turned his Soviet-funded and trained armies against those who had been his Communist allies. Chiang’s forces were small in comparison with the Chinese population but were regionally strong enough to force Mao and his comrades away from China’s east coast.   

I just love this stuff, don’t you?

Off for coffee and a scone with my two ‘girl friends’ life, does not get much better than this.   

Stay safe.

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For the truth shall (always) set you free

A few years back there was a big hoo-ha about Britain’s involvement in the slave trade, the protesters wanted statues of men involved or having any connection with the slave trade to have their statues taken down and in one incident pulled down and dropped into the harbour at Bristol. All pretty stupid really.

The slave trade was of course a black mark in British history but if you put it into context and look at what the lives of the ordinary men and women of this country were at that time, factories workers laboured in appalling conditions into an early grave in satanic mills and forced to live cheek and jowl, in slums, ridden with rats and decease. Men press-ganged into the Royal Navy, or into the army – horrendous conditions, cannon fodder, building Britain’s empire (for the rich). But far worse would come; the real stain on British history was the China (opium) Trade.

I am reading James Bradley’s book The China Mirage – the hidden history of American disaster in Asia. The book opens with the opium trade – first by Britain and then by America.

As ever (and to this day) when any nation restricted Britain or America’s (god-given right) to exploit their lands, British and American gunboats will appear on their shores, or gun-ships in their skies, to beat them into submission. Bradley explains in great detail how not only the civil war in America but the waterfront properties of NY, railways, copper mines, in Tennessee and Maryland, coal mines in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Perkins Institution for the Blind, factories, cotton mills and the great harbours on the east coast, all built on opium money. Along with these the great universities, were then, and still are today, dependent on trust funds set up with opium drug money. America was built and financed by the opium trade, disguised as the China Trade.

Britain of course was well ahead of the game. In July 1836 Commissioner Lin addressed a letter to Queen Victoria, then still a girl of twenty and only two years on the throne.

We have heard that in your own country, opium is prohibited……has China (we would like to ask) ever yet sent forth a noxious article from its soil? ….. If foreigners came from another country, and brought opium into England and seduced the people of your country to smoke it, would not you the sovereign of the said country, look upon such a procedure with anger, and in our just indignation endeavour to get rid of it?

England, responded in its usual high-handed manner, as it would to anyone that dares to speak out against its foreign policy or question its god given right to dictate to others (including countries within the UK – Scotland) – Victoria sent the Royal Navy to blast away at China’s coastal cities until they surrendered to Britain’s demands.

You see Britain wanted the tea and fine goods from China but they came at a cost, the trade was draining the coffers of England and nothing was being bought by China from England. Britain made nothing that China needed or wanted. Britain (just as in America) was able to wash their hands of being directly involved in the opium trade by the use of the East India Trading Company, (protected by the British government’s armed forces) which shipped the drugs from India. America shipped their drugs from Turkey, into China, (privateers like the Russell Company, not the government although protected by America’s armed forces) the profits made in opium were 26 per cent on investment.

All the wealth pouring into America from the opium, still, the trade was well hidden – all that was ever said in the reams and reams of paperwork over the decades, opium was never mentioned that was buried and never spoken of in America.

The slave trade was evil but nothing in comparison with the death toll from the opium trade and the wars that followed before China regained its lands from the British and Americans (buccaneers).

In John Pilger’s film ‘The Coming War on China’ we see how when Mao Zedong came to power, America was shocked, and dazed, how had they lost China (just as Britain must have felt when it lost India, their jewel in its empire crown). The parasites that had fed off China for decades now could not find a boat quickly enough to scurry back home.

James Bradley will take me from the nineteenth century through the Second World War, and to the origins of the Vietnam War. Bradley reveals how American misconceptions about China have distorted America’s domestic and foreign policies and led to the avoidable deaths of millions.

What I have never understood is why we (the people of these islands) tolerated such behaviour from our government, a government now fully joined at the hip with American foreign policy. I hear no voices of dissension; from the British media – newspapers, the BBC, Sky News, or Channel 4, quite the opposite – we simply swallow the government’s press releases, hook line and sinker, Russia Bad – China Bad – we still have not acknowledged our part in the Iraq War, where thousands of innocent civilians were killed, for a lie, Weapons of Mass Destruction. Our part in the horrendous death toll in Yemen, and still dying even to this day, yet not a line of print or a word from good old “Aunty” (our public service broadcaster.) However, they will broadcast appeals for money to aid the suffering of people we are complicit in bombing the hell out off.  

The man who took this country into the Iraq war, Tony Blair– was he punished – no, England’s highest honour was bestowed upon him. He much like the statues we now see in George Square in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, of nineteenth-century, slavers and opium barons were put on a pedestal. Everyone in that government (who voted for that action, in Iraq) was complicit in a war crime, and sadly we too, allowed them to do it, then sweep it under the carpet – remember it was done in our name.

When Mao Zedong rose to power in 1949, the US government and media portrayed him as an angry, anti-American Soviet pawn. Yet, Mao had reached out to President Roosevelt in 1945, saying he was eager to fly to the US to discuss his vision, a historic opportunity – how New China, he believed could work with America – tragically America nipped it in the bud, China had no choice but to turn to Russia.

Did we not see the same attitude at the collapse of the Soviet Union? Anyone coming cap in hand to America (or Britain, one and the same when it comes to self-interest and foreign policy) will simply be seen as weak and ripe for exploitation. 

Once again, we see Russia and China moving closer and closer together in trade and as an alliance against American foreign policy that is dependent on a large military presence around the world. 

Today, like Britain in the 19th century, America and Britain once more find their balance of payments in the red, we buy from China, but China needs little of what we make. The money is all flowing one way – from west to east. Not only China but also India and Indochina, all their country’s industries will now be fed with gas and oil from Russia. The troubled history between China and America – two of the largest economies in the world – still plays out to this day.

A large military force is no longer the threat it once was, people power has proved itself to be most resilient against sheer power. We see it in South America, people rising up against America when they try to impose unwanted puppet governments on the people. Likewise in the Middle East, North Africa, where sanctions no longer have any effect, and now in the Far East, whose domestic market far outstrips anything that American and Europe would ever import, China no longer need America’s buying power as it once did.

Now America’s proxy war in Ukraine is all about America’s wish to control Ukraine as part of its empire, (although it will never be spoken in those terms) we are not building military bases on foreign soil, we are supporting allies – go tell that to the marines.  

Europe with its draw bridge mentality has a demographic problem, unlike India, with a rising young, well-educated, workforce. China has the wealth and a government that is willing to see new opportunities and exploit them without the bottom line mentality of the west, where nothing can be done unless it is sanctioned by private finance and only then if there is a percentage profit at the end. And Russia with its vast regions of still untapped natural resources is a clue to why Russia and China have become a threat to the world power that was once the domain of the US.

China has not squandered its wealth on big military spending (for the first time ever getting into the top 100 of countries’ arms sales, the UK is fifth). Rather china bought gold, mineral rights and now oil and gas from its neighbour (and thanks to the EU following US sanctions) I’m sure at a cut-price deal.

I am already fascinated with this book – I only wish we had a more enlightened and independent media in the UK – for the truth shall (always) set you free.

Stay safe.   

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Electrician – Plumer and Story Telling

 Another drizzly day here in St Andrews, and the cold blustery wind is not helping things, still, Aldi calls. I bought some corn beef, so stovies for dinner.

I had the electrician in this morning to fix the shower, pump would not start up so have had a paddling pool for a shower tray for almost two weeks now. He did not stay long – only long enough to tell me I needed a plumber, the drain is blocked tripping the pump, ho-hum, if it’s no’ flees its midge.

The plumber has just left, seems there was some metal object in the pipe, not sure what it was but nothing I recognise, still he did leave me all the mess to clean up – oh well, stop me from wearing.

So no news really – things much as usual – never mind I’m sure Charles will be along soon, he must smell the dinner by now, he is such a scrounger. Sad really, by this time next year he will be in a home, I have seen a difference in him over the year he has been here, downhill all the way. I am really blessed to have such good genes.  

I did finish my presentation, this time audio/visual, I said I would put together a sort of slide show of all my holiday snaps and as they come up say something, allowing the images to trigger anecdotes – my head full of little stories about that trip.

I was amazed at just how long it had taken me to download them onto PowerPoint and write little captions for each – before transferring them to a memory stick. Up until the wee small hours, not that I missed anything on television. I had over 150 – too many but at least they are all there now and can be broken up into sections.

As I worked on each one I remembered small details – like in Salzburg – it was the first week in April, and I took myself off on a walk along the river. Overnight snow was deep upon the park benches, and children were out with their parents, they were making snowballs to throw at them. Further along, I came upon a girl possibly late 20s or early 30s she was doodling in the snow on top of one park bench – she was unaware of me being there and as I came up on her I said

“Play bonnie hen”

I’m sure she had no idea what I had just said – but gave me a beautiful broad smile – even if there was a little nervous embarrassment in it. Strange it is these simple little coming together with strangers that I remember more than the beautiful scenery, lakes and mountains, and that is what makes me come back again and again for………. “May I have more Sir?”    

Instantly this triggered another anecdote that happened on the same day. I was coming over one of the numerous footbridges when a lady asked me to take a group photograph. I held up her smartphone, click, and click – but when I handed it back she showed me the picture I had just taken – four of my splayed fingers.

Group photograph on the bridge – take two.  

The first week of that trip the weather was not of its best – but I always remember in the movie Shirley Valentine, Shirley had been asked to look after a neighbour’s dog for a couple of days and feeling sorry for the dog she gave it the steak that had been for her husband’s tea, replacing his steak with egg and chips. When he complained she told him

“You liked egg and chips”

To which he replied “On a Tuesday – I like egg and chips on a Tuesday – this is Thursday”

“Pretend it’s Tuesday,” she told him.

So when the weather was not at its best that first week I simply told myself – I’m on a winter break – just as good.

Dear oh dear, I’m Havering again, maybe next I too will be talking to the wall.

Stay safe.   

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“Send More Food”

The weather today is dreich with light rain but pleasant enough out. I made my way down to the Bowling Club, on Pipeland Road for the Probus Club talk, today it was a Jim McArthur “Robert Burns – a few interesting facts”. It was not about Burns but the people around him at that time who had the greatest influence on his works. Fascinating stuff, I really enjoyed his presentation.

In two weeks’ time, we have Hamish Brown on “The fall of Singapore” (plugging his latest book) I remember him from my RAF mountain rescue days, and during the time he walked all the Monroe’s in Scotland in one go, he used the same technique as the lads from our group when they walk from the most northerly Monroe to the most Southerly (Ben Hope to Ben Lomond) – I was part of the team that put out food parcels at post offices and small stores and dropped parcels off at remote farms so they had fresh supplies.  Not having to carry heavy stores, such as tins of fruit would aid their progress – I was also doing sorties out in the land rover to meet up and re-supply.

One of the stipulations was that they called in each day – having RAF Mountain Rescue members lost out on the hills or worse would not look good in the national press or on television news. Every time we received a call – it was to “Send More Food” – funds were running low so Chiefy Hind secured a 7 Lbs tin of Strawberry jam and three loves of bread from the Mess and sent them out. The next day we received the daily report – ending with “Send More Food”.  

I did the same trip solo and unaccompanied – I now know just how hungry you get on a long constant walk or cycle ride for that matter. I carried practically nothing with me but a sleeping bag and camping stove. Food was a large bag of porridge oats, (with salt already added) and a few boil-in-the-bag meals – to save fuel I used the water that the food was boiled in for tea. As the gas supplies run low, it was only used to boil enough water for tea – I ate the porridge as brose (meal and water with added sugar, again I simply tipped what sugar I had into the bag of porridge oats). I tried hard not to lose height by staying as close to the tops as I could, and sleeping out in the heather, or if I could find some sort of shelter stone, sheep pens, or wooded windbreaks. Bathing was in streams or naked in the numerous mountain lochs. By the end (sixteen days and 53 Monroe’s later) I could have climbed to the moon.

The worst thing about growing old is remembering when you were young.

Since I am all dressed up and have nowhere to go, I think I will go for a pint.

Stay safe.

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“Socialism Is Great”

Sorry I have been out of touch for a day or so, however, I have been keeping up with my cycling (very sort trips less than 20 miles) but my time has been taken up with a non-fiction book by Lijia Zhang – I simply could not put it down, even when the lines of print were starting to blur. The title “Socialism is Great” is misleading and should be taken as Lijia’s subtle sense of humour. It is her life story from a school child in a poor household during the Cultural Revolution. She is bright, ambitious and determined to escape this life of poverty and daily grid – she sees the university as her way out. But at thirteen her mother, who works in a state factory wishes to retire and the government allows you to do so before the official retirement age by having someone take your place in the factory – Lijia is nominated to replace her mother in the factory, her dream of taking the entrance exam for teacher college is dashed.

This is warts and all story told in a most down-to-earth amusing way. it was the end of the cultural revolution and now the country was opening up to people setting up small market stalls in the marketplace, (free enterprise) it grows rapidly which in turn pushed up prices that the state-run system could not cope with – people having to take two jobs just to put food on the table. An unsettling time (echoes of privatisation in Scotland)

The political instructor Wang had caught her reading Jane Eyre – hidden under her desk during a propaganda lecture.

“an English book” he spat, shaking it violently, a disgusted look on his face. “Look at you, why do you dress up so fancifully for work? You like to worship foreign things, don’t you?”……….

“I have the freedom to choose what I wear,” I replied despite my nerves. “I haven’t broken any factory dress codes, have I? “

“Freedom? Some rotten ideas from the West have certainly gone to your head. This is a socialist factory. Reading a rotten foreign book during an important political meeting is a serious offence. You’ll be punished………..

Her story takes us through the growing pains of China’s move from a closed society to a more open and encompassing society – mainly through education.

Like Russia, the model that the Chinese communist party copied, was inclusive and imploded. When the Soviet Union collapsed – Gorbachove went to the West (Thatcher and Ragan) for help – they laughed in his face, and America move into the Baltic states, they hated communism now, having tasted the fruits so freely handed out by Capitalist America. Now many are seeing how they have jumped from the pan into the fire. Forbidden fruit always tastes sweet at first bite.

But unlike Russia – China did not take and eat the fruit of the West, they changed yes but on their own terms – a mirror image of America yes, but not controlled by the Western powers and that has scared America more and why we hear the rattling of nuclear swords today in Ukraine and in the South China Seas.

Captain Yule, – an academic, a school teacher, and a brilliant officer in the Salvation Army, once told me,

“To ignore is to not understand”

So buy this book and no matter what conclusions (or not) you draw from it, for I guarantee it will bless you with an honest and factual read, written by one that lived through that period and came out the other end an academic and brilliant storyteller. “Socialism Is Great” is a worker’s memoir of New China, and can be bought through Amazon (and no I do not receive any reward for the plug).  

What I received, other than a very enjoyable read was how we are talking about a time in recent history, 1970 onward – China went from an isolated community of poverty and hardship – and in a time span of only 30 years has become the world’s fastest-growing economy, that has managed to remain Chinese and not fall under power the Wall Street spivves.  We on the other hand in the UK have become more and more an appendix of Wall Street and because of Brexit a drawbridge nation – something that caused Russia to implode and China to change course. Maybe it is time for the Scottish people to look in the mirror too.

Stay safe.      

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Without Stepping Stones

Monday, Monday so good to me. I was late to rise and although my laundry day I decided to give it a miss – laziness is no good unless encouraged. It was extremely cold outdoors, and ice covered the cars in the car park, not a morning for cycling. Still, Mrs Hubbard’s cupboard needed replenishing so off I went to Aldi, and I was thankful for my extra layers.   

Many, many years ago my big sister was courting Dave (later to become my brother-in-law) Dave was taking my sister to the cinema, where the new musical Rose Marie (screened in the mid-1950s) was being shown, a big treat, mum said to take Walter with them.

Going to the cinema was a big treat and I remember being very excited about it at the time. Unfortunately, it was not a movie for small boys and I soon became bored with the action on screen and started crawling around – collecting discarded tickets – the manager was called to the disturbance and my sister and her soon-to-be husband (along with my big sister’s delinquent wee brother) were evicted from the theatre. (I don’t believe my sister ever forgave me for that – for she would from that day forward, throw it back in my face).

Musicals were big throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s and the songs from the latest musical would be played to death on the radio too.

I remember going to see the Student Prince – really an operetta rather than a musical that MGM turned into a movie. Student Prince was a big hit in 1954 when I went along with members of the family to see its premiere, I was hooked. The voice was that of Mario Lanza although Edmund Purdom (a British actor) played the part of the Prince in the movie.

Lanza played Caruso in the movie ‘The Great Caruso’ staring alongside Ann Blyth, the song when you are in love hit the airwaves for weeks after the release of the movie, and you will never ever hear Ava Maria sung better than in The Great Caruso. 

The music and lyrics were all part of the concept of these movies and were always a bit special. I suppose, in a way, they were my initiation into the opera that I now love. I still have a good collection of musicals/operettas that I watch a lot. So when I saw Seven Brides for Seven Brothers would be shown on television (Sunday) I couldn’t pass it over.

The music and lyrics are not of the quality of Student Prince but the choreography is outstanding, I really enjoyed watching it once more. 

Howard Keel (with his rich deep voice) Jane Powell stared alongside him in seven brides for seven brothers. Keel again alongside Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun, a comedy based on the life story of Annie Oakley, (Hutton unforgettable when she imitates Keel, putting on a deep voice – ‘the girl that I marry will have to be………..)

Keel once more this time with Doris Day in Calamity Jane, and what about the unforgettable, Kelly, O’Connor Reynolds combo in Singing in the rain by the time we get to The Sound of Music we have moved away from a film version of a stage show to proper movies in their own right.

Just a thought, maybe the reason that opera has become less appealing for the modern generation is that we have lost the operetta/musical stepping stones? 

Stay safe

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I have a friend from my college days – we still stay in touch – this is such a communications

I have missed out much of the communication so a bit stylistic, but I though it sums up the problems in this world and how governments seem unable to get a grip of a situation that is quickly spirling out of control.

My friend

Yes, it’s a hard balance about automation, it was ever the case, the Dunfermline revolt was probably influenced by the Luddites.  I was brought up in a tenement in Lochend and my background is staunchly working class but I don’t ascribe to the radically socialist ramblings of some of my family as we would fall out.  They are entitled to their opinion but to be honest a lot of them are arguing from inherited and overheard conversations and not based on reading a book or doing some research like you and I.  I just hold my tongue, the majority of them are now pretty well off and don’t know what they are talking about, the Facebook generation. 

Me

I like you came from a Labour background, so sort of died in the wool socialist but I totally agree the patients have taken over the asylum. and of course, the Labour party was taken over by Tony Blair and his pal Gordon Brown (the third way). And yes, the Facebook generation does not help, calling one another names and false or half-truths being banded about serves no one well.

My friend

Thinking out loud reading your reply below, I think we agree somewhere in the middle, it isn’t so much I don’t think we should help the less well-off, we should absolutely but there is a line between dependency and encouraging people to be self-sufficient. 

Me

Too right – refugee camps – foreign aid – making people dependent on a plastic shelter and a food handout, is no substitute for work that makes them self-sufficient, but then you have to put that work in place for it to work, chicken and egg. I have a love-hate relationship with Charities – big wages for those that run these charities – little achieved – food banks a curse on our nation, in America if you work for Walmart you automatically qualify for food stamps, and it is coming to a place near you soon.  I support Guide dogs for the blind (having had a member of the family blinded during the war and I captained a tandem for a blind lad) I felt it was worthwhile – but recently I have been inundated with books of raffle tickets to sell, constantly asked to give generously to the cause – how much I wonder of my money donated is supporting the dogs training and wellbeing and how much is going on promotion and fundraising? Charities in this country must be one of the fastest-growing businesses there is.

Handouts from the government – but who are the government really giving the money to, – is this not just another way to subsidise the energy companies? We are building more wind farms in Scottish waters – more than enough to supply every household in Scotland with cheap energy – but we are paying amongst the highest prices for electricity and gas anywhere in Europe. Why because we control none of the electricity of gas from that source. The government (so the people) should have a stake in the energy companies. And more publicly owned wind turbines should be funded by taxpayer loans. You see this lot in Europe. When on holiday in Austria, a lad, had taken me up to the top of a community wind generator – I asked, do people not complain about the noise from the blades, in close proximity to the houses? Only those that don’t own a wind generator complain, he said    

I am very fortunate I have good genes that afford me good health, I live in sheltered housing – someone cleans my windows, tends the garden, and fixes any faults to the property. My heating comes from a central boiler, so in with the rent, I can have my flat as hot or cool as I wish. We have laundry washing machines and tumble dryers (who can afford a tumble dryer these days?). OK I have to watch the pennies but I am very content with my lot, so I’m H-A-P-P-Y.  

I ended up in West Yorkshire by default (my mother fell ill and ended up in the hospital and they would not let her out unless she had someone to look after her, my sibling sisters all scattered, ‘things to do and places to go’, I ended up as her carer, I thought it would only be for a month or so until she got on her feet – mum suffered a stroke, 19 years later she died. Buggered up my retirement plans but I do not regret a minute of it (even though she could be a crotchety old bugger (lady) at times. It was tough, and there was little help at that time, now we seem to have gone the other way – over the top. Try pushing a 90-something 15-stone person in a wheelchair around a very hilly part of Yorkshire and you will know what I mean. Life as the Moodie Blues told us is ‘A Question of Balance’.

Yesterday the morning was windless and awfy, awfy dreich, mist lay in the valley and low-lying fields like a cold snow-white shroud. Dropping down from Strathkinness the cold was such, I felt naked. I saw a curlew knee high in a flooded field, once so common in the lands around Fife, no longer, a few fallow fields, now much of the farmland is under arable and the ceaseless plough. Home and on with the last of my homemade lentil and tomato (and whatever else happens to be lying around) soup its gid tell yir ma’.

The Salvation Army charity shop has a sale on ‘All DVDs and CDs 10p’ hold me back. An 8 DVD collection of Catherine Cookson, a German language course (I really need to try harder to learn German), and a couple of French language films, I love French films the actors as so natural in their dress and actions, although very much kitchen sink dramas. And the usual run-of-the-mill American movies with all the computer graphics, greed, corruption, shooting, killing, and of course the good guys (the Americans) take the day. But that is the good point of 10p DVDs if they are rubbish, what you are losing, so you can experiment with lots of genera.  

In one of Kristin Scott Thomas’s stars, I did not know she was fluent in French and it certainly does not look as if it has been dubbed. Kristin is perfectly cast in this film for she does have a serious, loner-type looking expression on her face, hang doggie.

A guest at a dinner party, she is being taunted by a man, who has had a bit too much wine. Why have we not seen you around, where are you from…….. She finally answers – in prison – 15 years for murder, after a pause to take it in, all around the table burst into laughter. Of course, she is telling the truth. It is a brilliant story, the acting is superb, and the ending is thought-provoking, and something we as a society still struggle with is euthanasia.

The words that came over very strongly for me were that prison time for killing your own child is the longest time in prison. (Eternal prison time)

After 12 O’clock and not a dish washed – must go, stay safe.

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Bairns not Bombs – Nicola

Where do we go from here? Well, it must be clear to the world by now that America intends to use all its military hardware – (and boots on the ground but only as instructors and military advisers) if they ever do admit openly to them being there at all, much in the way that Britain is flying sorties on or near the border with Russia and like America clandestinely. Make no mistake about it this is America’s proxy war in Ukraine, and as ever Britain is sitting on Uncle Sam’s coattails.     

What we have seen over the past days of the war in Ukraine is America introducing its latest military hardware into the theatre of war, the HIMAR rocket launcher. Six rockets were fired into the Donetsk region – taking out a camp containing an (as yet unknown but substantial amount) but substantial amount of Russian soldiers, (more than likely these were new conscripts, fresh out of boot camp.

It must be clear to Russia that what started off as support of the breakaway states in the east of Ukraine has now been high-jacked (likely instigated) by America. There is no way Russia can trump America’s war factory. So what was akin to First World War trench warfare has now escalated into modern high-tech warfare with America holding all the aces and supported by their NATO (Britain and the EU) pals – Russia will lose out in any arms race – and so long as the war is contained within Ukraine the EU and Britain will be happy to give such support.

On August 6th 1945 an American B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, and the world entered the nuclear age. The expansion of nuclear weapons across the world is total, every major country now has their “NUCLEAR DETERRENT” for that is the lie they have given the peoples of the world for their build-up of an arsenal of nuclear weapons,

It is not a weapon of aggression, ‘for no one would dare to use them’ they are simply deterrents, keeping the world safe and free from war, (and the bands played believe it if you like).  Each one of these inhumane weapons has a destructive capacity 10-fold that of the one dropped on Hiroshima which was a damp squib in comparison.

Now if you were a Russian military advisor faced with the prospects of being kicked out of – not only the Donetsk region but losing control of your only warm water harbour and home to the imperial fleet, in the Black Sea and your only route into the Mediterranean Sea, what would you advise?

If that were me, I would tell Putin to order an inter-continental-ballistic-missile, fitted with a non-nuclear warhead, but clearly capable of carrying one, and send it into western Ukraine and near to say Poland or Romania, border without going over the border, obviously – the message would be clear to everyone, America must stop its aggression or the next such missile will carry a nuclear warhead.

I believe such a threat would send the EU leaders scarring off to the UN demanding a peace settlement over Ukraine and in the meantime an end to all military equipment being sent by the west into the Ukraine theatre of war, and an immediate ceasefire.

Up until now, nuclear war has only been a threat, introducing visual effects and you change the narrative. As America has built up its military presence around the world and used that military power (along with its monetary policies) to bully and become a threat to the stability of the world, that is now no longer the case.

How much longer can America continue their aggression before the first inter-continental-ballistic-missile, caring a nuclear warhead flies?

Just a thought – Sturgeon wants any future independent Scotland to join NATO – before you consider that move Scotland (Sturgeion’s arse is already out the window, if she does not jump soon then she will be pushed out at the next Scottish elections) think what one inter-continental-ballistic-missile, caring a nuclear warhead would do to Glasgow, just down the road from the British/American nuclear submarine base (and fall out across the central belt of Scotland).

Bairns not Bombs – Nicola

Stay safe.

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Until the last chain falls – Our freedom will make slaves of us all

The Scottish government is to spend £100 million building a new super-prison on a 54-acre site at Provanmill near Royston Road, read the headlines. Scotland has a great record of building new super prisons for boys and girls (although they may as well call them unisex after passing the gender bill) – now I have no problem with new and better conditions for prisoners after all people are sent to prison

As a punishment – not to be punished

There are of course some offenders that should be locked up for their own good as well as that of the public, and, on the whole, these are long-term prisoners who go on to serve out their sentence and we see no more of them.

Overall prison population levels rose by just 1% on 2020-21 figures, remaining stable at just over 7,500 in 2021-22. However, the balance between the sentenced and remand populations continued to shift.

The average daily remand population increased by around 14% in 2021-22 (from 1,634 in 2020-21 to 1,862), while the average daily sentenced population remained broadly stable (-1% from 5,658 to 5,597). These changes mean that a greater proportion of the prison population was held on remand than in previous years. On an average day in 2021-22, around 25% of the prison population were held on remand – the largest proportion on remand on record.

Growth in the average daily remand population between 2020-21 and 2021-22 only occurred in three of the index (alleged) offence groups – Group 1 ‘Violence’ +9% to 989, Group 2 ‘Sexual crimes’ +23% to 209, and Group 5 ‘Crimes against society’ +34% to 386.  Around 60% of the average daily remand population in 2021-22 were accused of index Group 1 ‘Violence’ and 2 ‘Sexual crimes’ offences. A further 21% were accused of Group 5 ‘Crimes against society’ offences.

Question – do all these remanded prisoners need to be behind bars?

Re-offending in Scotland is almost twice as high as in any other European country and three times that of the best.

Male offenders recorded an average of 0.51 reconvictions per offender, compared with 0.48 for females – both up on the previous year.

Offenders who committed a crime of dishonesty had the highest reconviction rate (45.6%), while sex offenders had the lowest (10.4%).

The reconviction rate for custodial sentences was 43.8% in 2018-19, up from 41.0% in 2017-18. However, for offenders who received community payback orders, the rate was unchanged at 29.2%.

For individuals given non-court disposal by the police in 2018-19 (such as a warning or fine), or by COPFS, 18% and 15% respectively received another non-court disposal within a year.

Scotland has a revolving door of re-offending

For me, it is not until you look at the background of young offenders (many of whom graduate to senior prisons) that you wonder who is letting who down.

Young adults who received custodial sentences had lower levels of educational attainment, with 36.9% achieving the expected level of English and maths by the end of key stage 2 compared with 53.0% of their peers with non-custodial sentences or cautions, and 72.4% of those without criminal convictions.

A large share of young adults who received custodial sentences was identified as vulnerable during childhood; 41.7% were children in need (CIN) and 17.6% had been children looked after (CLA).

Despite high levels of vulnerability among those who received custodial sentences, receiving a custodial sentence remains unusual; 92.2% of CIN and 84.9% of CLA did not subsequently receive a custodial sentence.

More than half (52.5%) of young adults who received custodial sentences had been persistently absent during schooling, compared with 35.9% of those with non-custodial sentences or cautions; persistent absence was lowest among those with no criminal convictions (10.9%).

Nearly three-quarters (72.2%) of those who had a custodial sentence had received a fixed exclusion compared with half (50.3%) of those with non-custodial sentences or cautions, and 9.0% of those with no criminal convictions.

Young adults who received a custodial sentence by age 23 to 24 years are overwhelmingly male (92.6%); in addition, 68.6% of those receiving a non-custodial sentence or caution were male.

The same old story – poverty, poor housing, a safety net that is full of holes and lets too many vulnerable families down. An education system – one size fits all – that allows slow kids to fall behind – then allows them to drop out of school altogether (what prospects in modern society for a kid that can’t read?) Maybe instead of a new prison, we need new (or better) social services, a new or better education system, and more and better affordable housing not high-rise ghettos……

Stay safe

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Killing, by any other name, would smell as sweet.

The caption running along the bottom of the BBC news this morning read – Ukrainian authorities have reported the killing of hundreds of Russian soldiers in NYE air strikes, well I’m sure they all have excellent big erections after that one. Are we really all expected to cheer at such news, what have we become?

I saw a little clip on television, of a Vulcan bomber aircraft in flight, the Vulcan was designed for one purpose and one purpose only to carry a nuclear bomb. This bomber had the capacity to destroy in a way unimaginable before the Second World War. A great feat of engineering the commentator was telling us.

I remember the Vulcan in service (the first flight of the Vulcan was on 20th July 1956 it was retired from the RAF in 2015)

It was only 53 years earlier than the Vulcan’s first flight that the Wright Brothers made it into the skies; the speed of change has been astonishing even in my lifetime.

You have to praise man’s ability to invent and build – my father saw the first aircraft to take to the skies – he was still around when man first flew to the moon.

“A small step for man – a giant leap for mankind” or was it.

Going to the moon was the result of Russia having just launched a dog, then a man into orbit around the earth, the start of the space race and the Cold War. Trillions and trillions of dollars spent on sabre rattling between two great nations – Why?

In the last years of Hong Kong on lease to Britain, the people of Hong Kong decided to relocate their ageing airport out with the city – in a Herculean effort, they built a tunnel under Victoria harbour, build bridges to carry rail and road out onto an island, knocked the top of that island and built a modern airfield, all at breathtaking speed.

Given the money and incentive, there seems little that man cannot achieve (even in a relatively short period of time) yet here we are in 2023 and still living with a Cold War mentality. Why?

We have some serious problems in this world and we need serious people to solve them – the Ukrainians are sitting in the dark (those that have not already fled the country) and freezing their balls off. So predictable – So preventable.

There are people around the world who are so poor they live in squalor and can’t feed their children, many of them will die of preventable diseases.  

War and rumours of War – across every continent – across the world. Why?

We as a people have shown the ability to create, beautiful buildings. Create technology that was futuristic, only a decade ago. Science has developed cures that have eliminated many of the diseases that plagued our forefathers. We are of an age where we could so easily live in a land of Milk and Honey but do not seem to be able to shake off the sins of our fathers. Why?

Please -Let 2023 be the year of Bairns not Bombs.        

Stay safe

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2023 Happy New Year – The Year of the Rabbit

And according to Chinese astronomy and how the rabbits will affect other animals in the Chinese calendar – it is going to be a turbulent year for my sign; I did not need an astronomer to tell me that. However, I consider myself to be pretty lucky to still be here and in (relatively speaking) good health.

Yesterday morning it was housecleaning duties, an old Scottish tradition, go into the New Year with a clean home (and at one time, all debts paid) so a clean slate. Not that my wee flat takes much keeping clean. Then it was out for an hour’s ride in the car, visiting Scotland Wells

– a natural spring where the water bubbles up from a sandy bottom leaving the water clear and sweet. At one time it was believed that the waters had a healing property and were well visited in the past.

Then on to Loch Leven

– a beautiful area for walking, cycling and fishing, and even today, cold and overcast, the car park was half full and dog walkers were aplenty. The loch was like a mill pond, flat and calm, so the ice was beginning to form on its surface. I would have liked to spend more time here walking along the shore, but I had Charles with me and even after a very short walk he was already inhaling at his puffer, time to head back to the car, and home.

Everyone has had enough cake and biscuits to last the year out, so I thought to have a light meal and made beef burgers, of course, the raw onions were stinking the fridge out. Then I thought maybe it would be best to form the burgers into a meatloaf, you know, wrap it in foil and stick it in the oven, and leave it to its own devices. To go along with the meatloaf I boiled some potatoes, once cooked into a tray they went, covered them in olive oil and they too joined the meatloaf in the oven, job done, just to switch on the stove.

Showered and changed all was ready so I settled down with a whiskey, (I was two large ones up by the time my guests arrived) to watch Notting Hill, followed by The Pelican Brief – you can’t get enough of Julia Roberts (then Hugh Grant and Denzel Washington are not such bad wee actors either).

It was just before the bells that the first visitor arrived, so big hugs from Pat at the bells. The other two (and two dogs) arrived as First Foots, I’m H-A-P-P-Y the effort was not in vain.

I served up and told my guests – “Eat up or I get it on ma peece tomorrow”

The meatloaf vanished like the snow from a dyke in spring as did the roast potatoes, phew!

The jelly was not a seller – but jelly keeps – so long as you keep it out of sight.

02:35 all had left (including one reluctantly dog) I set about washing up (don’t you just hate to come down to a sink full of dirty dishes?) now it was as the Fisk Tyre advert will tells you “Time to Re-Tyre” (brilliant logo, sort of wee Willie winkle).

I awoke this morning at 08:45, fresh as a daisy, not a bed cover disturbed – can’t remember when I last slept so well.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL

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“Scotland, are we ready to listen – are you ready to change?”

I watched a little of Ben Hur this morning – it was the scene where Ben Hur is a galley slave. The speed of the rowing is increased to ramming speed and men start to collapse with the intensity of their work. The scene reminded me of a cartoon I once saw, the slave beating out the time was a big black man, and as he surveys the wreckage of collapsed men along the length of the ship the caption read

“And that’s Jazz”

The rain looks as if it is on for the day so no cycling for me, a good time to break a tenner as they use to say – although you will not get very inebriated on ten pounds these days.

The BBC was showing all the famous names that have died during 2022, all were household names during my era – people such as Sidney Poitier – films he stared in, such as, ‘Guess Whose Coming to Dinner, and ‘In The Heat of the Night’ shone such a bright light on colour prejudice back in 1960.

“They call me Mr Tibbs” classic

I love to read books by people whose words have changed our world, and I was thinking of this when I was writing about Sidney Poitier, he changed the way I thought about black people in America, who up until then, have had a bad press. So changing the world is not about the person that wrote/spoke the words but the people that listened and changed. And I believe that so long as people are willing to change, then the world has a chance.

I have started reading James Bradley’s Chinese Mirage’ you hear how China needs America and America needs China, how after the Chinese kicked the westerners out of their country – the rise of communism, America started a campaign of propaganda against ‘The Yellow Peril’ expelling Chinese from any position within the government of local authorities.

We use words to dehumanise peoples, for it is easier to kill if the people you are killing are not really human – in every conflict from the dawn of man’s understanding we have done this – Japanese (Nips) Germans (the Hun) French (fogies) I even heard a friend of mine (who should have known better) call Russians (Riskies) although knowing the man well – it was said in a jovial manner.  

“Communism need not mean poverty” was the slogan when the Chinese people turned themselves into an image of America – and set the two on a collision course, (America tolerates no rival).

China may appear to be the same as America a ‘Capitalist Economy’ but they are not the same. In China you have a Market Economy –controlled by the state, this has bred a newly rich middle class in China – affluence is everywhere you look in modern-day China.   

America is still a Capitalist Economy’ and controlled by one per cent of the richest people in the world. In America, you can change the parties – but you can not change the politics, so will remain ‘Wall Street not Main Street’.

China has shown the world that if you are willing to listen and change, then there is ‘HOPE’ and hope is a good thing – maybe the best of things.  

The question for the people of Scotland now as we enter into this New Year,   

“Scotland, are we ready to listen – are you ready to change?”

Stay safe

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Drumcarrow Craig

Some time back I bought a DVD in a charity shop in Dundee, it was ‘You’re cheating heart’ exploring the Scottish country and western music scene and Glaswegian life and culture. And turned out to be a laugh-a-minute, six-part BBC series, written by John Byrne – the cover told me that John Byrne was the creator of Tutti Frutti. I spotted that the BBC was showing a re-run of Tutti Frutti about a rock and roll band in the day of black and white television (the 1960s) retracing the Majestic band’s gigs as a silver jubilee tour, and as a tribute to Robbie Coltrane, so I watched the first part – then the second part yesterday. I don’t know how it went down in its day, but it did not set the heather on fire for me, it was after midnight when I turned in for bed, so not surprisingly it was after 8.30 when I woke up this morning.

The overnight rain had left behind overcast skies – but like the Egyptian Moslem girls – it wore its veil light. I really needed to get out on my bike.

Although the roads were now clear of black ice and snow the air was still very cold, an extra layer and thermal gloves were the order of the day. Drumcarrow Craig is no more than about six kilometres from my home and a mere pimple at 217 meters above sea level, but starting at near zero you have to climb them all.

Leaving the bike at the bottom of the farm track that runs up to what was once a quarry

I set off for the trig point. The most direct route onto the top is via a steep scramble at best graded Difficult. The horses spend their time up here, and I’m sure do much to keep down perennial weeds as they mow the grassy slopes with their feeding, paid me little attention, as I closed on the summit.

This is another of Fife’s numerous iron age settlements and again like Norman’s Law the outline of what would have been a large structure, is outlined in the foundation stones that make up the circle. The door lintel is still here on the side that faces away from the prevailing winds – coming from the southwest – today the winds were more southerly but bitter cold.

I dropped down the lame route from the ridge, much easier on my knees – unfortunately, the lame route is also the route of least resistance so closely followed by the runoff water. My cycling shoes are for off-road riding (you can ride and walk in them – designed with hidden cleats) not taken into consideration by the designer chappie, it rains a lot in Scotland, and they leak. and wet short shallow grass over a granite base can be graded at VS (very severe).

The homeward journey was a joy, downhill all the way and with the motor disengaged you can’t half get up speed down those steep sections.

The wee bike has now covered 4442.0 kilometres, and I believe the battery is coming to the end of its useful life; I have to put in much more effort on longer runs these days. Batteries have become much cheaper, and when I do replace it I will do so with one with twice the Amp-hours, for those long summer days – when they finally return.

Already looking very dreich out there, I think I have had the best of the day. time to get stuck into the last of the potato and leek soup, it’s gid tell yir ma’

Stay safe.   

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Love does not change when change it finds – Shakespear (sonnet 116)

Now we are all looking forward to the coming New Year – and many a whiskey tear will be shed in the singing of A Man’s a Man for a’ that. After the gender bill passing at Holyrood and man’s inhumanity to men still a predominant fetcher in conflicts and discord around the world, a man is no longer a man for a’ that.

Still, we pray and travel hopefully that the New Year will bring sanity to the world – maybe men will try to settle their differences, and return to the fight, that needs fighting, the fight for women’s rights, and animals’ rights to a home on earth (including man) and start seriously taking on the fight against Global Warming.   

I did go out for a short ride on my bike again this morning, and it was its bloody cold and black ice is still a problem, and yes even on the bus routes, (remembering the time if you had a bad trip – it meant you fell and broke your hip) heart attack country.

I had been asked to an open house party yesterday and of course, the house was full of young people. One lad was a researcher for the only Labour Member of Parliament Scotland (so not your average independence supporter) thankfully he has seen the light and is now moving on. It seemed that the contents of many of my e-mails (anti-war stand) to Eileen, had been in discussion at great length over the holidays, academics tend to do that sort of thing when they come together as a group.

It was after everyone had gone that Eileen and I were able to have a proper conversation, and she had, up until that time, taken the very strong stance – Putin bad, and the cause of all our woes. However it transpired that one in the group was a Ukrainian – she had come to Scotland years ago to study and not only did she study teaching at her university, she clearly studied other things too, for she is now married to a native of Scotland and lives permanently in Edinburgh.

Being Ukraine, she will, of course, follow what is happening in that country much closer than I, and told Eileen, Walter, is right in much of his assumptions, and yes Ukraine is in the grip of America and yes the war in Ukraine is America’s proxy war, and costing Ukrain dear.

Now I have never ever said that Putin is right – my stance has always been anti-war, but like all disputes and conflicts, there will always be two sides to a story.

When I reiterated that the EU needs to move away from this entrenched position they have dug for themself, a stance that is killing Europe’s economy and forcing its citizens into poverty. Europe really needs to start communicating with its neighbour, Russia, over a way forward.

She said, “You mean giving into Putin?”

“No that is not what I meant at all, but they will have to talk to one another if progress is to be made and they really need to stop this war on their doorstep before it gets out of hand – get back to trading with Russia – get the gas flowing again into Europe.”

“How do you stop the war if Putin has annexed parts of Ukraine and refuses to leave – in fact, Putin believes that Ukraine is still part of Russia?” she asked.

I see it differently – I still believe that this is mostly about Russia’s security – Russia feels threatened – since the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO  had expanded and now we have lost the buffer zone countries (the Baltic States) they are now all part of the EU so by default part of NATO.

If I am right – then it would be too easy for Europe to invite Russia to join NATO – not only would that remove the threat of NATO on Russia’s borders but the perceived threat to Europe from Russia. This, in turn, would de-escalate tensions and reduce the arms race that is now in progress (NATO’s costly expansion) and as Winston Churchill would have said ‘Jaw, jaw not war, war’.

“But how can you even trust a man like Putin? That’s impossible, it will never happen”.

Well, that is what they said about Turkey – and the EU and Turkey have a very thorny relationship but they somehow manage to sort out their differences and work together over such things as refugees (who pays for their keep in Turkey) – as for Turkey and the US – America has never forgiven Turkey (a NATO member) for buying Russian defensive weapon systems, rather than the very expensive US one, right peeved they are.

The stumbling block to this of course will be America. America needs a bogyman to keep its war factory in production – Russia has always proved a willing provider.

I believe that America thought that once the war in Ukraine was established – they could hand it over to NATO (Europe) and move on to establish new conflicts e.g. China.

Anyway, whatever your stance – I wish you all a Happy New Year –

‘And may you better reck the rede, that ever did th’ adviser’ – Burns.  

Stay safe       

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Over the Hills and Far Away

In the movie Miss Potter – Beatrix tells her mother,

“The only thing that matters at my age mother, is that everyday matters”

I had dressed for cycling but before I set out I decided to empty the trash, hay it’s not such a bad day – why put off till tomorrow that which you can do today, back indoors and a quick change of shoes.

As soon as I turned the key in the car’s ignition, Suzi Quantro and her band of renegades filled the space inside the car they were dancing in the wind – a queue to put the hood down. Irene still looking after me, her Aran jumper still doing a stilling job.

First, stop the filling station – before the rolling total could reach £13.00 the pump cut out – tank full – that can’t be right. Inside the gauge was not reading half a tank of petrol, now since I’m a glass-half-full kind of a guy I was H-A-P-P-Y. At least I know now, the gauge is broken showing a half tank at full.  

There must have been heavy rain overnight for the fields and roads had standing water at every low point, making it fun to drive – weaving in and out to avoid the standing water – roads still remediably empty of traffic.  

My destination was the fort and settlement on top of Norman’s Law, I have been here before but you can’t get too much of a good thing – said the maid to the gardener. At 218m it is not high and the road takes you a fair way up from the river – your starter for ten.

The route to the top is easy peasy – a proper right of way and use regularly by walkers and cyclists, the first part is a farm track, and then you turn right at the junction, where the path borders Cloudberry Woods (it’s for sale if you are in the mood).

It was here that I met an elderly lady with a rather boisterous Golden Retriever that broke free from her clutches and ran headlong at me – jumping up and had I not been quick enough would have landed me on my backside. He then went off to find a stick and challenged me to a duel – try and get this stick from my locked jaw, he challenged -Good Game, Good Game.  

On the left of the path is a stile that leads you onto a wide pasture, then the steep path up onto the ridge.

Today there was a young couple at the top – so pictures of our hero – scaling the heights – Walter at the trig point.

“Hay that’s my jacket he’s wearing” – I lived in a house with four sibling sisters and it was a case of first in went out the best dressed – Mum – Irene’s away to the dancing in my twin-set, and Dave’s coming to take me out – why did you no stop her…………?

Dad was right, Bedlam Hall.

The wind was blowing fierce, but not really cold, and the views are to die for, over the Silver Tay and beyond.

Going up is always easier than coming down these days, I have to take extra care, and two my knees take a battering.

At the car park mine was the only car there – the other must have been the lady with the dog, the young couple had walked up from somewhere nearby. In fact, I saw a wheen of groups out walking – all waving to the top-down car as it slowly makes its way past – I will have to practice my wave.

I was going to head into Cupar and visit Ann’s but then remembered it was Christmas Day, better to leave it until another day. So it was out onto the A92 for Link Wood roundabout.

I spotted the sign for Kilmany, so I would say hello to Jim Clark – as you all know he was born and lived on a farm close to this spot.

Pulling up at City Park, Suzi told us it was Suicide, not today hen, I’m H-A-P-P-Y I’m H-A-P-P-Y …………

Oh No! You’ve gone and gotten the car dirty again – there’s not a telling in the lad.

Stay safe

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You’r life in You’r Hands

So much of riding a bike or motorcycle is common sense and experience – then again sometimes it is not.

I’m sure you have all seen those silly little ‘Anti Cycling’ clips that have been constantly appearing on the internet, suggesting that the person in the clip was riding his bike in a manner that, although in accordance with the new guidelines from the government, is riding in this manner is a danger to all other road users.

Of course, these clips are all staged – you never see a face, and the rider is always so far away for anyone to get any indication of who they are.

I have been riding a bicycle all of my life, and a motorcycle since the age of 16 (legally) and I’m still here. I ride my bicycle in the same manner as my motorcycle; I use all of my own side of the road.

What I mean by that – is if I am coming up to a left-hand corner I move out into the road so I can see as far as possible around that corner (car drivers are already there they are sitting on the right-hand side of their car) – in this way I am forewarned of any obstacle in my path, road-works, poor road surface, potholes, or broken down vehicle, and have a better idea of how sharp the corner is.  As soon as I see all is clear ahead I can move back across onto the left-hand side of the road again.

Coming up to a right-hand bend the opposite applies – I move close to the kerb/verge to see as far around the bend as possible – move out to the white line at the apex of the corner then back to the left side of the road, once more.

Riding in the way not only allows you to see the road ahead it also straightens out the bend, (taking the racing line) therefore much safer.

I use the same tactics on my bicycle going down steep and twisty roads, although you do not have to venture so far out into the road. You should be safe enough unless some clown in a car was impatient enough to pass you coming up to a blind bend.

The other trick to keep you healthy on a bicycle is when you are turning off a road, to your right. You take a glance behind, nothing at your side or close behind – a mirror is not good enough – there is a blind spot when a car is up alongside you but far enough over so that the mirror will not pick it up. Now stick your hand out anyway, even if the road looks clear behind, indicating your intention, and move to the centre of the road.

Now use what they call in the Police Motorcycling Handbook “LIFESAVER” glance once more behind – there will always be a car driver that tries to overtake – even when he sees you are about to turn right. And no matter who the blame is apportioned to later – the cyclist is going to come off worse, or dead.

Turning left, no car is going to pass you on the inside here but a motorcyclist or cyclist may try if you leave them a big enough gap, (I thought you were going straight on).

Again glance behind – then close the distance between you and the kerb – quick glance once more – a pedestrian may decide to step off the kerb in front of you (probably sending a text, on the phone, or playing computer games at the time) and like before, the cyclist will come off worst.

Stay safe

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Bairns, not Bombs

My walls are now adorned with Christmas cards, and my sock drawer is filling up (well, what do you give a man that has everything) Christmas is once more upon us.

The two boys are back at boarding school after their Christmas holidays, and they are telling each other about their experiences.

It was brilliant, the Roman Catholic boy said, the tree, the decorations, the carol service, midnight mass, and best of all the family – including grandmother and grandfather – over for Christmas dinner, and that is when we opened up our Christmas presents.

You don’t celebrate Christmas, he asks, his Pakistani friend, do you, what did you do over the Christmas hols?  

On Christmas morning dad drove the Mercedes around to the house and we all piled in – he drove us down to the industrial estate where we went inside his warehouse, and as we looked around at the rows and rows of empty shelves – we sang

“What a friend we have in Jesus………before flying off to our Swiss Alpine lodge for our winter skiing holiday – sorry getting very cynical in my old age.    

Tell me again that Ukraine is not another American proxy war; Volodymyr Zelensky – Joe Biden’s poodle – invited to speak in congress in America – welcomed by Biden like some conquering hero into the White House (I remember when the Afghan warlords received the same treatment at the American Senators texas ranch – before they became America’s enemies). Zelensky lorded over and of course given a folded America Flag in a case to carry back to Ukraine. The cat is now out of the bag – America is using Ukraine to gain territory around the Black Sea – expand trade deals (selling, high profit, GM seed to Ukrainian farmers, and like the bankrupted farmers of India they will find one planted some seed can not be stored for next years crop – they are then over a barrel to the American seed company).

American military bases will soon follow (they have been poring in money to modify the docks in Odesa to take the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier (complete with American warplanes at British taxpayer’s expense) and like all American bases around the world they are not American bases, they tell us, they are only working in collaboration with allies. What’s not to like a large military base bringing in much-needed foreign currency to your country. This is all American empire-building by stealth, or should that be a gun to your head – Like in the Godfather – my father made him a deal he could not refuse – your signature on the paper or your brains.

At home the cost of living is through the roof, production through the floor, the country going into recession, a time to tighten our belts the Chancellor tells us, things are bad and will get worse before they get better, no more money in the coffers to give higher wages to nurses, postmen, firefighters, teachers………. But with billions to give away to Ukraine and the budget of our forces, escalating daily now 3% of GDP.

We will suffer from high fuel bills, higher taxes, lower wages (because of inflation) an influx of refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan (in the millions, who have no problem getting into the country, as genuine refugees and will not be forcefully transported to some foreign land in Africa – where the dictator there has been offered fast sums of money to take them in (of course there will be no guarantee of accommodation, healthcare or work, that risking all to come to Britain promised them.)

Stop pandering to American foreign policy and start looking after the poor of the world Bairns, not Bombs.    

stay safe 

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Winter’s Wonderland

Charles was standing at the manager’s door when I was heading out to the car,

“Want to go for a wee run in the car Charles” I called to him

He, like my wee dog, was at the door before me, after posing the same question to him – that will be a yes then.

The rain may have been little during my run – just enough to activate the windscreen wipers – is everything automatic on this car? However, when out of the car it was bloody freezing with an ice-cold wind at its back. I was pleased that I had put on my Aran jumper, knitted for me by my sister – Irena is still looking after me, even though she is deceased.  

 I did try to put the hood down but it would not go down, maybe just as well, the weather was far from good. We went out to Guardbridge, Leuchars then onto the Wormit road heading for Balmerino Abbey or at least what is left of Balmerino Abbey.

After a quick look around (Charles had never seen it before) we climbed up to Hazelton Wells. This is a very long and steep climb on a bike but not today. The great thing about climbing hills on a bike is that you get to dive down the other side, (normally). Today it was all the way down into Newburgh, where we visited the ruined Abbey there.

Charles suggested we might go for a coffee – so we did at the café/filling station. Tea and a scone for me – coffee and an Empire biscuit for Charles (naturally Charles had no money).

Home via Lindores Loch and onto the A91 I wanted to turn left at Melville Lodge roundabout and go into Monimail and visit the tower there – but Charles would not have been able to manage the stairs – so it was on to Cupar and home via Pitscottie.

The car was a dream to drive – all went well – apart from the petrol gauge did not move even a degree, very un-nerving.

Home and out with the instruction manual – seems the hood will not move if the extra parcel space is open in the boot, I went into the boot and found that I had inadvertently tripped the handle that opens up that extra space by stuffing the car cover in the corner – so an easy fix.

Will take the car round to the filling station and check the tyre pressures and put a bit more petrol in the tank, see if that moves the needle on the petrol gauge, if not then I will just have to run it until the warning light – for the low fuel comes on and fill up then – which seems to work for it flashed on as it should when the ignition was switched on.

I feel much happier, now that I have decided to keep the car and just enjoy it, OK, it may not have the best fuel-efficient engine – but as my old girlfriend would say “It’s the pleasure that counts.”  

Stay safe.

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Will this bill see Sturgeon Ousted?

According to Elie Weather, the most accurate for North East Fife, there is a 40 per cent risk of rain until around 11 O’clock then partly cloudy until around 1 O’clock. However, so far the skies are clear and it is cold and windy out. The only reason I mentioned this is the car has been sitting for a while now, not ideal for a highly bred little racehorse such as a BMW Z4 so now that it is back legally on the road I thought I would take it for a spin.

I have only driven this car a few miles and it will take some getting used to, and not only driving but getting in and out of the damn thing.

Once in you seem to be sitting in the bottom of a bathtub looking over the rim making it difficult to see the front corners (maybe I should have a cushion under me) and legs straight out in front, again no idea on a long trip. It’s saving glory – it’s a car you to be seen in. I drove it with the hood down and was surprised at how good it felt and at shielding you from the wind (then I ride a motorcycle, a lot) and of course, you can put the heater on. So good did it feel that I would drive it all the time in this manner (so long as it was not raining.) Now, where did I put that bobble hat with the pompon on top?

In the movie Blind Side (a brilliant performance by Sandra Bullock) Leigh Ann Tuohy is taking Michael Oher (Quinton Aeron) shopping. One thing I know about shopping – if you do not adore it in the shop, you will not wear it when you get it home. Think of yourself wearing it, then ask yourself,

“Is this me?”

With the eyes of the British media averted here in Scotland, the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is in its final stages of passing in the Scottish parliament.

This bill is likely to pass tonight for it has the backing of Labour and the Green party, however, it certainly does not have the backing of the people of Scotland.

This is the most device law that will ever pass in that parliament and will be like Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax in Scotland – the start of Nicola Sturgeon’s downfall. For even if it does pass, legal challenge, after legal challenge will follow hard on its heels, not only costing the taxpayer millions to defend but the positions of those who voted for its introduction – will be ousted come the next Holyrood elections.

Stay safe

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The Coming War on China

I have been a big fan of John Pilger’s work for many, many years – I have read many of his books and watched his documentary films. Yesterday I received his 60th documentary film The Coming War on China.

Pilger is a multi-award-winning journalist, including Britain’s highest award for journalism, twice, and television academy awards in both the UK and the United States. Pilger has been s a foreign correspondent and a frontline reporter and a war correspondent. Pilger, (through his experiences) has become a fierce critic of Western economic and military power, his humane eyewitness reporting has been described as a unique presence on British television that explores where others dare to tread.

In this his latest documentary film, shot over two years across four potential flashpoints, The Coming War renewed work has been set like his landmark Cambodia Year Zero, this film breaks the silence. With eye witnessing interviews and rare archive footage, it tells the secret history of an entire nation declared ‘experimental’ in the nuclear age.  

The United States and China may well be on the road to war – and with a noose of US bases now encircling the world’s newest superpower, China, nuclear war is not only imaginable but a nightmarish prospect, The Coming War on China is both a warning and an inspiring story of people’s resistance to war and the occupation of their countries.

Like John Pilger, I believe that there are people across the world (including the United States of America) that are rising up and speaking out against American foreign policy and Western economics, and I also believe that the truth will come out and the peacemakers will prevail, however, as yet we are a whisper in the storm of Western Media Propaganda.

Do yourself a favour, for we all need to know the truth, for they do in our name, buy this DVD, for hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.   

Stay safe.

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Time is not on our Side

When I was studying marketing at college and learning about international markets. One of the things I read, blowing my mind, was that if Coca-Cola were to sell the equivalent per captor of their fizzy drinks in China as they did in Australia, they would not simply have to up production – they would have to create a whole new Coca-Cola company.

The size of the domestic markets in China, India, and Pakistan, in fact, the eastern hemisphere of the world is enormous and almost untapped by the western industrial nations.

I have never understood why we in the UK are so ignorant of this fact. Then again, the folks here are not informed as they should be by the UK media – quite the opposite.

Once upon a time here in the UK, we were given figures of what was known as our Balance of Payment – the money we raised from exporting, our goods sold to the rest of the world – against what we paid for goods into this country from the rest of the world. Maybe because the difference these days would only scare the voters it is best not to tell. The country’s economy now floats on debt – invisible earnings – and printing money.

The war in Ukraine has caused big problems for Europe (and that implies the UK, being part of Europe although we are now, after Brexit, an appendix of the US). Modern wars are not won by soldiers, although battles can be won or lost by soldiers on the ground, wars are most defiantly won by War Factories, and have been since the War of Independence in America when we say the first major industrial war.

After the Second World War, countries that we would have said lost the war surprise us now to appear to have done better than we who were reputed to have won the war, incurring vast war debts and an unemployment nightmare.  On the other hand, names such as VW, Fiat, and Mitsubishi, are now vast corporations -household names, yet it was they that were all on the losing side of the Second World War, why?

Hard on the heels of the Second World War, we had the Korean War and Japan was in the right place at the right time for the Americans. They turned Japan into the War Factory. Close to the fighting for US aircraft, and millions of out-of-work highly skilled men and women, it was the start of Japan’s rise, much like a phoenix from the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Germany, a British army officer from the Royal Engineers could see that although the VW factory had been bombed, mostly the damage done was superficial. And since that British officer had the unenviable task of putting Germany back together and again. What to do with the millions of unemployed – well put them to work in the VW factory making a cheap car that was at that time needed for the allied forces in Europe, and later for the domestic market. This was the start of what we now call the economic miracle. It all starts with a clean slate – no autocratic bureaucracy – unions on the boards of management – so no ‘them and us’ disruptive disputes – all helped to put Germany back together again.

I said that wars are won by War Factories not men soldiers on the ground – 90 per cent of war casualties in modern wars are not soldiers but civilians, saving the embracement of numerous body bags being seen coming home from conflict – don’t scare the voters – no Vietnam protesters on the streets of America these days. No one will get in an inflatable overcrowded boat and head for America – proxy wars fought with high-tech military machines, like some computer game in a shack millions of miles from the front line that is modern warfare.

The US and UK are pouring millions into Ukraine – their War Factories will always be able to supply more armaments than Russia – so the US will prevail – well no.

If we go back to my marketing studies we will see that so long as the war is confined to Ukraine (and it always will be not even the powers at be in the EU are daft enough to allow it to spread from the borders of Ukraine into Europe as a whole and why American has come up with the idea of sanction on Russia – kill the Russian economy and Russia will implode much as the Soviet Union imploded. Times have changed.

So long as the Eastern hemisphere needs the gas and oil that is under Siberia and Russia is willing to put in the infrastructure to supply that gas and oil to the East then Sanctions are nonsense. China, India, and Pakistan alone are a market far greater than the EU will ever be, I think I am right in saying that India has a larger population than even China now, (Coca-Cola will need two more Coca-Cola companies if they are to sell there in the quantities they sell per head in Australia).  

At home we have inflation through the roof, production through the floor, and revolution in the air, all because we are following the foreign policies of America, Maggie Thatcher told you decades ago,

When the pound reaches parity with the dollar then there is no going back,

We are now an appendix of the American capitalist economic system, ‘Wall Street, not Main Street’. And This is why Scottish Independence is so vital to our existence, but make no mistake about it, Time is not on our Side.

Stay safe

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My claim to fame

It has been a busy time for me and a very mixed bag. Going out to friends’ homes for drinks oh and cake and shortbread, very Scottish, I was also out for drinks at the pub with my friend.

The Probus club did throw up a bit of a curve ball, the speaker’s car would not start – flat battery – they needed a stand-in – after offering my service for an off-the-cuff talk I sat down and my brain froze – shit what have I done. My problem is that I am deaf so I could not hear the audience (were they tittering away at my humour?) or was the audience welcoming me (as Billy Connelly would say) – like a fart in a space suit?

I mentioned this in an e-mail to my friend from our college days and he sent this reply,

You’re some boy as they say! 🙂 lol Aye, I remember that pressure well, the lecture hall at college, I think I did a speech on RLS…I was all prepared and looking forward to it then stood up and my brain froze ha-ha-ha.  It’s frozen again today but more due to the bleeding weather!

You never said what you talked about? Knowing you and your life a myriad of experiences! Sure it was received very well; you should have charged them lol.  I still recant the tale of when you and I were given a basic radio interview task at college, all the others were getting store managers, the Principal etc and you said ‘…meet me at Carnegie Hall, we’re interviewing Tom Weir!’  I still laugh when I think about that, I was like ‘What??…THE Tom Weir?’….I recall getting the recorder up and running, you started off on a structured interview but soon meandered off with Tom into reminiscing of your days with the RAF Mountain Rescue team….next thing we know after an hour the theatre manager came thundering in with a panic-stricken demeanour…’ Mister Weir, there’s 200 people upstairs paid ten pounds a head to see your show and you are half an hour late!!….’…Oh crivvens’ says Tom ‘oh well Walter, Greig….thanks for the chat, must go as you see’ and off he toddled lol, complete gentleman was Tom.  It was you blethering…not me for a change…honest!! Ha-ha-ha.

I had completely forgotten about that, yes Tom certainly was a gentleman. I started off my interview by asking him about how he started in journalism. He said we did not have much money but I like to escape the city (Glasgow) and the Campsie Fells were within cycling distance so I would go there at weekends and walk the hills, I started writing about my sojourning – sending articles to my local newspaper – I found that if I introduced a photograph in with the article it was more likely to be accepted so I became more interested in photographs. However, he was just such a great storyteller – that was his secret really.

I asked Tom, – I don’t know if you remember meeting up with four of us lads from RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue on Cairn Gorm, it was high summer and you were accompanied by a flock of women walkers – if memory serves – you (in jest) introduced them as inmates from the women’s prison at Tillicoultry. The conversation moved away from an interview to him asking about fellow members of the Kinloss Mountain Rescue past and present, it was after a while that the manager came into the dressing room – kickers in a twist – telling Tom he had an audience waiting upstairs. I believe the audio-visual presentation he gave (slide show and talk) was on his recent trip to Kazakhstan for I remember a lot of Yaks and those strange movable tents they have that look like lattice work inside. – Exciting times.      

Now well into December and heading for 2023 – and not a dish washed. Of course, there will be predictions made for the coming year – but what is most needed is for the EU to get around the table with Russia and as Macron told them – take seriously Russia’s concerns over their security needs, (of course America is the stumbling block to any talks with Russia).

Actually, there is a programme in the Byre Theatre ‘The France of Houellebecq and Macron’ on the 18th of January – free but you have to book – I will do that today.

If we could get a settlement with Russia and Europe that could satisfy Russia’s concerns over security from an every encroaching NATO – now right on their doorstep, (US bases in Ukraine would be a tad too close for comfort for the Russians) and EU countries once more started buying gas from the Siberian gas fields – inflation would fall – the Bank of England would not have to raise interest rates – mortgages, and loans would not cost more, people would be lifted out of poverty and the strikes for more pay to keep pace with inflation would end – in other words – cure the illness, not the symptoms. Stupid is what stupid does.

I heard Miliband on Channel 4 news the other night and heard the most sensible words from anyone on television for a long time – he said we need international cooperation to tackle the problems of boat people trying to get to Europe (including the UK) – unless you are Ukrainian or Afghanistan you will not have a direct route to come to the UK or EU – people have not come here as economic migrants they are coming here because if they stay where they are they will die – they are fleeing war and famine, simply they are trying to survive – yet they are treated like lepers when they arrive in England. We need international cooperation to tackle the causes of this migration. Take seriously Climate Change – countries such as Madagascar once able to feed their people from its land have had four years of drought – the once fertile land has now been turned into desert.

Wars across the globe are causing a mass migration of people heading north for better life chances. How long has the destruction of Yemen been going on – feed by British and American weapons and the use of British staff to service the planes and plan and select targets for the Saudi Arabian (British-built) aircraft.

Refugee camps spreading at an alarming rate across the globe, some now the size of small cities – You do not help people by giving them a plastic sheet and a bowl of rice – that will only make them make them dependent, by doing so you encourage discontent leading to trouble and strife – leading to even more migration.

And why I believe Miliband is right when he said that the problem with boat people is a problem that needs international cooperation. Sadly for the people of Ukraine, Palestine, Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, there is no profit in helping the poor and destitute of this world the smart money is in arms manufacture and war factories.

My prediction for 2023 Global Warming will be the big story – sadly little will be done about it just more COP-outs.

Stay safe.

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Sunday followes Saturday

Saturday

Today the weather was shit, bloody cold wind and intermittent rain all the way from Santa Clause land. However, I really needed a haircut so I boarded a bus for Dundee – I do not visit the barber as much as I once did – and certainly, no longer do I have to before I visited my sister – the first thing she would say when I came in her door if I didn’t, would be

“Is it not about time you had a haircut – sir?”

So short back and sides, then off to Wetherspoons for a pint of Worthington’s and a burger and chips, big difference in quantity and price even in the last few months, ho-hum.

Next stop the charity shop – six DVDs – for the princely sum of £3.00 what a bargain. I was once asked by a friend,

“What is your favourite actor/actress?”

You know I could not tell her – I watch so many movies and I do have favourites, but all actors/actresses make bad movies from time to time – however, I tend to pick DVDs mainly by actors and actresses and I have to say I seldom pass any with Julia Roberts in its cast – she never fails to please. Then again, top actors/actresses only really shine when they play against someone just as good as they are.  

Then again, the story has to be top drawer too, and storytellers do not come much better than John Geishas, and it just so happened that one of the DVDs today – The Pelican Brief, was written by John, (staring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington) John, has written a whole catalogue of best sellers, of course, two that spring to mind – The Client, The Firm –were both made into successful movies, his genre, as ever, American law.

One another that I’m looking forward to seeing again is Indecent Proposal starring Robert Redford (you always know what you’re getting with Redford although maybe just a tad old in this role – classic) he plays alongside that little stunner of a woman Demi Moore – a fascinating story with a twist in the tail.

Sunday

The day was much brighter than yesterday and much, much quieter too. The bike ride was short and sweet – the low bright and blinding sun always a worry when out on a bike, cars get very close and with the cycle path and non-bus routes unsalted it is the devil or the deep blue sea, safe cycle lanes in Scotland – not in my lifetime.

After yesterday’s trip to Dundee – the coldest place on earth when the wind blows up the river or charges down off the Sid Law hills, there was entertainment in the Caird Hall Square, along with stalls along with the Salvation Army band – their numbers much depleted these days.  

On my return, I did a trip around Aldi – home and on went, the soup pot, never really off during these cold winter days. This afternoon I watched Indecent Proposal – Robert Redford up to his old tricks again – he approaches her and tells her

“You’ve missed a button” breaking the ice.

He used the same line in The Horse Whisperer – he walks up behind Kristin Scott Thomas she was in the kitchen making heavy weather of cooking a meal – he fastens the top button of her dress –

“You’ve missed a button” embarrassed Kristin (for linking his touch)– “Thank you”.

Clearly, actors do have leeway over the director in delivering their lines, in The Magnificent Severn – Steve McQueen steals the scene over Yule Brener on top of the hearse when he took the cartridges out of the shotgun and shook them. There was no need to do this he would know by the weight if they had shot inside them. However, Brener was the big star of the picture – Steve had to take the camera off him, he stole that scene.  

This evening I felt in a romantic mood so Knotting Hill or maybe Pretty Woman both had unforgettable lines

Knotting Hill – “remember I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”

Pretty Woman – they are in the lift – she dressed in the finest of dresses and wearing a quarter of a million dollar necklace and earrings – feeling every bit a Pretty Woman

“If I forget to tell you later – I had a great time tonight” classic

The other that springs to mind was from One Find Day they kiss and he said,

“Forgive my lips for they find pleasure in the most unusual places” something she herself had said to him many years before. Pure romance.

Stay safe

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Sorry PM we never went away

ALBA to hold “Way Forward for Scotland” independence Conference

Posted by Alba Party, November 28



Alba Party is to hold a Special National Assembly in Perth on Saturday 10th December on the next steps for the independence movement in the aftermath of last week’s Supreme Court decision.

Sold out but will be broadcast – book your ringside seat

The Conference, which will be open to any member of the public to attend, titled “How to put Scotland’s Future Back in Scotland’s Hands – ALBA’s Way Forward” will be addressed by former First Minister Alex Salmond and Alba Party’s two MPs, Kenny MacAskill MP and Neale Hanvey.

The pro-independence party will set out their plan to progress Scotland’s campaign of self-determination and members of the public will be able to contribute their views on what the next steps must be to bend Westminster to the democratic will of Scotland.

Alba has the plan to move the argument forward. They advocate the immediate convening of an Independence Convention composed of all Scotland’s elected representatives and encompassing civic Scotland. Secondly, they propose popular agitation and peaceful protest be embraced as a legitimate and essential part of the independence campaign. They also propose a sustained campaign of parliamentary interventions at Westminster and a series of political initiatives at Holyrood.

Alex Salmond’s party say that an independence Convention should immediately endorse Scotland’s right of self-determination thrown into question by the extremity of the ruling of the Supreme Court.

Alba Party believes that any recourse to a Defacto Referendum poll, either at a Westminster or Holyrood election, must be fought as Scotland United for Independence, not in a normal party political way. They stress that is the only way to keep the campaign issue on independence and not on the track record of a single political party.

Commending Alba Party Chair Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said:

“ Going cap in hand to a Court London was never a sensible tactic and the response from the establishment was even more extreme than expected. It is now imperative that Scotland’s future must be placed back in Scotland’s hands. Alba Party has the plan to ensure that this happens. However, we know that the independence movement is bigger than any one political party, which is why we are calling on the entire independence movement to attend our event, listen to our vision for the way forward and put forward their own ideas.

“ Scotland right now needs a combination of popular activities on the streets and a clear plan to take the country forward if we are to bend Westminster to our democratic will.”

Alba Party’s Special National Assembly will be held in the Dewar Centre Perth. You can register to attend here:

www.albaparty.org/events

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“protection against Russian aggression”.

If you believe the war in Ukraine is about Russian aggression – if you believe the war in Ukraine has nothing to do with American aggression – if you believe (as put out by western propaganda the BBC, Sky News, Channel 4 news) that America is not fighting a proxy war in Ukraine) – read on.

In the past week, the situation around the small unrecognised republic of Transnistria, which lies along the Nistru River between Moldova and Ukraine, has sharply escalated.

Ukrainian saboteurs have staged several terrorist attacks on the territory of the republic. Hostile forces are being drawn towards Transnistria.
From the west, NATO units are moving towards Moldova’s borders.

If a few days ago there was information about the redeployment of Romanian and Polish units, according to the latest information, large units of the USA, Portugal and other NATO countries are also moving. There are no NATO troops on Moldovan territory yet.

Tik Tok video showing huge amounts of military equipment on lorries.https://southfront.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Romania-port.mp4?_=2

From the east, AFU troops and a group of thousands of foreign mercenaries, including at least 1,000 fighters from the Turkish far-right organisation Grey Wolves, Canadian, Croatian units and fighters from Scandinavian countries, are concentrated.

Explosions hit Transnistria, a Russian-allied region

(One aim of the coming attack on unlucky Transnistria is to open a second front, forcing Russia to intervene and split its campaign.)

On 29 April, Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Ukrainian President Zelenski allegedly offered Russia, through closed channels, to exchange Nazis from Azovstal for de-escalation in Transnistria.

If this information is true, such an offer should only be perceived as an attempt to obtain additional benefits before the start of hostilities in the Transnistrian region.

During the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has lasted more than 8 years, Kiev has not fulfilled any commitments on significant issues.

On 29 April, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry urged compatriots to leave Moldova in view of the “difficult situation” in the country and around Transnistria.

Following Bulgaria, the US, Canadian, French, German, British and Israeli authorities advised their citizens not to enter Transnistria and, if possible, to leave Moldova.

It is noteworthy that the Moldovan leadership is trying its best to avoid opening hostilities in the region. Chisinau understands that the outbreak of hostilities in Transnistria will lead to a war on the territory of Moldova itself.

Also, Chisinau has no alternative to Russian gas, which the republic receives at a fixed price, much lower than the market one. A large number of Moldovan citizens are working in the Russian Federation.

At the same time, Moldova’s political leadership is not independent in its decision-making. If Washington orders a military operation against Transniestria, Chisinau will be forced to obey.

Poland plans to occupy west Ukraine.

Part of Western Ukraine was Polish territory up to the 2nd World War

On 28 April, the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Naryshkin, said that Washington and Warsaw were planning to deploy a Polish “peacekeeping contingent” in the western part of Ukraine. Today, the FIS said that Naryshkin’s statement was not a version, but intelligence information obtained from several reliable sources.

“According to information received by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Washington and Warsaw are working on plans to establish tight military and political control over ‘their historical possessions’ in Ukraine,” Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Sergei Naryshkin said.

According to the FIS, the first stage of the “reunification” should be the introduction of Polish troops into the western regions of Ukraine under the guise of their “protection against Russian aggression”.

The war in Ukraine has far-reaching consequences for Europe – already we see splits in the NATO alliance (mainly France, Germany, and Norway) they see how the escalation of the war in Ukraine by NATO (America) is dividing the world into two spheres East and West.  

The war in Ukraine was instigated by America, which stoked the civil war there. The Minsk agreement was torn up. Russia move in to protect the breakaway states in the east of Ukraine giving America to excuse to get involved – not by sending troops in but through a proxy war. Make no mistake about it America and Britain have (clandestine) boots on the ground in Ukraine. We know British aircraft have been flying sorties over Russian territory (recognisance).

Sanction of Russian business (American led) the European Union cuts their throat by stopping buying Russian gas and oil (pipeline from Siberian oil and gas fields into China almost complete, in record time). This has disrupted markets around the world and put Europe (including the UK) in the shit – roaring inflation – high prices in the shops – people unable to cope with higher rents and higher fuel bills – the population of the UK first protested now they have gone on strike (a form of revolution) – the Tory government takes fright talks about curbing the striker’s rights by new laws. Revolution is in the air.   

Stop the War – Stop the madness – Bairns not Bombs

Stay safe

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“We are moving from a peace industry to a war industry.”

Nightly on the British media, I hear stories of strikes over pay and working conditions, in the rail industry, the post office, our schools, and our overworked staff in the NHS, an industry totally starved of funding and plagued by understaffing.

The government’s response

“Nothing to do with us pay settlements is between employer and employee” (that is why we sold all the public bodies to private enterprise so that we could wash our hands of any responsibility).  

I heard the minister, responsible for agriculture, being quizzed – how since Brexit farmers are suffering – not so said he – the high cost of living means that farmers are receiving more for their products, (well, normally that would make sense if they were not paying a high cost for raw materials – seed, fertilizer, animal feed, diesel, electricity……………

We live in a country that can wage war on any other country with little discussion, over its cost. However when it comes to assisting people who are suffering, suddenly it is then all about the bottom line.

The Transport Secretary was on television today, telling the unions “Get back to work” the country can not afford to pay more, whilst at the same time calling for legal legalisation to curb unions from calling strikes.

However, when it comes to military spending there is no limit set – it is the horn of plenty.

Total military aid delivered to Ukraine since February 2022

USA $15.1 billion

UK $2.9 billion

EU $2.6 billion

Poland $1.7 billion

Germany $776 million

Canada $488 million

Latvia $318 million

Australia $275 million

Estonia   $254 million

France $244 million (only pledged)

Sweden $244 million (only pledged)

Netherlands $222 million

Norway $222 million (only pledged)

Lithuania $212 million

Italy $172 million in ‘The Guardian’ 27/06/2022

Senior military officials from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt met the Israel Defence Forces in June to discuss how they could work together in military cooperation against Iran. (another US proxy war being hatched)

The Biden administration in the US is preparing to sell 1.1 billion worth of military equipment to Taiwan. Bloomberg, 30/08/2022

Raytheon and Lockheed Martain (with factories in Glenrothes and Livingston in Scotland) are involved in a $100 million maintenance deal for Taiwan’s missile defence systems – the same Raytheon in Glenrothes that Sturgeon gave millions of Scottish taxpayers money to “diversify away from armaments” aye right. ABC News 16/09/2022

This of course has not gone down well in China – what was once a sword-rattling exercise has become another American proxy war – some say good old CIA – You do not need to look far to see where the “smart money” is going when it comes to stocks and shares – not in green renewable but arms manufacturing industry.

“We are moving from a peace industry to a war industry.”

Michel Hofman, Chief of Defence of the Belgian Armed Forces,– Brussels Times, 05/08/202

They do it in your name – remember – bairns not bombs.

Stay safe.

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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

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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