“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.

“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.      

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

“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

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.