Monthly Archives: February 2012

Highs and Lows

It’s those little things that do it; tug at our emotions; turning the corners of our mouths up or down; moistening the eyes even.  No I’m not talking about that fantastic last five minutes at Twickers last night, the ones that brough raucous cheering from Granny’s windows.  Such is mere trivia by comparison.

I always find February to be the most depressing month, for a number of reasons, some of which are best confined to the desk.  But I look through the window and see precious little.  There is no colour on the ground, no life in the fields.  The grass is leached and dead, the cattle indoors.  But there are signs of life appearing, in fact just this morning thoughts turned to the possibility of early bike rides as the chickens were up and about before seven.  The days are stretching.  Soon there will be lambs cavorting, and rabbits multiplying as fodder for the cats.  I can see the heads of the daffodils expanding by the day.  Soon there will be colour, though it could be white again for there always remains the risk of frost and snow and there has been precious little of either of late.  But I digress, and February will soon be over.

This week I had occasion to smile, unexpectedly.  Yes I know some of you may be puzzled and have difficulty putting such words into an image, but bear with me, just for a moment.  It was a simple thing, and I felt good afterwards.

First up was an innocent request – anyone got as certain magazine from a decade ago?  Well I thought I might have and it turned out I did.  It had no particular value here, but considerable merit elsewhere, so a quick phone call, an envelope and a stamp and a good deed had been done.  Half an hour later a call came in.

‘I don’t suppose you also have…….?’

‘Let me check.’

Another envelope, another stamp, another smile.  For a Monday, with two smiles before lunch this was quite exceptional.  It was not entirely an act of charity.  The request was made by the current proprietor and editor of Scottish Islands Explorer and his collection of said glossy was missing one volume.  It was the first one I had bought, the first published in colour after the early days in monochrome, and I was happy to pass it up.  I had a good blether with John Humphries and do indeed visit his blog regularly, as well as subscribing to the magazine, for our islands are favourite sanctuaries, though visits have become rare these days.  However though John has been good enough to give me a column inch or two in the past, we have better contact now and my name may not be forgotten.  I need to get a trip planned and get my notebook onto a ferry or two, for John just might be interested in what I may have to say.

But highs have a tendency to be followed by lows and another call brought the very worst of those, with news of the passing of an old friend.  Often may I remark that life is far too short, with a view that every day we have should be lived to the full, for you just never know what lies ahead.  This week I heard of the very untimely death of an old friend, victim of a heart attack at his home in France.  But what struck me was not that I was his senior by a few short months, but that I had allowed time to pass.  For too many years we had not shared a bottle of merlot, or even exchanged a card, not even an email.  And now it is too late to try and build those bridges or quench the flames on the boats that had been burned.

I guess I may not be alone in leaving behind debris and detritus on the journey through life.  It doesn’t have to be that way and as I sit here I think of a number of old friends, family even, where I really need to make some effort.  In some cases it may well be too little and too late, but life is indeed too short and there are too many good times from which the years have slipped by as we all go in other directions.  Life is indeed too short.

Meanwhile, over on the bedside table, I’ve a real gem to tell you about.  But not today for the road ahead is long, indeed from where I left it this morning, in Namibia, Zanzibar is some distance ahead.  At the moment I am minded of the Cevennes, for there is a donkey, and adventure.  It is a book I picked up in Hay-on-Wye last summer, having looked at it in the bookshops many times since it was published five years ago, and always put it back.  Quickly it was recognised as a journey well trodden and a tale well told.  So it is proving to be.

Yesterday though I read an article.  I had hoped to provide a link but though it is in print it is not yet in the ether.  Hopelly I can rectify that within a week or so.  The article was the subject of a book for which a space has been cleared on the table for some time, the arrival imminent, eagerly awaited.  Richard Holloway writes with passion; the same passion he used in his preaching days, or in his broadcasts.  He dispatches a vast amount of wisdom.  He is 78 now, and has a tale to tell.  He has put off penning his memoir for a long time, and now it is about to arrive.  Once a Bishop, now a Humanist, always humane.  Expectations are high.  Leaving Alexandria will be out soon.  The article is worth a read so check in again in a week or so.  In a while I’ll give you some thoughts on the book itself.

And then unexpectedly there came another high, an email this time.  It resulted in me sufferring the frustrations of the various rail booking facilities.  But the tickets have arrived, an imminent trip to Old London Town, with a return on the sleeper that should get me home in time to load The Urchins onto the school bus, family life relatively uninterrupted by a day away.  The train will give me time to reflect, to read and to scribble.  Perhaps I may even nod off.  And I’ve been careful this time to avoid those nauseous pendolino coaches of Virgin Trains, instead heading for Edinburgh and the East Coast line.  The email brought another smile, yes I know, in the same week.  Ego has been massaged, pummelled even.  Trumpets will be blown, one day soon.  I’m looking forward to a day as unexpected as it is unavoidable.  Always smiling, for now anyway.

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The Nuclear Option

I have long since formed my views on nuclear weapons.  Every day I set out on the road of late I see the effects of the latest huffing and puffing, with pump prices on the rise in the wake of the ending of oil supplies from Iran, which was a direct response to Westminster on comments about nuclear development.

Closer to home I read earlier this week of a very real threat from our own nuclear arsenal.  It is a subject largely ignored by our media.  The Herald seem to have been alone in drawing such matters to our attention.  Should we be surprised that The Scotsman and the BBC have overlooked this one?  I guess not, for bucking against The Establishment just will not do.

It is good to see some hints at a change in direction from The Herald.  Perhaps the fall in circulation and in advertising revenue is beginning to hurt and they are beginning to explore what may be partially behind that.  And whilst on the subject of the MSM I see that Murdoch is going back into the Sunday tabloid market, no surprise there then, with the launch this weekend of the Sunday Sun.  I’m not sure if a few short months are enough to dispel the toxicity left behind by the News of the World, especially as Leveson continues, arrests are still being made, even within The Empire of the Sun, and there is much more to come to light yet.

Murdoch though may have his eyes on a greater prize.  I have no doubt that his Sunday red-top will become an instant topseller, and what a sad indictment that is of our society.  In advance of the launch he has been extolling the skills of our First Minister, or encouraging us to set out on that road to Freedom.  He uses Twitter and it gets instant publicity.  Eight short words and there’s a few hundred thousand papers sold.

He may be many things but Murdoch is no fool.  He sees the way the land is lying and has set out his stall.  The greater prize is likely to be broadcasting rights and not newspaper sales.  For 2014 may well be the start of a negotiation between Holyrood and Westminster and broadcasting in Scotland is very much on the agenda.  Interesting times indeed, though I’d like to think that we will not have any chance of a McFox News thrust upon us, match as I loathe our present state-funded arrangement.

Also up for grabs, when the time comes, is what I set out to blether about – Nuclear, weapons of that ilk, WMDs.  Currently they rest within peddaling distance of Grasshopper Towers (OK, that’s a stretch of the imagination but a younger and fitter me could do it).  I started with a warning over leaks and safety, investment and timing.  Aside from all that there’s the sheer scale of the cost of renewal, measured against our current level of impoverishment.  So it is timely that I started my reading today with a reminder of the need for us to have these WMDs.

Times have changed, and are changing yet, quickly, and not just in these shores.  I have many friends who remain of the view that they like the ‘comfort’ of hosting a deterrent.  An independent Scotland will be no threat to anyone and will participate in no-one’s illegal wars.  Now where are these submarines and warheads to go next?  I don’t really mind, but I know with absolute certainty where I do not want them to be.  Do you?

 

 

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What a Bunch of Puddings

It’s been a while I realise, a respite perhaps.  Yes I know I was in danger of becoming something of a HalliGroupie so a little bit of time off to gather thoughts was needed. That said those Seven League Boots did enchant me for a bit longer, with an attempt at the Hajj in Mecca (failed, found out in the final eight miles), followed by an audience with Ibn Saud and then some facetime, as I think the bright young things of today might call it, with Haile Selassie.  Wonderful stuff.  But I’ve set him aside for now, though be warned, there are two more volumes on the bedside table, for a later date.  I’ve escaped to the east, to Xanadu and Karakorum, to Baghdad and to saraglios and felt yurts.  Yes I’ve been back in time with the Golden Hordes, on the march with Kublai, and it’s great.

Back home though, there’s been a right bunch of puddings around.  I rise to a glorious day and the office window finds me gazing at the snow covered peaks of Goat Fell, bright beneath a cloudless sky, dreaming.  Time is short this morn otherwise I’d be doing my thinking whilst pedalling; perhaps later, after the football class and before taking the road to the capital where there old friends to see.  ‘You’ll have had your tea?’  Oh I can hear it now.

But those puddings, where to begin.

If the numbers weren’t so vast I’d relegate it to the frivolous, but there’s a football club not too far away that seems to owe you and I a serious amount of money.  In these austere times we need it, badly, and given the largesse of the football industry, the monies squandered on ridiculous levels of pay, I want every penny that is due.  The word this morning is that they will be given time to pay, plenty of it and I guess that’s better than writing off the debt.  They’ve already had a score of years though, but what really grates is the new owner deciding not to pay his monthly dues on current trading.  Against the background of the known historic debt that is nothing short of lunacy.

So the first pudding of the day is a certain Mr Craig Whyte, or perhaps White depending on which of his companies is going burst this week, for he seems to change the spelling to suit his purpose.  He seems to be a serial asset stripper; has felt the wrath of the DTI before and should do so again.  We hear of financial services companies doing naughty things with clients’ monies; we hear of past bans and insufficient recovery time to pass the football authority’s fit & propper person test; of delays and obfuscation.  Not so much a pudding but an egg rotten to the core.  Rangers may deserve him, but that’s another story.

And there have been puddings in Edinburgh too for the government came to call.  First we had Mr Moore then the man himself, Mr Cameron.  Photo opportunities were taken, in front of castles, the Forth Bridge, porage for breakfast – whatever next.  Well whatever next was more false promises.  A few weeks ago we were told, adamantly, that there would be no more powers.  Now there’s a promise of unspecified ones, but only if we vote NO.  Some of us are old enough to remember the 1979 referendum, to have taken part no less.  Maggie was in power and she promised us more of them.  Then after the result came in she changed the rules, introduced a new one, the 40% rule, and devolution was buried, as were the promised powers.  So should we listen to the weasel words of another blue tory millionaire, can we trust the playing fields of Eton?  Firstly remember 1979.

But whilst the politicians are in my sights let’s spare a word for impartial broadcasting, something we’re not used to in these parts.  Have a listen to this interview from a couple of days ago.  David Frost used to grace our screens regularly.  You have to hunt him out now, for he’s working with Al Jazeera.  We can but dream of the days when the BBC are sorted out.  No signs yet of Patten’s new regime.

This week I attended a political gathering; another bunch of puddings I hear you say.  Perhaps.  I had been persuaded to attend the same meeting twelve months previously for it was an agm and there were problems getting enough round the table to form a quorum.  At the third attempt last year we got eight in, were quorate at last, and officer bearers were appointed.  This was the local branch of the SNP.  There were only 28 paying members in the branch.  This week we had 21 at the agm, from a membership that had risen to 49, in less than twelve months.  I gather the national membership secretary has been busy again, after Cameron’s appearance, for he acts liking a recruiting sergeant in these parts.  It takes a lot to drive the man in the street to dip his hands in his pockets and join a political party, few do it, but the numbers joining the SNP are reaching staggering proportions, and we have Cameron and the BBC, along with a suppine press to thank for that.  What a bunch of puddings.

But the real puddings come at the end of this week and it should be great fun.  There’s another wee social down at the Rural Hall, a gathering based loosely on the families represented at that fantastic wee school.  And puddings are the theme for the night, part of the entry fee even.  So it’s time to get the recipe books out, to think of something that can be cooked in advance and served up, hot or cold.  I’ve bread to make too, a few varities, for there will be soup, rural quality soup, in which it has to be dipped.  And I think I may have to remember a bottle opener or two.

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Rods and Chains

This morning I found that what should have been standing up, pointing skywards, was sadly limp, dangling even.  Now, now children, I’m talking mirrors here, for The Grasshopper took to the roads and the replacement for the one that smashed in that icy skid all those months ago is proving to be of little use.  What I did have though was a book rest, for as I laid back for my views I noticed that there were several festive puddings and one stuffed turkey stretching the lycra beyond safe limits.  There were parts needing oiled and greased, parts that had seized, and yes before you say it the bike needed some too.  Cranking the pedals the chain did a good impersonation of a rod, and so slowly it was that I anciently measured my way round the route, the short one.  I set off in thick fog, red lights flashing though I think that was just the heart monitor.  My peak flow had struggled to reach a miserable 400 and still I ventured out into the damp and fetid air.  At least there was neither wind nor rain.  But I survived and have just about enough energy yet to bash away on these keys.

I did take Halliburton with me though, for there was little to see, and I turned my mind to the pages I had turned as dawn broke.  He escaped from Russia, after a fashion and I left him where both Willie Dalrymple and Robert Byron also trod.  Mount Athos is clearly a magnet for writers.  It is a place that remains untrodden by the female foot; in fact the poultry are all roosters, the cattle bulls, and the sheep tups.  It has been thus for over a thousand years.  Monks, 4,000 of them, bearded and robed.  What a life, not one for me.

But before he got there, forced onto a ship from Butan to the Golden Horn, he had an adventure or two.  You might be interested.  I’ll spare you the hotel in Butan, the one with two toilets for forty rooms and sanitation even the bold Richard wouldn’t put into print, a bed colonized by beasties about which he grew quite fond; his stay there extended by bronchitis and pneumonia so bad the ship’s captain refused to endanger his crew.  He caught those infections in and around the Caucasus, with some pretty interesting people.

First up was Zapara Kiut who claimed a birth in 1782 and a memory of Napoleonic Wars.  That made him no less than 153 when Halliburton carried him to hospital.  When war broke out in 1914 he wanted to march beside his great-great-grandsons.  He smoked constantly, ate meat and hadn’t bathed for fifty or sixty years.  The world’s favourite search engine reveals a debate on this unproven claim of longevity a decade ago.  It will also take you to the world’s favourite online auction, where you can buy a print of Halliburton’s picture of Kiut, on sale by the Baltimore Sun.

The same resource also gives us information on the Khevsurs.  After coming across a family of negroes, looking straight from the deep south plantations of his homeland – descendants of a shipwreck in the Bosporos around 1700 and dressed in ‘exactly the the sort of shabby Western clothes that any American country darky might wear’ – how times have changed, thankfully.

Back to the Khevsoors.  They still had, and wore, the chainmail that came with the Crusaders 700 years earlier.  Some of it was a little rusty, but worn it still was, sometimes in anger as blood feuds were settled.  The sword was always worn, the shield, carved with the Crusdaers’ Ave Mater Dei, carried only in those times of anger.  Wheeled transport was unknown.  Expectant mothers had a real confinement, banished as they were to the goatshed, alone, for the final ten days, and left to her own devices.

Borders were still raided, especially into Dagestan from whence cattle were driven to settle payments due.  The two tribes remained bitter enemies for hundreds of years.  Waking in a frozen attic and warmed only by barley-brandy Halliburton’s dreams had been disturbed by suits of chain mail hanging on the walls.  Try as he might he could find neither Godfrey de Bouillon nor Richard Couer de Lion, when scouring the village the morning after.

But Halliburton’s ventures were cut short for, on retrurning to Tiflis, in Georgia, he found the authorities waiting for him.  His letters home, with his notes from his meetings in Sverdlosk, Ekaterinburg as we know it, with Ermakov, he of the execution squad, had been opened at the border.  They didn’t like it and he was ordered to leave.

But this was Russia in the 30s and we got to read all that and can do so yet.  I can but hope that the re-publication of two of Halliburton’s works by Tauris Parke sparks interest in the others.  If you get the chance dip in.  For we know that little else was allowed out of Russia in the following five decades, and that those tribes of Georgia may be little changed today.

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Trouble Brewing?

It may have been quiet at Grasshopper Towers of late, actually it is indeed quiet right now for I’m flying solo as The Urchins head for the hielan’s at mid term, but a few things have been exercising my mind this week.

The bedside table has had me on a bit of a trip, in Antarctica on the trail of Douglas Mawson, round mitteleurope between the wars and currently in the aftermath of events at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, of which more later.

But it’s those politicians that have been the cause of some angst once again, and the media too.  For some time I’ve had my eye on the local council elections, just a few weeks away now, with Glasgow City Council a fair measure of the mood of the people.  I remember all too well the days when the Labour party counted more than 70 of the 79 seats in the city, the days when the monkey in the red rosette could pull a chair up to the cooncil table.  Those days may well be numbered for this week the ruling Labour group only managed to get their budget through by the skin of their teeth, and a bit of chicanery.  There was only one vote in it, and behind that are stories of indimidation, and a very nasty taste.

It is less than two years since council leader Stephen Purcell disappeared in disgrace, leaving a trail of cocaine, threats of blackmail and doubts over massive council contracts.  In the run up to May’s election a number of sitting councillors have been de-selected, many of Purcell’s cabale among them.  One now ex-labour councillor had her disabled son’s apprenticeship threatened if her vote went the wrong way.  And the new labour leadership in Scotland remains utterly silent on the issue.

Glasgow is the only council around that operates a mass of ALEOs, supposedly arms-length organisations, to run services.  The boards of these companies are stuffed with councillors; the contracts are awarded to supposedly ‘friendly’ concerns; departing executives see severance payments and pension enhancements at a level to make even a banker blush.  It was one of said ALEOs that held said youngster apprenticeship by the nuts.  The said Mr Purcell has recently had police confirm that no action will be taken over his period in charge and the circumstances of his departure, though they had reason to provide him with another ten hours B&B on the night of that announcement.  May will be interesting, to say the least, and I detect a certain amount of trepidation in the Labour ranks.  70 years of Labour rule, yes that’s right, seventy, could be coming to a close.  They’ve been fun’ oot methinks, and not before time..

Meanwhile the other lot, the blue ones, sent Westminster’s Health Secretary to Embra this week.  I know not why for he has no remit in health in Scotland and only one MP to talk to.  Lansley seems to be in the final period of his planned health reforms if reports are to be believed.  The NHS seems in a shambolic state and we can but be thankful that NHS Scotland is in safer hands and making some progress, despite the shackles of the PFI agreements that the previous administartion thought was a ‘good thing’, the ones that leave our children and grandchildren in hawk for the rest of their days as the assets depreciate and billions are spent servicing the agreements.  What worried me though, about progress through the Houses down Westminster way, was the voting of 32 Labour MPs representing Scottish constituencies in support of Lansley’s proposals for more privatisation.  Firstly there is the question of why they were voting at all.  It was not an issue that affected their constituents, and those MPs of course could have no input in matters health related that did affect them, the powers for that resting with the MSPs.  But secondly we have Labour MPs voting in favour of privatisation in the NHS.  Run that one by me again?

And there’s the wonderful state-funded public service broadcaster.  Also visiting Embra this week was Lord Patten, blue tory grandee holding office as Chair of the BBC Trust.  He left with a dossier of incidences of percieved failure to hold impartiality in reporting of politics.  And he left behind a promise to issue new guidelines to the presenters in these parts.  Those same presenters remember have far too many connections to the red tories to be bothered about guidelines from the blue ones.  We shall see what changes, if anything, especially as the BBC has commented on ‘heightened tensions’, a phrase usually reserved for places like Rwanda, perhaps Los Malvinas once again, but not Edinburgh, surely.  They might be better with General Patton.  It’s too late though to save the excellent Newsweek from Derek Bateman who was just about the only journalist at Pacific Quay dancing to his own tune, and paying the price for that.

Amongst all that current relaxation comes again from that man Halliburton, and it was he who took me to Russia, in his Seven League Boots.  He managed to track down the only living survivor of that awful night when the Romanov dynasty expired, and get a lengthy interview before the man died from cancer.  It seems that even his wife hadn’t heard the tale before and it was something he had to say whilst the remaining breaths rasped in his chest.  It is a subject on which there are a number of volumes on the shelves, an area of some interest to me over a number of years.  Halliburton’s man was one of the three that formed the execution squad and arranged the disposal.  So he heard the whole story fifteen years or so after the event, first hand, and published it,and yet for decades there remained mysteries and conspiracies over the whereabouts of Anastasia.  He was American though so perhaps Europe wasn’t listening though his books were published here too.  The conspiracy is all behind use now though, for modern technology, DNA and CSI Ekaterinburg, have confirmed the full extent of the tragedy and the remains have finally been brought back to St Petersburg.  But it’s a great read, and some wonderful pictures to take me back to those malachite columns in St Isaac’s Cathedral; to the gilden waterworks of Peterhof; and to a wish to return.  Perhaps one day.  Must go now and see what else Halliburton has for me in those boots of his.

Lastly a request.  In his biplane travels Halliburton met up with a young and pretty German solo pilot, in Isfahan.  They covered a fair chunk of the world in each other’s company and he went on to write the introduction to her book.  My searches for that book are proving fruitless.  It seems to be somewhat scarce in the English version; plenty in her native German but that’s of little use to me.  So if anyone’s Granny happens to have a copy of Elly Beinhorn’s Flying Girl lying around, do let me know please.  I’ll gladly make an offer.

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Amenities, or the lack of

‘Tis a fine weekend for the natives to be thinking about their entertainment.  The brave boys of Pollok FC continue their run in the Scottish Cup, mainly as the fourth round replay was postponed for the second time yesterday as the ice and frost continues.  There was indoor entertainment yesterday, though it came with huge disappointment from a plethora of mistakes by the boys in blue at Murrayfield yesterday, and far too many as well from the man in red & blue, the one with the whistle.  Looking forward though to rich fair from Dublin this afternoon.

But it is rare in these parts for there to be alternatives on offer.  As a small community, spread over a wide area, we tend to come together in numbers to support local events, the catalyst for which is usually the school.  There are others though, and plenty of them, in the outlying farms and cottages who may not have current connections to the school.  The wimmenfolk have it all organised, largely through the rural, the local branch of which has been attracting the younger wenches, the Queen of Hearts even, with a programme of competitions, day trips and other such parties.  The Stitch & Bitch classes proved popular last year and there’s scarcely a dressing-table around that doesn’t have little crocheted doilies collecting dust.  Beetles have been driven, and the hall gets an annual coat of creosote.  But the home baking is legendary, and much in demand for other events.  Winning tickets from the baking competitions are prized and names appear in the paper.  However it is very strictly operated on the type of gender bias that has seen golf clubs go to court.

So the menfolk are revolting, nothing new there of course, but now they are planning.  Without any gender requirements there is a bogey race in the offing, the prizegiving likely to coincide with the annual barn dance for the school.  I’m thinking a recumbent without a chain could well qualify and fairly whizz down that hill.  Knowing the folks round here though someone will read my mind, if not these notes, and some obscure rule will be introduced to scupper my plans.

Now the rural wifies have their hall, and generously let the community use it for functions when requested.  But I think they might draw the line at occasional men only evenings, knowing as they do precisely what the risks might be.  So we’re thinking of alternatives.  The nearest ale house is a 15 mile round trip and that involves drivers.  There’s a room at the local brewery, though that could be dangerous.  There’s also a mysterious red shed in the middle of nowhere – on a nicer day I may have gone out to bring a picture to to these notes, perhaps later.  Rumour has it that it may once-upon-a-time have hosted a skittle alley, for menfolk seeking an outlet is not a new idea.  Feelers are out, perhaps to some of the worthies at the rural, as to the history, use and ownership of said shed.  With a mere 16 years in these parts I remain but an incomer, but others will know.

So on this weekend bereft of sporting joy there was some tremendous news for the menfolk to bring to those patiently waiting.  A quiz night it was, some miles away, and a team was assembled, with a mug to drive.  Two late call-offs, two substitutes.  And now there are six bottles of wine, a fine first prize, to form the basis for the initial stock when the man-rural eventually gets off the ground.  After all every community ought to have an anorak from whose tongue trips the names of the actors in the title role of The Magnificant Seven, and that was the second tie-breaker that separated the men from the boys – it’s probably just an age thing, a real pearl from the Uncut Gem.

There was a brief thought that perhaps the night could be extended, a wine tasting following the homeward journey.  But with age comes a degree of common sense, oh yes it does, and it was late enough so the old men could stay awake no longer.  One or two of the wimmenfolk, having seen no evidence of said prize and plenty of the winners, may have assumed that wine tasting had indeed been on the menu.  But no, that awaits another night, perhaps a whisky tasting too, but on a different night.

So there are stirrings of a wee mens’ club, an antedote to the rural, and I think it to be a bit more than idle gossip.  That is  of course a wee club for men, not something for dwarves or others confusing three inches for eight.  Now I’m not suggesting that we may end up having baking competitions, though that could be interesting, but there is something in the air.  In due course, if I survive a night or two in the big red shed, these old blogging goggles could get interesting on the morning after.  Firstly though we all need permission, and I know two or three who might just have used up all their favours the other night.

The Big Red Speak Easy? Oh it’s beginning to sound promising already.

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Just in Time

For the Big Garden Birdwatch

Great and Spotted

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