Monthly Archives: June 2012

And Another Thing

This article says much that some of us can only think, as we lack the first hand experience of being on the campaign trail.  But I’ve taken the view for some time that Labour is a busted flush and sod all to do with socialism.  I’ll say no more, but leave you in peace to read the words of a loyal footsoldier.

Then you can reflect on the make-up of the Thatcherite Government referred to, bearing in mind that said election campaign was somewhat recent.  Go on, make up your own mind, as always.


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Today’s lesson

Two days into Better Together and already it’s getting nastier than a training session down Ibrox way.

There have been some spoof take-offs from the campaign poster on show at Wings Over Scotland, all good clean fun.  But it rattled Willie Rennie’s cage, or more likely struck a sore point.  His reponse was dismal, living down to expectations, and it’s all put into real perspective right here.  Go on, make your own mind up.

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Royal and Romance

……..  are not necessarily words with which I may often be associated.  But I rise today in lighter mood than last night; a bonus some may say.

It is all the fault of that Richard Halliburton of whom I may have waxed somewhat less than lyrical a few months ago.  Last year Tauris Parke had re-published a couple of his finest works, instantly earning a place on this year’s list of favoured reads and setting me on a quest to add to the collection.  You may recall that I left a couple of volumes for later.

Now the packing for the immninent departure is not yet underway, but the first items to be earmarked for the journey is,of course, the reading material, and Halliburton’s New Worlds to Conquer is among them.  The others may be subject to further comment in the next few weeks.  And is it was pulled from the shelf so my eye was caught by the other unread volume, indeed the author’s first book, The Royal Road to Romance.

Just a few chapters in and the magic is working.  Passage was worked on a steamer from New York, berthing in Hamburg with wages to spend.  Bikes were bought and a dart thrown at the map.  To Rotterdam!  A good start for that is where we shall break fast this Saturday.  Cycling the lanes of the Netherlands may be on our agenda, though we may not move much further than a 10 mile radius of base camp.  Halliburton went on.

To Zermatt, and the Matterhorn, attaining the summit a month after the season closed, thanks to the expertise of two local guides.  And then there’s more.  Carcassone, the unconquered citadel where we wandered on our last foray a francais. Across the Pyrenees, via Andorra, to Spain and south to the Alhambra.

It is the same Alhambra that is the subject of a recent work of mine, following a visit a few years ago.  I have that image of the Court of the Myrtles, the pool reflecting the palace and the sky, undisturbed, hanging brightly in the sitting room.  Halliburton, back in the 20s, tried to capture that same image without the handicap of the tourist throngs we find today.  But he failed, for the goldfish were thrown crumbs and the water rippled.  In the end he fell in, tripod, camera and all; possibly the last person to have a dook in the sacred pool.  Oh, I’m going to enjoy this one, I can tell already.

Tauris Parke are helping the cause, with the publication of a third Halliburton volume, Seven League Boots So while I head off to conquer another new world, dip in.  The man’s a marvel, and like so many good author’s his time was up all too early, leaving us too few volumes to enjoy.  Halliburton though went out in style.

And I see that the new volume has a foreword from Tahir Shah.  I’ll probably add the new paperback, ideal for taking on the road, leaving the hardback first behind, for that alone.  Shah has a new volume out imminently, promising to be a real collector’s piece.  Timbuctoo still draws like a magnet.  The famous libraries are under real threat at the moment from unrest.  I couldn’t pick a better guide through it’s past than Shah.  It should arrive soon after we return.  Don’t tell Herself.

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Thoughts for the Days Ahead

On the wireless tonight I heard that the campaign to scrap the August fuel duty rise had had the desired effect.  The Chancellor’s for turning, yet again.  I’m beginning to wonder if anything survives from that Budget that he Commended to the House just a few weeks ago.  This comes on the back of all those wonderful announcements we’ve had recently.  No housing benefit if you’re under 25 and should really be at home with mummy rather than out playing at houses and breeding, purely to extract benefits from the workers.

Is it just me that’s harking back to the 80s and dear old Maggie?  Is it just me that remembers the introduction of the Right to Buy; the start of the demise in our social housing stocks; the reason why housing benefit costs so much in paying the rents to the private landlords that own what once was our council houses.  Mr Cameron it seems that we are now reaping what your predecessors have sown.  I wonder if you ever stop to wonder how we got where we are today.

Still it was great to hear of your plans on the very day that the tory/lab/lib alliance launches its Bitter Together campaign, the one designed to keep us shackled to the corpse of Westminster.  The announcements of welfare cuts probably add to the Yes vote, so thanks for that.  Good timing.  Perhaps you neither knew nor cared what the others were up to that day.  In fact it sounded a bit like a manifesto, the start of a campaign.  I know the Coalition is less than secure, but nothing grabs these guys like power itself, and even I cannot see an early election being called.

I’ve heard much of Mr Darling’s plans, but impressed I am not.  My views are unchanged, hardened even.  There’s a detailed response to those soundbites that grabbed the headlines over at Newsnet Scotland.  I’ll put the link in later, but it is well worth a read, albeit a lengthy one, dispelling myths as it goes.

Fortunately I do not personally bank with RBS, for they seem to have created a bit of a mess lately, and we’re sure to find that reverberating right across the banking system for some time yet, as the full impact of missed payments becomes known.  I gather it was avoidable, if only they hadn’t paid off the experienced IT team and replaced them with fledglings in Chennai with no apparent knowledge or experience of they system they were trying to update and repair.  Progress, I guess.

Also in the news tonight was the announcement that the dualling of the A9 is to start two years ahead of schedule, but that, thanks to a 30% slashing in the capital spend budget, it will still take until 2025 to complete.  The accidents and fatalities on that road are reaching epidemic proportions, and as this family uses the road regularly, and often has journeys delayed in the aftermath of accidents, it is close to the heart.  But it was disappointing, though no less surprising to hear the blue tories try to make political capital, focussing on the 2007 election pledge to carry out that work, and to have the five year wait repeated endlessly on radio soundbites.  It was of course the same tories, along with their alliance with the red tories and the yellow tories, that caused that delay, doing so by forcing through expenditure of £500m on the Edinburgh Trams fiasco in a bid to bring down the fledgling minority government.

And once again I heard respected friends questioning the wisdom of making our own decisions.  It’s going to be a long two years, and until then we’ll be even more bitter together, I fear.  Time to grow a pair, to shed those fears.  Have a look at Paul Kavanagh’s article.

PS Here’s the link for that positive case for the union article, and another one on the state of NHS south of the border.  Think about it.


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Moments of Magic

There was a moment yesterday when a whisper in my ear suggested there may a blog post coming.  I hate being predictable, but it seems the Queen of Hearts knows me too well.  Still she also said she might have to take up this lark herself, so that’s a project I expect to see develop once she has her knave and their tartlets settled in that evangelical mansion.

I remembered that whisper just as I heard the lark this morning, but I did so not with the wind in my ears but through the baffling of double glazing, racked with guilt.  It was the first day for a while when a sky, with the azzuri hues of a sweat-soaked Italian shirt, called to the Grasshopper in the shed.  But sloth took over.

That whispering came at the conclusion of one of those magical moments down at the school – the end of term assembly.  It was a momentous one, and not merely becuase I managed to put in an appearance.  We gave our best wishes to our senior pupils, fully prepared, ready and eager, for what the Academy has to offer in August.  Well rounded, better grounded, and a real credit to the teachers who have guided them through their formative years.

Both of them, for there were but two, said their farewells with some style, in their own words, and with rolling eyes, as anxious parents looked on, beaming.  We were treated to powerpoint presentations and montages of pictures through the years.  There was barely a dry eye in the house.  Must have been a touch of hayfever.

Before that the wee ones had entertained us, cymbals crashed, drumskins bashed, triangles and zylophones tinkling away.  Stars every one of them.  Poems and songs, and tales to tell.  Shirt tails hanging out, ties askew.  Our wee school does such a huge job with scant resources, and it is evident on occasions such as this.

Awards are presented, for Endeavour and Achievement, and a Medal, with memories and a roll call for the future.  And a farewell too, to the youngest tartlet, off to a new school and new friends, the old ones not forgotten.  It will be three out and three in, for the cycle of the school turns and the numbers are critical these days.

The new term will see The Urchins being split up, for Girl Urchin goes to The Big Class, to play in The Biggies’ playground.  And Boy Urchin becomes one of the seniors in The Wee Class, with infants to watch over instead of a sister on his back.  It will be good for them both.

And then the magic was broken.  I know when to take my leave next time, and that will be just as the chaplain takes the floor, and there’s a whisper in my ear.  There’s just no need for it.

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I double checked the calendar yesterday.  April 1st it was not.  Then I read the article again.  Got it now, Americans, Deep South, ergo it must be true.

I suppose there may be merit in encouraging it.  Tourism is worth pursuing.  After all Disney Pixar’s Brave will bring thousands to our shores, drawn by CGI scenery and a ginger heroine with a bow & arrow and freckles.  I might even watch it myself, but the last thing I want to do is travel the A82 on the side of Loch Ness behind fleets of tour buses.  It’s bad enough now, just think what it might be like if have to develop new attractions if this latest version of our much-beloved monster catches on.

It seems that thousands of children in Louisiana are to be given state-funded vouchers towards a private education.  Part of what they will learn is the truth about Nessie.  Nothing wrong with that, you might think.

Except the truth they will be taught is that Nessie exists, and the reason for such rational thought is that wonderful Deep South passion for the Bible.  Oh yes, the existence of Nessie is being used to throw scorn on the works of Darwin.  It is the strategy of Accelerated Christian Education.

ACE are teaching children that Nessie, recorded on sonar, photographed and described by eye witnesses, is indeed the proof needed that ‘evolution couldn’t have happened’.  Now there are many things I find hard to swallow, most of them set out in various testaments, but this one just about beats them all.

If Noah’s flood rally happened, and if it was 4,000 years ago, then a sea monster will have survived.  And if it was millions of years ago then their logic deems that to be ridiculous.  QED, Darwin was wrong.

The Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana follows the ACE curriculum, and have approval to receive the vouchers sending kids along for a ritual brainwashing.  It’s the result of a bill pushed through by Governor Bobby Jindal.  Yep, a man elected by the public.  Wonder if this idea was in his manifesto.  Let’s not go there for it may just have been the central tenet of his campaign, and the reason for his election.

The curriculum has even been compared to fundamental Islam.  Only a Christian Fundamentalist government can stand up to Islamic counterparts in the war with secular society.  Apparently dinsoaurs were fire-breathing dragons.  And it’s not just Louisiana, but a dozen other states as well.  Up to 200,000 children are succumbing to this, in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, the country that couldn’t understand a madrassa even if it wanted to.  Better just to invade and kill.  Pity there’s no Commandments to follow.

Still they could all come along and see for themselves.  We could steep them in the culture of the see-you-jimmy hat and the deep-fried Mars Bar.  They could see where Princess Merida ruled the lochs.  Bring your tourist dollars.  Ceud mile failte, as they say.  We could even show them the WMDs we keep safe for them.

Now I’m pretty sure that Darwin didn’t mention Nessie, but I’ll dig out his Origin of Species just to make certain.  In fact something tells me that Nessie was Created only in 1933.  She may not have evolved since then.  It might be better to take the Yanks to Lake Baikal if they want to see species that exist nowhere else, species that may or may not have evolved.  Creationists, I despair.

And I despair at a time when religion is the very subject on the bedside table.  I read a review a few months ago of Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists.  One to read, thought I, and so I am.  It’s interesting stuff.  I had a discussion the other day with a couple of friends, who happen to be Jewish, about Yom Kippur, and the merits of the rest of us having a Day of Attonement.  de Botton suggests every quarter; I’m thinking perhaps ten yearly, though perhaps the Jews have it absolutely right.  I can think of a couple of things some major Attonement might have gone a long way to soothing.  Perhaps it’s never too late.  But my friends were not in favour, and they might just be as cycnical of religious festivals as I am.  Where’s a bit of chutzpah when you need it?

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It’s holiday time, nearly

So with the stress mounting as we get closer to fitting roofbars and bikerack, The Urchins get new dookers and sandals, and I begin to list the myriad of things to be done beforehand, usually involving lawnmowers or hedgetrimmers if not both, there’s a few wee snippets been mounting up that you might like to read.

You may have noticed that it’s been a tad wet of late.  Faced with putting up a marquee against an onrushing tide, in a bit of a breeze and with insufficient numbers to hold ropes and poles; faced with balancing the charring of burgers with saving the flames from dousing, we had no alternative but to postpone the annual barn dance until later.  Anyway there were two many local horsie folk at the Hielan’ Show, so instead we’ll have at on the same day as the local Expo, when there may be too many folk at the show with their nags, and their horses.  But the local show doesn’t do overnight, although the beer tent will have been open all day.  And it might not be raining.

Also put to bed for another day was the Bogey Race, victim to a foot of water as the burn overflowed at the foot of the hill.  Might have provided a braking mechanism for some of the carties, I’m thinking, but another one for another day.  All those clever folks spending hours in front of Scrapheap Challenge, turning old pram wheels and bits of bike and sheets of MDF into something that might not kill them, get to live another day.

Meanwhile there’s been a rumpus about tax and such-like.  The PM’s waded in, naming some celeby-type salting his hard-earned away.  Now it strikes me that morality and finances may not be words you might expect to hear in the same sentence from a politician after the debacle of the last few years; most should still be hanging their heads in shame, or doing time.  But to name one, and ignore others who may or may not be on your own benches or perhaps funding your side of the braying mob; well not much credibility there.

And tax is of course a subject of some importance in Scottish football of late.  I tend to keep my reading of the Ibrox Saga to occasional articles at Wings Over Scotland, but more recently I’ve joined the band catching up with Channel 4’s Alex Thomson.  He speaks much good sense.  And those idiots who say they should be sent down to The Juniors, well sorry guys, but they won’t be welcome there.  Some of us follow the ranks of The Juniors to escape all the shenanigans and the expense of the big boys.

There’s a discussion over our constituional future, you may have noticed, and it ramps up this week as the NO campaign gets under way.  This is the campaign the press and media have been waging since, it seems, 1707.  But it now gets formal, headed up by a former Chancellor now found to have been severely lacking as the country went into meltdown, now espousing the tactics he rejected when he held the reins of power and denigrating others for not having the same foresight.  Personally I think someone with a vision for the future rather than a dodgy past might have been a better move to head it all up.  But if it’s future and vision you want for your children and grandchildren, that just might be wrong campiagn to follow.  Anyway, on a lighter note, there’s 300 reasons to vote YES – with the other side to follow later.  Can’t say I agree with ‘anyone called Jeremy’, for that would thus exclude ‘Drumclog’s Finest’, even though the question ‘finest what?’ remains unanswered, by some.  Others may know.

And the currency is up for grabs too.  There’s a terrific analysis over at Newsnet Scotland which should be read by all.  My goodness if Estonia can do it……..

There’s some other footie going on at the moment too.  Urchin the Younger’s getting right into it.  He gets to watch the first 15 minutes when there’s school the next day, the first half on other days.  His morning urge, aside from hosing the bathroom tiles, is to find out the final score on teletext so that he can let me know.  It might be pizza and pasta for dinner tonight, though the borscht and the chicken kiev went a bit off earlier in the week.  But there’s always hope.  I’ve taken to switching off at half time, fed up with endless banalities about what Wayne may have had for breakfast, or how good some johnny-foreigner who might once have graced the wonderful premiership is playing.  Envious I am, not that we’re not there, but that our local medical team are in Lake Como tonight and there might be big screen with loads of the Azzurri and neither sight nor sound of Gary or Adrian or whoever.  So, he might need subtitles, but some of us need them for Jamie Carragher anyway.

Now, where did I put that suncream?


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