Monthly Archives: July 2012

Oh Dear, Roe Deer

I knew before opening my eyes that is was the day I had been waiting on.  There was movement and singing.  The house martins were busy in the eaves above the window, a frenzy of feeding and fledging as the Saharan sun beckoned.  They’ll be with us for only a few short weeks.  It’s those days we start to count down once the school shoes have been bought.

But it was a day made for cycling, and very welcome too after the April weather of late where the washing is in and out under what you thought was a drying wind.  The grass belies the season, deep and lush, growing incessantly; the hedgerows too.

And as we made our way round the lanes it was the hedges that caught my eye.  Long straggly growth topping the hawthorn; the beech green and fresh.  It won’t be long now before the hawthorn suffers at the farmer’s flail, and that means only one thing – puncture season.

There were other problems today though, that had me thinking of that womens’ road race the other day.  Gripping it was, as the rain came down, Porter eventually left his jingoism that had so spoiled the mens’ event behind.  But it was the punctures that stuck in the mind this morning, for there were loads of them, and I found myself in dreamland, doing my best to impersonate those real cyclists.  There I was, arm in the air, waiting on the support car that wasn’t there.  So I had to get my own hands dirty.

I had set out under one of theose skies seen all too rarely of late, a blue one, untroubled by wind, not even a breeze.  The house martins weren’t alone in enjoying the warmth on their wings.  On the march fence every post seemed to host a big black corbie.  And limned at the top of the hill were two roe deer, watching, waiting.  Off they bounced as I got closer than they would like.  But I was only a mile from home, barely warmed up, and it was rare indeed to see the deer so far down the hill, away from the safety of their forest.  The stoat too was on the prowl.  I think they must have known.

For there I was, on the first rise of the run, grinding down through the gears, when I heard that crunching, the one that told me I was going nowhere.  The chain had jumped off.  Realising that support car remained in my dreams, I was soon back on, briefly.  For it was a hill start, no easy thing on a ‘bent.  And before I knew it the tarmac has jumped up to meet me, the co-ordination between right hand, left hand and feet failing miserably as I fought for the right gear to take me onwards.  The water bottle rolled down the hill and the sheep laughed from across the fence.

But it was not till it happened a second time, the chain jumping that is, not the sideways exit, that I realised that I was trying to use gears that had been out of action for over a month now; redundant on the flatlands of Holland or on our Most Accessible Island.  I’d put it all off for so long the mechanism had seized up, knees and gears, and those derailleur things that real cyclists can even pronounce.  A right good clean was long overdue, and the chain has a certain way of letting you know.

But it was still good to get back out on the road, under a warm sun, on a clear and still day.

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The End

Positively the last word on Sevco FC, unless that is Brechin win tomorrow and/or the intended name change next week fails to happen.

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The Best Ever…..

Not a word from me.

Promise.

 

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Wally

OK, I may have been called worse over the years, and it could happen again.  But this particular one turned out to be joyful, indeed I’d go as far to say it put Old Ker M. Udjinn back into happy holiday mode, and that is no mean feat.  As usual there are connections and running threads, coincidences, meant-to-be’s even.  Let me explain.

We seem to be at that stage of the school holidays, less than three weeks to go, when both Urchins, separately and at different times, might just express a desire to get back to school, and no, I don’t instantly agree.  Too much time in front of screens of various shapes and sizes methinks; let’s take the afternoon off.  So we did.  Now they’re quite partial to a trip to a museum, but I must admit to being more than a tad sceptical when I suggested the Gasworks Museum.  It’s the sort of place that may only come to mind if, say, you have the splendid gift of membership to Historic Scotland.  So off we went, into the gloom, the low clouds and the drizzle.  And then the museum was closed, half an hour to kill.

That was when we discovered a gem, a bookshop you may be surprised to hear, and we spent far more than our killing time among the stacks, and had to go back later, as you will find out.

When the museum did open the first word that the weans latched onto was Millport.   For that was where the film of the gasworks was made.  It wasn’t that long ago, 1981, that the traditional coal burning gas works finally closed, natural gas being piped ashore.  I’d forgotten that smell of the coal, and the sight of big gasometers rising and falling in every town.  Millport, fancy that.  “We were there on Saturday”, squeals Elder Urchin.

But the bookshop.  Well what an unexpected star.  We had gone to Biggar for a gasworks and I don’t think I’d been in the town for at least as long as the gasworks had been closed.  It was an unfamiliar high street, but one typical of small towns across the country, at first glance, fighting against the multiples, the retail parks and the internet in everyones’ back rooms.  Difficult times.

My only connection in recent memory was a £10 prize for a piece of scribbling from a local writers’ group based in the town.  You’ll find it on the Writings page, Avondale Through the Kitchen Window, and so it was Biggar that first got me into this lark, for that was a very early piece.

But Biggar has a bookshop which is now one of my favourites.  Small it may be, space at a premium, but every inch is well used.  For the stock is sublime, chosen it seems, almost individually.  There are gems from some of my favourite publishing houses, Eland and Haus, local independents such as Birlinn and Canongate, and every reason to go back again and again.  I had been on the Eland website earlier this week, contemplating Alxander Burnes’ Travels in Bokhara, and there it was, so Cabool and Tartary are on the bedside table.  It’s not a book I’d expect to see in any high street multiple.  Solzhenitsyn too, with a volume of short stories written after his return to Russia, and only available through independent bookstores, no internet, no multiples.  Then I found Tex Geddes, former basking shark hunter with Gavin Maxwell.  Weans and sweetie shops came to mind.

And The Urchins were having fun too, sitting quietly, reading, browsing, selecting.  Then they heard about Wally.  It’s quarter of a century since the elusive wally first hid his red and white hooped sweater and matching bobble hat in every place possible.  And to celebrate here he was, hiding in ten shops on Biggar high street.  What an iniative that is, for any high street fighting to survive.  We visited ten shops that otherwise we wouldn’t have looked at; some even got our custom and there’s Stornoway Black Pudding in the fridge.  And we’ll go back as a result.  In fact it occurs that if Mrs Grasshopper had been around we may be searching for wally yet such is the time she may have spent in some of those shops.  Not every town will get on the bandwagon though, for being arranged by Wally’s publishers a bookshop is needed, and there’s too few of them left, far less a gem like Biggar’s.

In each of the ten shops we had to visit we had to find our hero, and go back to base with the tokens.  The Urchins got their prizes, Wally posters, and their names in the draw.  We got ice creams too, a single nougat no less and good it was.  And so Biggar got even more of our trade and we had to seek further resources.  Now that’s what towns have to be doing these days, if they don’t just roll over and die, board up the windows.  I’ll be back in Biggar.

And so we pottered on home, happy and smiling, and silence in the back seat.  For we’d picked up a CD to listen to; The Famous Five.  Turn up their nose at the book version they would, but one disc and they were hooked.  Lashings of ginger beer.  Picnic in Millport that was.  And on we went, ideas of wee trips for the rest of the holidays coming thick and fast.  A walk on Tinto Hill; how long had it been?  Lanark Loch, heavens, then Tillietudlem.  Actually the last only gets a mention as it rattles splendidly round the mouth, but don’t stop the car.

So there we were, reliving tales of our afternoon out at the dinner table when then, it happens again.  Millport.  A mention on the wireless, a record request, from a cyclist with a tranny in the basket listening to the superb Get It On, with Bryan Burnett, heading round Cumbrae.  A tranny in the basket; that’ll be us pretty much back to where we were this morning I guess.  Circles, connections and meant-to-be’s.  It’s what makes life a bit of fun, sometimes.

 

 

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Wedding Belles

Well it seems the hornets’ nest is being well and truly stirred.  Yesterday we had the Scottish Government announcing that it will indeed put forward legislation to permit equality in the marriage stakes, right across the board.  My regular reader will know that I’m the biggest fan of neither the instutution of marriage nor organised religion, so may not be surprised that I have things to say.

Firstly the legislative process.  Some commentators seem to be overlooking the fact that the leaders of all political parties signed up to the principle of equality in marriage.  That’s right, this is not a Nationalist propaganda issue but those towers of political gravitas and public persuaders extraordinaire, Lamont, Davidson and Rennie, amongst others, are all on side and committed.  In short the proposal has all party support.  However that did not stop members of opposition parties, ie those not in government in Scotland rather than those against equality of which there are none, from taking every opportunity to lambast the party in office at the perceived delay in the announcement being made.  Remember that they were all in favour of the proposal, but the sniping began, and continues.

Then there’s the views of the religions, and in particular the Roman Catholic Church, so recently tainted by the homophobic views expressed by the Archbishop-elect.  As always they shout loudest and longest.  I’ll leave aside matters such as celibacy and paeodophilia, protection for errant priests and all that vile stuff.  No, the churches, and I use the term very generally, need to recognise that most wedding ceremonies in Scotland are civil ceremonies, with no religious input; and the RCC needs to recognise that it’s loud voice represents a very small minority , being outnumbered in the performing of wedding ceremonies by the Humanist Society of Scotland.  So their voices largely fall on deaf ears, preaching to the already converted, one may say.

Ah, they may say, but the consultation period produced a different result, with the country seeming against the right of marriage for those deemed ‘unconventional’.  Well, it seems you need to look behind the figures a bit.  Some of the response came from outwith Scotland, irrelevant then, and there were 28,000 pre-prepared, same worded protests, from the churches – not quite a true public view.  When these are excluded the country as a whole, apparently, comes out 60% in favour of the proposal; the proposal that is supported by every political party; the proposal that Westminster is trying to work out how to bring forward.

So I would suggest that it is the churches who are out of touch, who have a minority interest.  And of course there is no compulsion on them in taking part, though many individuals have done for quite some time, perhaps the forward thinking, balanced members of the clergy who are in touch with their flock in a modern and secular society.  Those few may have to think about employment laws.  But these same institutions want to block the freedom of others.  I’m fed up hearing that marriage is for procreation – why then do these same bodies provide ceremonies for older people byond reproductive years, who have as much chance of inceasing the gene people as two people of the same gender?

And then our dear friends at the state-funded broadcaster wade in, trying to make political capital where none exists and of course in yet another flagrant breach of their duty of impartiality.  The proposal for equal marriage rights may, according to the BBC, may well cost the Yes campaign votes in the referendum.  Surely it may have similiar effect on those parties on the other side of the referendum but who are publicly in favour of the marriage thing, one may think, unless that one is thinking out loud from the BBC?  The timing is relevant, with the referendum in 2014 and the legislation intended for 2015.

Now given that the proposal has the support of all parties, that some are in the Yes camp and some in the No, so far as the referendum goes, it stretches credibility too far for the BBC to decide that this is a vote loser for only one side in the referendum.  And to suggest such to a gullible public, from the platform that we all pay for, is a shocking dereliction of duty.

I am minded that there is a second protest out side Pacific Quay this coming Saturday, a rising tide of rejection of state-funded bias.  I might just be there, for the real football season has yet to start.  Once again our government in Holyrood leads where others wish to follow, bringing pride to a nation, well to me anyway.

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Reading Material

In a rare moment of peace, before the postie arrives; the washing on the line; the weans on the wii, I caught up with some reading from the days when we were away and I had switched off, to some extent.  I’ll spare you more of the SevcoStuff, more as it is a moveable feast and seems to be at a stage, before the season opens this weekend, of see who blinks first.  No, better than that, in the aftermath of Andy Murray at Wimbers, have a read at this one.  And continue reading into the Daily Mail article featured and on to the posted comments.

It occurs too that we should be sparing a thought or two for our sportsmen and women, before the beanfeast kicks off and the country descends further into financial oblivion.  For it was quite a weekend wasn’t it?

Bradley Wiggins, peddaling furiously up the Champs Elysee in his yellow jersey, yellow helmet and on his yellow bike.  It really was a staggering achievement.

Hashim Amla, 311 not out, at The Oval, against England’s finest, the world’s top team.  I didn’t realise that he’s still only 20 years old, for he seems to have been around for ages.  Give it time, for he undoubtedly will be.  And Jacques Kallis – quite possibly the greatest all-rounder of all time.  Looking forward to Headingley.  Will England manage more than two wickets?  I expect so, but the full 20?

And still on cricket we have Richie Berrington.  Who? I hear you ask.  Well he’s just the 7th man in the world to score an international hundred in the short form of the game.  And he did so with a saltire on his chest, representing Scotland in their first ever win against a test-ranked side, Bangladesh no less.  Now it’s only the 20 over thrash stuff, though that’s where the Bengalis are ranked at No 4 in the world, and not real cricket, but it’s an achievement to be applauded.  I might even overlook the fact that he’s a South African and shouldn’t be anywhere near a thistle.  For I don’t agree with that ‘qualified on residence grounds’ stuff, no matter what sport, no matter what country.  You are who you are, born from your stock and in the place you were born.  If you can’t get a game for those teams there should be no route to others, whether your name is Pietersen, Trott or Berrington, to name but a few.

Anyway, sporting achievement it was I think.  As well as the cycling from Paris and the cricket from London, the screens were filled with other sports, or they were at Granny’s house for she’s the one with the satellite service, and we could flick back and forwards to the gowf, as they call it down the road from here, and watch the anti-climax that was The Open.  It’s not often you watch the winning putt going in without knowing that it is actually soon to be the winning putt.  But an implosion on the final holes is no stranger to the fairways, and it was gripping viewing in the wrong sort of a way.

And the GP drivers were strutting their stuff, as I was reminded when the golfers ensured the sponsors’ logos were in place for the interviews, revealing two-tone foreheads from a life of flogging two square inches above the eyes for media cash.  Which reminded me of racing drivers somehow.

Ah, you’re in luck, for there’s the post van outside, and a wean at the door demanding a snack.  And the sun’s shining too.  Need to go.

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Odds and Sods

It’s that time of year, the silly season, when newspapers are scrabbling around for something to talk about and the politicians are recessed.  Good times to bury bad news perhaps, especially with a certain (trademarked) event being hyped up down London way.  But there’s still a few bits and pieces worth mentioning.

Leveson is back in the mind, not so much as the public scrutiny of witnesses comes to a close, but more as we now know that charges will be pressed.  So we’d better say no more of the accused, the charges, or the possible outcome.  One of the said accused has already been charged of course, up in these parts, for a role that saw a certain former MSP jailed for perjury.  Those charges will be subject to separate action from the ones announced in the light of Leveson, the ones about mobile mailboxes and missing children.

And that brings the current PM into the frame, for he saw it prudent to appoint said individual to a position highly paid at our expense.  And the PM is further embroiled with his relationship with a certain titian-haired titan of the press.  So where lies his judgement in all of this?

My eye was caught by a graphic from our dear friends at the BBC, having analysed words spoken before Leveson.  Far too often, I had thought, as many were quizzed, came responses along the lines of memory lapses and recall failures.  Now we have the stats on them.  Tony Blair, astonishingly to me anyway, only put up the aging memory defence nineteen times, of the 24,034 words he uttered under oath.  Coulson managed 28 of them, and he only gave us 10,531 words.  His former boss, the one with the red hair and that look at her last court appearance, did so 35 times, having given us a total of 20,544 words.  Her former boss, the Aussie now resigned from the various newspaper boards in the UK part of his empire, only managed 30 memory lapses.  That was perhaps less than we could legitamely expect from an octogenarian given the more youthful minds of his former staff, and he did so from 19,362 words.  His son trumped that by a distance, but way out in front, and this is surprisng given that he wasn’t even in office for much of the period concerned, was the current PM, the one that employed the former editor, the one with the common interest in horses with the flame-haired villain, well he lost his recall a quite astonishing 49 times, having given us a similar number of words as Blair, at 25,890.  Draw your own conclusions, at least until Leveson pronounces.

And as I turn my mind to events of the day, perhaps the latest twist from the Sevco mob or whatever, my mind is caught by an article on the wireless.  It is a follow up to yesterday’s announcement, from the Vatican, of a new Archbishop for Glasgow.  As Bishop of Paisley the man in question was no stranger to public life, and had plenty of words to say on the current, and unresolved, issue of wedding rites for partners of the same sex.  I know not what what his views may be on baptism or funeral rites for the same parties, which are presumably acts he must have carried out many times, but that is of no real matter.

However the words that came over the airwaves this morning were quite astonishing for one in his soon-to-be-high office.  For he suggested, in no uncertain terms, that a former Catholic MP who died tragically young, once a priest himself indeed, may have been a victim of his chosen lifestyle, and thereby somhow beneath the merits of religious sympathy.

So I think back to all those tales of damage done to innocent weans at the hands of the Catholic brethren, in the care homes and the choir stalls; and I think of their pronouncements on marriage, amongst other things, and I dismiss this man and all he stands for as an utter irrelevance to a modern and secular society.  And then I think of where this country heads, and has done for 300 years, in relation to monarchy and prime ministers, and I despair completely.  I had a circular from the Humanist Society the other day, urging me to contact my MSP, the lovely Aileen, on the subject of the current debate on marriages.  I think I’ll just do that.

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