Monthly Archives: October 2014

Changing Colours

Just when the bike was becoming a familiar sight around the lanes again it has had to be garaged for the last couple of weeks, the jockey having been laid low with a heap of snotters yet to reach man-flu proportions.  Age is a terrible thing; even the cold takes a longer recovery period, and don’t even think of working it off with another 20 miles in the saddle.  Still, the doc has his flu-jab ready and waiting.

It’s not just the effects of the cold, for the weather has taken a turn for the worse too, the wind rising, temperature dropping.  I read a very atmospheric little piece over at The Yellow Caravan the other day.  You wouldn’t get up to that sort of thing in these parts, Julie.  Oh it would be nice to have a little sheltered spot where the wind doesn’t reach.  But then the views, I’d miss the views.

Anyway when the old bike was last trundling I’d been marvelling at the changing of the season.  The hedges were heavy with berries to keep the birds through the coming winter; and the leaves were on the turn.  They did so under calm, blue skies.  But not now.

In a couple of days the reddened leaves of the dogwood in the garden were ripped, cast afar, bare crimson stalks left.  The robin perches yet, but his cover is gone, his orange bright against the red stems.  The beech hedge had been slowly losing it’s greenery, leaves mottling, holding off the inevitable coppering.  And the lawnmower had to come out again.  October 16th, and still cutting grass, shaving the moss rising for the winter.

It was The Urchins who brought it home; schoolwork.  In the parks of Copenhagen Girl Urchin had gathered sweet chestnuts and beech mast.  Lately Boy Urchin’s been at it, with berries from the rowan, and the cotoneaster, shiny conkers too, and fircones on the stalks.  He salvaged some freshly reddened foliage from that same rowan, rescued some dogwood drift, and harvested all the shades of the beech.  Oh and he just had to have some of that bright berberis, the really, really, jaggy stuff with the half inch spikes.  Still it’s a nice colour, deep magenta, the blood an added bonus.  Not his of course.

Pictures had to be made for school.  Silly me, thinking they’d have to bag up their gatherings and take them into class.  Oh no, not nowadays.  Make up your scene at home, take a picture, and email it over to teacher.

Which is fine hereabouts, for recent birthdays brought little tablets and technology is a major part of the learning process, but it will pose a problem for others.  Just as I’m coping with attaching camera to computer, transferring snaps, finding them again and attaching to emails, so the youngsters are of the selfie generation  – snap and send, instantly.  Don’t ask me.

I’d love to put those pictures up for you, but I’ll need to ask an Urchin.  Meantime the bike will be out again soon, and I’ll see how the hedges are doing after a couple of weeks off, and wind and rain.  Promise.

And in the sitting room, four pairs of eyes can be glued to four screens, at the same time.  But the telly’s off, and at least they haven’t started emailing each other yet.  They can still speak.




Filed under Farrago, Urchins & Joys

Decisions, Decisions

In a few weeks time Scotland will have a new First Minister; Alex Salmond will step down as leader of his party, and as FM. The only candidate to take over as leader of the SNP is the redoubtable Nicola Sturgeon – whose jaiket I once held, such is my high standing in The Party.  Actually it was on a certain day in Edinburgh, a memory from the campaign.  So Nicola will be our FM, subject to ratification by Holyrood, and unless a chunk of the SNP contingent happen all to be waylaid on the same day.

The party conference is next month, and what an occasion that will be, with Alex Salmond receiving what will be a very fond farewell, and massive appreciation for what he done, so far.  Much as I’d like to be, I won’t be there.

Between now and then those of us who are members of the party will receive voting papers to fill the vacancy for Deputy Leader.  A month or so ago, in the light of the resignation statement, around 25,000 papers would have been being planned.  But now they will need to send out significantly more,such has been the staggering response to the decision of Scotland’s people.  That said perhaps less than half of the newly expanded 84,000 strong membership may be eligible to vote this time round.

We have three candidates.  One is an MSP, a member of the Holyrood front benches; one an MP, one of the six; and the other, also an MSP stands on the basis that whilst she wants to be deputy to Nicola in the party, she doesn’t want to be Deputy First Minister, which is interesting.

The Smith Commission is deliberating, trying to turn this into something positive:


I expect little meaningful, and certainly not what we seemed to be proposed in the much vaunted Vow.  They have to find a way to improve on this:


So the next stage in this game is the Westminster election in May 2015.  The SNP have six members at present.  They could well have a much louder voice from May, and quite conceivably be a significant player as coalition talks take shape.  No doubt the BBC will maximise the role that UKIP may have to play in the months ahead.

Incidentally did you see that M. Farage has reached an agreement with an ultra right wing holocaust denier in order to rescue his party’s funding for the EU parliament?  I digress.

So a Deputy Leader standing at Westminster could be an important role.  Angus Robertson’s been a fine leader of the Westminster group for some time.  And speculation bounces round that our retiring FM could himself have a last stand down London way, rattling sabres and more beyond.

So do we appoint an MP or an MSP?  We could even have one MSP as Deputy Leader, and another as DFM.  Or an MP as DL, and an MSP as DFM.  Who to choose; how to vote?

Well all three candidates have been on the hustings.  The Sunday papers have given column inches for each to set out their stall.  So too has Lallands Peat Worrier  for whom each so far, the two male candidates have written a guest post.  I certainly got more from those than I gleaned from the press articles.  Whether you have a vote or not you might wish to consider the vision of each of the three candidates, in these very important times for the future of our nation, for whoever is elected; whoever becomes Nicola’s deputy in the party, and whoever becomes Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, he, she or they will have important roles in shaping Scotland’s future:

Firstly Keith Brown MSP.

Next up Stewart Hosie MP.

Finally Angela Constance MSP.  (link in due course, hopefully)

In the aftermath of our nation’s cowardice, and at many gatherings since, the desire for a Yes Alliance  has been much discussed.  We have momentum, cross party; and the need for a significant presence at Westminster, and then a second ‘impossible’ majority government at Holyrood the following year, has never been greater.  Stewart Hosie has that Alliance in his sights.  The Branches will need policy direction.  Candidates need to be selected, very soon.

It’s going to be an interesting conference.  Decisions , decisions.



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From Gaza to Iona, via the French Resistance

This fine article on Bella Caledonia deserves a much bigger audience than these humble pages can provide.


An Open Letter to the U.S. and Israel: You Can Rescue the Rule of Law From Laughter.


I’ve been gathering thoughts on a few matters, watching the world, over the past week or so.  And I have to confess that Gaza had slipped by, despite a number of Palestinian flags in the George Square gathering recently.  Did you even know about this Tribunal in Brussels?  And I guess that, my friends, is the whole point.

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Community Singing

The clip that follows is the final fifteen minutes of a wee gathering of friends recently.  Enjoy.  The young lad singing is Gerry Cinnamon.  He sings himself to tears, then sings it again.  By then you’ll know the words, so join in:

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that could have been a scene from those days leading up to 18 September; it took place last Sunday, 12 October, in Glasgow’s George Square.  It was supposed to finish at 5.00.  After seven hours we had to disperse.  Scotland has not been put back in her box.  And white-washing over the much-vaunted Vow; excluding the Scottish voice from the next round of debates, will serve only to increase the numbers attending these events.

Sunday was a pretty special day.  We were treated to songs from fifteen bands and singers.  Aside from Gerry I’d recommend Dorec-a-Belle – a four girl outfit from Inverness with the unusual combination of acoustic guitar, sax, cello and box; and I’m sure there was a bearded one at the back plucking away on a double bass; that and a drum deep in the back, out of sight.  The Stumblers cranked the pace up towards the end, a couple of acoustic guitars, with a banjo and an acoustic bass, tunes belted out.  You Tube will turn up something.

But the speakers, we need to mention some of them, just a few of the two dozen or so who addressed the masses.  Mhairi Black, just turned twenty.  Here she is here:

We are the Hope, for the future, for the people having to use the foodbanks.  And as with most of these gatherings the foodbanks are important.  Dennis Curran, from Loaves & Fishes, drew the tears from many.  Just a handful of miles from where I sit a wee boy had to explain to his teacher why he wanted a pair of shoes from Santa.  I’m fed up wearing my mother’s shoes and five pairs of socks to school, miss.  Dennis took three vans of groceries back with him.

The gasps of the crowd came when Craig Murray addressed us.  That purring from the monarch was, he reckoned, more the death rattle of the monarchy in Scotland.  Wild stuff, even by Craig’s standards.  The full transcript is up on his own blog.  I’d always viewed the monarchy as another subject for another day, possibly with another monarch.  But Cameron telling the world about that purring.  Well it does make you think.

There were more tears; on stage young Gabrielle Sheridan gave us her thoughts, a nine year old maybe, speaking from the heart, without notes.  Wonder where she got that from?  Tommy and Gail were visibly moved.

There were others too; too many to mention.  Speaking from wheelchairs, or aided with oxygen – remember the Indy Climber, Lindsey Jarrett, who put the Yes sign on the Castle Rock?  She’s still with us, more determined than ever.

So we are still here; watching the progress of those ‘extensive new powers’; waiting on the Smith Commission.  Westminster prepares for an election on 7 May.  No one expects a majority government of any colour.  But Scotland will not be sending 40 Red Tories south, that is for sure.  It is not impossible that a large nationalist group, possibly the majority of the Scottish seats, could hold the balance of power, as Lesley Riddoch posited last night.

But the BBC will focus on UKIP.  One day they might wake up.  Perhaps when there’s another gathering at Pacific Quay, on 26 October.  More community singing perhaps.

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A New Name

… on The Bookshelf is that of Cyrus Massoudi.  For his first book has just been published.  And I’m looking for more.

Born in London and educated in Edinburgh Cyrus then spent three years in Iran.  He was on a bit of a quest; roots.  He left these shores as a westerner aware of his Iranian roots; and returned an Iranian who happened to live in the West.

The Massoudi family had left Iran as the 1979 Revolution gathered pace.  Cyrus heard tales of the homeland when growing up, and went to see for himself.  Land of the Turquoise Mountains – Journeys Across Iran is his account of what he found.


Over the years many fine words have been written of Persia, and on Iran.  Massoudi’s bibliography is extensive, and includes the classic works from Freya Stark and Robert Byron; Jason Elliot as well, and many, many others.  Several are on the festive book list.  My own favourite has been Michael Carroll’s From A Persian Tea House, but he now has company at the top of the list.

What makes Massoudi stand out, even from Byron and Stark, is not so much the age in which he travelled, modern Iran as against the days of the Anglo-Persian Oil Co, and the Shah, but it is his ability to travel the land and to mix, to join in the festivities and celebrations.  So he brings us accounts of New Year, and meets with Sufis, and he enjoys the famed hospitality more so than other westerners could, despite the best efforts of young travellers such as Nick Danziger and the aforesaid Elliott.

From Tehran Massoudi travels to the Caspian coast in the north, and to the Gulf far to the south.  He takes us to tribal lands and villages on borders, by train, by bus, by taxi, and always meeting with locals who become part of the tales.  As with all good travel books there is history through the narrative, and Iran has more of that than most.  Massoudi gets the balance right, and the story flows, from place to place, from age to age.

I enjoyed this one, but if I have one little moan it is that he did not write about the marvellous city of Esfahan.  I can’t imagine he didn’t visit.  Perhaps it might be the subject of another work to follow.  More please Cyrus.

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The hare is running

Just as I begin to turn my mind to autumn colours and changing scenes as the bike hurtles along the roads, so I get dragged back to reality; to where we are now; and to where we are going.

Let’s start with a review of the press.  No I’m not going to ask you to read some dry report, double spaced, double sided, laced with figures.  Instead listen to Dr David Patrick explain what went into his report.  It takes 20 minutes or so, but is time well spent:



Press bias, well I never…  And as Dr Patrick mentions in his closing remarks that is already beginning to hit newsprint sales, even harder than they were already.  For just as the press can decide to take whatever stance they choose, so we, the readers, can decide what we want to buy.  They’ve had a fright.

The Daily Record, infamous now for The Vow two days before we voted, are suffering.  And in the letters page of that same outlet, reaching a far smaller audience and ironically now excluding many of those he desperately wants to reach, the founder of Iceland is back-tracking on his pre-referendum boast of price rises in an iScotland.  Mum’s not been going to Iceland, or Asda.  Bank accounts are being shifted to Airdrie Savings Bank.  Caramel wafers are being bought in Aldi, and they don’t have Tunnock’s on the wrapper.

In short people are voting now with their feet and with their wallets.  The movement gains momentum yet; and is looking at the long haul.  Immediately we’ve the Smith Commission to monitor, The Vow to implement, or not.  Whatever those new powers turn out to be will then impact firstly on the Westminster election, now racing up before us, and then on the Holyrood election 12 months later.  It won’t end there, for the very make up of the governments we put in place will dictate the progress thereon.  And let’s not forget the possible EU referendum the following year.

As I type these notes I’m conscious that voting is underway today in two Westminster by-elections, and one could well see the first UKIP MP.  The writing, as they say, is on the wall.

Meanwhile our dear friends at the BBC just can’t stop it.  The anti SNP slant continues.  Just the other day we had Robert Peston, who at times had some interesting things to say as the vote drew closer, was bumping his gums about subsidy junkies, that old canard.  It’s complete bollocks, but there it is again, broadcast to us all.

There’s a fine reply, debunking that myth, from Jim and Margaret Cuthbert.  It’s published over at Bella Caledonia, and well worth a read:

I’ll expect to hear an apology from Peston, a correction from the BBC, and an an end to that myth once and for all, imminently.  Or not.

What was it David Patrick was saying?  And when the time comes again, and it will, the 45% will have grown, and will be wiser, better prepared.  We might even have some media support.

PS and on the subject of The Press, Bateman’s in fine form.

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Not as nasty as it sounds

I don’t usually indulge in public interest stuff, but indulge me for a moment or two.

Over this past summer I’ve been experimenting, in footwear.  It was prompted by the doc mentioning a nasty word to me, fasciitis.  My immediate reaction was to recoil in horror, but it wasn’t the flesh-eating bug he was referring too.  I’d had some foot pain, and, unlike the agonising shin splints that came at the same time, the foot pain wasn’t going away, so on one of my regular trips to the surgery I mentioned it under the any other business part of the agenda, the important stuff having been dealt with.

Plantar Fasciitis.  It was a new one on me, and so my old chum Mr Google, came up trumps, once again.  There were exercises to relieve pain, the simplest involving the rolling pin which may never be used for pastry or marzipan again (which reminds me of something else to be done).

But it was prevention I sought.  The right footwear was the answer, avoiding the wrong shoes essential.  There are insoles that help, good on the arches, whole foot or partial.  But they render otherwise comfy shoes painful, squashing more under the uppers than designed, especially for shoes that over time have been moulded into shape.

But with a bit of research and bit of trial and error, the solution is apparent.  Fitflop is the answer.  I started with sandals on those long hot days of summer, around the beaches of North Wales and the walls and walkways of innumerable castles; the aisles of bookshops too.  Plenty of time on the feet.

Around the house and office there are slip on mules, for indoor and out, and leather ones for the wet days and the paths to the chicken hut or the bird feeders.

But the real test was in spending a long and hard weekend on the cobbles and the streets, with an ancient European capital to explore.  By then I knew that the unique sole that makes the fitflop brand the one to seek for those of us suffering was the essential source to relief, and a pair of stout shoes for the winter ahead had arrived.  And so I return after a pain free weekend, at least on the soles of the feet.

As always when an ailment strikes, you find that you are not alone.  The remedial wheel has been invented.  And today there are online forums where experiences are shared.  If you are struck by plantar fasciitis, take the advice, do the exercises, but I wouldn’t even bother with the cut-price insoles remedies.  Get the right footwear from the start.  And that means fitflop.  They aren’t cheap, but even if the budget is prohibitive, I would put other things off and get the right shoes.  For as I found out spending weeks on end with constant pain in the soles and with shin splints, is not something to repeat.  And since wearing fitflop shoes I haven’t.

So advert over, and happy to pass that on.  You can browse the range here, and the technology behind it.

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