Monthly Archives: April 2015

Pride Rocks

As promised, more weddingalia.  On the steps of The Piping Centre in Glasgow, just a few of the very happy, smiling faces.  Sorry about the dark glasses.  Even the sun came out to play.  But it was a very special day.


Only once do we get the chance to witness a first marriage of our offspring.  FirstBorn it was who had us all done up in our finery; nerves shredded; emotions on overdrive.  It was a wedding that marked not just personal progress, but that of an entire nation.  And the gathering loved it too.

The happy couple were jubilant; beaming, endlessly.  Far too spooky that they shared the same birthday, and the same name – the same first name that is.  So here they are:


The ceremony itself was beautifully led by celebrant Helen Singleton from the Humanist Society of Scotland, a body close to my own heart.  The Piping Centre did us proud, chucking us out into the sunshine whilst the function room was rearranged for the feasting.  And it had all been planned and arranged by the boys themselves.

The audience loved it, with laughter and tears, and cheers and tears.  Oh and there were tears.  Even some of the women shed a few.  Joyful, truly joyful.

On a personal level I was thrilled to meet up, after far too long, with many old friends.  I had carried memories this past 20 years or so.  And in my mind those faces were stuck in the 90s, aging not a jot, much like myself you understand.  But here they were, all of a sudden with children of their own, or blossoming with life’s years.

And in the midst of it all there was The Prodigal, back from her travels, and looking terrific.  Oh yes, there were emotions of all sorts, in that hall.  And Girl Urchin is desperate to have her big sister back.

The feasting over, speeches too, it was back out to the sun whilst the room was readied for the music and dancing, as tends to happen at these events.  And amongst all the proud parents and aunties and assorted hingers-oan, there was none so proud as the old father-of-the groom, and I know the father of t’other groom felt exactly the same.

What a fantastically wonderful day; perfect in every way.  Thank you Scotland for letting this happen.  Thank you everyone for the happiness that filled the room.  And huge thanks to those who did all the work in making it so.  Emotions wrecked again, believe me.


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That’s ma boy

OK we all agree, he has his father’s good looks.  And we know that purely because his mother kept hers of course.  Anyway, for the first time, Boy Urchin, in all his glory, first time in the kilt.  Good eh?


I bring this to you out of sheer pride.  And I break my first golden rule of putting photographs of children on the net.  But here he is.  Jumped at the chance to don the kilt he did, and he’s keen to do it the traditional way, go commando as he would say.  But I’ll have my work cut out to do something with the Horrid Henry Hairdo.

There is a reason for the finery.  A wedding is about to take place.  And I’ll have more to say about that one, more pride, much more, before too long.

So no footy this weekend, other than a twitter feed and a mi-fi box in the sporran.

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Lazy Days

They don’t come along often.  And they come with rare sightings.  A sky almost bereft of cloud was a good start.  Then the postie drove on by.  Chained to the desk I was not to be.  The law of sod being what it is though, this rare day for a hurl round the lanes, after greasing the chain and pumping the tyres, is stymied.  Being of a certain age that knee injury is taking too long, despite the ice packs and the TLC.  But a low gear hill climb is most definitely not going to happen, not today.

So confined to base for a while, with time to spare, I began to look and to listen.  Spring has finally arrived.  The gentle drone of the bee carries on a breeze too gentle to rustle the dead leaves of the beech.  And budding and greenery seem anxious to thrust themselves on us.  Sod it, that means the mower will be wanting out to play too.  Maybe next week.

Further afield the upper slopes of Side Hill have been harvested of timber; and instead they will harness the wind, for a new plantation is taking shape.


Most of the daffies are enjoying the sun, a few late ones still to appear, and a few earlies on the wane.


But the browsing sheep have taken their toll, and the early frosts are having a laugh with the outliers.


Hedging too is showing signs of life, with both the maple and the hawthorn greening from the lower branches, rising ever upwards.  The red stems of the dogwood have had their annual shearing, ready to rise once more.


Even the goals have been sprouting.


But what caught my eye, had me scurrying for the books, was a bird, hopping from the fence, filling his beak with bedding from the field, and flitting away to who knows where.  I didn’t recognise him, a stranger to the garden; a new one on me.  Amber Status says the RSPB.  But he was bright and colourful, distinctive.  I’ll watch out for the wheatear again, might even recognise him.

No sign yet of the house martins, though there were few of them last year.  It’s still early yet.  Last Friday in April they usually appear.

An hour or two on the bike would be good.  One day.  But you know as well as I, that once the knee is sound, so the weather or the workload, probably both, will see me stymied again.  But it is a beautiful day.  I’m off outside with a good book, and a bowl of very good soup.  What’s not to like?



Rhubarb, this can’t be the best time of year do what I’ve been meaning for a long time; to move it from under the shade of a conifer that has suddenly become huge, depriving it of sun and rain.  But there it is, popping up again.  It really does need a new home.  Maybe next year.

PS  and there’s the wheatear back again – perhaps he’s going to hang around.  Here he is, left click to zoom in – he really is a beauty.



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Half Gorbals, Half Goebbels

A little tale of family history, the writer local to here, the tale another world.  In his previous book Derek Niemann took us to the POW camps, and specifically to the British prisoners who survived with a bit of birdwatching, tracking them through to their ornithological careers.  I enjoyed Birds In A Cage.  Niemann wrote well, and when I saw he was in print again, that it involved a bit of genealogy, well I’d need to find more space on the shelf.

A Nazi In The Family leaves nothing to the imagination by the choice of title.  It’s the story of Niemann’s grandfather, and his past.  It’s a story that lay hidden for almost all the first 50 years of a man born and raised in the West of Scotland.


Aunt Anne lived in Larkhall, swapping one jingoistic, flag-waving parade of her youth for another, after she married a soldier from the town and brought his daughter to Scotland shortly after the end of the war.  She was not a happy woman, but then she was in Larkie, steeped in whatever century it remains.

Derek grew up just along the road, in East Kilbride, new town.  His father Rudi had arrived in Scotland some years after his sister, escaping the post-war recovery in Germany.  It was only when his sister died that Derek’s dad dwelt on the past.  I was at Dachau… and so the story began.

Derek went in search of his grandfather’s life, from birth in 1893 to the Iron Cross in WWI, injury at Passchendaele, and then Germany in the 30s.

A search on the family address in Berlin brought the words crimes against humanity, and slave labour to the screen.  Grandad was at Dachau, working.  He wore the crisp black uniform of the SS.  So just an ordinary family tale then.

Derek Niemann has brought together the result of his extensive researches of the matters that weren’t said at the dinner table.  His father’s eldest brother died in the panzers, whilst the youngest remained in Germany.  He tells the tale well, building the narrative, from the rise of the Nazis in the 30s, through the war years, the internment and the aftermath.

There is a series of photographs not in the family album – and a story behind how they came into his hands.  It’s history, and genealogy, and the times they lived through.  It’s another side to the tales of the camps.  And it’s a family discovering what lay in their past.

The hidden story of an SS family in wartime Germany, says the strapline.  And Aunt Anne’s kitchen table in Larkhall came from her father’s woodwork factory, built by those detained, the swastika on the underside sanded off.

But there’s much more in these pages.  Well worth a read.


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A funny thing happened, on the way to The Forum

Don’t titter I say, oh no, don’t titter, says he pulling down the hem of his toga, adjusting the laurels to a jaunty angle.

It was one of those rare days, the rain chased away as the sun took over.  The Urchins were back from their jolly to the Northern Wastes, and the school holidays were disappearing fast.  On the way to The Forum we had a wander round the park.  It was a place we used to visit regularly, in a bygone age, with buggies, toddling, after a morning at nursery perhaps.  More recently there have been school trips to Dean Castle Park, but as for me, I could barely remember the way.

We said hello to the animals, the deer and the donkeys, ducks too, piggies and goats.  Then we wandered round another path, most certainly a new one for me.  Round through the woods, muddy underfoot, the river rushing past, brown and foaming over the boulders.  There was activity high above.  We saw the crow first, then the squirrel.  Branch to branch, tree to tree, over the path and down the trunk, the crow still hard on his tail.  Such fun, for one of them.

Anyway, The Forum.  It was lunch a few weeks back that put me on the trail.  The Accountant was buying, and Equi’s finest vanilla was on the menu.  We were in a venue I once knew well; waited a year or two for membership actually, thirty years or more ago.  Those were the days when social clubs were busy, all week, thriving, throbbing.  And on match days the rap of dominoes on the table lets you know the game’s murder, or the rain’s worse.  In good times that magnificent Scottish Junior Cup has pride of place in the trophy cabinet.  But what was once the social club that supported Pollok FC is the club’s no more.  Lok’s Bar & Kitchen is for a different market altogether.  Equi’s.  Yee-hah.

And as I was dipping my teaspoon into the third scoop of vanilla, mine host was telling me of another of Scotland’s Italian ice-cream families; singing the praises he was.  I hadn’t heard of it; and it was only a few miles from home.

So after leaving the park we headed off in search of Varani’s, which turned out to be right on one of my regular grocery routes.  Straight from the 30s. all wood panelling high counters.  Icy Lemon Fanta for Girl Urchin, in a tub; Oreo Cookie for Boy Urchin, cone.  But there’s only one way to put a new ice cream to the test.  Single nougat, the house vanilla.

Top Five quoth she; Equal top in his eyes, with his favourite Dutch outlet.  It’s a subject we’ve discussed before, ice cream, some may recall.  And I’ll be back at The Forum, to try again.  Unusual vanilla, sepia tinted as if it was doused in Madagascar juices.  And not the usual creamy affair from our other Italian outlets.  The jury’s still out, but it’s on the grocery route.  Try, try and try again.  It’s my duty.  I’ll let you know.  Though I may not get round all 48 flavours that were on display.  And I didn’t see any pistachio; not this time.  Someone has to do it, just for you.  Don’t titter.

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Good Read

I knew the name of A D Miller, and see that I included some brief comment on his previous work, Snowdrops, in a rambling post back in 2011.  It was Russia that lured me into Snowdrops, irresistible as always, and Miller’s ability to tell a tale that plucked The Faithful Couple off the shelf.  In the intervening period he’s discovered how to craft his ending, as I discovered very quickly after the beginning.  It is one of those books that won’t take long; that has you reading far later into the night than you know is good for you.


I’ll tell you little of the plot, for a spoiler is something you don’t need.  This is about life, about interaction, about relationships.  And it is about the times in which we have lived this past score of years or so; the events of those times.

A chance meeting brings Neil and Adam together, far from home, when they are young.  They remain in contact back in London, and we follow them on their journeys through life; in the times they share, and the times they don’t.

We go back to the 90s, turn the millennium, changing governments.  Boom and Bust.  You won’t have forgotten.  Careers, families and all of life’s ups and downs, familiar to us all.

And as you approach the final chapters you may be turning your mind to the events in your own life; playing over those who have come and gone.  Regretting what you may or may not have done.  I think I need to make some calls.  Life’s too short.

Go on, see how Neil and Adam coped.  Then reflect.

My regular reader will know that fiction crosses The Bedside Table less often than it should.  When it does it is a calling, a need to vacate the here and now.  Miller can spin a yarn.  He writes well.  Snowdrops was shortlisted for the Booker.  His latest may do even better.  For he’s got an ending this time.  And there’s scope for more.


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Move over Neil Oliver

This is just brilliant; so good I’ve watched it twice.  Go on, full screen.  Enjoy.


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