Friday, 30 October 2009

Two sets of heavy purrs....


Hullo ma wee blog,

I sit on the couch, coffee by my side and a book in my hand. The day is grey outside, driech and cold but not so cold as earlier in the week. A cat sits at my feet and contemplates me with the utmost intent.

I look down..

'What?'

I get a mouthed but silent meow in return and go back to reading my book.

A second later I am joined on the couch by Jess, who now contemplates me from much closer than before. I lift my book and give her a raised eyebrow 'what?' kind of look. She steps with supreme dignity onto my thigh and moves up inside my raised arm and thumps herself down onto my chest in a sideways slump, back towards me. A slight raising of the head back into my chest answers the question 'Just feeling lonely eh?.'

I return to book and coffee and stroke her gently between sips, cradling her weight to prevent her slipping down. {a forlorn hope in reality as my belly would no doubt do that for me} After a while her head slips back onto me in agreeable companionship and slowly her eyes slide shut as she drops off to sleep, a delighted drool on her lips.

Coffee finished, I watch her for a few therapeutic moments before returning again to my book and its tale of Edinburgh ne'er do wells and a fictional detective. The heat of her body seeps into my chest in a comforting way and spreads across my whole being. A wee furnace. Soon it will be time to stir myself and think of making tonights dinner.

In two shakes of a cats tail I too am comatose.

Who knows which of us purrs loudest.


see you later when I wake up.......

And On a Historical Note........


Map of Scotland by John Speed 1610
Adapted to avoid image of Royalty - printed 1660
First known representation of tartan in print

Hullo ma wee blog,

I have been thinking these past few days, as I take my lovely G to the railway station in Dunbar for her morning train to Edinburgh and her working day, about what topic I should choose for a post here. I got some really nice comments about my post on 'The Black Watch', which was one of the most enjoyable posts to do, due to my real attachment to the story, although my writing of it caused me to go back to books not read for some time and find some mistakes that maybe I should clear up a wee bit. {I also found an absolutely heart wrenching account of the three mens last hours and their execution which I should maybe also look at for the future} But I have been trying to think about what should come next.

I have an almost equal feeling for the men of the 78th Seaforth Highlanders who mutinied at Edinburgh Castle in September 1778 and their story is another that would be well worth the telling as it in many ways resonates so closely with the 43rd. But in reality I'm spoiled for choice.

There is so much in the story of this country that we are never taught about at school - I think that was one of the main drivers in my interest after I left, and maybe my lack of interest in history while at school - I didn't see the relevance to me as a wee Scots boy in school learning about the English civil war or the royal family. It was as remote and dry to me as the ancient Egyptian or Greek stuff they tried to get us enthusiastic about. Then again school was often baffling for me. I couldn't understand why you could get praised - a prize even - for reciting a Burns poem in 'braid Scots' on one day and be told off for not speaking properly in class the next! So this morning as I drove back home from Dunbar I was in a dwam*.


Map of Scotland by John Speed 1610
original version pre civil war

I left Dunbar and its castle and harbour behind, with all the potential tales of Mary, Bothwell and Darnley, of 'Black Agnes' and the siege of 1338, of English fleets unloading men and equipment for the invasions of Scotland from times long gone, drove past the memorial to the 'essential agony' of the battle of Dunbar to join the A1 and to turn at the foot of Doon Hill and its spectacular but windswept viewpoint over the town and the sea, where English and Scots armies had stood and considered each other in 1296 and again in 1650 when Leslie and Cromwell had so disastrously clashed. I thought of the Scottish equivalent of the 'trail of tears' that had followed that last particular bloody episode. That too would be a tale so worth telling. Even most Scots know absolutely nothing of that. I couldn't make up my mind.

Scotland

And so I turned my thoughts to the weekend and a family gathering with my lovely G's brother and partner but that took me mentally on a drive to the Kingdom of Fife across the battlefield of Prestonpans and the false hopes of the Jacobites after that easy win, or the tale of Colonel Gardiner as I pass the front of his mansion of Bankton House. Edinburgh of course is as stuffed with stories as it is with tourists in summer time, and the road would take me past the battles of Pinkie and Carberry and on to the Forth bridge past South Queensferry and Stevensons tale of David Balfour and Kidnapped. Aye and that takes me to Ballachuilish and Appin and the murderous tale of the 'Red Fox', of 'James of the Glen' and that sad memorial at the side of the bridge, so poorly signposted that almost everyone drives past completely unaware. And what of Glencoe and the massacre. Maybe not, everyone knows about that. Oh but if I'm thinking about the Forth Bridge, what about the Tay Bridge disaster? Thats a cracking wee story that one. Or wait, maybe I should go west, back home to Ayrshire and Robert Bruce, Louden Hill, or Glentrool and the English, Or Largs and the vikings or.............

See what I mean. In the course of a couple of hours I've gone fae a dwam tae a fankle*. If only I could sit with you, maybe over a pint or a wee dram, I could tell you one or two of my versions of those wee stories. You could pick and choose even. That would be much easier than me having to type it wouldn't it. Actually maybe I should sit and talk through some of those stories. Maybe that would help sort them out in my head a bit. Ach, I'm sure it will sort itself out in time and at least I'm never going to be short of a post or two if there is nothing else exciting happening in my life at the time.

So what will be next?

I huv'nae a clue........

see you later.......
*dwam - a dream, reverie.
*fankle - a tight mess,eg knotted

Listening to Soundtrack to the movie 'The Insider'

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Sometimes its the little things..........


Hullo ma wee blog,

Isn't it amazing sometimes what makes your day so much better? I mean REALLY makes your day better. I don't mean the earth shattering stuff either. Sometimes its the simplest, most accidental, innocuous even, tiniest wee thing that makes life worth living just to BE there, to have seen that, to have smelt that, to have heard that,it all adds up to having FELT that completely unexpected thing.

It can be as mundane as a smile from a stranger or it can be as utterly skillful as a someone demonstrating a craft. It can be spontaneous or part of a performance. It can be completely personal as a memory of family or completely anonymous. Something that instantly -'BANG' - the camera/recorder in your head suddenly, unexpectedly tunes into, and you know at that moment you will be able to recall that second many years from now. Maybe even as you die. Its breathtaking not in its importance but in its beauty, in its transience even. A perfect photograph left untaken. A perfect song not quite completed. Sometimes the memory will disappear to be triggered later by something - revisiting the site, a sound half heard in the distance or a moment recalled by someone else. In reality in future perhaps only meaningful to you. Completely unexplainable.

Today, a wee lass of three or four, pale skin, blond hair, a pink waterproof hooded coat, green striped tights and pink wellies runs along the top of a wall. Its chest height to her mother walking alongside pushing a child laden buggy and there are bits of moss and leaves on the top slab. The wee girl has paused, a second only, before plunging into the small branches of a bush or tree creeping across the wall from behind. Mum pauses and looks for the girl now gone from sight when suddenly a face appears, white skin and pink plastic, gold, copper and lime green leaves framing a grinning excited face, a motion from Mum and with an unheard 'Yah' she launches herself confidently out into the waiting arms of her mother.

All this seen from the car window as I passed by. Just another car on the road beside them. But leaving them behind with a huge grin and maybe an empathy for an forgotten childhood episode. Certain in the knowledge that she had made my day so much better for her just being there.


see you later........

listening to Mike Oldfield 'Ommadawn'

Sunday, 25 October 2009

A Big Pie and A New Car......


Hullo there ma wee blog,

Jings, where does time go. It seems like no time since my last post and yet its been four days or so.

So what have I been up to?

Well my weekend was filled with A Big Pie and A New Car......


I was invited by my older brother Gordon - Happy Birthday for today by the way, big brother - down to Irvine for a night out. He has invited me before to nights out with associates or to functions but I have never gone. I don't like the idea of sporting nights where you get suited and booted to go and watch a couple of guys beat seven bells out of each other in a boxing ring. And I'm not a golfer. Not that I'm one of those who see it as a good walk spoiled or anything like that but I'm a fisherman and to be honest both of those sports are pretty time consuming, and expensive, if you are going to do them properly. I'm not into round table socialising and fundraising and all that schmoozing and self congratulating stuff either.

Shield of the Hammermens guild

But, I do enjoy my brothers company and he invited me out to go to a night out with the Irvine Incorporated Trades Association which he is part of. I was a guest of his guild, which is The Hammermen. Now, as you know, I do like my history and being born in Irvine and brought up nearby, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about.

Shield of the Cordiners Guild

So there I was dressed in the advised appropriate dark suit, collar and tie, nice shiny shoes and all ma buttons polished. I was glad that it wasn't evening dress as my suit has been in the wardrobe for about 6 or 7 years and I doubt that it would accomodate my now even more well proportioned self any more. I had left home and travelled the 125 miles back to Ayrshire early enough to get through the Glasgow rush hour and arrive in time for a wash and change and to be out of the house by the appointed 6.30 with my dapper brother in tow. We had been dropped off at the rooms where the trades association have had their annual get togethers since time immemorial by his wife with a small reminder to me not to let my brother get too out of hand or create havoc on return from the do.

'Hahaha....Course not, what do you take us for. We're both responsible adults after all.'

And anyway I'm really not much of a drinker.

Shield of The Skinners Guild

I was struck by the finery on show. A couple of hundred of the local worthies done up in evening dress, dress kilts etc. and assorted dark suits. As we made our way to our table I noticed that there were no women that I could see. On mentioning this to Gordon he told me that there were a couple, and he did mean only two, here for the dinner but they were both guests from outside. There were long tables laid out down almost the full length of either side of the hall for the high heid yins and guests and about twenty or thirty round tables of eight apiece down the middle in a couple of staggered rows. We were greeted by various bods, none of whom I knew of course, and I was introduced and shook hands with about ten or fifteen folk before we found our slots marked with rather posh name cards at one of the tables marked for the Hammermens guild.

Shield of the Tailors Guild

Gordon headed off for the bar to sort out some refreshments and left me with his three friends, all of whom I knew slightly, and returned laden with three bottles of red wine and a bottle of malt whisky. The table was already stocked with several cans of various beers and soft drinks but what the heck I thought, lets go with the flow. Gordon advised that once things started it could get a bit boring with all the speeches but it wasn't the done thing to be getting up and going to the bar in the middle of it all so better to be prepared for the long haul.

I looked at the booze laden table and,

'Jings, How long' I said.

'Oh, dont worry we should be finished by about midnight' came the reply. 'If the speeches go quite smartly anyway'.

'Oh........erm, Good'

The night is called 'The Big Pie' because it was tradition for the guild to provide a good meal for all at the meeting. This was traditionally in the form of a big pie surprisingly enough. When there was a meeting of just one of the guilds the meal that was provided was also a pie so these smaller affairs became known over time as 'Wee Pies'

Friday was the 363rd anniversary 'Big Pie'.

A short history of the guilds.
The Irvine Seal of Cause

On the 3rd July 1646 The Royal Burgh of Irvine Granted the Seal of Cause to the Incorporated Trades of Irvine.

The Crafts were listed in the following order:-

Smiths Hammermen guild,- these were blacksmiths,goldsmiths, silversmiths,pewterers,lorimers (clockmakers), saddlers,cutlers, bucklers, armorours
Websters guild - Weavers
Tailors - Tailors
Cordiners - Shoemakers and leatherworkers
Skinners - Dealers in skins, pelts or hides, also glovers and makers of skin breeches
Wrights Joiners, - carpenters and squaremen, builders and makers of fine furniture
Coopers - Makers and repairers of barrels, wooden vessels, casks, buckets and tubs

Each CRAFT was allowed to elect a head official annually who was termed Deacon. The Incorporation was granted the right of having a common box or Common Good. As there were no banks, money and valuables belonging to the Crafts were lodged in a stout box. The Boxmaster was the Treasurer and the keys were held by two members of the Craft, known as the Keymasters.

In Irvine in 1646 there were approximately 100 mastercraftsmen. With their apprentices, journeymen and families this accounted for about a third of the Burgh's population of 1,500. The members of the Incorporation welded themselves into a powerful group in the town.

The original document was written with a quill pen on vellum and is still preserved in the Scottish Record Office.

With the charter came the right and privilege to manufacture and sell goods within the town boundaries. The incorporation had the right to try all made work by journeymen from within the town and those who came to work from outside the town. No one could, without permission of the Incorporation, manufacture and sell goods in the town.

With the rights and privileges "granted" to the seven crafts, the Smiths, the Weavers, the Tailors, Cordiners, Skinners, Wright craft and the Coopers, also came obligations to help and assist widows, bairns, waifs and strays, the auld, aged, the decrepit (I qualify in at least two counts then!) and those craftsmen less fortunate who fell on hard times.

Shield of The Weavers Guild.

Its this last element which remains today and the guilds are predominantly a means for fund raising for the local community.

The night was all very formal and linked back to the traditions of the guilds. No gentlemen is allowed to remove his jacket or tie. Formal speeches and reply speeches are given and there are numerous toasts throughout the evening. The guests were MPs MSPs, Council Provosts, Clergy of both Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, and various Guilds representatives of other Towns and cities as far apart as Aberdeen and York

There was a meal in which a small individual steak pie was the starter, apparently a pie is always in there somewhere, then on to fish or chicken - I had the salmon which was pretty good, then dessert and coffee.

There were toasts to; The Queen, The Royal Family, and to Her Majesties Forces.

There were speeches followed by toasts and then replying speeches to;

The Royal Burgh Of Irvine
The Deacon Convener and Conveners Court
The Clerks report
Our Guests
The Clergy
Irvine Carters Society
THe Chairman, The Croupier,and The Clerk Of The Conveners Court

In amongst all this there was also a ceremonial 'walking' of the Big Pie where everyone clapped as it was paraded solemnly around the room, {these days a Big Pie is made and donated to the local old folks home} and two halts for 'refreshments' - what ARE these guys on - where there were pipers laid on for entertainment. I honestly can't remember if we toasted the pie and the pipers but it's very likely.

Everything else was getting bloomin toasted!

Shield of the Wrights Guild


Some of the speeches were very witty and clever, some were ponderous and some were mercifully short. But the toasts were frequent and the glasses well charged at every turn and during the speeches the wine and the whisky flowed richt weel. By the end of the night I was quite puggled but cosy in ma cups and not too far gone. {Oh really Alistair?} I thought I did particularly well in managing to sing Auld Lang Syne right strongly while standing squarely on both legs although holding hands with the others did help a bit. Lovely singers the others were too....

Shield of the Coopers Guild.


Some of the speechifying was a bit too smug and self stroking for my liking but the company at the table was good and boy did we drink. Did I mention that before?

Next morning I had alkaseltser and did vomiting for breakfast and then Gordon and I spent a restful couple of hours painting guttering at Dads old house in the wind and the rain. That helped a lot.

No, really, it helped a lot!

I met the lovely G from work back in Edinburgh later and we had a look round some garages and arranged a test drive in a nice 2nd hand Ford Focus. By the time I got home I was tired and fractious and only had time for a bit of mind numbing telly before heading to bed leaving G on her own.

So she made me buy her a new car on Sunday. That'll teach me. I may never drink again.

No seriously, what really happened was we were back out on Sunday looking for a replacement for her old but much loved wee banger and after we had the test drive in the Focus I was really unimpressed. We decided against it but I noticed that Ford have seriously upped their game from the offers we were seeing in garages even a few weeks ago and I saw a nice new Fiesta with a good deal linked to what I still call their options deal - pay small deposit and low monthly payments and have a bulk sum left after two years to deal with if you want to keep the car or move on to another model. We have used the scheme before when it suited us and with the current situation I felt that it was better to get her a new car - even with the defferred lump sum, than to spend almost the same for a good low mileage 2nd hand job.

The biggest decider for me though was that the interest rate the garage we were looking at charged was exactly 1/3rd of what another Ford garage had quoted me a few weeks before. {That poor salesman had the cheek to look surprised when I laughed at him and suggested the lovely G should pick up her coat.}

So with a good deposit and government scrappage money of £2000 it means that it's less of a hit on redundancy money we may need in the short term, and we have both reduced the monthly payments and the deferred payment. I am happy with that.

And so is G, as she gets to drive away with this....


And in her favourite colour like in the picture too.

Brownie Points?

MOI?

You betcha!!!!!

As for 'The Guild'? Well, it was suggested that perhaps I would like to come back for ' a wee pie' with the Hammermen and I could be inducted into the guild.

While I am wee bit flattered, there's also a larger part of me that is with the late Groucho Marx, who I think, said " I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me as a member" so I think perhaps I will pass on that.

I think my liver would agree.......

see you later..........

Listening to Sia 'You Have Been Loved'

Friday, 23 October 2009

Am Freiceadain Dubh


Black Watch Memorial Aberfeldy

Firstly, let me introduce you to the man in the photo. His name is Samuel Macpherson and he was born in Laggan in the highlands about 1712 or there abouts. He is standing on a memorial to the regiment of which he was part. It was officially The 43rd {Highland} Regiment Of Foot but was known in Gaelic as 'Am Freiceadain Dubh'. but we know it much better in Britain as 'The Black Watch'

I have a natural sense of the ironic. It reassures me, keeps me sane, brings a wry smile to my lips and sometimes, a deep sense of satisfaction.

I think that as a Scotsman its part of our national character, part of our make up.

Let me tell you a wee tale. Its a tale of history, of Scotland and of irony. Jings, three of my favourite things all in one. I hope I can do it justice.

I once worked in Fort William in the highlands. Its gaelic name is 'An Gearasdan' which means simply 'The Garrison' and reminds us that it was fortified as a frontier outpost of the British Army when the area was a hotbed of rebellion in days long past. In the town there is a nice wee museum, and because of the area and its history there is a substantial part of it given over to Jacobite memorabilia. I found myself in there one lunchtime just browsing round the usual cases of Jacobite glass and Highland weaponry. All very enjoyable to be sure but not really that out of the ordinary in any good local authority museum in the North of Scotland. As I was passing through a corridor linking two of the rooms I passed an old print.

Large and faded, without any kind of label to explain itself, it showed Highland soldiers apparently parading through a town, marching four abreast, clad in bonnet and plaid and being watched by 18th century townsfolk and led and accompanied front, side and rear by evenly spaced horsemen. They are approaching a high gateway.

On closer inspection I saw none of the Highlanders were carrying any weapons and it was this that made me really look. As I did so I realised that the parade was no such thing, it was an escort. And those town gates are actually the gates to the Tower Of London.

What the print actually shows is the arrival at the Tower of London of the mutineers of the 43rd {Highland} Regiment of Foot in 1743.

At this point let me rewind time slightly even more and give some background detail, some historical context of the 'Watch' Regiments as I understand it anyway.

In 1667 Charles the Second authorised the Earl of Atholl to raise and train independent companies of troops from the most trusted { loyal to the crown } clans, and to cause them to 'keep watch upon the braes' in an attempt to impose law and order onto the wild highland regions and to protect the interests of the crown.

By the end of the century there were many regiments raised and led by the clan chiefs and with loyalty through him to the King. The clan chiefs used the authority of the king to their own ends when it suited them and by 1717 the watch regiments were disbanded as being ineffective. Where necessary they were replaced with regular troops, especially so after the early Jacobite rebellions, but regular troops were more like prisoners in their own barracks at Ruthven, Bernera or An Gearasdan, surrounded as they were by an alien landscape of imposing, unfamiliar hills and often unfriendly natives who spoke little or no English.

During the rebellion of 1715 many members of watch companies left to fight for the Jacobites - no breach of honour for they followed the only real allegiance they recognised, that of loyalty to the clan chief who had ordered them to join the army in the first place. The unreliable or potentially disloyal watch regiments were replaced with four garrisons of lowland or English foot. But the garrison forts were, as I said above, incapable of enforcing the rule of law and by 1727 general Wade - of road building fame - advised the King to reinstate the watch regiments.This was done and recruitment began in the old ways and with the same promise that the regiments would be retained to serve only in the highlands to protect their own lands. That was firmly understood by the regiments to be their sole 'raison d'etre'.

Completing enlistment was no problem as with the effects of the disarming acts, particularly on the loyal clans, joining the army became the only legitimate way for a young man raised in the martial traditions of the day to be able to bear arms. The vital difference this time was that control of the regiments now passed from clan chiefs into the hands of central government and professional, almost exclusively English orientated, senior officers.

While these senior officers knew of the terms of enlistment, they had no conception of - or attachment to - the men themselves. They didn't understand the meaning of the bond that had been given or the regiments instinctive attachment to its native land, tongue and culture. They also failed to realise that many of the men enlisted and serving under them as junior officers and lower ranks were far from being the kind of men so common in the other regiments of the British army. These highland volunteers were often gentlemen and the sons of gentlemen and felt themselves responsible for their behaviour to a clan, clan chief and a highly ingrained sense of honour. It was this trait that often made Scots regiments such effective fighting forces.



By 1741, recruitment and training over, The Black Watch {named after the dark colour of the government tartan} was sent to look over its glens. Well trained but poorly equipped - more than 400 of the regiment used family swords - they were given empty promises of kit ordered and weapons to be supplied that never materialised. But the real issue wasn't poor kit but of honourable promises repeatedly broken. For these honour sensitive products of the highlands the scene was set and of course history and circumstance was turning.

The Jacobite threat had never gone away, in fact it was ever increasing and Britain was at war with France in the fields of distant Flanders. It may be that previous experience of 'turncoat' regiments during the recent rebellions prompted the King to consider that to have large numbers of well trained, but not necessarily loyal, troops left behind at home in a politically volatile situation was just too big a risk. France was also very effectively using the Jacobite cause to try and destabilise the ruling powers position and to force them to retain troops at home in case of emergency, thus weakening strength for overseas service. These factors laid the foundation for what was to follow.

By the end of 1742 the regiment received orders that it was to proceed from its mountain glens to the links at Musselburgh, near Edinburgh, not far from where I sit right now, to be reviewed by General Clayton. Months before, they had been advised in letters home by a fellow officer serving in London in the regular army that it was being openly stated there that the Black Watch would be sent into England and then on overseas. This fed into the regiments deepest fears of being removed from their homelands against the conditions of their enlistment.

Once arrived in Musselburgh, tired and anxious, they were told that the General now wished to review them at Berwick on Tweed, and so those weary men would have marched right past my front door. Perhaps they billeted overnight here in the village or nearby. I do know that on arrival at Berwick, and finally on English soil, the men were told that the King himself wanted to review them in London and after that they would be able to return home to their families. Tension mounted as more and more promises made proved to be of little value, and when the men expressed fear about being taken from their hills and anxiety of being posted abroad they were given platitudes and little else. As the regiment marched south through Alnwick, Newcastle, Richmond, Doncaster and Royston, while the highlanders appreciated the stir they caused - these feared, wild looking foreign speaking men and undoubted rebels - while they seem to have enjoyed the crowds who came to stare in the towns and countryside they passed through, the situation became more fraught the further from home they found themselves.

The men in the regiment were not aware that it was the Kings custom to review a regiment before it was posted overseas. It was not until they were in London and billeted across the city that they came in contact with people who were aware of that fact, and who made the highlanders aware too. In London they also met a party of Royal Scots just returned from Barbados with lurid tales of disease and death which did nothing to quiet the rumours that were flying round.

They also found that the King would not be reviewing them as promised after all having recently departed for Flanders himself.

After some rest time the regiment was paraded in front of the Duke of Montague and that afternoon given orders to proceed to embarkation on the Thames. No destination was given. Angered by what they saw as a clear and final betrayal of trust many of the men stated they would soldier no more but would return home as soon as possible. Others stated they did not want to continue in service unless all promises made were delivered and that there was a clear guarantee they would be returning to the highlands.

Samuel Macpherson, a sergeant in the regiment, a quiet, studious, well educated man who had studied law in Edinburgh until inactivity and frustration caused him to join the watch, and his cousin Malcom Macpherson, decided that if the men wanted to return home immediately they would take them. They would return the same way they had come, marching openly in good order, and if they needed to defend themselves to do so then so be it.

Those who intended leaving met on the nearby common at midnight and, when challenged by brother officers wanting them to stay and again plead their case, forced their way through them at point of bayonet with cries of "Stand off!" More than a hundred made their way in good order and avoided bloodshed. They were joined the next day by some 70 more men, distrustful of the government, senior officers and determined to return home.

A very accurate print.
 Notice how the plaid is being used to keep the guns lock dry.

In 72 hours of freedom they travelled almost 100 miles on foot and not one of the units searching found trace of them. They molested no one, they stole nothing. They were given intelligence from sympathetic Scots in Wellingborough which told them they had come as far as they possibly could without interference from vastly superior numbers, and they took up a defensive position in the shelter of a small wood called Ladywood, near the ruined shell of the mansion house called Leyvden New Bield and strangely enough only about 8 or 10 miles from where that sorry lass Mary Queen of Scots finally lost her head.

After negotiations over two days with a member of the local gentry who had also alerted the militia that the mutineers were well prepared, well dug in and well supplied with arms and apparently willing to make a stand, they surrendered and threw themselves on the mercy of the Army in the hope that their grievances would at last be heard fairly. They were, as the museum print clearly showed, taken under guard to the Tower Of London.

Samuel Macpherson, Malcolm Macpherson and another, Farquhar Schaw, were identified as leaders of the group, quickly tried, found guilty of mutiny and sentenced to be shot. All others were, as their worst fears had always been, sent to the West Indies for life.

Before they were put to death against a wall in the tower while their comrades looked on, some hiding their faces in their plaids to avoid the sight, a few sketches were made of them taking exercise to be used in the daily pamphlets which were the precursors of newspapers.

One of the Ladywood Mutineers

Many years later, while looking for an accurate depiction of the uniform of the day, it was one of these sketches that was unknowingly used as the basis for the memorial to the raising of the Black Watch regiment in Aberfeldy.

It appeals to my sense of history that to this day, in some way, Samuel  Macpherson still stands defiantly and looks out upon the hills he loved, had promised to protect and never wanted to leave.

It appeals to my senses of both irony and justice that many people who come to stand at the foot of that memorial to rightly commemorate honour, sacrifice, courage and leadership stand there not knowing that they are looking up at a man who was put to death having been cruelly cheated and lied to by those in whom he had placed his trust, but who had himself always been true to his word, his principles and his people.

Well done Sam....

La a blhair s'math na cairdean
Its good to be with friends on the day of battle.


It seems not all the remaining mutineers were sent to the West Indies but were dispersed through several regiments and sent overseas to America and the far East also.

see you later.........

Thank you for the music


Hullo ma wee blog,

I love my live music. Had some of just the best times experiencing human creativity and sharing emotions with complete strangers in dark rooms filled with beautiful live music. Hearing music as its intended, live in front of you, and connecting with it in a much more personal and complete way because of that.

So it was tonight as the lovely G and I travelled through to Glasgow once more to see Fleetwood Mac in concert at the Scottish Event and Conference Center, right by the side of the Clyde and 'the Armadillo', our own wee version of the Sidney Opera House, beautifully lit up and complemented by the equally colourful BBC Scotland headquarters on the other side of the river.

We had seen Fleetwood Mac once before, many years ago, when they were touring some big city down south and had been due to take a ferry across to Dublin but were prevented by a couple of days of storms in the Irish Sea which put a complete stop to any plans for sea crossings. It was suddenly announced that they were going to do a gig in the only venue available, 'The Playhouse' in Edinburgh. So, with the help of a very supportive boss, the lovely G took a 3 hour lunch to go and queue - Yes, it was that long ago folks - for tickets for her and I and a friend. And that night I both achieved a dream in seeing the band who's music had accompanied and influenced so many of my moods and character for so many years, and experienced a real revelation about just what live music could really bring to you. Ach, I had been to many, and several of them great, concerts but THIS one, just touched me, right at the very core. It was one of those seminal moments.

When we heard that they were once more going to be in Scotland there was no way we wouldn't be going. My lovely G set me up with all the info I needed to be on line at the moment the tickets came on sale. Duly in position, I got us a couple of seats right in the center stage area with a view straight on to the hot spot.

Once more it was a seminal night. Now ok, Fleetwood Mac may not be the coolest band in the world, but I DONT CARE. I love them. And again tonight I, we, got to experience some of that magic again, but this time seen from a different perspective, a different time of life, a different me, a different us. But it was just as wonderful. Just as wonderful in such different ways.

Stevie Nicks, voice just the same, dripping smoke and honeyed gravel around the room in that soaring, sultry way that is so unique to her, and Lindsay Buckingham as the perfect foil. The only thing missing, and of course with a sound so familiar, noticeably missing was Christine McVie's voice to complete the spell. Even three good backing singers couldn't cover for the fact that she wasn't there. But, that was also right, a reminder that ultimately nothing stays the same forever perhaps, and it allowed the band to change and adapt.

Isn't that what we do in life anyway? Change and adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Mick Fleetwood was very, very good on drums and again, Lindsay Buckingham was a complete revelation on guitar. The man is a superb guitarist, and showed us tonight that many of the intros and riffs which I thought were done by more than one guitar were actually done just himself. He also played a couple of acoustic arrangements. His acoustic version of 'Big Love' was absolutely astounding.

It was a night to evoke memories, to make your heart soar and your eyes prick with emotion. To make you listen and to make you think. To take you both into the moment and the past with the creator of the music and the lyric.

No matter what type of music it is that moves you, that's what music should be all about. That's why the best music is live.

Thanks Stevie, Lindsay, Mick and John.

What a night.

Now I'm also really looking forward to the next couple of months before Christmas as we go to see ' The Flaming Lips', 'Snow Patrol' and 'Porcupine Tree'

see you later.....

Listening to Fleetwood Mac ' Rhiannon' What else?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

All for one and one for.......himself apparently.




Hullo there ma wee blog,

Reading the paper this morning and a report on yesterdays speech by Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank Of England, given to the C.B.I. in Edinburgh. He was taking the opportunity to fire a warning shot across the bows of the banking sector, warning against a return to the blockbuster bonus culture that has been blamed for threatening the stability of the financial system. His remarks come as a report is published claiming that city financiers are set to trouser bonuses of £6 Billion, up 50% on a year ago.

The R.B.S has already had to deny claims that some top investment staff are to walk away with bonus figures of £5 Million.

Goldman Sachs has openly stated that average, that's AVERAGE, bonus will be £500,000

Lord Myners, City Minister, has warned that he COULD act to cap them, but has so far only indicated that banks which have been part nationalised, such as RBS, will have big payouts blocked, although as far as I am aware he hasn't indicated what a 'big' payout actually is...

The RBS international arm in Singapore lost 30% of its staff as they jumped ship on being told that bonuses would be vastly reduced.

Mr King stated yesterday that 'Its important that banks in receipt of public money are not encouraged to try to earn their way out of that support by resuming the very activities that got them into trouble in the first place.'

He described the scale of support to the banking sector as 'breathtaking' and that it was now

'not far short of a TRILLION pounds, close to two thirds of the annual output of the entire UK economy. To paraphrase a great wartime leader, never in the field of financial endeavour has so much been owed by so few to so many. And, one might add, with little real reform.'

He went on to say that he believed that to have institutions that were too important to fail was inconsistent with the private sector, as encouraging banks to take risks that resulted in shareholder dividends and staff bonuses when things went well and losses for taxpayers when they didn't was unsustainable.

Thank God for common sense.

But, its been more than a year now and the banking system has spectacularly failed to show that it is capable enough, and responsible enough to put its house in order without being made to do it.

Shamefully, as they have been responsible for bailing out this shower of wasters, Her Majesties Government have also failed to show the spine they need to screw these money lenders down or flush them out of the temple completely.

I find it incredible, and ok, I appreciate after all that's happened this year, I shouldn't, that these people are still even able to expect these kind of bonuses when we, the normal man in the street are facing, unemployment, massive tax rises and reduced public services. It is absolutely immoral.

I think that Bankers bonuses should be compulsorily paid into a pension fund, administered by the Govt. and paid out slowly, say at 2% or 3% a year after standard national retiral age only. This money should then be used as a first 'bail out fund' if the silly sods ever bugger it up again.

Wake up ya shower o 'bankers'. Wake up government. Taxpayers wont tolerate this abuse.

Perhaps I should take a previous post back and move abroad and just snipe from there!




see you later.....


Listening to Bruce Springsteen 'Philadelphia'

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Technic-Al assistance.....



Hullo there ma wee blog,

I got back last night about 9.15 having been out at a recruitment evening for the Childrens Hearings system. I was asked to go along to represent Panel Members to meet a group of some 25 potential new members, to sit with them for just under half an hour and take questions and explain what a hearing feels like and what skills you develop doing the role etc.

Those of you who have read this blog at any length will have come across mentions of the 'Childrens Panel' before - its a tribunal that sits to support children and young people who are in trouble in some way, either offending or being offended against, or who are facing difficulties through lack of care and protection from parents or carers etc. We can put in place legally binding measures for the care, protection, control or treatment of children via 'supervision requirements' or in certain circumstances by issue of legal warrants. It works under Scottish Legislation and the European Convention of Human Rights.

Unique to Scotland, its now being adopted by some Scandinavian countries and by Spain and Portugal. Where cases are heard by this tribunal the child is not subject to the normal legal system of courts etc. We are tasked to be independent and to make decisions in the best interests of the child at all times. There is a significant amount of training both before you are allowed to sit if selected, and ongoing throughout your post which is intended to be for a 3 year minimum commitment.

Anyway, that's not the story..........


I got back home at 9.15 to find my lovely G, who had not been home from work when I left to go out, in the kitchen, on the phone. In front of her was her laptop, connected by yellow cable to our wireless router, and my laptop connected to the internet help site of our friendly internet service provider. G was using her mobile phone while it was plugged into a charger on an extension cable - our main house phone doesn't work when we are connected to the internet and despite several attempts to sort this, both our ISP and telephone provider deny that its anything to do with their kit - don't worry we are just about to change away from our totally useless ISP.

I came up behind her and gave her a hug. I knew that her laptop had suddenly lost internet connection the other day when she attempted to connect, but she hadn't been in the mood to try and fix it at the time, especially when she could just use mine for a while. But she had come home intending, determined even, to get the problem resolved last night. Finding she couldn't connect again and being more PC literate than I she had phoned the helpline and was busily engaged in conversation with them as she twiddled with cable and pressed the advised buttons etc.

She turned and rolled her eyes at me and covering the mouthpiece told me that she had been on the phone to them for almost an hour. I could see that she was nearly at the end of her tether, but knowing her as I do didn't interfere. I rubbed her shoulders in consolation while she continued to listen to the phone and then made a cup of tea which I put down next to her with what I hoped was an 'I understand and sympathise' kind of look before stealing off quietly to the lounge. As I left she had MY laptop connected by cable to the router and was going through what clearly was the same process used unsuccessfully on her non working computer to try and problem solve the issue.

I've got to say my heart sank.

15 minutes later she came into the lounge and I could tell straight away from the dejected air that things had not gone exactly 'ticketty-boo' shall we say. and sure enough when I asked how it had turned out she said she was completely frustrated and despite an hour and some on the phone, the technical support guy had been unable to resolve the problem.

'He says my laptop is broken and needs to go back to the place I bought it from. I just can't believe it, its ridiculous, it can't be broken.'

then the bombshell.....

'And yours is the same'

Ah.....



I tried to console her and suggested she leave it and we could have a look tomorrow to see if we could fix things. I wanted her to try and stop to calm down before bed or she just simply wouldn't be able to sleep. I could spend all day tomorrow trying to get the problem fixed if need be after all. After a cuddle of a couple of minutes or so she got up and went out. I assumed that she had gone upstairs to change as she was still in her work clothes having been late home due to a delayed train.

When she hadn't come back after about 10 minutes I went to see if she had been so annoyed or upset that she had just given up and gone to bed. Of course she was back in the kitchen trying anything and everything she could think of to try herself to get the problems resolved. Frustrated and angered by the lack of the helpdesk staff ability to provide even a reasonable interpretation of what was wrong, she was almost at the point of tears. For any husband a very dangerous situation to get into, but sometimes its just as dangerous to be damned for what you don't do as much as for what you do, do. Its a situation that can put you in the doodoo very quickly if you catch my drift.

Under the circumstances I took a quiet but deep breath and stepped tentatively into the ring.

I, in no way, consider myself technical or PC literate. When we buy any kind of IT kit, laptops, home pc's or cinema surround systems, its the lovely G who sets it all up. Her Dad was a real techie wizard and worked on telephones and other such complicated stuff all his life so she is genetically programmed that way as far as I'm concerned, thankfully.

While she looked at hers I said she should let me have a look at the other one and I pulled up the connection screen.

YOU ARE NOT CONNECTED.

I clicked 'connect' and another screen came up asking me for the WAP key. 'I know this!' I thought and got the key code from the bottom of the router. I punched it in and pressed 'close', entered the location as 'home' and - with mental fingers crossed - hit 'connect'

YOU ARE NOW CONNECTED.

Just to be sure, I rebooted the laptop and connected to my home page.

YES!

Total time about 2 minutes.

'Ok hun, that's this one ok. Lets have a look at yours.'

She looked disbelievingly at my laptop screen which was showing my homepage and from there her eyes met mine. A look that was mostly relief but also seemed part pure irritation passed across her face. I swallowed nervously but, now all male bravado, stepped forward to hers.

'How did you manage to do that?'

'Mine had lost the WAP code. Lets see if this is the same.'

With her help I pulled up the screen and repeated the process again on hers. It was online again in about the same 2 minutes. She looked at her online screen and back at me. I got another look that was much more relief but there was still just a bit, a smidgin, a soupcon, of irritation there.

{ I should have been home an hour earlier, huh... }

Before she could ask I said, 'I dunno how they never sussed that out. Its about the only thing I know to check for to be honest.'

She picked up her phone and looked at her screen.

'At 50p a minute, I have just spent £35 on that useless b@%£$"* on the other end of the phone!'

Now, for my lovely G, swearing is a major, MAJOR danger sign. She just disnae do it. Not like me, peasant that I am, well versed in a large, practiced and varied vocabulary of swear words.

Somehow though I managed to divert her attention back to her working machine and she became engrossed in checking her email.

Phew!

And so past last night. Tensions subsided and it ended in relative tranquility.

This morning I thought that I would avail myself of the opperchancity of contacting our said wonderful ISP helpdesk to express my amazement and concern at their performance and singular lack of technical ability to problem solve in their area of expertise, and also to explain how very mildly disappointed I am to have spent 35 of our hard earned baw-bees giving them the opportunity to display not only their incompetence to my lovely G, but also an incredible ability to blame every available piece of equipment that did not actually belong to their company in the process.

Unfortunately the lovely, and very distant, Indian gentleman who took the call from my lovely G last night and supported her to the full extent of his ability had also mysteriously failed to log the call and of course 'No, no sir, its not possible to trace who you spoke to.'

Quelle surprise!

So please excuse me but I have an important call to make.

To introduce myself to another ISP provider.

see you later..........

Listening to Madonna 'Sorry'

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Golden soup for an Autumn Night


Hullo ma wee blog,
My disconnected feeling has treacherously descended into an irritating, sniffly head cold despite the deceitful euphoric few hours of last night. Its left me feeling jaded and listless once more, heavy headed and small eyed, and permanently, miserably, accompanied by a box of tissues wrapped in their bright, cheerful, irrationally annoying packet. My journey around the house marked by a territorial deposit of used tissues in each waste bin. Yuk.

I can't think of food but desperately want something. Hot, soothing with a good but easily digestible body. I decide on soup. To be honest it couldn't be anything else really. Programmed by tradition and temperament and not least by the ease of making just a simple pot of soup. Its all I can raise my enthusiasm and energy to anyway, and the stuff is all here in the house.

So, a base of onions chopped and softened in some butter, a few roughly chopped potatoes and two small finely grated carrots. I want them to dissolve and give their sweetness but most of all I want the interest of their colour. A litre of chicken stock and a scant half litre of water. My Grannie R made the best tattie soup I have ever tasted and I have searched through years of cooking for the same flavour and textures and so far have only consistently managed to accurately recreate the lightest palest touch of colour that her precious soup contained. The golden sheen that promised flavour beyond expectation of the simplest of ingredients used, potatoes cooked until any edges blurred into complete softness. A pinch of finely chopped curly parsley dropped into each bowl before it was served, for colour, interest and above all flavour. The kind of soup that made you pause with the first spoonful in your mouth and glance around the table to see others look back with eyes half closed and small smiles on happy faces. Hands reaching for well buttered crusty bread. Perfection. Simple perfection.

So last night supper was a simple bowl of hot but gentle soup and good crusty bread. Comforting and satisfying but easy on the belly.

Just what the doctor ordered.

See you later.....

Achooooo!

listening to.... my ears ringing.

Friday, 16 October 2009

On How Insomnia Messes With Your Head.....




Hullo there ma wee blog,

So. After a few sleep laden days and nights, unwelcome normality returns via insomnia. Whoop de bloomin do!

I have found myself unable to post through most of a week which seems to have largely disconnected me somehow. I have been struggling to stay awake and concentrate on anything for more than a couple of hours at a time. When awake for even those short periods I have been so unmotivated with 'real' life that I've stayed firmly in the other world of internet, books and TV. I have been backtracking the stories of some of the blogs I follow but even this what would be a normally pleasurable and invigorating even, exercise has taken too long and left me cream crackered {knackered} and needing to lie down, Its all a bit pathetic and strange if you ask me. Oh yes, I,ve managed to make a few comments on other folks blogs but not much. Unable to say I've been feeling unwell but something definitely not me. I don't normally spend my existence lying on a sofa in the lounge shrouded in a duvet, but I largely have this week.

But its over now.

Having gone to bed early again tonight with the lovely G who has herself been off work today suffering from the onset of flu, but with an unusually taken decision to take an early day off to resolve the situation, rather than suffer for the best part of a week, I have awoken refreshed, rejuvenated, eager for the day ahead and with some real,honest to goodness plan of things to do that really need doing.

My only concern is that its 2am.

So I cant get out and get moving on those weeds in the drive that have really been needing attention, I cant hoover the stairs or the upstairs landing of all the white cat hair that has suddenly appeared on a red carpet - Oh, what has a short period of life at home done to my manhood - and I cant sort out that cupboard in the downstairs landing. I cant wash and hoover that filthy car sitting outside the patio door. I cant even see the bloomin thing at the moment. I cant go shopping for the menu my head has planned for the next few days or to get that nifty zoom lens I have been wanting for my camera. I cant go for a walk to clear my head of all these stupid things which have rammed themselves in there.

So, once I have cleaned the cooker very quietly and silently emptied the dishwasher, I am going to read a book, surf the down the back of the interweb thingy and maybe watch a bit TV - with headphones on.

So glad I,m feeling so much better!

See you later.

listening to Supertramp 'Even In the Quietest Moments'

Monday, 12 October 2009

A funny thing, soup



Hullo ma wee blog,

I woke up gently smiling with Paws distinctive laugh in my ears, or so I thought. Must have been in my mind in reality of course.

It was still deeply dark and my lovely G had a couple of hours or more at least before she would be stirring for the start of another week. Octobers chill occupied the room with us, crept in, no doubt, from the bedroom window that's perpetually open except when we are away from home. As is my habit once awake, I stole off quietly to the kitchen, the kettle, and the table by the patio door to the garden. The first place to warm when the boiler strikes up and brings the house to life for the start of the new day.

In my dream we had been just chatting, Paw and I, chewin the fat, in his last place in the sheltered housing complex, a few hundred yards from the house now belonging to my brother and I where he had lived with Mum.

Its in the village where Gordon and I were brought up. A small and still close knit community of mainly ex miners in what was the South Ayrshire coalfields of Scotland. We moved within the village to a bigger house, both rented from 'the cooncil' as the local authority is colloquially called. I had been raised in the village from birth. Gordon, 5 years older had been with the family close by for a couple of years before they settled there, but Dad lived all his life within 5 or 6 miles of Gadgirth Holm, where he had himself been brought up in one of four small room and kitchen houses.

The flat in the sheltered housing complex was small but an ideal and safe place, specially adapted for those who are disabled or with mobility problems. Dad, who had struggled to recover after breaking his hip in a fall at home shortly after Mum died, was comfortable and safe as possible in the lounge, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom that made up his flat, surrounded by a few precious items from the main house.

We were laughing about soup, Paw and I. Something we did on a regular basis. In fact we did it every time I visited after Mum died, both at home and at the complex.

Soup is important in many ways.

Mum became blind in later life and Dad, who latterly in his working life had been a social worker in blind welfare, took up the reins as househusband to cook, clean and care for Mum on a day to day basis. Mum didn't let him do this unsupervised you understand. She had difficulty accepting her limitations in many ways and never really let him forget that she was still boss in reality.

His point of view on this was that the silly old bat couldn't see his comical eye rolling expressions of 'Aye, right' and his shrug of the shoulders as he agreed to do whatever she was ranting on about at the time, and then proceeded to do things in exactly his own way anyway. It wasn't always a calm household latterly. It could be like WWIII and often he was entirely to blame. Talk about communication!

And one of the main bones of contention was soup.

And silly me, I tried to mediate about it.

Alistair, Ambassador of Soup!

Now, they both approached housekeeping from completely different ends of the spectrum. Actually they approached housekeeping from different galaxies! But that would never have been an issue if there had not been a change in dynamics when Dad took over the day to day running of things due to Mums sight problems.

Mum was canny with money as, to be honest, we never had much around when I was growing up. She was never a particularly good or a confident cook either, and those two things I believe, were always uppermost in her mind when it came to shopping. So, she would carefully plan out what was on the menu, for how many, and would buy and prepare accordingly. Especially prepare. To her to have over bought and more critically to have over produced was a cardinal sin. We were never hungry, nothing like that, but Mum could make an entire meal and have absolutely just the perfect amount of every ingredient on the plate. Not a spare carrot, pea or potato, no extra helping of pudding. Nothing. Nothing was wasted because there was nothing to waste. Stuffed bairns and no waste. In her mind, that equalled perfection.

Now Paw, he came from a very different school of thought.

Granny R was a talented and prodigious cook, baker et al. She was often able to turn the humblest of fare into a feast.
{ She could also turn a wee boys stomach on one particular child unfriendly recipe, but that's for another post all together ! }
So Dad was brought up to understand that where there was any extra production it could be recycled. There were endless possibilities for the creative mind: Stews, curries, rissoles, fry ups, sandwiches, pasta dishes, sauces, salads.

And of course, there was soup.

Now also lets just remind ourselves, here and now, in fairness to Maw, that although Dad had been exposed to and experienced all that creativeness growing up, that was no guarantee or indication even, of his ability to do the same, and especially to the same kind of quality. But he had the ideas.

Boy, did he have the ideas......

So budgeting and buying volume was a secondary concern to Paw when he was unleashed onto the grocery world. By that time, financial restraints too had become a thing of the distant past and his mind fair burst with ideas and concoctions. He was eager,he was creative, he was dynamic, he was out of control.

He was often just plain bonkers!

Plain eating Maw was subjected to the very best and the worst of his culinary expeditions. And when he got it wrong she was often minded to tell him in ways that would leave him in no doubt that she was unimpressed. She believed firmly that she had to be like that, to get through to Dad. She was wrong. Didn't make a blind bit of difference. Paw was an optimist. He thought that just because he had not quite been successful today didn't mean that a wee bit o' experimentation tomorrow wisnae gaunny work.

And if there were left overs;

Well he began to make soup.

Another can o' worms.

Mum liked simple soups. She was a good soup maker herself. As usual it was all carefully planned, costed and produced. No waste. She liked simple tastes too, vegetable, cream of chicken, Cauliflower, scotch broth etc, not too thick but not too thin.
Dad liked good hearty soup. Filling and substantial, thick almost to the extent of the old spoon standing comment. Chunky. Very chunky. Even I asked sometimes if he could really tell the difference between soup and stew.

A good soup, and to be fair to him too, he could make several great soups consistently, was produced by the gallon. For two of them. To his preferred consistency. Sometimes, he could be persuaded to thin it a little, but sometimes not.
He would have it two days running. Mum liked a change. He would freeze the leftovers for later use. Mum didn't trust freezers. More accurately Mum didn't trust Dad and freezers so she resisted the temptation to have his frozen soup at every opportunity

Being the optimist, Dad believed that if a soup wasn't quite working out to plan it could be improved by adding just another ingredient. If that didn't work, then he would try ANOTHER ingredient and so on. If at the end of the day he wasn't quite happy with the result, he would freeze the lot while he searched for inspiration. I don't think he ever threw anything away.

The soup situation was often fraught.
I tried to mediate. And failed miserably.

The usual situation of course. Caught walking into just the worst argument about absolutely hee haw of importance and manfully, dutifully, sensibly even, trying to bring calm and reason to the situation so that it could be dealt with like adults. After all, these are your parents you say to yourself.

'Couldn't we just agree that to argue over a pot of soup was just a wee bit ridiculous, ha ha he he............'

Ended up being mauled by both sides, made to feel completely partisan for not taking one side or the other when it was { obviously} perfectly clear that not taking a side meant that each of them thought I agreed with the other!

Crivens, Jings and Help ma Boab!

I think at one point I may even have phoned my solicitor brother to ask for advice or it may just have been to talk to another sane adult.

Eventually, they tired and I was able to mediate through the means of hot tea and a biscuit. As I didn't visit all that often due to distance, things even became affable, jocular, but definitely calmer. Temperature taken and meltdown receded. Phew!

I looked in the freezer and it was overflowing of carefully packaged,labelled, dated and star rated for quality, tubs of soup. There was a pot on the stove just made and one from yesterday that couldn't be frozen and stored due to lack of space.

" Look Dad, Let me take some of these soups back up the road for me and the lovely G. That would help wouldn't it? You know how G loves your soup!!"

And so it was agreed.

Of course on every visit after that I had to take at least half a dozen, and sometimes double that, portions of soup out of the freezer and take them back home. Even after Mum was gone, I always checked the freezer and did the good thing, happy that soup making was keeping him active and interested as well as making sure he always had something warm to eat at his fingertips. He would rummage through the freezer and tell me back over his shoulder what he was willing to part with and we would laugh, long and loud, about the sometimes odd and bizarre concoctions.

A funny thing, soup

Soup was the last thing I ever took from his house.

Apart from that last time and an odd few tubs of the good stuff I would stop in a lay by and put the still frozen cartons into a bin at the side of the road, wondering what on earth the binmen might think if they were found as the bin was emptied.

After all, I have a freezer full of soup at home.

Make it myself ye ken.........

Just like Paw taught me...........

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Sorry, all you guys in the Royal Mail........




Hullo ma wee blog,

I came home this afternoon having been at a training day for childrens hearings. The legislation for freeing up children for adoption has changed and to be able to continue to sit on hearings all members have to attend compulsory training.

On arrival there was a pile of mail behind the door.

Mail is erratic just now due to the Royal Mail workers taking sporadic industrial action in pursuit of something which has passed me by. But then again, other than the odd letter to Job Center plus or a birthday card I never use the Royal Mail anymore these days.

Maybe that's why they're taking industrial action!

{Actually, as its the Royal Mail your Majesty, could I ask you to nip round there and sort it out cos you have been letting the side down for years. Its not on. Its not good enough! Its not very British! Would never have happened in your Dads day...}

But as usual, here I am going off at tangents.



One of the wee white envelopes didn't contain a bill or another of those bloody annoying letters advising me that I have definitely won £20,000 first prize in a prize draw that I have never entered, and it will be sent to me without delay as long as I complete the enclosed order form for complete shit and send it back WITHOUT DELAY, otherwise Mr R, you may forfeit your prize.

No, one of the letters contained the decision for my stage two company appeal against unfair redundancy dismissal.

AND THE DECISION WAS.........

you're fired!.

Surprise, Surprise - as Cilla Black used to say.

So what?

Tell me something I didn't know!

Actually my very nice employment law solicitor e-mailed me yesterday to say that she has had independently calculated the estimated pension loss over the next 10 years {which is the minimum time it would have been running} as £173,000 and could I get back to her with details of my monthly earnings, private health care, company car value, profit share, shares allocations ,fuel benefit and any other costs I can think of as soon as possible as the company have been in touch with ACAS to initiate investigation into an out of court settlement.

Not that I would get anything like that, only the teensiest fraction of that total due to the way the law is around maximum compensation for unfair dismissal loss in the UK.

Still.....

Its one form that I am going to fill in.

Think it might be safer to e-mail it though.

Sorry, all you guys in the Royal Mail!

see you later.

Listening to Stevie Nicks, 'Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You'

Friday, 9 October 2009

Shame on you, you Muppets!.....





Hullo ma wee blog,
As a treat from the slog of prep for the job interview I have awarded myself a day off from job hunting and have spent a calm hour or two surfing the world of blog away from those interesting and knowledgeable souls I follow -sook, sook...{see previous post ' glossary' for translation if needed}

I found myself becoming increasingly annoyed. { not like me, eh! } I seemed to come across blogs by a number of ex-pats living abroad and a common theme was of panning those parts of British society or politics that should be changed, improved or abolished in their opinion. A regret for things past, erosion of values or whatever. And so, they appear to have moved abroad to establish or to join a better 'little britain' in their part of Spain or France or New Zealand or where ever.

I call it the 'Culture Del Costa'

At some time in the future the lovely G and I plan to live, at least part of the time, in France. But its not about escaping from the ills of Britain and British society, or even the weather. Its a feeling of empathy with French culture and values. To allow us to experience, share and enjoy that. I could never fully leave Scotland. Its home and I am part of it. I could never lose it and I could never give it up. Its far too precious to me for Gods sake.

But I also dont want to clone Britain abroad into sunnier weather. God Forbid!

I always said that if we ever went to Spain I would never go to the Costa del Sol. Even from the safe distance of home it was in my mind the little britain enclave, home of ex-pats seeking a cheaper perpetually sunny britain by the sea.
Unfortunately, for reasons I dont remember, when we did go to Spain, that's exactly where we found ourselves.

It was dreadful. Full of British accents, screeching, demanding, complaining, British Sky TV advertised from the bars, English Beer, all day full English breakfasts, M+S, fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, sunday roasts. In the place where we were never a bit of Spanish except an overheard conversation between locals or hotel workers, seemingly quietly spoken in case their transgressions should offend the ears of the master race.

We quickly left that behind and spent our days travelling by hire car to small towns and villages where we could experience some of the local life. Our experience and our holiday was all the better for it. After that anytime we have been to Spain, or indeed Portugal we have rented a house. IN Spain. Properly.

We had a sometimes lovely and sometimes uncomfortable holiday with relatives a few years back who joined us at one of our rented villas in a beautiful valley but felt isolated and wanted to be nearer the Brits. We got on really well except for that and I remember how joyfully was described a 'proper British meal in a proper British Pub run by proper British people'. I think I got a dig in the ribs from my lovely G when under my breath I asked,

"Was it luverlee?"

I found the same attitudes today on my blog hunt.

If you really want to change things, then come back and do it from here. If all you really want to do is winge, then we are so much better off without you and I'm deeply sorry and apologetic to the people who's country you have chosen to pollute with your small mindedness, lack of insight and appreciation of their culture, history and lives.

Your an absolute bloody embarrasment.

Please shut your faces and keep them shut.

Oh and chopping off your typing fingers would be much appreciated too.

See ya!

Wouldn't wanna BE ya!


see you later............

And to calm me down....

Listening to Yann Tierson....'Comptine une Autre Ete'.

I really enjoyed the images which go with this too. I wish my photgraphy was as personal and inspirational.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbyeeeee.......





Hullo ma wee blog,


Aye, weel thats me finished all the preparation for my job interview tomorrow at 9.30am.

I,m told it will last an hour and I have to give a short 7 minute presentation on 'what factors you would take into consideration in forming a view as to the level of risk an offender may pose to the general public'

while I am a bit nervous I am actually looking forward to it. That will probably change in the morning.

Still, I'll give it my best shot.

Wonder if I'll sleep tonight.....

Listening to The Flaming Lips......'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots'

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

You know, its never going to happen....




Hullo ma wee blog,


6am and I'm back again.

Sleep has given me a very effective body swerve tonight and no matter how I try its just not going to happen...

Ah well.

{Sings}
It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me and I'm feeling good.......

Dum, da dum,da dum,da dum, da......

Aye, right!

see you later.......

Life, the universe and everything......




Hullo ma wee blog,

Aye, still up 4.20am.

Been scurrying through some of my favourite music to try and calm the demons while considering life, the universe and everything.

Would you like to listen?

Jon and Vangelis. Memories of years past. I really enjoy this usually with the sound up, headphones on and the lights down low. And a nice brandy seems to help it along sometimes but not at this time of the day......

Sometimes when thoughts are full of feeling I like to hide in fact. Maybe thats why I
I loved this piece from the moment I heard it.



And you may have noticed I'm a Monty Python fan.

You know what the Monty Python boys say.......



'Nobody expects The Spanish Inquisition!'

Goodnight, God bless and may your God go with you - as one of my favourite comedians used to say.

Sorry been a bit maudlin tonight. Will try to be more upbeat next time perhaps.......

see you later........

Sometimes, not often........





Hullo ma wee blog,

2.30am. A wee single malt whisky. Coffee. Music.

Sometimes, not often, after a particularly difficult session at the Childrens Panels I find myself tossing and turning during the night, mulling over the situations that kids sometimes find themselves in and how on earth they are expected to cope.

A case today, a child abused and trying to make sense in a situation which I have no experience of, surrounded by people trying genuinely to help but a child, a young adult, unable to see the way, to trust. A wee soul, lost, hurting and damaged. So much potential at risk of never coming to light. And that damage done, like a stone dropped in a pond, rippling out to touch, affect and damage others too, their ability to help, to understand, sometimes even to believe that such a thing has/can/is happening to a loved one.

And how can an adult exploit a situation like that in such a dreadful way.

Why is life sometimes so beautiful and sometimes so terrible.....

Please - take care of your kids.

listening to Hazel O'Connor, 'Will you'

Monday, 5 October 2009

ow....OW!..Oyah!.AWLL!..AYAH!......JINGS!


Penguins. L'Oro Parque, Tenerife

Hullo ma wee blog,

It went like this.........

I had been in the kitchen, at my usual spot at the table, for a few hours working on prep for the dreaded interview when I realised that I was really, REALLY cold.

'Absolutely baltic' as we would say in these pairts.

I had been engrossed and not felt the cold creep in. We have had fairly mild weather until now and as we are on LPG, not mains gas and its quite expensive, haven't yet put on the central heating. This weekend with gales and albeit a sunny Sunday, it got cold as it got dark. Our kitchen has three outside walls, as does the lounge, and these rooms can become either warm or cold in a short time and this usually leads to us reaching for the heating controls or at the least some woolly jumpers and thicker socks.

As it was getting late I went through to the lounge where the lovely G was watching some telly. I said I was freezing and was going up to bed with a reference book on childrens hearings. { I need to look at criteria for appointing legal reps as I have a case to consider where I think this is an option.} She smiled and said she would be up shortly as her programme only had a few minutes to go.

20 minutes later I was still shivering in bed - on my own.

I am normally very warm blooded.

{The lovely G says that whales don't feel the cold!}

One of my most favourite things, sad to say, is getting into a nice cold bed. For me, its absolute luxury to stretch out in a nice cold bed, clean sheets around me and within seconds I am warm and cosy. Most evenings I will deliberately get into G's side of the bed for a few seconds and shuffle over when she gets in so she gets a nice warm bed. Cold beds are way down her list of favourites.

But it is highly unusual for me still to be cold after more than a few moments.

The lovely G's voice came floating through into the bedroom where I was determinedly trying not to shiver as I held my book.
'Can you come through here for a second?'.
I grumbled to myself and ignored her.
Her face appeared at the edge of the bedroom door.
"I said, can you come here for a second?"
She knitted her brows together as I turned and made a face which said
'I'd rather not to be honest,thanks'

'I'm freezing! I said pathetically.

" For goodness sake! It wont take a second.' Less than sympathy in the voice.

Her face disappeared........

I made a face behind her and harrumphed in a husbandly kind of way as I grudgingly heaved myself toward a reluctant exit. The bed, cold until then, seemed to have become distinctly warmer in the seconds since she had made the demand.

Seconds later I was standing beside her in the bedroom next to ours, consciously shivering to remind her of the mistreatment, neglect even, she was heaping upon my poor weak person.

How could any loving wife be so unfeeling?

I stood and looked at the baby clothes she had bought for the latest arrival courtesy of one of our friends -

{ Welcome Jacob, 8lb2oz, fit and healthy.}

- and oohed and aahed appropriately until her body language suggested that I could risk it and depart back to my waiting warm {?} bed. The lack of abuse or worse told me that I had judged it perfectly, so with a softly satisfied groan I climbed back under the duvet.

Absolutely bloody freezin'.

AGAIN!.

I measure how cold I am by my back. If I ever get a cold feeling in the middle of my back, between my shoulder blades, I am absolutely, seriously freezin cold and its time to get my back against a hot radiator, or warm fire etc. Its the last place of my body that I recognise as getting cold and when that happens its time for shutdown and concentrating on nothing other than making that hated feeling go away.

Thats just how I was feeling.

No way was I capable of trying to heat up G's side of the bed.

Not a chance.......

The lovely G, ablutions complete, arrived in the bedroom and looked pointedly at her side of the bed as she prepared to get in. I looked back. Surely she didn't think I had been across that side of our bed tonight?.

She got in, grimaced, and scooted over towards me. She gave me a hug. She felt warm. I sighed contentedly and moved in for a serious cuddle only to find she was moving back slightly. Something touched me.

In a deeply personal place.

"OW!......"

"JESUS, JACK AND JEHOVAH!!!!!"

"WHAT THE BLOOMIN HECK IS THAT. ITS FREEZIN."

The objects are withdrawn. The pain, the agony, palpably subsides.

{Sympathetic soundtrack please.}

{Erm, for me. NOT HER.}

a small voice.

"Its my feet. I'm so cold."

"Can I?" a little smile.

AAHYA!!!!!!

No! You bloomin cant!

I push her feet away several times as they try repeatedly to re-engage with my tortured flesh. If she is not careful I'm going to get freezer burn off her.

Eventually she stops and I can let out a sigh of relief. I,m still freezing. I pull the duvet tight to my neck and try to make myself small in the bed to help start a core of heat somewhere deep inside.

I look at her.

Her hair is spread across the pillow. Huge eyes are looking at me. Her lips are closed tight and one bright glistening silver tear is rolling down her cheek from the eye closest to the pillow.

a small voice. Childlike. Pleading. Fragile.

"I'm so cold."

I look back at her.

" You cant seriously be crying because you're cold and I wont let you put your freezing cold plates of meat on my poor suffering thighs?. For goodness sake.! That's not fair!"

a small voice.

"I'm sooo cooold!!!"

Aw. Naw....

"You ALWAYS let me put my feet on you"

AW. NAW.

"I'm so cold"

sniff......

SNIFF.........

crivens, jings and help ma boab.

"Aye. Ok then."

I brace myself.

Oh!


SHIIIIIIIIITTTT..............!


Listening to... Jason Mraz, 'I'm yours'


see you later.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Its a Beautiful day.............




Hullo there ma wee blog,

Its such a different day from yesterday when there were the first of the real gales coming in off the sea. The first real taste of the coming Winter so far. Trees in the garden were wrestled backwards and forwards and most of the remaining apples torn from their grasp leaving only a few stubborn signs of plenty behind. An overdue reminder that me and my wee hessian sack should have been active before now.

As the lovely G had a rare Saturday off work we decided we would go to Edinburgh to begin the search for a new car for her. Her current car, the first she has ever owned just herself, is now almost vintage and although much loved is at the stage where the advice of our trusted mechanic was a salutary and refreshingly honest " If you bring her to me again I'm afraid its going to cost a lot of money to do what really needs to be done to keep her safe for another year "

And so we set off down the drive under the thrashing branches of the old pear tree and through a village wisely devoid of pedestrians and small children on bikes. As we leave the village the road crests a small hill and the sea is laid out before us. Its one of those seminal views for me and I look forward with anticipation to it every time I am in the car.

To me the sea always seems to reflect life in all its changing, complex ways and yesterday that life must have been in turmoil. The sea was a patchwork of vicious dark and emerald greens, heaving with thousands of white horses as far as the eye could see, a container ship in the distance the only sign of life. The road joins the sea near us for a mile or so side by side and we often can watch some hardy souls surfing.

{ Believe me, to surf in Scotland you have to be hardy! }

Today though there was not a soul and waves, perfect for surfing, crashed onto the beach completely unattended, slapping, angry and inconsolable, onto the sand in a petulant strop for needlessly having gone to all that trouble. Buffeted by the wind the car occasionally shook and shimmied on the road as we headed into town. Leaves, brown and gold flecks in the wind streaked horizontally across our view.

We both agreed that after we had done what we set out to do, to check out if the governments scrappage scheme of £2000 towards a new car is better value than considering a fairly new second hand one, { Its not is our considered opinion now by the way } we would return home for what we have come to call a 'duvet day', firmly ensconced in the house together with a few good films and some munchies, a bottle of wine perhaps and a cuddle, sometimes literally, but not today, under a duvet brought to the lounge.

And that was how we passed the day yesterday......

This morning I left my lovely G warm and cosy under the duvet and crept downstairs about 7.15am for a coffee and a catch up with the blogs I follow and to have a wee bit of me time continuing the prep for the job interview this week. The weather is a complete transformation to yesterday. Calm, sunny, clear and bright sky. One of those days which fills you with optimism rather than the kind of awe and wonder that it inspired yesterday. A quick trip for breakfast croissants was like a journey through a completely different part of the world, full of life and people going about their day to day business, the sound of a village on a Sunday morning. The sea is glass, and the water seems to be tickling the beach so gently compared to the onslaught of the storm just a few short hours ago. The sun is warm on my face and the weather is a lady today, polite and considerate, revealing nothing of the stormy temptress within that benign exterior.

Its a day to be out and about. Just a moment or two to enjoy, before autumn continues is short hike to winter..............

see you later.

Listening to.........this.

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