Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

It's Got To Be Purr-fect


Hullo ma wee blog,

It's late. 

I'm cold and I’m tired. This isn’t surprising since it’s silly o’clock in the morning and the house has been quiet for hours, soon after My Lovely G had come to kiss me goodnight, yawn and make her way upstairs to bed, taking time to perform her nightly ablutions before switching off the lights in the hall and closing the bedroom door, leaving me to follow on behind when I feel I'm tired enough to make sleep a possibility. In the past weeks I've tried every combination and convolution of routine in trying to find a way to get a decent night's sleep. Despite this, I've not found a consistent solution to the problem. Eventually, to avoid waking my lovely G with my constant tossing and turning, I've resorted to staying up until tiredness hits me. Sometimes, that's four a.m. Tonight it's a little better.


Several hours have passed since G went upstairs and eventually weariness has begun to set in making me think that perhaps I should head upstairs and try to get some rest. I close down the computer, get up from my chair, collecting the coffee cup from earlier in the evening as I go, and head towards the kitchen where I rinse the cup and leave it on the draining board to dry before going to the utility room to spend a moment or two saying goodnight to a sleepy Jess who is warm and comfortable in her basket. She purrs loudly in response to my hand on her shoulder and neck and watches me with large eyes as I massage her for a second or two while I murmur goodnight sleepily at her. After a few moments I turn away towards the door but before I get there a plaintive meow follows. I turn back to find Jess, now fully awake, is in the process of stretching and rising to a seated position. Seeing she has my attention she meows again more forcefully. Clearly she wants to come with me. I hesitate, worried that if she comes upstairs now she's awake she'll be disruptive and need to be brought back downstairs which in turn will disrupt me from any chance of sleep, but decide despite that to take her with me. I give her a look that I hope shows my concern by way of a warning in the hope of good behaviour and say, "Aye, okay." I pull the door open and stand aside as she struts along the edge of the work surface with her tail held up in triumph before jumping down to land lightly at my feet. She takes a few steps towards the door into the hall and sits politely down to wait as I close the utility room door behind me and reach towards the light switch. As I open the hall door she slips through before me and heads towards the stairs, pausing momentarily to look back at me as if for permission, before she begins to climb. I close the door quietly behind me and follow on, switching off the light downstairs as I go.


Jess sits waiting facing the bedroom door as I climb the stairs. Despite the look she gives me that clearly says she feels she's been patient enough, I turn away from her and head towards the bathroom. After a few minutes of tooth brushing I'm ready and head back towards the bedroom. Jess is still there, although now she's facing towards me and has her back to the bedroom door. "If only cats could frown" comes to mind as I walk towards her. I give one final look to warn/beg for good behaviour as I open the door and once again she slips ahead of me into the darkness. I hear a sound, a small puff of air that tells me she's lept up onto the bed beside My Lovely G as I walk round to my side of the bed peeling off T-shirt and trousers before eventually climbing under the duvet. I pull it up across my shoulder and sigh with contentment, realising that sleep is a real possibility.


Instinctively when I go to bed I reach towards my lovely G and usually spend a few minutes caressing her back, shoulders or hips and tonight is no exception, even at this late hour. Touching her reminds me how cold I really am. I'm absolutely freezing. Tonight, my roaming hand also serves to raise a groan from the sleeping silhouette beside me and she turns towards me, reaching out to clasp and pull me towards her. She holds me to her skin in a burning embrace that instantly begins to force heat into my body. It feels incredible. She takes a deep breath, sighs contentedly and kisses my cheek. Her hand presses against my shoulder indicating that I should turn around, and as I do so she slips closer behind me and I'm held by a gentle arm across my waist. The heat of her pours into me and the cold slips out. I groan in deep satisfaction and, as the heat penetrates, I feel myself almost literally fall backwards towards sleep. 

I feel Jess gently (for once) move across my legs and up towards my chest. She sits momentarily before collapsing softly against me and I begin to feel her heat seep through the duvet and chase the last vestiges of cold from my chest. 

I smile as she begins to purr. This time, I know I'll be joining her shortly.

Purrfect........

See you later. 

Listening to:

Monday, 29 August 2011

For You dbs.......

Sometimes - you get an impression of someone.


Hullo ma wee blog,


Seems like blogger pal dbs has a problem. He's got too many apples and is struggling to know what to do with them. While this may not solve the problem entirely, I hope it goes some way to making the solution that more enjoyable. If I have you sussed out properly - and I think I do, this may make quite a dent in the problem. 

THREE-MINUTE PASTRY.  

This farmhouse pastry method was taught to me by my wifes's Aunt {and Godmother} in Switzerland who uses it to make the most incredibly delicious tarts {called 'dunne' doon-eh} which we love. There's no need for any of the ingredients to be chilled or to go into the fridge at any time and the speed of making the pastry is breathtaking for a completely hand-made pastry which is used raw without any need for baking 'blind'. While it's ideal for these little tarts, giving a really crisp thin pastry shell for them, I wouldn't use it for tarts where the filling ingredients are really wet. The secret of success is that the whole should be light and flavoursome with a perfectly cooked filling and an extra thin crisp base which cooks quickly in a hot oven. To help this, the liquid mixture should be applied sparingly, poured over all the filling but still barely covering the base for fruit - which makes the fruit the star of the show - and a bit more generously for a savoury filling like cheese which would burn unless there is some protection from the liquid content. These are so easy to make and so quick, that I'm sure a wee bit of experimentation will be only too easy to do.


Take 55 grams of butter or margarine. Melt gently in a pan.
Add 100 mils of water and a pinch of salt.
Add 200 grams of sifted plain flour. 

Method. 

Stir until the dry and wet ingredients are thoroughly but barely combined. I know this sounds odd but just don't over-work it......

Remove the dough from the pan and press together in a rough ball but do not knead.

Wrap in cling film and leave aside for a minimum two hrs but preferably 6-8 hrs at room temperature 

Once the dough has rested, unwrap and divide into two.

Without kneading roll out each portion into a thin disk sufficient to fill an eight inch tart tin. (ungreased) Don't worry if it tears - this is the ideal pastry for any beginner and is very forgiving - just use any excess to patch any areas of concern. 

Believe it or not - that's the hard part done!


Prepare filling.


Take half a cup of single cream and add one egg and beat together along with one teaspoon of cornflour (cornstarch) dissolved in some more single cream.
Slice the fruit of your choice e.g. Apple, pear or any fruit you fancy into thin or medium slices and arrange neatly in the pastry case. (Unripe or ’sharp’ fruit may need some sugar added before cooking and a wee touch as served) 
Carefully pour over the cream mixture – do not flood the pastry case, use minimum liquid needed to provide a thin layer on the bottom of the pastry case.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 220 degrees. 

This is an odd pastry which is ideal for these small tarts. As well as the sweet fruit tarts, the base is also ideal for savoury fillings such as cheese – I use Gruyère – or cheese, ham and leek. Whatever the filling, these tarts are best made with only a shallow filling that helps the pastry to cook quickly enough in a hot oven so that it doesn’t become soggy once the cream/egg mixture has been added. The pastry may shrink away from the edges of the tin, but that's okay. After all, we're just making something to eat, not something for show.

The sweet tarts are ideal served at room temperature and to be honest I just serve it with some of that really cheap aerosol cream, but lightly whipped fresh cream would be perfect.

 And that's just hard as it gets.

So, dbs, I hope that solves some of the problems you've got with your rather bountiful harvest at present. I don't suppose for a second that will use up all the apples, but these little tarts taste so good and are so easy to make that I'm sure you and the family will really enjoy them and that should get rid of a lot of those apples!

Let me know how you get on.
p.s. They're not fattening until you eat them - so why not give some away????

dbs' highly addictive wee blog can be found here.

See you later.

Listening to:

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Death of a Prince – Bonnie Prince Charlie



On the south bank of the River Arno in Florence, on a quiet corner of the Via Mazetta in the Piazza Santo Spirito stands the Palazzo Guadagni. This sixteenth century building is lost amongst Florence's incredible Renaissance architecture and most tourists generally pass it by. If like me you're fascinated by Scots history, it's worth paying attention to.  Behind these thick walls and huge wooden doors far from home the Jacobite dream finally ended. Here, Charles Edward Stuart fought and lost his last battles to be recognised as King of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. Here too took place a squalid, violent and chaotic marriage with his beautiful and vivacious young wife, Louise de Stolberg.

The marriage of Charles Stuart and Louise was a disaster right from the start. He married for a male heir she never produced; she for a kingdom he would never deliver. He was arrogant and authoritarian with an unshakeable belief in his right to the throne of Britain: she was vivacious, restless and sociable. Demoralised by failure, exile and constant diplomatic and social snubs over the years Charles became embroiled in alcoholism, his health failed and he wallowed in increasing self-pity. Louise would come to despise and then punish him by taking a string of lovers, one of whom – the well-known poet Vittorio Alfieri – she eloped with.



For six years between 1774 and 1780, in private inside the Palazzo Guadagni, and outside in public, Charles and Louise mauled each other with viciousness beyond belief. Florentine society gossiped and sniggered while they watched the marriage to disintegrate in disgrace and spies working for the British government charted and cheerfully reported the downward spiral of the relationship in all its happy detail.

An incredibly romantic and heroic figure in popular Scots history, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ as Charles Edward Stuart is perhaps best known, is best remembered for his ‘so near and yet so far’ exploits during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 and particularly his flight across the Highlands and Islands after the Battle of Culloden; the tale of Flora MacDonald and the loyalty of the Jacobite clansmen who fought for him. History books often lead us to believe that the story ends there but he still had another 42 years to live. History also forgets he was incredibly right wing, highly conservative and with a staunch belief in his right to absolute rule and it's also conveniently forgotten he was sponsored and manipulated by tyrants for their own political agenda.

 The end of his life was far from romantic, sentimental or heroic.
Louise de Stolberg

In those 42 years though, he never stopped plotting and scheming. He never stopped lobbying European powers to return the house of Stuart to the British throne from which his grandfather, James VII of Scotland and II of England had been driven into exile in 1688.

 Loyal followers of King James were known as ‘Jacobites’ from the Latin for James and after 1745, while his father continued to remain in Rome under the protection of the Pope, Charles stayed in France because the King Louis was his most likely ally. During this time Europe was involved in a struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism that placed France and Britain on opposing sides. The Jacobites therefore were initially highly influential and potentially very useful to France, although the failure of the 1745 Rebellion – mainly due to France's lack of support and Charles’ headstrong naïveté – had significantly reduced their influence with King Louis. By 1749 though  Louis finally lost patience with Charles and the Jacobites and had him move out of the city to Avignon where eventually the local archbishop also lost patience with this impulsive, headstrong ‘Prince of Scotland’. The political worth of the Stuarts had waned and they were now more of a tool in levering advantage in the politics of the day rather than a weapon to attack the throne of Britain.


For more than a decade Charles wandered around Europe plotting and scheming, taking time to father - by his mistress, Clementina Walkinshaw - a girl, Charlotte, his only known child – in October 1753. Always a heavy drinker, he became more and more reliant on alcohol to buoy his mood and perspective on the world.


Then, at the beginning of January 1766, Charles's father, James Stewart, the Old Pretender, died.

Charles declared himself King Charles III of England, Scotland and Ireland while equally swiftly the British royal house of Hanover acted to make sure that nobody else in Europe called him that. The situation in Europe had changed in the intervening years, the Jacobite cause had few advocates and with the exception of Spain and France, no European country wanted anything to do with the defeated and discredited Stuarts while the House of Hanover had ascended in its importance and influence. Charles though was undeterred and found himself rejuvenated. He moved to Rome hoping for recognition from the Vatican, where his brother Henry was a cardinal. Unsurprisingly considering the new political landscape, although the Pope had recognised Charles's father as King, the Vatican refused to recognise Charles in his place. Charles would never forgive the Pope or his cardinals and railed against them for the rest s life.

Charles was determined to play the King in exile, but was thwarted at every turn. He moved into his father's Palazzo in Rome but the Pope ordered the royal coat of arms above the gates removed. When some Jacobites amongst the Scots, Irish and English colleges in Rome began addressing Charles as the monarch they were banished from Rome. Rome and society treated Charles like he was just another aristocrat among many, and a minor one at that. They recognised him as the Count of Albany - never as King Charles III.

Clementina Walkinshaw

Even a pretend, or an unrecognised dynasty, needs heirs and Charles had dynastic ambitions but Clementina Walkinshaw was a commoner and therefore unsuitable to provide the next generation of Stuart royalty. In the early 1770's Charles began to search the European aristocracy for a suitable wife. He eventually he found one. Louise de Stolberg – Gedern, was the 19-year-old daughter of a minor German Princeling killed fighting for the Austrians in 1757. Suitably, she was even distantly related to the Bruce's through her mother's line. Reports came back that blonde, blue-eyed Louise had "a good figure, pretty face and excellent teeth and all the qualities which your Majesty can desire". Who could resist such a recommendation?

Some historians believe Louise to Stolberg was an innocent sacrificed to an older middle-aged drunkard but Louise probably knew what she was doing. She was well educated and calculating and Charles Stuart was a better catch than most of the minor royalty that would come knocking on her door and, even though it was a slim chance, he held the prospect of a Crown. The fact is she was very keen to marry him. They married in Paris, by proxy, on the 28th of March 1772 and then again in the flesh, on the seventeenth of April in the Marefoschi Palace, Macereta and proceeded to Rome where Charles's brother Henry organised a triumphal procession into the city for the "King of England" and his Queen. The crowds turned out in force to see Charles and his bride arrive in Rome where the couple set up court and began to live the life of European royalty, ‘receiving’guests at court, rarely venturing out to socialise with mere mortals. But in reality they were fooling themselves. The new Pope, Clement X I V, refused to recognise Charles as a King and although Roman aristocracy were happy enough to call on the "Count and Countess of Albany" they could not formally recognise them or address them in the way that Charles so desperately wanted . It must have been torture.

Cardinal Henry Stuart

As the diplomatic and social snubs continued, Charles grew  more depressed and morose and sought refuge in alcohol. By 1773, the Hanoverian spy Sir Horace Mann was reporting that Charles was ‘seldom sober and frequently commits the greatest disorders and his family’, reporting that Charles was drinking a dozen bottles of wine a day.. In those circumstances it is hardly surprising that an attractive, intelligent woman who had eye of many would eventually turn away from husband. Many young aristocrats of the day, doing the fashionable European tour, with pay court to Louise over the next several years, attracted by the glamour and notoriety of the Jacobites and the personality of the woman who had become named "Queen of hearts".

Charles in old age


By the start of 1774 Charles could suffer Rome and its insults no more so he moved his "court" to Florence. The reason for this is not clear because the Duke of Tuscany was just as hostile to Charles and the Stuarts as the Pope and had no intention of upsetting the British by welcoming The Pretender. Also, the British government's chief spy in Italy, Sir Horace Mann, lived only a few streets away from the Palazzo Gaudagni where Charles and his young wife set up residence and he ensured that the "Royal" household was well manned with spies who reported on all the comings and goings and the day to day machinations of the house.

If anything isolation of the family in Florence was even greater than in Rome. The Duke of Tuscany annoyed and embarrassed Charles by having his Royal coat of arms removed from above the box he used at the theatre. Only Jacobite exiles and beggars on the street gave Charles the recognition he felt he deserved. He led a strange existence becoming gradually more and more isolated and more and more demoralised which led to even greater depths of drunkenness and, as a result, even greater disapproval from the authorities in Florence and the Duke in particular. The strong physique of Charles's youth and disappeared as age and years of bad living took its toll. Now he was fat, breathless, his stomach was troubled and he could not control his belching and farting which became a constant source of embarrassment. His legs swelled until he had to be carried everywhere. Dropsy added to his already ample girth and he began to suffer from epileptic fits. Reports from this time describe Charles as vomiting in the corridors of the theatre and opera in plain sight of the general public. By now Louise had come to despise him and their communication deteriorated into bad tempered notes to each other. Their physical relationship seems to have stopped by this time and Louise pointedly threatened to advertise the fact. Despite Charles’s isolation and depression, Louise in contrast was still very much in favour and receiving numerous visitors. Charles was overcome by insecurity and jealousy and would not let her out of his sight. All routes to her rooms, except those that went through his own, were barricaded. It was at this point that Alfieri appeared in Louise's life and soon became her lover.

 The downward spiral of isolation of alcohol continued unabated and increasingly the Duke of Tuscany regarded him with horror and embarrassment. Eventually, he forbade members of Florentine aristocracy to visit Charles, which piled even more isolation onto him and fed his feelings of despair and bitterness. He had lost grip of his political life and his personal one too. It may be that this was the reason for the public disaster that was about to happen. The mounting tension between Charles and Louise exploded into violence on the thirtieth of November 1780. Charles had been drinking heavily and telling his often repeated stories about his escapades during the rebellion. A row developed which escalated beyond the usual raised voices into physical violence. Some say he attacked her, some say he was trying to rape her. Whatever was the literal truth, her screams brought dozens of servants rushing into her bedroom. All of them saw Charles assaulting his wife. The marriage was over.

Helped by Alfieri, Louise fled to a convent nearby. When Charles tried to gain access the Abbess refused to let him in and he stood screaming abuse from the street. Sometime later, supported by an armed guard provided by Cardinal Henry her brother-in-law, Louise left the convent for Rome and the protection of her brother-in-law. Charles and Louise never met again. Louise would spend the rest of her life with her lover until he died in 1803.

Charles tried to restore some dignity and respectability to the household in Palazzo Gaudagni by recognising and legitimising his daughter, Charlotte, by his mistress Clementina Walkinshaw and by inviting her to live with him in Florence. For some time her father was satisfied that she took her Royal duty seriously, insisting that servants and visitors address Charles as "Majesty" and herself as "Highness". She also treated the ailing pretender with a care and affection that his wife had never shown. Charles died, aged 67, in Rome in the early hours of the thirtieth of January 1788. His body was carried to the cathedral at Frascati to lie in state, bedecked in royal robes and with a replica of the English Crown on his head, the sceptre in one hand and the sword of state in the other. His brother the Cardinal said a requiem mass over him and then declared himself to be Henry IX, King of England, Scotland and Ireland.  This would never be recognised officially by the pope or any sovereign state.

Charles was buried in the cathedral at Frascati and later reinterred in St Peter's basilica in Rome beside his father and his brother.

His daughter, Charlotte, his only offspring, died of cancer of the liver a year after her father.

Louise Stuart nee de Stolberg died in 1824. She continued acting the part of Queen of England until she died.

Like the fortunes of the Jacobites, the Pallazzo Gaudagni faded over the years until it was a shadow of its former self. Now it has been restored and is a three star hotel. Its link with Scotland and the Royal House of Stuart is not mentioned on its website.

See you later.

Listening to:

The Sunday Post


The way it goes.
Reality isn't what it used to be,
I mutter gloomily
when I feel like Cortes on his peak in Darien
and then remember it wasn't Cortes at all
and feel more like him than ever.

Norman McCaig.
January 1979

Saturday, 27 August 2011

One day...



Hullo ma wee blog,

My Lovely G and I went to the cinema the other day. We went to see ‘One Day’, the film based on the book by David Nichols. We saw him at last year's Edinburgh Book Festival talking about this book which he had just completed and on the back of enjoying the evening we both read the book. I thought the book was really good. I thought the idea of using one repeating day the across some two decades to catalogue and tell the story of the relationship between a boy and a girl/ a man and a woman was a unique idea.

The book is partially set in Edinburgh, where the two main characters meet during the University time and then follows on elsewhere across the years and a relationship where they are emotionally never too far apart but never quite together in one of those familiar tales where teenage angst develops into adult confusion, longing and the fear of having let something incredible slip away as you settle for an uncomfortable friendship rather than risk losing someone you need and love.


It's always strange watching a film set somewhere so familiar, as the way a cinematographer will cut shots of individual places together can be confusing, almost annoying even, when you know the place so well yet watch characters stroll down a street, turn a corner and end up a couple of miles away, turned yet another corner and find themselves (in reality) back with they started. Of course that's not something that affects the majority of moviegoers, most of the time anyway.
One of the main benefits, having read the book, was that the film stayed very true to the structure, content and style of the book. This is probably due to the fact that Nichols himself wrote the adaption to screenplay which gave the whole a nice clarity and continuity with the book and especially the characters, which is unusual in a film of a book rather than the book of a film. I've often gone to see a film made from a book and been disappointed because the screen experience doesn't measure up to the imagination. While I love cinema, I also love what a good book can create in your imagination. The two aren't always compatible and lots of movies I've seen have left me feeling disappointed and sometimes cheated. I think that this continuity was really important in this film because the book is about character predominantly and the author's touch was retained in the screenplay. Despite that it's not a patch on the book.
This film isn't high art, it's entertainment. It's a decent story well told, well cast, filmed and produced but it's not going to win any Oscars. Anne Hathaway for example, right for the part as she may be, sometimes struggles to maintain an English accent. Despite this the film kept me engaged, entertained and just as importantly for my lovely G – awake. One difficulty is casting lead roles and expecting actors in their thirties to play an age range from 18 to 40. Belief is stretched just a little thin, particularly in the teenage years. It's been getting mixed reviews too.

I enjoyed it. But then again I did write in my blog profile that I'm becoming scarily fond of chick flicks but maybe it's an age thing!

I'd still recommend it.

See you later

Listening to:

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Courage beyond fear.



Hullo ma wee blog,

Sometimes things come unbidden to mind. Sometimes you've no idea what triggers memories and sometimes you know absolutely what the trigger is and yet it's not something you have any control over. For instance, I've written a lot about my Dad in the course of this blog, but even then you of course have hardly scratched the surface, because life's like that; it's complicated. I've written extensively about his time in the RAF during the Second World War where he served as tail gunner in Lancaster bombers. He was merely a tiny part of something enormous and yet it's interesting to realise that there are things out there, often much bigger things that somehow make you remember tiny details.


 Research for the 153 Squadron postings piqued my interest in the Second World War in general and RAF bomber command in particular. Nowadays, I watch a number of programs relating to World War II in the air. Some of them are good, some not so good, but often, details of remembrance come back to me. I watched a documentary about bomber command the other day and the programme contained interviews with surviving aircrew who flew in bombers, particularly Lancasters. Naturally, I found some of what was being said quite moving. Some of it triggered memories of conversations with my Dad. Tiny details and some significant things came back to me as I watched and listened to what these men were saying. Here are a couple of examples from the programme that particularly resonated.

video
Background/crew bale out/ tail gun position.


This section brought back a memory where Dad told me about the rear gun turret, how he'd had the Perspex panel in front of him removed to improve vision as when it was in place it was prone to icing up, reducing critical visibility. He also reminisced about donning the flying gear – rear gunners, due to the exposure to the cold, wore much more protective clothing than other aircrew. Dad remembered that he had been trained to put on this equipment slowly so he did not sweat. At 20,000 feet the temperature could plummet to minus 40 degrees C in the gun turret and this would cause residual sweat to freeze on the skin despite the layers of clothing protecting him.

video
area bombing/Cologne/aircrew/fears

The following section reminded me of when Dad spoke about training flights; evasive action was a key requirement for any operational crew and the ability to switch into evasive action smoothly and swiftly was an essential, potentially life-saving necessity. The corkscrew manoeuvre was practised again and again, often causing aircrew to be violently sick. It was this memory that Dad revealed when he explained what happened to him the very first time he had experienced ‘the corkscrew’. He described the terror of plunging downwards in a near vertical backwards position, how he had screamed until he ran out of breath only to vomit when the aircraft turned vertically upwards. This manoeuvre disorientated him for a few seconds until, having recovering his equilibrium, the aircraft was again pitched into a vertical dive and he vomited again. He remembered the disgusted ground crew back at base handing him a can of paraffin with which to clean up the resultant mess, which he did with a churning stomach. The manoeuvre, and the result, was practised over and over again. It was something Dad hated with a passion, particularly during night training flights when the disorientation was multiplied by the darkness.  Eventually he overcame the sickness but always feared the potential need to perform a maneuver like this in a congested night-time sky filled with other bombers
He also described training in low-level high-speed flying in similarly horrified terms, once with a pilot who was afterwards removed from duties due to being assessed as unbalanced and unsuitable for flying duties! (Dad recalled flying over water at such low levels that he screamed into his intercom that "if you go any f****** lower I’ll have my F*******  feet in the f****** water!")

video
The bomb run/flak/enemy fighters/corkscrewing/window


Needless to say, these things made me quite teary eyed, but I have to admit, they made me smile too. The overwhelming thought though was how on earth any of them managed to cope under these circumstances with what they were facing. Despite this, it's only a small part of the man I knew.

video
High density defenses/type of flak/Dresden


video


God – I miss the old bugger!

To read the full story of 153 Sqdn and their 1945 campaign diary in date order start here and follow through the dates by clicking 'newer posts'.


See you later.


Listening to;

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

TWO LETTERS.


Hullo ma wee blog,
On October the fourteenth 1964, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, was deposed by his rivals in the Soviet central committee. When his successor Leonid Brezhnev took over he found on the desk in his office a hand-written note and two sealed envelopes from the defeated predecessor. The note said, "Keep these letters safe and when things go wrong and you don't know what to do next, open the first letter. The next time things go wrong and there is no escape from disaster open the second letter." 

About a year into his new office the situation was precarious and Brezhnev was on the brink of political defeat. Having tried everything he knew and his advisers being unable to come up with any kind of solution, he was sitting at his desk when he remembered the note and letters from Khrushchev. In desperation he rifled through the drawers of the desk until he found the note. He re-read the note and tore open envelope one.

Inside was written two words, "BLAME ME".

He did, and miraculously this saved the political situation. 

Several years later another crisis loomed and he was again faced with complete disaster. Once more he remembered the advice from his predecessor and the resulting successful recovery and once again he retrieved the letter from his desk. With a smile he opened the letter and began to read. The letter said,

"Sit down and write two letters." 

See you later.

Listening to:

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Annie's Song.


Hullo ma wee blog,

Don't tell my lovely G, but I may have feelings for another woman. Don't worry, it's not what you might think, but I have to confess I do love Annie Lennox.


Over the last couple of weeks I have been suffering from terrible insomnia.  During my night time sojourns to the internet I've spent a lot of time listening to music on the laptop while I've either been reading or checking out the latest from the blogs I follow.



During that time I have rekindled my love affair with Annie Lennox, rather – with her voice. I've always loved the quality of her voice, which I feel has a rare perfection. I thought she had tremendous range and clarity and also I thoroughly enjoyed most of the music she was making at any time. She is a great singer/song-writer who can create some beautiful, intelligent lyrics. Oddly, for someone like me who loves live music and has been to numerous concerts over the years she's one performer I have never seen. She's often on my playlist through the night and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting old favourites as well as the more recent material from her. Her voice if anything, has grown richer over the years and I was struck once again by the beautiful clarity that she has. While her voice was always pure she now has a richness to it that could be lacking in the past. I occasionally felt that her voice was so pure that it would veer into a kind of brittle clarity that was cold and steely, perfect for some somgs but not for others. Despite that, her voice has always had such an alluring hold over me that I found her irresistible to listen to. As well as that voice and creativity, I appreciate her emotional intelligence, humanity and her political views.  She would be one of those welcome dinner guests you'd love to sit around a dinner table with and share a few glasses of wine with as the conversation flowed.

I hope you like these examples of what I have been trying - and probably failing - to explain adequately.



See you later.

The Sunday Post


{One of a series written in memoriam for his friend A K MacLeod. It follows on from last weeks Sunday Post}

Highland Funeral.

Over the dead man's house, over his landscape,
the frozen air was a scrawny psalm
I believed in, because it was pagan
as he was.

Into it the ministers voice
spread the pollution of bad beliefs.
The sanctimonious voice dwindled away
over the boring, beautiful sea.

The sea was boring, as grief is,
but beautiful, as grief is not.
Through beliefs dark ugliness I saw that beauty
because he would have.

And that darkened the ugliness... Can the dead
help? I say so. Because, a year later,
that sanctimonious voice is silent and the pagan
landscape is sacred in a new way.

Norman MacCaig
January 1977

Saturday, 20 August 2011

THE EDINBURGH TATTOO 2011.

Massed Bands.

Hullo ma wee blog,

Last night we went to see the Edinburgh Tattoo. This is one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Festival and is - I am reliably informed by My Lovely G - the worlds top tourist attraction and we love the festival in all its guises. Why not? And after all Edinburgh is only a short drive from the house.. She and I had been to the Tattoo about 20 years ago but had never been back. Last year, we gave my brother two prime tickets as a Christmas present and he invited one of my uncles, who had always wanted to see it, to go with him. They both enjoyed the show so much and were so enthusiastic in telling us about it that we decided that this year we should treat ourselves and go back.


We decided to go to the late show, which takes place on a Friday, starting at nine p.m., as it incudes a firework display over the castle as part of the finale. The show lasts for two hours and, as you would expect, is an incredible spectacle and is watched by a crowd of several thousand appreciative people. The weather was quite mixed across the show with a couple of showers of rain, which swirled in the wind around the stadium on the Castle Esplanade and made taking photographs difficult at times. Here though despite that, are a few photos I managed to take during the performance as well as a couple of video clips from You Tube showing this years performance.



The word "Tattoo" is derived from "Doe den tap toe", or just "tap toe" ("toe" is pronounced "too"), the Dutch for 'Last Orders' Translated literally, it means: "put the tap to", or "turn off the tap". The term "Tap-toe" was first encountered by the British Army when stationed in Flanders during the mid 18th Century. The British adopted the practice and it became a signal, played by a regiment's drums or pipes and drums each night to tavern owners to turn off the taps of their ale kegs so that the soldiers would retire to their lodgings at a reasonable hour. Later in the 18th century, the term Tattoo was used to describe not only the last duty call of the day, but also a ceremonial form of evening entertainment performed by Military musicians.
A lighter moment - visitors from Holland - and of course with bicycles

I can be fairly cynical about the way Scotland, or at least its tourist industry, choose to portay everything here as being tartan - and certainly when you come to something like the Edinburgh Tattoo you could be fooled into believing that Scotland is tartan from end to end. Despite that, we both had a fantastic night and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. Aye - and the tartan too!



The performances were flawless and the staging of the whole show was excellent. It is difficult not to be impressed with the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle against the evening sky, lit spectacularly and decked with flags flying in the breeze. Watching some 250 tartan clad, red coated, gleaming specimens of manhood marching up and down the Esplanade it was difficult for me with my interest in Scottish history not to think just for a wee moment or two about the reality of why Scots have been such a huge part of the British Army - a fact born out of huge adversity and manipulation. I thought too, about the tragic armed mutiny that took place right there on the esplanade when the Seaforth Highlanders turned against their officers and marched off down the Royal mile and out onto Arthur's seat where they took up defensive positions against their commanding officers who they believed had betrayed them and were about to send them to India to serve there. Something I posted about here.



All in all, it was a great spectacle and an event well worth going to see. I would recommend it to anyone. It's impossible not to feel moved as you watch nearly 300 bandsman marching and feel the wave of sound from all those pipes and drums. The live performances of military bands from the UK and around the world have always been a huge hit and sell out well in advance. The Tattoo runs throughout August. More than 250,000 people see The Royal Edinburgh Tattoo live each year and 100 million see it on television around the world.


Unforgettable!

See you later.

Listening to this:

Friday, 19 August 2011

Holding Back The Years.



Hullo ma wee blog,

I have an incredibly positive view of the generations that have gone before me in my family. To me it's something completely natural, born in love and nurtured through my childhood. I daresay some of it is incorrect, seen through the rose tinted glasses of others and myself over time. But it's important to me; helps keep me grounded knowing that I was secure in something good that has continuity from the past and continues today and onwards into the future.


I was made to reflect on that recently when I was watching a program on the BBC I-player. It was a documentary called "My father, the Nazi commandant" which told the story of a woman now in her mid-sixties who has had to come to terms and live with the realisation that her back story was false and that what she had accepted in her childish innocence was based on lies, half-truths, and denial. That would be hard enough for anyone to do but it was made more difficult because this woman had to do it in public after she was confronted with the story of her father's involvement in the mass murder of Polish Jews during World War II. The story was made famous in a film by Steven Spielberg called Schindler's list. Her father was Amon Goethe, the SS commandant of concentration camp Placzow in Kraków. The film was one whose chilling impact affected a generation of moviegoers and rightly earned a host of Oscars for its cast and crew. But a movie, no matter how chilling, is a fiction – an interpretation created for a specific purpose. For Monika, it forced her to confront and try to come to terms with a story in which she had been given a very different account of her father’s role. This would be difficult for anybody, but how much more difficult would it be to have to do this in an environment where there was enormous public interest and emotion about the story and the people involved and where the story concerned such inhumanity.


Monica had been born in 1945. She never met her father. Her mother was Goethe’s lover and as such was portrayed in the film, living with him in complacent luxury in the concentration camp while murder and brutality was the norm for its Jewish prisoners. By the time Monika was born her father was in a mental institution and her mother had returned home to her family to give birth. After the end of hostilities, her father was found in the mental institution and was later tried and executed for war crimes in 1946. Her mother always denied his involvement and ignored or perhaps even approved of the barbarity and the scale of the atrocities Goethe had committed and described him to her daughter only as a loyal soldier serving his country who had died during the war. This was the story that Monica grew up with and accepted without question for a large part of her childhood. It wasn't until she was older she came to realise that there was a great deal of tension between her mother and grandmother who shared her upbringing. This tension revolved around the story of Monika's birth and the circumstances that led to it and it didn't take long for the little girl to begin to ask questions about her father. Probably due to guilt and outright denial she was never given an honest picture of the man who was her father and in those days, in post-war Germany, people simply did not ask or talk about such things. Her father was just one of millions who had died serving his country and the young girl was told that terrible lies had been told about her father. Deliberately deceived by her mother, the child Monika ultimately came to accept that and it became part of the fabric of her being until confronted anew with the story told by Spielberg.

I can only imagine the guilt, anxiety, and turmoil that finding out a more accurate version of her fathers, and therefore her, story under those circumstances would bring and how difficult it must have been to even try to deal with that in the glare of publicity that undoubtedly surrounded her at that time. She had after all been brought up to love her father's memory and perhaps even idolised him in his absence. The impacts of finding that her existence and place in the world was based on a foundation of denial, lies and deliberate misrepresentation around such large scale human tragedy must have been immense and I have no idea how I would have coped with it. Over time, it seemed from the documentary, she did come to terms in some ways but of course in others she continued to struggle to understand and cope with the reality of her family history.

The documentary itself followed Monika, who had identified a survivor from the camp with detailed knowledge of her father as she had served as a child servant in the house of the commandant on camp during the time that her mother and a father had been together there. This woman, now living in America, agreed to an exchange of letters and ultimately agreed to take part in a filmed documentary of their meeting while they both visited the site of the camp. This would be the first time that Monika had seen the place – albeit now completely changed – where her father had committed the atrocities. It was also the first time the survivor had returned and she came accompanied by her daughter for support.


The documentary was careful to ensure that they did not interfere in the burgeoning understanding or lack of understanding and empathy from either party and in doing so I felt it left both these women, struggling with their own private demons, without much obvious support. The two ladies met for the very first time in front of a memorial to those who had died during the camps existence. It was clear to me that Monika struggled emotionally when confronted with the reality of  being there. The documentary continued with a tour of the house overlooking the camp which had been occupied by Goethe while at the camp. The two women were shown walking through the rooms together, each of confronting uncomfortable situations and thoughts. The camp survivor particularly described in harrowing detail the experiences she had suffered, including beatings, at the hands of Monika's father. She also described each room as it had been at the time and the kind of activities that took place; an opulent lifestyle in the midst of disgraceful misery. The lady was visibly greatly upset when she described the view from what had been her bedroom onto the roadway where each day her fellow prisoners were marched to work or to execution and also when the two women visited the balcony of Goethe’s lounge, from where each morning he would shoot one or two prisoners down in the camp. It was heartbreaking to consider the impact of such realities onto these two women, both of whom would always carry a terrible legacy with them.

I felt particularly sorry for Monika in one scene where she tried to describe how her father had been described to her as a child to this lady who had been through so much at his hands. It was clear to me that she was simply trying to describe how she had been misled and wanted the lady to understand that this had had an impact on her as a human being, and the kind of feelings of regret and guilt and shame that she felt, especially as she had been brought up to love her father. It was unfortunate that because of the emotional trauma of the meeting, especially in that place, that the lady could not understand why this woman had any shred of feeling other than disgust and hatred.

The documentary really affected me and made me think about how complicated, how unfair and obscene life can be and how a dreadful legacy canseep down through the years to touch people who deserve better in so many ways. While both women have families and lives and a future ahead of them, their pasts have been terribly marked in this entwined story of people generations,continents  and experiences apart. It's reaffirmed to me that history is people's lives and the connection with and understanding of our own personal history is important if we are to have any chance of understanding our place in the world and indeed, of having any hope of coping with what life may throw at us.


See you later.

Listening to;




EDINBURGH BOOK FESTIVAL 2011 – IAIN BANKS.


Hullo ma wee blog,

Last night was the first visit to the Edinburgh book Festival this year. As has become customary I took my brother-in-law, Tony, to see one of our favourite authors, the Scots writer of fiction and science fiction, Ian Banks, or Ian.M.Banks as he's known as in sci-fi circles. We've both seen Ian Banks at events several times over the years, usually here in Edinburgh. Tonight, Scotland’s first Minister, Alex Salmond, interviewed him. It's unusual to have such a well-known figure host the event and I hoped that it would make the evening even more special. Tony and I had arrived at the venue good time and managed to get seats in the front row only a few feet away from the action.

Alex started off his introduction to the session by admitting that he never fully read Ian's last sci-fi novel, but he also said that if anyone was going to ask questions on a topic he knew nothing about and hadn't thoroughly researched, then a politician was probably the best person to do it, given that this is what they do for a living, and with his vast experience he hoped he would be able to muddle through. He also admitted that due to an administrator error, both Ian and himself had actually been arranged and had attended the night before by mistake. Luckily, both he and Ian were available for tonight as well, although he had cancelled his attendance at the big football match in the city tonight. "Not," he said, "that this was a problem, as I am delighted to attend the book Festival event instead, despite my well-known support for the Edinburgh team playing tonight." He continued, "and I have assured the director of the festival that the unfortunate error will have no implications on the funding for next year's book Festival!"

His handling of the event over the next hour continued to be confident and affable as you would expect from a polished political performer, but it was obvious that he knew very little about Ian Banks, particularly his science-fiction writing. This did impact the flow somewhat but he did well to keep things moving on at a pace and to keep the tone light-hearted and focused on the author rather than himself. The evening usually follows a set agenda; an initial interview with the author, usually about his current or latest book, followed by an open mike question-and-answer session between the author and the audience.

As usual Ian Banks was highly animated, engaging and thoroughly entertaining. Throughout the questioning he wasn't averse to turning a question into an opportunity to explain his own left-wing political views and use these to have a good natured poke at Alex Salmond or the Scottish political scene. As Ian doesn't have a book launching currently it was a good opportunity, well taken by Alex Salmond, to have a much longer question and answer session which allowed the audience to take a full part in the evenings proceedings as well as cover-up his lack of background knowledge. This allowed many of the sci-fi fans in the audience to ask technical, or more detailed questions about various facets of his sci-fi writing (You know how some sci-fi readers can be right geeky so and so's) which seemed to go down well with the audience.

As is usual in these events the hour passed very quickly and soon we left the main hall and stepped out into one of those rainy Edinburgh evenings so typical of any Festival event. It was a grand way to spend an hour in the company of my brother-in-law and one of our favourite authors and left me looking forward to the next event, which is again something that's become customary – an evening with Ian Rankin, the well-known Scots crime writer, another cracking raconteur. Before then, tonight in fact, the Lovely G and I will be walking up to Edinburgh Castle and the spectacle that is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, something we've been to once before but many years ago. It's probably the number one tourist event in Scotland and runs to packed audiences every night during the International Festival.


I'm hoping for a clear night but I better look out the wet weather gear for us just in case!
I'll let you know how it goes.

See you later.

Listening to:

Thursday, 18 August 2011

HOW TO TRAIN MY DRAGON.



Hullo ma wee blog,

This may look like an ordinary blog. As you read it, it may even sound like an ordinary blog, but from this end of the laptop it's a different beast altogether. The reason for that is that this blog is being written without me even touching the keyboard in any way. I can absolutely promise you that my dainty little fingers have not been banging away in the usual four, five or six – fingered typing style in order to allow you to read this.
A few weeks ago I bought and installed a voice recognition system for the laptop which allows me – when connected to the laptop by a headset – to dictate speech into a microphone and have it translated into type automatically. It's taken me a while to get used to the system but now I've been using it for some time it's become used to the nuances of my speech patterns and so the words are typed as fast as I speak them.
Hopefully this will encourage me to do a bit more blogging although that hasn't happened this week as I've not been feeling particularly well. I have spent some time working with the word recognition system - which is called 'DragonSpeak' - and have used it to collate together lots of poems for future ‘Sunday Posts’. I've also spent some time reading up on background information on the series of blogs I want to do about " putting Scotland on the map" which I hope will mean that these can be posted a bit earlier than was possibly going to happen, at least if I was operating the laptop in the traditional way.
I do feel the voice recognition system is still a bit stilted and I'm not used to being so organised in my thoughts that I have everything prepared to just speak it out and have it land on the page fully formed. Hopefully though, that will come in time.
One thing is for sure; this has taken a fraction of the time it previously would have done even for this short post, if I had been typing it in the traditional manner. Although it's strange to hear your voice echoing in your head while you're sitting alone in front of the laptop, I hope I get used to it pretty quickly and become even faster in knocking out the odd blog post.

So, that's the news for just now.

Isn't technology wonderful!
See you later.

Listening to;

Monday, 15 August 2011

Insomniacle Me



Hullo ma wee blog,

Another sleepless night. The insomnia which has come and gone over the years has come again recently and I spent all of last night wishing I could get to sleep, either from the duvet wrapped depths of my bed or from the sofa in the lounge or the comfy chair in the library.

It's one of the worst feelings I've experienced, being dog tired and yet being unable to sleep. When I'm in one of these periods I often find myself resenting the fact that I get tired, hating the torture of knowing that no matter how knackered I'm feeling that the bed is just a temptation and won't give me the rest I crave. I come to hate my bed at times like this - so different from the comfortable place it normally is, I begin to see it as almost deceitful with it's promise of a soft embrace and a good nights kip.

Insomnia laden nights leave me exhausted and barely able to function during the day after a while and again resenting the fact that when you want to be awake you'll instead be almost comatose and will spend the day dreaming of sleep or dozing off for fitful minutes at a time, waking defensively as you want to increase the chances of a good nights sleep tonight. So, not only is the night a battle to get to sleep, but the day is a battle to stay awake. For once I'm glad I'm not working, especially since my previous job involved huge amounts of driving. It would be murder the way I feel this morning.

One of the rare advantages of sleepless nights is that you do get the chance to see some incredible dawns and today was one of those small consolations; the first red rays stretching out across the garden and slowly reaching toward the red sandstone walls of Sparrow Castle a hundred yards away until it turned it soft crimson and then gently softened further through to a wonderful rose colour until it in turn eventually began to pale as the sunlight proper crept up the wall and across the roof. Even feeling like I do it kept me enthralled for an hour this morning, sitting here in the library with the first coffee of the day keeping me company as I tried not to miss any part of it. Pure magic.

See you later.

Listening to


Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Sunday Post


A. K. McLeod.

I went to the landscape I love best
and the man who was its meaning and added to it
met me at Ullapool.

The beautiful landscape was under snow
and was beautiful in a new way.

Next morning, the man who had greeted me
with the pleasure of pleasure
vomited blood
and died.

Crofters and fishermen and womenfolk, unable
to say any more, said
"It's a grand day, it's a beautiful day"

And I thought, "Yes it is."
And I thought of him lying there,
the dead centre of it all.

Norman MacCaig.
March 1976.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Who You Gonna Call......



Sometimes, your mind is a strange place. I know mine is anyway. There are times when the strangest thoughts come to mind, or even images set me off on a train of thought. Sometimes weird thoughts come unbidden and interject into whatever is going on at the time. Sometimes these thoughts bring a smile or make me laugh.

 I was walking the other day when I saw something at the side of the road. My first instinct was that it was something that had been hit by a car so I walked over towards where it was. I looked down, and realised that it was someone's handkerchief. Slightly relieved, I turned away and carried on walking and as I did so a smile crossed my face.

" That's a relief!  I thought for a second someone had hit a baby ghost."


Aye. Strange things indeed.

Listening to.



Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Sunday Post


I'd heard of a stony look. Was that one
you turned on me? Was I to be petrified?
But it seemed to me as beautiful as ever
and I walked from the house whistling into a sunset.

I took the look home and became uneasy.
I couldn't see it as other than limpid and shining.
Are you water? Or diamonds? I prefer things shifting
and lucid, not locked in a hard design.

I mustn't look at you with wrong eyes,
inventing what I want to see. Turn to me now
and let me know if I'm a millionaire
of water, or a pauper of diamonds.

'Means Test'
By Norman MacCaig.
June 1975.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Putting Scotland On The Map {Part one}

'The North Part of Great Britain called Scotland.
 By Herman Moll. Geographer, 1714.'

Imagine a time before Scotland; before Britain; before countries. There are no cities. There are no towns. No great castles or villages mark territory or give any hint of habitation; not even the tiniest of hamlets is to be seen.  No bridges span the great estuaries of the River Forth or Clyde and no ships, great or small, make their way up the rivers. There are no roads or railways and the skies are untouched by aeroplanes. No man-made modern light-spill interrupts a view of a night sky filled with a huge vista of stars and planets tracking across the horizon in a slow reassuring pattern that marks the changing seasons,years and centuries.  The only tracks across the land are tiny and infrequent, made by the feet of wild beasts more often than of any man.

 Beneath that double cone of Arthur's seat there's no Edinburgh spilling down to the river. To the east, in the distance, North Berwick Law stands untouched and no lighthouse blinks across the water from the Bass Rock, no ancient tribal citadel can be seen on the crest of Traprain.. The land is covered by heavy deciduous woodland reaching back to dark hills and moors that rise up in the distance. Pine forests exist only far off to the north where the mountains can be seen in the distance, glimpsed from the top of the dead volcanic plugs that will come to be called Traprain or North Berwick Law. Far down the coast where the river becomes the sea and land turns towards the south and the spot I will live thousands of generations in the future, beside a place that will one day be called Dunbar, a slim column of smoke is the only recognisable sign of life.

Here - finally - are signs of man.

Near the sea, between the water and the woods, is a house. It's a small, crude thing to our modern eyes yet it's the culmination of generations of experience and millennia of skill with its walls made from small branches of trees woven together and covered with mud built around a framework of a few solid wooden posts. The roof is pitched and roughly thatched with brush over a small hearth where a fire burns and smoke collects beneath the roof until it finally makes its escape by seeping through the roof. In this smoke hang small pieces of fish and meat strung from the relatively low ceiling.  We know all this because 10,000 years in the future archaeologists will find the post-holes and enough information to reconstruct the building at Skateraw and will name it the oldest house in Scotland. Of course the man who built it and the family who live here have no idea of that. They have no concept of such a timescale and the house is probably only designed to last a few months until they move on to the next place, guided or driven by available food supply and weather conditions.

They are the first people; hunter-gatherers whose life is dictated by the seasons and the availability of sufficient food to sustain them as they comb the shoreline for molluscs or shellfish, or net fish and trap eels in the shallows of the sea or the nearby river using a small round boat constructed of hides stretched over a supple frame of light wood. They are expert in finding nuts, fruit, or herbs in the woods and trapping animals for food and skins. Despite the fact that they are clothed in hides and use many wooden and bone tools we call this the Stone Age simply because their stone artifacts are the most common sign of their passing due to the durability of the material they are made from. While they undoubtedly have many more skills and expertise, the natural materials they use don't survive the ages except in extremely rare and precious circumstances. More often is found the worked stone hand axes or evidence of their ability as flint nappers. Flint, with its ability to be worked and flaked into razor edged cutting implements is found only in a few places, yet traces of its use found widespread across the land shows a degree of organisation and cooperation in finding and trading such a precious commodity. So adept are the people at napping this flint that they can create and use tools so tiny and delicate that they will be called microliths and will be used as an academic point of difference in identifying them from their counterparts across continental Europe who produce tools only of a more substantial size. This skill may tell us that flint was a rarer commodity on this island and necessity has driven the inhabitants to use every scrap of such a precious material.

Beyond a few stone tools and precious few examples of other materials being worked we know almost nothing about these people. We don't know what language they spoke or how they viewed the world they lived in, what kind of society they had or just how far each group roamed in the search of the food they needed to live .We have no image of them on the walls of caves showing them in the midst of a hunt. No record remains of the stories told by their firesides. Their songs are long silenced and their names unknown. Of all the people who will come later the first people leave the lightest trace in the landscape. Beyond the tools they leave behind there are only a few glimpses of the people themselves; a set of petrified footsteps where a small family group of adults and children once crossed an ancient beach; the space left among thousands of flint shards that mark the ancient knee and foot places of the man who hunkered down millenia ago to concentrate on his task.

They first appear at the end of the last ice age having migrated from continental Europe across what is now the North Sea but at that time was one continuous landscape until rising sea levels created the islands of today. The climate they experienced was warmer and more temperate than ours and foodstuffs, especially around the coast and lowland woods filled with larch, birch, oak and hazelnut were plentiful for most of the year, but they also had to contend with the threat of wild animals such as bears, wolves and boars in their never-ending search for sustenance.

In time the first people will become the various tribes of Celtic peoples who live across the land and as such will help shape and name the landscape they live upon and which undoubtedly shapes them in return.

That will be thousands of years in the making, but they have begun the process of putting this little place known as Scotland on the map.

See you later.

Listening to.

The Sunday Posts 2017/ Hush Hush

Hush, hush, time tae be sleepin'. Hush, hush, dreams come a-creepin'; Dreams of peace and of freedom, So smile in your sleep,...