Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Gey Dreich, and so is Royal Mail.

Another gey dreich day for the citizens of the 'driest county in England.'  If I wished to live under a perpetual cloud with added rain I would have stayed in Edinburgh.  In fact yesterday was one of the frequent bright sunshine days with a bitter cold wind meaning any use of the fridge was unnecessary. 
Later the normal conditions returned.  
However the rain bringing down the leaves, stimulating the earth and drenching the flora around us does bring out a rich mixture of aromas not all being unpleasant.  Indeed a walk across the park enriches the mind and stimulates the brain as the fruits of creation, even those turning overnight into compost, release their contents.  
The light changes with the clouds above and the colour of fallen leaves below, even though this camera could not replicate this here.  A wee stab of light from the hidden sun was called upon but refused to show, it appears ten thousand feet of cloud blot out the sun.  The distant mist is not unpleasant to look at, though the woman who puts out her washing may disagree, and while the rain stays out of the holes in my shoes it was not disagreeable to walk amongst miserable dogwalkers with happy dogs and occasional Blackbirds seeking a late breakfast.

After the rain decided to cease to some extent I hobbled off to the Post Office.  I had to resend one  of my books to another part of Essex as someone had nicked one from the envelope!  The poor lass called me to say she received the envelope and letter but the book was missing, the envelope ripped down the side.  My work is so precious postmen are stealing it!  The problem it appears from my experience is the main sorting offices.  Here as many as 400 are employed, some of who's backgrounds are not always checked very well, and opportunities for self enrichment do occur.  Local offices suffer this also, our local recently lost one man who had been at it for years, a man I knew and like everyone else trusted totally!  He is now serving 16 months!  Missing mail is usually nothing to do with your local postie, almost all goes from the main sorting office.  Someone there is at least learning something, that I do not enclose money in envelopes.  
However on the way back I met a postwoman doing the round she has had for years.  I have done this and it is a difficult walk, on a steep hill, with houses placed in awkward positions, lots of small slopes which weary the legs, and a finish that is most despairing to those who have to do it.  Not the worst I have done but this lass is not as young as she was and deserves something better.  
The thing is she was pushing one of these appalling trolleys.  For reasons difficult to comprehend Royal mail, now sold off on the cheap to the private sector (Did you know that this government enabled some friends to buy many shares on the promise to keep them for a while to stabalise the shares. George Osbornes 'Best man' at his wedding was one such.  He took many shares and sold them the next day for £35 Million! ), decided to take away the postmen's bikes and replace them with these trolleys. An absurd idea for many and this lass suffers from it.  It is now impossible for her to do her work in the time allotted.  On a bike it took five minutes to reach the first drop, it also took about five to return to the depot at the end, both journeys pushing the trolley take around ten to fifteen minutes for the same journey, that's thirty minutes lost from the start!  Between drops there are open spaces, walking between these is slower than using a bike, especially going downhill, and I guess this change of equipment has added an hour to a round. How stupid is that?
The claim from Royal Mail that this method avoids posties carrying heavy bags and suffering back pain is rubbish as they suffer pushing trolleys uphill, through busy pavements also.  Cycle accidents are avoided this way, but trolley ones are not?  In short it was a gimmick,  the bikes have been rounded up and sent to Africa as a piece of corporate charity.  This sounds good but not at all like Royal Mail.  I suspect someone there is now selling them at high price and lining his pockets.  
The mail delivery is slower, the posties unhappy, (in spite of the good for nothing union agreeing to these trolleys nobody wanted them) and with Christmas upon us we will soon see them struggle through the rain, sleet and snow all the while expecting a tip!  
Royal Mail, like all privatised companies, is a mess and it will only get worse. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

To See the Sea!

One of the things I miss most about living here is the closeness of the sea.  It is possible to reach it if I jump on a train or bus and endure the other passengers all the way to the coast but in Edinburgh we had the Firth of Forth stretch right in front of us.  Here we could see the sea and taste its aroma as the Forth made its way out to the North Sea.  In days past warships based at Rosyth would make their way out to join the rest of the fleet based in Scapa Flow.  I myself saw a nuclear submarine slip past one day some time back, just a large conning tower and the beginning of the huge volume of the vessel showing. When aged around four or five I was down there with my dad when  a man pointed out to the middle of the water, there we saw a large whale blowing away.  What kind of whale I cannot say but whale it was, the memory remains in my mind of him blowing water.  Neither sub or whale are seen today, one has been removed by London based governments and the other eaten by Japanese or Norwegians. Today not far from this point just before the Forth Bridge large vessels stop to collect the ethylene refined at the Fife Mossmorran plant for shipment to Antwerp and further along similar ships deal with the products of the Grangemouth refinery thus making the Forth a still busy shipway.  

In days of yore just along from this spot Newhaven  Harbour lay.  This small fishing village was once at a distance from both Edinburgh and Leith and has long since been swallowed up.  While many houses have been rebuilt in an old style the people are no longer distinct from those around them. Here the men in their 'pea-jacket' would fish throughout the night, a very dangerous occupation, and on returning to land the wives in their pink or yellow striped dresses would sell the catch to the girls with the 'Hurly' a basket for the fish carried on their backs.  These lassies in the mid 19th century were often Irish rather than Scots and the potato famine brought many more Irish to the city where around 25,000 soon had their abode. According to Detective James McLevy, himself of Irish extraction, the men stood around while their wives did the bartering avoiding any part in the process.  I suppose a near death experience or two at the edge of the North Sea gave them the right to expect the women to do some work, and with the lassies buying it was probably a good idea at that. 

On the far side of the Forth the Fife villages of Crail, Pittenweem and others also so small craft enter the waters to seek for fish, a process that had endured for centuries and ended only in the last fifty years. While the boats developed the danger remained the same and as the fish stocks failed and a type of industrial fishing ruined the breeding grounds the trade died.  Newhaven has developed in other ways and the Fife villages now fill with Edinburgh people too poor to buy a local house, thus leaving Fife folks with even less money less choice of housing. Commuting to work over such a vista may be enjoyable but as always someone suffers.  

The pictures of the Newhaven folks were taken by Edinburgh's two Photographic pioneers Hill and Adamson!   Using a calotype process they subjected the fishing folk to long static poses while they developed their picture.  Quite what the locals thought of this I know not.  They did pose however, in their best, or possibly their only clothes, and must have been happy, and paid, to do so again and again. The pictures taken at Cramond were examples of my brothers talent on a Nikon from a few years ago.  I found them on a disc and decided to put them to use. He wandered out very early one morning before the world had risen and took pics of places we all once knew.  Ah the aroma from the sea is with me still, or possibly I need to put some stuff down the drains again. 


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Friday, 21 November 2014

Busy Friday

It’s not long after nine on Friday morning.  This is the day I do the women’s work, hoovering, dusting, rubbish removal and the like.  So far I have failed to get off my seat and this is an excuse to remain here. Through the condensation steeped window I can just make out the light gray sky above, something that reminds me of an Edinburgh summers day, and in the leaf strewn park occasional passers by pass by, some late for work others keen on enriching Mr Tesco or Mr Sainsbury.  This does not incite me into following them.
The dullness of the sky is reflected in the dullness of the living quarters.  I switch on the light and watch the room get darker.  Books and papers lie askew around the desk, the sofa, and the floor.  Cables and plugs lie dust grained in corners, and green oranges are noted at the bottom of the fruit bowl.  I puzzle as to quite what that lump in between the fridge and the cupboard is, I am not too sure but it has been there for some time....

The women's work has been done, the air is filled with flying debris as choking and spluttering I wonder if it is time to empty that vacuum?  This dusting business is a laugh.  As I write the dust removed from the bookcases replaces the dust removed from the desk.  I suggest the dust from the desk now deposits itself happily on the books.  Thus the world turns.  The so called years of evolution that shaped the earth are nothing more than dust particles moving from one place to another, like sand dunes shifting the Sahara south.  No wonder the world has never run out of cleaners.  
I have looked at the 'to do' list once again, hopefully tomorrow I will look at it again.  If it were not for the football at midday I might even do one of the items on the list.  For today, as the weather is not attempting to change its ways, I will merely go back to updating that never ending website.  This is slowly taking shape but each name requires at least half an hour and sometimes it takes longer.  On two occasions I have discovered I was listing the wrong man and that has had to be changed. Hopefully nobody has copied the details.  The thing about the First World War information is the need to check everything.  So many details are incorrect, understandable in the circumstances, but the backroom staff at the time have actually done a marvellous job considering the difficulties of detailing so much as accurately as possible.  I hope I am reasonably accurate.

Much later.

I stumbled out this afternoon to get some deep breaths of vehicle pollution and made my way across the dim gray park towards the shops.  As I shuffled by I watched a boy, aged about 8 years, throwing his dogs lead for the beast to catch.  He and the golden retriever were having a ball, without a ball.  His mum enjoyed the sight of them pulling at either end of the lead, especially when the lad stood on the lead and the dog happily pulled him over the damp grass as he stood on the thing.  An enjoyable encounter in which passing strangers had to laugh, especially as they all knew what strange happiness a young lad playing with a dog can obtain.
There were no signs of happiness in the store however, just suspicious glances and surly looks.  There I obtained the bottle of beer I see as being ideal for yuletide, 'Bah Humbug!'  What it tastes like I as yet know not but if acceptable more will be purchased and used as gifts.  It seems right, but maybe I am being too satirical for some.  I will no doubt find out.  Too much of Christmas requires satire in my mind.

It has become the norm for these 'Continental Markets' to spring up in the town centre every so often. While they are popular enough for the stallholders to return it was pretty slack as I passed.  The varieties of foodstuffs appeals, the prices do not.  Neither does the ability of women to stand in the middle of the passageway blocking everybody while contemplating with dull eyes the good on show they then do not buy!  Paella, vegetable curry and the banned cheeses looked good but would cost around a fiver a time.  Even the bread I did fancy was far too dear, Tesco sell similar at half the cost, but maybe tomorrow if they have some of the fancy bread I occasionally buy I may splash out and ruin what is left of my diet, maybe.  

Now all I have to do is write the blog...hold on.  I must have missed something out today, I should be filling this page last thing at night when half asleep.  Oh well, early bed....   

Thursday, 20 November 2014


As I hobbled through the park this afternoon weighed down by thought and a bag of Tesco special offers I was struck by how bright the sky could be when the air temperature was so low.  In my little world if the sky is blue the sun ought to be burning our skin beetroot shade but today it was slowly slipping down behind the old water towers, though what is wants to do there I fail to understand. The populace is now wrapped up, not counting half dressed young ladies and workmen who think it's warm because the sun is shining, scarves fly off the shelves, heavy coats are in use and the heating everywhere is struggling into life.  
However when I see pictures from North America and folks cars lie under a foot of snow I can tell you how glad I am to be here and not there.  Their snow problems will continue until the weekend when I suspect it will thaw and flood everyone.  I suppose such folks as Canadians can cope better than we having all the right tools for heavy snowfall but even so it is a trial.  
The changing climate indicates the end is near and we do nothing but  talk about it. This 'art work' in Berlin is called 'Politicians discussing climate change, ' I think it makes a point.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Tea &Talk!

I spent the day in a drowsy dream today.  Nothing got done.  However in the afternoon I went to the 'Tea & Talks' at the museum and listened to a chap discuss ancient places.  Greece, Herculaneum, Rome, Crete and the like.  It was an enjoyable way to spend an hour.  
The picture from Herculaneum revealing the old buildings and the height of the ash that had covered them for hundreds of years was worth seeing alone. These buildings were at least two if not three stories tall and the ash had covered them by almost two stories on top of them.  Thousands died because of the volcano and they remained in the town believing they were safe.  Interestingly Naples, which stands underneath the same smoking volcano, contains two million people.  The centre is full of tourists and the locals live all around the city.  Guess who gets away first when she blows next time?  Italians are not daft!  
I would have liked to visit Crete also, the pictures from there are interesting. Why I am not made able to live in the sun, surrounded by blue sea, is a mystery to me.  As long as a Tesco is nearby and football on the telly I think I could cope.  The large expanse of the ancient cities surprise some folks. I canny see why these guys could build better than us.  Some places the chaps showed featured tunnels, either rough cut, twenty feet wide, or as in Egypt similarly wide by plastered and lavishly painted so you could identify the one buried there.  
So, making my way home through the mire, I considered the bright blue sea, the dazzling sun and the dim lights from the rear of the Town Hall.  It doesn't seem fair does it......?


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Ain't Life Grand

A very quiet morning at the museum today.  I sold one book (signed) to a staff member and took £1:50 from and older lass  This is not paying the way I say! Typically as I left people wandered in.  Hmmm. The sad thing was the lass who came to visit was doing so because her husband cannot. She wished to get some idea of what his great uncle went through but sadly he himself has both Parkinson's and dementia. The lass was almost in tears as she left as her long time husband does not know her.  One of the worst situations in this world is being helpless when someone genuinely suffers.  She did not wait long and soon went off home.  I felt rotten, poor lass.

The rest of my day was filled with nothing.  Indeed I sit here wondering what I have done since I came home.  Apart from managing to eat I appear to have sat watching the paint on the wall decaying slowly. It could of course have been that I actually had the TV on the wrong channel, there is little difference. Judging by the mess all around I have cleaned nothing, but that is not new. However I think it a cheek of the council to send a man in a dustbin lorry to ask if I wanted the house cleared. Tsk!
Nothing for it but to watch the football now.  I suppose I must....


Monday, 17 November 2014


That sums up my day.  A few household chores, some exercise (well five minutes) some cleaning, some research, some yawning and that is my day.  A walk round town leaving my knee aching, a dinner of fishcakes to make my stomach feel the same!  It's a good job I am not one to complain!

I searched for news in the papers and found none.  Celebs pictured, politicians lying, pressmen lying, murderers caught while lying, sex on every page, health tips from the 'Daily Mail' now that's trustworthy innit!  Nothing to watch on telly, BBC iplayer would not start in the morning, rubbish available when it did, and now I have found a wee football game somewhere in the English wilderness. Actually that could be next door......

Oh sleep, to sleep perchance to dream etc..... 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Friday Night at St Mick's, oh and a Camel!

Time was when I could not stay in on a Friday night.  The world was out there and the world was happening all around and I had to be near it if not actually in it.  Today however I find sitting in my bed on a cold Friday night watching football far more appealing than strolling the dark streets.  Yet last night I was forced by a woman, isn't it always, to venture out to St Michaels to their little remembrance evening.  Quite why all this did not happen on Saturday I know not but not being one to question or complain I ensured my bits remained attached by arriving just after seven on the clock.
The idea was to show a few of their items and some of ours, and sell the book also.  This we did but mostly I wished to meet the grandchildren of the men on the memorial.

Being Anglicans they are into candles and while not quite me i did think they had presented things well. I spent lots of time talking to relatives of men who served, around five of them were long conversations which ended with them buying one of my books funnily enough, and all taught me a great deal.  The lady who stood out was one who had ventured to Bosnia during the war there a few years ago to deliver aid.  Snipers, customs, unhappy drivers and other problems left me full of admiration for her and her husband (who received the MBE for his efforts in controlling things) for their willingness to dare such an adventure.  That was a few years ago and they are retired now so it was not sweet young things, they were folks who had lots to lose.  

Then it was home through the dark mist, with the camera set at the wrong position for pictures all night, to arrive exhausted and struggle to sleep as I was so tired.  I also managed to miss the Scotland v Ireland game, but I canny complain, as the boss would hit me if I did!!!  

Tired or not I was forced to shop today and was somewhat surprised to be confronted by three camels in the centre of town, not a usual experience to me. There they were giving rides to brats kiddies and stinking the place down.  A wonderful idea for Christmas and I wish they had been at the museum! However I am glad I did not have to clean up afterwards!


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Taking the Tablets

The insides as well as the brain have been slightly affected by this weeks germ and my eating has not been according to good health magazines liking.  Last night I was beset by a lack of sweet things in the house and dug out a recipe for tablet, not unsimilar to this All Recipes one, and proceeded to spend a short eternity making a small amount of not very good tablet, too much marge I think. What would nurse say?  
This stuff is what we used to get from my mum after she attended the churches 'bring and buy' sales. These were once regular occurances but died out with the needless imposition of 'Health & Safety.' For offering goods for sale legal frameworks regarding health and compensation for outbreaks of ecoli etc (which never happened) were imposed by the Gestapo.  The many 'fairy cakes' and bars of 'tablet' that once rotted the teeth of such as I were no longer on offer unless provided by properly protected shops. Children however are sleekit souls and have continued to destroy their teeth with an abundance of other sugar filled nasties, nasties which I must say we all like now and again.  
This brown sludge that now lies in the plastic container, not actually that healthy either I suppose, has begun the work of destroying my remaining unholed teeth. As too flavour, well it would never be offered by the women in that churches 'Women's Guild' that's for sure!  

Note also that because of feminist bull the Church of Scotland long since has allowed men to join the 'Women's Guild.'  Quite why that august organisation allowed itself to be cowed by ungodly laws I know not, however it is a broken Kirk today.  I note this gender bending however has not happened to the 'Women's Institute,' could it be some are above the law, e.g. women's organisations, or just that no man in his right mind wishes to be surrounded by the pack of middle class harridans that predominate there? Answers on a postcard and send them to Sheila, instead of me so make it an attractive one.

It has been a quiet few days, I have actually began to attend to the 'To Do' list from way back.  My broken glasses have been glued back together, sort off, the DVDs put in a rack, the books sorted into order and the top shelf of my 'in tray' has been sorted and filed away!  Goodness gracious, I then defragmented the hard drive and I even sorted out the sock drawer!  Then I had to pop into the museum to buy the last Christmas gifts, which I managed, while planning to undertake an expedition into the middle tray of my 'in tray.'  However at the museum I was given two pieces of paper containing work! That finished the afternoon and postponed the second layer for a while.  Ah well there is always tomorrow.... 


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Memory, Why Doesn't it Work?

This aged picture of a London Trotters cart was taken around the 50's/60's, I forget exactly.  I came across it sorting through things tonight.  The Trotters were rag & bone men, an early type of recycling that has long gone out of fashion.  'Steptoe & Son'  is a famous TV sitcom based on one family somewhere in Shepherds Bush trying to make a living.  There is a little emblem on the cart, could it be a council one?  I wish I had time to search through the RBK site now.  This site is full of old pictures and tales from the libraries of Kensington & Chelsea.  Well worth a look.
The use of horse and carts is rarely seen today although some breweries still use them occasionally.  My dad used one to deliver milk in the early 50's and Dunfermline Co-op were still using them until the mid sixties.  I rarely saw them in London when I lived there however one horse, bored with waiting for the boss to come out of the pub, straddled the pavement to ensure he got attention from someone on one occasion.  The St Cuthberts Co-op in Edinburgh not only used horse deliveries into the late 60's they also looked after the queens horses when she bothered to use the Scottish Royal Coach.  I suspect some London based civil servant will have sold it now.  
How good memory is in making such sights appear enjoyable, a light relief from the cares of the day. However for the man working them there was no relief until he had got back to the depot, settled the horse in a stall, cleaned up and made his way home.  It's easier to switch off an engine that deal with a horse. The pay then was poor, nothing for being sick, and sacked for anything almost. Still the sun shone more then, maybe.

Memory is useful when retracing your steps as I had to today.  I noticed the battery in the camera was running low and I mused as to whether it would work if I went out then and now.  No time to ponder, I got ready and made my way out before the rain began.  As I crossed the road the rain began.  I walked through the drizzle gardens, replacing a wreath or two blown by the wind from the memorial, and headed into town.  As I left the 'Poundshop' clutching my three for two bottles of cheap bleach, oh how I live in luxury, I noticed the camera was not in my pocket, a pocket usually kept shut by a zip. Oh dear thought I, someone has pinched it or I dropped it when replacing that wreath. How could I live without the camera?  Bad enough waiting to get it repaired let alone lose it.  What if it had been nicked, how, when, oh dear!  I splashed my way, faster somewhat, through the glistening trail, down the road, through the gardens, back home.  No sign, if dropped it was lifted and gone, no chance of that returning. Naturally as I got home I found it on the desk where I had left it after checking the battery.  The stupid old fool had forgotten to put it in the pocket.  Memory you see, I need one!


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Poppies are Packed Away Now.

At eleven this morning many in the nation stood to remember once again.  Large crowds attended ceremonies around the country as the commemoration of the beginning of the Great War came to an end.  Exhibitions and events will continue, I may have one on Friday night if I stay awake long enough, and throughout the country folks are now researching their war dead and discovering surprising news about their families.
I myself did not attend anything today, I made it to the museum, realised my head was spinning from some bug and made my way back home until it ran its course and passed me by.  This did mean nothing got done but hey, that's not unusual in here is it?

We move on from the remembrance ceremonies now, soon the poppies will disappear from the jackets and volunteers will begin counting the cash collected, most likely a bumper years for the British Legion.  I leave it with this poem by Joe Lee, a forgotten yet great poet from Dundee.  He had travelled a bit, worked for John Leng & Co who published the 'Peoples Journal,' a paper he would later edit. and enlisting at 4 years of age spent most of the war with the 4th Black Watch, later commissioned into the Kings Royal Rifle Corps.  A friend of the leading literary figures of the day between the wars he worked in London as sub editor for the 'News Chronicle' and mixed with the great poets of the day.  His work was acclaimed as equal to Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasson's war poetry yet he never achieved, if indeed he sought it, literary fame.  He has many poems, I liked this one. 

German Prisoners

When first I saw you in the curious street
Like some platoon of soldier ghosts in grey,
My mad impulse was all to smite and slay,
To spit upon you—tread you 'neath my feet.
But when I saw how each sad soul did greet
My gaze with no sign of defiant frown,
How from tired eyes looked spirits broken down,
How each face showed the pale flag of defeat,
And doubt, despair, and disillusionment,
And how were grievous wounds on many a head.
And on your garb red-faced was other red;
And how you stooped as men whose strength was spent,
I knew that we had suffered each as other,
And could have grasped your hand and cried, "My brother!"

Joe Lee.

Joseph Lee


Monday, 10 November 2014


I found myself writing Christmas cards today.  Not that I write many, you need friends for that, but I had the list of requirements in front of me, selected appropriate cards, cheap ones for them, a couple of good ones for the others, and began to slug it out.  Luckily I soon realised there was one or two things to buy before I could complete the job so dumped it back in the cupboard. 
Some years ago I was sending a lot of cards and realised many folks returned them simply because I sent them one, this did not indicate they wished to know me.  So one year I only sent cards to those who may well have expected one or wished to keep in touch.  Amongst these for some years was an aunt who I always wrote a wee note to around this time reminding her of my need of Christmas presents, I never received any!  She expected something from me mind! having curtailed the cards I sent the next year those who offered cards 'just because' fell away, both saved time and money.  We have family and close friends, we then have friends and acquaintances we know well, around them lies a third ring as it were, these represent people we may meet often, get on well with but do not need to supply with gifts, cards or anything but a greeting and a handshake. Today of course all can be dealt with by internet cards or email greetings, cheap, more efficient than post, and for those who feel the need to describe the past years activities to the world a far better thing all round.  
My biggest expenses  have been paid, only one or two things to think about, one or two funny cards maybe, and then prepare to send them at the beginning of December.  I always post early as I understand what the post is like, this also of course reminds others to get their cards sorted and then send me one.