Monday, 30 May 2011

Pub Crawl

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This morning, being a Bank Holiday, I strolled out through the quiet streets to attempt to take pictures of the houses in which my dead soldiers resided.  By that I mean when they were alive, as they stopped living their when they became dead, the council would not allow it. Anyway it was quieter than a Sunday today, the sun almost shone, the rain threatened and moved away, and I took one or two hasty shots. I am not too keen on taking pictures of houses when people are seen inside. The gruff question regarding what I am playing at can cause offence, I've found. The policeman's quizzical look can also hinder a steady camera and therefore early morning is the most suitable time for such work. Amongst the interesting finds, to me at least, was this old pub I once delivered to.  It ceased to operate as a public house a good few years ago and now houses this small company, and the two attractive young secretaries.  Funny how I always remember such young women. Not that my memory is that good but they were early thirties, wearing green and blue tops, had nice....anyway, the windows. Wisely they have not removed the windows, or indeed repainted the place, although the massive amount of traffic outside their door today means the paintwork suffers badly. If you look close enough you will note the cleverly crafted advert for Spirits which can be seen. 


In days of yore all pubs informed the world outside that they offered 'Fine wines,'  'blended whiskies,' and 'Famous Ales,' often on frosted glass panes. Whether they lived up to the adverts depended on how much the drinker imbibed I suppose.  Until the absurdity of the feminist influence some public houses were drinking dens for men only, and I think this may well have been one such. Small, close to the massive Iron Foundry round the corner, and in the evening full of spit and sawdust, heavily drowned in cigarette smoke and a haven for the working man in which to lose his weeks wages before going home to be belted by his wife!  Hmmm maybe this is an improvement!


It appears there were forty three public houses in this small town at one time. There is only about a dozen today. I wonder what that says about society today? We have drunks on our streets night after night the press tell us, is this such a novelty? Could it be it was only drunk working men in days gone by, so that is alright then?  Jesus drank wine, and the best he served up at a wedding, but he was never drunk, so drink has its place, not remembering what you did last night does not. Actually I have trouble remembering what I did last night anyway.

The Victorians had great trouble with water supplies and drinking beer was a much safer option for many. Living in squalid accommodation meant that gas lit pubs, often with entertainment on offer, (this grew into the Music Hall) and the companionship of like minded souls made such places an attraction. Better housing, the radio, TV, the death of heavy industry and the end of male only pubs has brought about great changes in society's approach to pubs. The recession today means more buy their booze from supermarkets and drink at home rather than be ripped off by a 'local.'

People get very romantic about pubs these days. The media tell us the streets are full of drunken yobs (shocked that many are women as if that is something new) yet tell us we ought to help keep pubs open as they are centres of the 'Community?'  Really? Maybe in a village situation but not in the real world. Sad to say that these places mean little to me today. Drink is fine in its place but a bottle of Guinness is more than enough for me today.  The desire to spend money on drink holds no joy, although the companionship of good people found there does!  The men who filed in the 'Freemasons Arms' after work, bringing a smell of sweat, cigarettes and iron with them, would be amazed to see the plush pubs on offer today. They would probably be delighted with many of them but regret the passing of their own little hideaway.  The women, rightly stuck aside in the 'snug, would be much happier with the pubs of today, the cleanliness, the brightness, although whether they would care for the twenty foot football screen depends on many things. OK, who's round is it? What? er...is that the time? er, em... I must be off now, I er,  have a bus to catch, bye....


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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Strange Week

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I canny mind where I found that picture of Bill Bailey but it speaks volumes and makes me laugh!  There have been times this week when I did not laugh however. Take Tuesday, I logged off the internet around four in the afternoon for some reason, I must have been in the shops looking for the reduced price stale bread.  I attempted to log in on my return and nothing happened. Sometimes there is a hindrance logging in, so I waited a moment and tried again, still nothing.  This continued for a couple of hours and (after six when calls are free) I called Pipex. The woman's voice told me that the call would cost 5p a minute (even if it's free after six?) and blethered for a few moments to scrounge more loot out off me.
"Insert your phone number on the keypad."
I did.
"Insert or speak your date of birth."
"02/07/ 93"
"Please repeat that either by voice or on the keypad."
I keyed in the date.
"All our colleagues are busy at the moment, please hold, your call is important to us."
I held.
Music played. A scratched old 78 of some sort.
"Thank you for holding. Our colleagues will be with you shortly. Your call is important to us."
"It's important to ME too girl!" I said to the machine.
Music, "Thank you for holding....."
Tap finger.
Music.
"Thank you for holding....."
"Thank you for holding.  You are now in position three in the queue,"she said with a self satisfied smile.
Music.
"Thank you for holding....."
Music.
"Your call is important....."
Music......
TAP FINGER!!!
"You are now in position two in the queue," she lied.
Music.
"Thank you for holding....."
Music.
"Thank you for holding....."
Music.
"Thank you for holding....."
Brrr brrr. Brrr brrr
"Good evening, welcome to Pipex, my name is something or other. How can I help you?"
 "I cannot connect......."
That's funny, it's gone silent. Has he cut me off?
No! It's my phone handset. The battery has died! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

With internet contact restored the sun shines again. I was quite worried for a moment as I feared that I may have to talk to real people for a change. In fact I actually had to do just that on Thursday as I had to sign on the Dole and receive a visit from one of their employees regarding a query on my doings. The first part occurred in the morning. I entered in the usual manner, in rags, unshaven and unwashed, discovered the new system was in operation and prayed I did not have to deal with the lass who last had a thought about seventeen years ago, and she was wrong that day also!  In fact I was attended to by a delightful, somewhat nervous lassie, although females are often nervous meeting me, we famous folk understand this, and while I attempted not to look anywhere but at her eyes I scrawled my name (an alias) and was thrown out again.
Back home the man who arrived informed me I had been overpaid by £178 or thereabouts. After the ambulance man had removed the defibrillator equipment and given the all clear the chap spoke, clearly and slowly, about the work I had done some months ago. I had of course informed them at the time and their robot had sent me a letter disclosing the change this made to my benefit. This was fine, except the robot had not bothered to alter what I was paid and now I owe them about £20. This I may not even be required to pay.

The rest of the week has been taken up with a drained mind which has been entertained by researching (a rather high faluting way to describe it) names on the local war memorial. This does give an impression for the effect the Great War had on this small town. Now holding 35,000 or so, I wonder what the population would have been in 1914?  Already I have discovered four men dead in the local area, and several more not much further away!  The response of the families involved, especially when an only son, a father, or for one poor lad two sons within a year dying is easy to understand. Today the names stand ignored for the most part on the memorial but some who pass must know they are related to them. I wonder what their thoughts are regarding such men and possible uncles, cousins or indeed fathers?

It is amazing what the loss of football can do to an individual? The great Champions League Final begins shortly.  I had better watch this as in two years time I expect the Heart of Midlothian to be playing in this game.  What? ...................oh!  



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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Another Door

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They say when one door closes another smacks you in the face. Well this one did just that the other morning as I ambled along searching the gutters for dropped coins. Suddenly I realised that this was an old door! Yes I am bright that way. What I mean is that this door must go back, possibly to Georgian times. I reckon, without having investigated further, that this building was erected before 1850, and possibly nearer the start of the century.  Some wealthy individual had themselves a very nice house, in the centre of town, and on the main road out.  I wonder who it was?  I may have a shot at finding out one day.

The door is what caught my eye, at least the steps up to the door I mean. Until the 20th century I think this street would not have possessed an actual pavement. ( That's 'sidewalk' to those who do not speak properly) The main road would not be tarmac but dirt, and the pavement ('sidewalk') would be merely an extension of this patrolled by passersby. Horse drawn traffic, leaving their aids to growing rose bushes behind, added to the general smell and unhealthy street. With rain the place would become a sticky, mud mire.  That is why all such houses had steps leading up to them, along side of which would be metal scrapers (removed from these steps) which would be used to clean the boots before entering. Surely a town such as this would have paved the pavements  ('sidewalks') by the end of the 19th century I ask?  I am not sure they did. I must examine those old pictures later.

However this building is still in possession of rich folk. It is now a lawyers office with a very nice garden come car park at the rear.  While the light above the door is no longer gas lit I am sure it works just as well with electricity. The actual door is not represented that well but I think it is considerably later than the original one. So not worth investigating. There are several old houses here, now all offices of one sort or another, and only one appears to be used as a home, and that owned by a successful artisan!  I'm not jealous.....


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Monday, 23 May 2011

Oh Joy!

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I was delighted to read that the local jobless numbers had decreased somewhat in the past few weeks. It may well be an opening for a useless plonker (unskilled is the proper term) may yet appear I thought.  A few objections have of course been raised to any encouragement by the revelation that these figures may well have been somewhat distorted. Gosh! Who would have thought that?  Those gaining 'work placements' I understand are removed from the numbers. Invalidity claimants (or whatever name it has now) are also omitted even while many do seek work. Other 'positive accounting' takes place in an effort to smooth the politicians (and the HEO's) progress. It still remains that five people apply for every job. Or to put it another way Five hundred apply for the appropriate (easy, unskilled, overpaid, sedentary, numpty) jobs I look for.  I stare into the future with my head held.........well in my hands actually......




Good old 'Dave!' Twice today he has shown us where his heart is. First he has announced he wants to encourage marriage to strengthen a 'stable society.' By that he probably means he will make folks live among the horses I suspect. He considers marriage to be the basis of a stable society and I agree with him. Will he therefore decide that benefits appropriate to this would arise? Tax benefits etc?  Would he therefore encourage job creation and 'positive discrimination for married persons perhaps? Hmmm. PR is all very well but policy is no use without money Mr C.

He has suddenly come off the fence regarding papers publishing 'Kiss & Tell' stories. Suddenly he is claiming that it is unfair that Social media can publish names while papers cannot. Well I wonder why he speaks out now? Has Mr Murdoch been on the phone perhaps? You know Murdoch, that nice man who owns the 'Sun.' That is the paper yon tart was attempting to sell a 'Kiss & Tell' story to regarding a Premiership footballer.  He had the courts stop revelation of his name, yet someone (surely not an employee of the 'Sun') placed his name on 'Twitter,' thereby breaking the injunction.  You would not ask me to believe that such a man as Murdoch would now be influencing the Prime Minister of England just because he wishes to make a fast buck would you? Just because he sneaked up the back stairs into No 10 the minute Cameron forced his way in does not mean Murdoch has an unholy hold over this PM does it? Well, does it....? I am sure 'Dave' is thinking for himself, not for Murdoch, nor indeed for personal advantage. I trust this PM as much as I trusted Tony Blair, and you cannot say fairer than that!  

cf with this excellent piece. Auld Reekie Rants





p.s.  I am thinking of taking a job as a contortionist, just to make ends meet.


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Friday, 20 May 2011

Cemetery

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While some find cemeteries eerie places I tend to find them interesting for a variety of reasons. This morning the sun shone, a Blue Tit (or was it two?) hustled back and forward from a very small hole in the wall as it fed the chicks inside. two local village dog walkers ignored me from a distance and I was left to enjoy the sunshine and blue sky. Peace and quiet in such places gives the opportunity to think.  This small churchyard, with once again a church comprised of millions of red bricks, contains many graves of the wealthier sort from Victorian and Edwardian times. You could tell by the bricked in tombs and iron gates placed there to stop grave robbers removing the corpse, only the rich could afford these. These are actually more for show than effectiveness as I suspect a grave robber wants a fresh corpse, not one weeks old. What is less obvious is the part of the graveyard where the poor were buried, this is unmarked, and who knows how many were laid therein?  For a while I mused over one unreadable stone, most were sadly, guarded by a low iron railing, as to the day of this funeral around a hundred years or so ago. Who was he/she? What was the weather? I could imagine the elaborate Victorian hearse, drawn by two horses (there is at least one still in use around here), the mourners gathered around, the vicar and the whole performance. I wondered if anybody today in this village knows who he is?   


Several memorials, such as the iron one seen below, contain the name 'Richardson.' It appears likely that family will have relatives still around here. However once the third generation pass on who can remember the deeds of those who lie here? Whether they were good or bad, whether they managed to contribute anything positive, are lost to us now.  So many lives and so many stories. These iron memorials abound around here. Many are like this round one, containing names and details, now difficult to read, with others being small crosses. I wonder if this a local idea? I have not seen them elsewhere. 


The setting, when the sun shines, is lovely indeed. The sun, the blue sky, the trees covered in birds and bees, and the green fields behind with growing crops. Another small gate leads to the fields and is irresistible to anyone with a camera! The only disappointment remains the fear of theft that locks all church doors around here. A wise precaution but a nuisance just the same.
  
 
It was as I was having a last look around I heard the singing. No-one was to be seen, all was quiet and peaceful. Birds flitted through the trees and a bumble bee buzzed around flowers left at a grave when I heard the song.

"Come and join us
 Come and join us"
 
I got on the bike and decided I had finished my exercise for today. I got home much quicker than I had got here......
 
 

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Hitler : Nemesis

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After I broke my leg (Thanks Charlotte!) I recuperated by reading William Shirer's 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.' This started me on a trek through many books in an attempt to understand the reasons behind Mr Hitler's actions. Having grown up during the 50's I was always aware of the Second World War (we ran around the playground in 1956 chanting 'We won the war, in 1944). All adults had been involved in some way, reference was constantly made on the wireless, some BBC programmes linked soldiers in occupied Germany with home, and comics and films were naturally dominated with warfare. While Britain slowly recovered, all Britain got from the was was a moral victory for 'standing alone' and bankruptcy, the NHS created, main industries nationalised, and vast numbers of houses built, the war nevertheless weighed heavily on many people. How heavy it must have weighed with the single woman next door and her two year old daughter was seen in the routine visit of the milkman to 'comfort her.' Not far from us stood a rusting anti aircraft base, bus conductors were often 'Poles,' who had remained after the conflict, although they may well have been from the Baltic States, and our main games often involved guns of one sort or another.

Since reading Shirer's book I have read many others, far too many my brain tells me, and recently I acquired (free) the second of Henshaw's great work on the man. 'Hitler' Hubris' was the first and details his early life and rise to power.  I confess I struggled to finish this excellent tome and I strongly suspect that the author was feeling similar thoughts as he ended his years of study. The writing as the book draws near the end gives the impression he wanted to lie down in a dark room for a year! I know how he feels.  Three men stand out when in comes to such study, Ian Kershaw, Alan Bullock and Lawrence Rees. All three have studied diligently and produced works that aim to explain the Nazi era in both a scholarly and readable manner.  The facts are presented without hysteria or embellishment, nothing is hidden or glorified. All are worth reading and also Rees has produced a great many TV programmes that are available on many aspects of the Hitler years.

The Nazi Party took power in 1933, it crashed into oblivion a mere twelve years later. During this time a well educated, highly sophisticated nation gave itself over to one man. One man who in his short reign occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia by sleight of hand, and Poland by force and trickery. His incredible failure to understand the British mentality, he wished Britain to keep her Empire while Germany ruled Europe, and his belief that if he defeated the easier option (Soviet Russia) Great Britain would offer peace terms! With great encouragement from the army and people who disliked Poles Hitler was allowed to introduce the vicious policies that were to lead to such suffering in Russia and eventually the Gas Chambers. Indeed at this point while most wanted an end to the war, the RAF were dropping bombs on all main cities by now, the idea of defeating the Bolsheviks was very popular throughout Germany.  Of course it failed, nobody can defeat the Russian winter, and the land he sought to conquer ended up as Stalin's property. An all or nothing policy that failed completely.  

Germany had for a very long time a belief in its superiority, and after the end of the Great War many chose to believe they had indeed been 'stabbed in the back' by Communists and others and not defeated at all. The short lived democratic government failed after the 'Wall Street Crash' and the Nazi's took advantage of many attitudes at that time to take power. Hitler had great support from his people and had he died in 1940 he would be seen by them as a political hero who made Germany great again. The war had to be fought to a bitter end to finish once and for all the 'master race' attitude that lay in the psyche of the nation. Only such total devastation could end this for ever. the ruin of the country millions dead, Twenty million on the Eastern Front alone, and the majority of the leading men committing suicide or being hanged after war's end.  A sad end to a sad story. 

And as to finding out what motivated Adolf? I still don't know! So many things affected him. His nature, his bullying father, his protective mother (he kept her picture with him all the time, even in the bunker. She died when he was in his teens) his laziness, his failure to get into the academy as his art, while picturesque, was not of a high enough standard, and the Great War in which he found himself a purpose.So many things added to his 'Germanic Consciousness' and unstable personality to produce the man. The state of the nation, the somewhat twisted heart of Germany, added to this and circumstances arose, and were manufactured, to ensure one day Adolf Hitler had millions of Germans at his feet in adulation!  It shows once again how easy it is for unstable and dangerous people to rise to the top in any society, none are free from this danger.

Read this book, although beginning with the first one, 'Hubris' is the best idea. Very thick books which give the definitive tale of Hitler and the Nazi Party during these years. There are other good books already mentioned but this is the place to begin.
 



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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A bit of a door

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If truth be told the rest of it wasn't that exciting!  When first built this door would have seen many pass though and clamber aboard for the short journey to wherever. This line was a mere 17 miles (and 72 chains) long and never really fulfilled the expectations of the builders. While serving a purpose in transporting Victorian and Edwardians to and fro, especially Edward VII who often stopped off at Easton Lodge with his friends for partying at the 'Big Hoose,' the increase in bus transport during the years following the Great War took passengers away from the more expensive line. Farmers of the area did have an efficient way to deliver their goods to market. London was now within reach as the line connected to the main Cambridge to Liverpool Street taking their produce straight into the city.  Being a small village of a few hundred people, although I am not sure of the Victorian population, the majority would have been slogging it out on farms and related occupations. The number who could take time off from their 12-16 hour days to travel into town must have been few, and mostly female. As always the men would be suffering while the girls, at least the wealthy ones, shopped and gossiped. The maids would gossip also, but still have far too much to do before 'Madame' returned.

The increase use of lorries after the war led to a decrease of freight on the line in similar manner to the introduction of buses ruining the passenger traffic. While both ran reasonably successfully until after the Second World War it was clear the line was unprofitable. By 1952 passengers were no more and only freight used the line until it closed in the early seventies.  After some years of neglect it has now been turned into an excellent nature pathway, as I may have mentioned before. The station itself is the headquarters of the Rangers Service and has become a tourist centre. One other station, of similar design, has become a private house who's privacy is enhanced by the removal of the bridge over the road giving them a bit of security. I feel the owner must have been somewhat disappointed when the council put the goods yard into use as a Gypsy encampment! Another is being renovated at the moment I believe. It was offices for a while and probably will remain so now.  One has disappeared and now lies under the new bypass, not much for the railway enthusiast there! It does reflect the change in society well. The radical transformation of Britain, and the rest of the world, that occurred when railways arrived came to an end after 1945 with the increase of motor traffic. The road lobby in the fifties saw an end to railways as we knew them (not that I knew them that much!) and by the early sixties private cars abounded even in our street. Today they are everywhere except outside my door. Poverty is a horrid thing!

 In the centre of the picture, at the gate, you can see a short stretch of the single track line preserved as a memento of what once has been.  It is to be regretted that the old Johnson designed 'Little Sharpie' 2-4-0 engines no longer exist.
 

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Sunday, 15 May 2011

It's Over!

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Tynecastle Stadium
It's over! The football season struggled to an end today after several long months of agony, ecstasy, highs and lows, and of course Neil Lennon and his paranoia attempting to destroy everything. Will the SFA step in to end the sectarian bigotry of the Rangers and Celtic I wonder? No is the answer! They are too involved themselves.  The Heart of Midlothian however secured their place in next years European competition, although they came very close to losing it by forgetting to pass the ball to one another as you are supposed to do. It is fine and dandy playing nice football but putting the thing in the net is also a good idea!  One or two young lads have of course been bloodied in competition showing the future looks good, if that is, the promise can be developed as well as little Templeton's has been. Many promising players coming through just now. One or two senior players may well arrive during the summer as they are required, also one or two we already have will be moving on. The lack of a replacement for Kevin Kyle when he was injured cost us dear. There again injuries also played a major part in the struggle at the end and the squad, which many claimed strong, was clearly not strong enough from the experience point of view.  All in all however we show we are the only side to challenge the bigot twins, which is what anybody would expect. Next season, if all stays well, if the referees play fair (HA!) if Neil Lennon is taken away in a straight jacket for the good of the game, and if the mini huns and the real ones are banned form the game along with the IRA fans at Parkhead then things will improve for us and Scottish football next season, except Hibernian of course, another season of bottom six for them I fear. Shame.



Now what do we do with no football to watch.......?




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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Brickies

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Ever since those 'Fred Dibnah' the Bolton Steeplejack were on telly I have become fascinated with brickwork. Not that I am found staring at brick walls because this reflects on the excitement of my life, but the patterns revealed, the skill required and atrophy of mind are all involved. As I pedal up the old railway I pass a couple of bridges carrying roads over the line. This one served a farm or two and runs at an angle to the line. When you consider the skill required to build such an arch, let alone ensure it remains in place for over a hundred and fifty years, an admiration for these artisans grows. Bricklayers were one of the many groups of artisans that made full use of the 19th centuries desire to 'better oneself.' Gathering in groups they would pay a few pence a week into a kitty and when sick or short of work could draw a few shillings from the common purse. One near here went on to develop a brick making factory in the gravel pits opposite the railway station. Many houses were built from his bricks and he himself made this edifice from his own bricks and must have been quite important by the late Victorian age. Wasted as office space for far too many years this house once must have appeared a marvel to those who studied 'Self Help' books at the time.


Of course it was just as easy to lose everything overnight in those days and many did. The John Brown who owned 'Hollywood' leaves little trace that I can find but he achieved some success for a while at least. One other famous bricklayer was of course Winston Churchill! One of his 'rest cures' was to build walls in his house at Chartwell. The combination of creativity and a chance to rest the mind in the sun and inhaling fresh air and mortar did him good. He actually became a paid up member of a bricklayers union, and not many Conservative Prime Ministers could say that!  Looking at the bridge I was interested at the manner in which the brick ends are forming such a delicate pattern. The skill shown in many bridges, walls, and especially expensive houses shows much taste. Today of course only multi millionaires could contemplate such brickwork, so we end up with plastic and concrete! Ah well, it could be worse I suppose.


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Friday, 13 May 2011

Language

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Some folks have difficulty pronouncing the word 'Scone.' Quite often they will say 'Scone' when in fact they mean 'Scone.' This annoys some of us who have spent many some time in learning how to speak proper like. Therefore it is important for all out there to always say 'Scone' when they wish to obtain a 'Scone' and not pronounce it 'Scone' as that is not only pretentious it is quite erroneous. Even worse are those people who have a little knowledge, which as you know is a dangerous thing, such people take it upon themselves to pronounce the word 'Scone' which is totally wrong as 'Scone' is in fact a place. Scone as you will all know was where Scottish Kings were crowned in times past. The 'Stone of Destiny' resided there as a stool for them to sit on while being created 'King of Scots,' and what a privilege that was. The stone was nicked by the imperialist thug Edward I in 1300ish and kept in Westminster Abbey until John Major returned it in a vain effort to obtain votes. You will note that unlike the English barbarians the Scottish King became King of Scots, not King of Scotland. The land was not his, just the peoples loyalty. Of course being a democratic and egalitarian type if such a king failed in his duty then a democratic vote would result in a new king and an old one chasing his head down a hill. Words of course can be tricky when dealing with the pronunciation. American famously fail to say 'Tomato' when they try to say 'Tomato,' and 'Potato' also appears beyond their abilities to pronounce properly.  'Edinburgh' cause many problems as it tends to be called 'Scotland' by English TV people.


UK Student Life has an excellent easy recipe for 'Scones' which I will try.
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Trash!



Trash! I'm sick of trash! Everywhere I look the world is full of it! I sit through thirty minutes of the pretence that is Prime Ministers Question TIme, watching the stooges play out their game with no thought for the public. What matters to them is point scoring and discussing with their aids how to improve the image, while doing little about the subjects involved. It's all a game for the cameras and worthless for the nation. Power is to be grabbed, as it always has been, but at the present time it is being fought over by people empty of a belief system other than 'ME!' I turn over to the other side and find an antiques programme, one of many that fill the screen daily. While 'Bargain Hunt' may well be one of the few worth watching it sits amongst the dumbed down morning telly that fills the screen. Turning to ITV I find worse! 'Loose Women!'  Good grief! This programme has for several years now featured ageing women all dressed up and with nowhere to go, and no wonder! Talk is all about themselves, men, themselves and, well, men!  The limited world knowledge is at variance with the number of years these crones have spent in it. Trash indeed yet it appears five days a week! Then we have the cooks. Every channel requires its cookery show, all with a 'celebrity' who nobody knows. Add the desperate need for 'competition' into every programme and we have the 9 year old level satisfied.Just why there is such a need to find out who will be first I do not know, but it is everywhere these days. Trash!  There is around forty channels available to some in this country and almost 95% of what is on offer is trash!  I can understand having such programmes as part of a daily offering but  they are the predominate type.

I turn to the 'Independent' newspaper for news. I find 'Fergie' the 'Duchess of York' living on her title on yet another American TV programme telling us how hard her life is. Apart from the fact she is a chancer on the make, apart from the fact that Oprah is worse, apart from the vast amount of cash she gets for appearing I have to ask why this occurrence is in the press? A so called 'serious' newspaper needs such stories? Surely this belongs in the 'Express' or the 'Mail?'  News is not selling, possibly because of radio and TV's 24 hour a day coverage, however it leaves much space for deep thought which is not found in TV and rarely in radio these days. Thought ought to be found in such papers yet the 'celebrity' is what is selling instead. Trash! The 'entertainment' business is full of trash. Whatever film, whatever special effects are used, in the end it is a man in a white hat beating a man in a black hat, with sex added. TV is full of soaps and dramas that are just soaps. The media is empty and bereft for the most part  and I am heartily sick of it all!

Getting old is no fun when you see what is good drowned out by trash!

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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Swifts

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Today I saw the first Swifts of the year! This is always a great moment in my little mind. These fabulous birds have travelled all the way from Central Africa, fought their way, possibly up through Israel, Turkey, the Balkans, crossed Europe including gun crazy madmen in France and take up homes, usually last years, somewhere in the UK.  Others may have crossed the Sahara desert, jumped over to Gibraltar, avoided the dangers in Spain, and France and now screech across my skyline!  Such tiny creatures yet they travel so far. Animal migration is one of the wonders of creation. I believe there is a type of butterfly that makes its way from South to North America, why? Such slender creatures and with such a short life. For me the sight of House Martins and Swifts gambolling in the sun, or even in the gray overcast days of summer, really makes the summer.  It fascinates me how Swifts manage to  do everything but lay eggs in flight.  They close one eye and sleep up there, still chasing one another around in groups. The smaller House Martins follow similar behaviour but I believe they climb into the nest to rest. I was in Cumbria some years ago and a host of these birds formed a constantly moving ball of birds, about thirty feet across, playfully chasing one another. A great sight but I wonder if there will be as many around today.



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Monday, 9 May 2011

Tyres

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Tyres are filthy beasts! It is only when you turn the bike upside down and attempt, with much grunting and sweat, to remove the wheel that you realise just how much muck there is on the things. There is a slight possibility that not cleaning the brute since before winter began might have something to do with this. Anyway this morning among much feculence I spent a considerable time prising extremely small pieces of glass shreds from the tyre. These are the result of the kiddies beer bottles that appear to lie strewn over far to many roads and byways these days. There was of course an almighty struggle to get the type off the wheel, a similar struggle to that which ensued when placing it on there the last time. According to the books on the subject the repair begins just by placing a tyre lever in the right place and lifting it slowly. Bah! For one, where is the tyre lever? it was in the toolbox but has now walked into the cupboard! Then the thing goes under the tyre but will not move sideways, and if it does the tyre replaces itself as you move!!! 

Having lost several pounds in weight struggling to get the tyre off, two levers on both sides required, I then discover several little holes in the tyre stuffed with glass. As I searched, first in the cupboard then in the toolbox where it actually was, for the repair kit I also found a new inner tube! I must have bought this when flush with cash a while ago!  Great stuff, the repair can wait!  A straight forward hour long fight with the tyre, an inner tube that kept attempting to be outer tube,  and lever that keep crawling over the floor, I quickly fixed the problem. Another 'Mein Kampf' got the wheel back on the bike and this morning and later in the cool of the evening I trundled happily about the town, dodging late evening joggers, blackbirds looking for supper and families cycling the old railway together. Now I find my knees stiffening up again and the mind is filled with the thought that I am getting fitter, although cynics may refer to this as more like rising from the dead considering how unfit I really happen to be.  Now where did all that oil on the floor come from.....


Sunday, 8 May 2011

May 8th 1945

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May the eighth is the day to commemorate Victory in Europe Day. Britain with its obsession with the war ought to be marking this day is some manner, but it appears to be ignored by all bar 'Google!' Even the war obsessed 'Daily Mail is ignoring this and concentrating on 'Kate's family,' and 'Muslims targeting Prince Harry.' The dead of the war forgotten for more relevant stories. The celebrations in the streets of the UK on that day in 1945 brought the end of six long years of war. Britain had stood alone, lost about 400,000 dead, suffered damage in most major and many minor places, and now the nation had to pick up the pieces and return to normal. The conflict with Japan may rage on for a few months but most were just glad this 'lot' had come to an end.  What did Britain gain from the war?  Standing alone while the rest of the world looked on gave a moral superiority but little else. The social change hoped for after the Great War that never arrived was demanded this time and Britain had the largest civic change in its history in the following years. However the nation was bankrupt, rationing continued for ten years, the winter was awful, and it appears to many that Germany gained more than Britain did!This causes some to question whether the war was worth it? It was, it had to be fought, and we do those involved an injustice by not at least mentioning them at least in passing.



The Spring light makes me wake at around half five these days, but with a little effort I can doze till nearer half six! Then I jump on the bike, yell loudly, get off and get dressed, and then jump back on the bike, a little more comfortably, and cycle for half an hour. Being Sunday the streets were very quiet and I toddled around in that vain attempt to encourage fitness. On the last lap up the slope in the park the back wheel began to cause problems. A puncture, probably caused by the remnants of the kiddies beer bottles left crashed around the pathways, and joy of joys as always it is the back wheel that has got it. No comments on my weight making that more likely please! My technical abilities will rise to the fore tomorrow. I suspect it will be Thursday at least before I get this fixed properly!  Bah!  Note how clean the bike looks in that photo? Around 14 years alter it looks a bit worn, and now I could not reach the spot in the old railway where I pictured the thing. Oh the aches, oh the muscular pains, oh me.....




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Saturday, 7 May 2011

Friday, 6 May 2011

Freedom!

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                        This belongs to Day by Day Photos a photographic site you must see!

Today there is much rejoicing in the streets of Raith, and many other parts of Scotland. The Scots election last night saw the Scottish National Party take an overall majority into the Scottish Parliament and take total control as the Scots Government. The Conservative Party of course failed once again. This party has been in the wilderness since the days when Margaret Thatcher's racist policies saw deprivation kill Scotland's once proud manufacturing base, hundreds of thousands without work, and those on the Dole informed that they were 'scroungers.'  Council houses sold off cheaply to residents, then resold for a fat profit and lost to those in need. Absurd policies which gave no thought to human need. The Liberal Democrats have been vanquished after Nick Clegg their leader took his party into a coalition with the Conservative Party in England. This party is now in deep crisis. However the Labour Party, once the natural party for many Scots, handled the entire election badly. Ignoring Scotland's requirements and concentrating only on the English needs their vote fell dramatically. A shocking state for this party, reflecting the failure to consider what the people want and following out of touch leadership.

So now the SNP lead Scotland for the next four years. Already many are looking towards the day of the next referendum in Scotland, asking if the nation ought to be independent once again from the English neighbours. It is at times like this that I find living in England an irritation!  I joined the SNP in 1968 when I was just sweet sixteen. We traipsed the streets putting leaflets through folks doors, debating with all the intellectual ability a 16 year possess, almost nil I can confirm, and touched on the major element in the Scots psyche - England!  In 1707, much against the wishes off the people, England forced Scotland into a Union, not just of 'crowns' but politically also, and moved the parliament to Westminster. Some Lords were happy while the nation seethed. During the following three hundred years it quickly became apparent that Scotland was not considered of much worth in England. An attempt was made to change the name to North Britain! When this failed the English just resorted to their Edward the First manner and called the Island 'England!  By 1968 we were all aware of the manner in which Scotland was constantly downgraded by England, no matter which party was in power. I recall the Wilson government making the entire nation a business productivity zone, and excepted Edinburgh and Leith from this! This was around 64-66 time. Incredible! We all found TV was English based and Scotland was almost forgotten. Major Scots stories were shown in Scotland, in what the BBC still refers to as a 'region,' but rarely mentioned on 'National' News. Scots tennis players were 'British' at Wimbledon until they lost, and promptly became Scots. Some believe this to be a myth but I can tell you it is true. The constant lack of regard for Scotland encouraged a proud nation to rise again, and it did!  Following on from Winnie Ewings election to Westminster in 1967 a stimulus was created and during those 1968 local elections some 368 council seats were won by the SNP, often much to the surprise of some candidates!  I recall however one seat in Inverness was won by a Communist Party member, his leader appeared on telly informing the world that "The Scots people had realised that Communism was the answer and soon they would rule Scotland."  He ignored mention of the SNP.

The emotion of those days I can look at with different eyes today. Long since I have realised that England was not Scotland's main problem, it is not nations but people that matter. The people in this case being English and let's be honest for the most part did not notice they treated Scotland badly, they just didn't notice it at all. Scotland was 'Up there,' a place for holidays and a nation to play football against once a year. When pushed most admired the Scots, it was just that they were involved in their own lives and didn't notice. In fact East Anglia usually doesn't notice much let's be frank! Many Scots delight in the union,and I do not refer to Rangers fans with a misunderstanding of Irish history here, many would rather the union worked as they consider the United Kingdom stronger than a single entity, and I agree with them. The time when Britain stood alone against the Nazi threat may well be the only time that 'Great Britain' really was 'Great' and indeed 'United.'  I think Churchill never used the term 'England,' a term constantly used during the Great War, but he referred to Britain at all times. How sad that the opportunity to make the nation great was lost by English indifference and indeed at times contempt. The saga regarding the return of the 'Stone of Destiny,' showed English contempt for Scots feeling. Actually come to think of it I mind how in 1953 this contempt was made very clear by the erection in the Craigmiller district of Edinburgh of a pillar box. With Elizabeth crowned as Queen of the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' the Post Office erected new pillar boxes when required baring the slogan 'ER II.' It does not take much knowledge to note that Scotland has never had a queen called 'Elizabeth.' Clearly this was unacceptable and something had to be done. This new council housing estate soon rocked to an explosion caused by a stick of gelignite shoved through the slit. This was done in such a manner to ensure no mail was damaged and nobody was hurt. The investigation that followed could not find a perpetrator.  I suggest knocking on Wendy Wood's door that day may have been helpful to their enquiries.  What am I trying to say here? I am attempting to say that Scottish Nationalism would not be noticed if England had treated the Scots as partners and not part of 'Greater England. Now we do not know where this will lead, and emotionally I am with Scotland.

However reality must be considered here. The world wide recession, let's not argue about who started this, this recession is not over and will cut deep for some time. The planet is over crowded and the birthrate is not slowing down. Global warming is real, no matter what daft folk say, and at any time glacial melting could raise the sea levels fifteen to twenty feet. Not much problem here but swamping some nations. Food resources are running out and already some Malthusian answers have been muttered in dark corners, the fat rich may not notice but the skinny poor certainly will. It may well be two or three years before Scotland considers a referendum on independence, but the world situation may be a very different place in that short time.  I hate to be a Jeremiah on peoples joy (actually I would love to be a Jeremiah, what a man!) but reality is the Scots strong point. Emotion is great but reality will win the day. Those who voted SNP this time may not the next, and during a referendum many more will vote than did last night. How Alex Salmond, probably the only proper politician in the parliament at the moment, how he deals with the economy will be the major point of his rule. Careful judgement might well see folks willing to separate themselves from the 'UK,' and this would be a very interesting time indeed.

This is a little rushed, and while I wish Scotland to be a strong independent nation again, I fear for it with so few powerful men to lead. Alongside Salmond there is who? Opposing him there is nobody. We need to raise some powerful leaders in Scotland and in very short time. 



                                   

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Vote!

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I did my citizens duty this morning and participated in the referendum on the voting system. I entered the Polling Station around 7:30 and was directed by a gentleman seated at the door to the row of cheap tacky tables on my right. Behind them sat three tacky women with paper and pens at hand. On the other side of the room two, or was it three more women fussed over the arrangement of their tacky tables. No-one else was in sight!
"Form a queue," said one of the girls. And I obeyed.
After making my cross, and spelling it correctly this time, I placed the two paper forms in the box which if not empty did not as yet possess many others. To echoing footsteps I took my leave and came upon no eager voters crowding the doors demanding to vote in this important referendum. This I thought strange even for that time of the morning. While local elections, and the second form represented this, fail to inspire the locals it has to be expected that a referendum on the manner of electing culprits parliamentarians has to be regarded as important. I wonder just how many will have bothered to find their way to a polling booth today? 

As I dragged my bulk towards Tesco and their bargains, the 'Own Brand Honey' has gone up 4p in the last week and they only made £3 billion profit this year, I pondered on our reaction to democracy.  In some places in this world people queue for hours to enjoy the right to elect an individual to a position that enables them to immediately forget why they have been elected in the first place. However in the UK we care little unless there is a major talking point involved. We have the attitude all to often that 'There is nothing we can do' or 'It makes no difference' and this is very sad because by deselecting a sitting member the rest get a wake up call, and numbers are required to make this happen.

One problem is the wealth in the nation. While many of us are unemployed and purse strings are tight we still have vast wealth! Many on benefits are (the 'Daily Mail' keeps telling us) are better of than those working. Indeed some are but I for one can assure you (and how!) many are not. Outside my door a line of expensive, often new or large, cars trundle slowly home in the evening 'rush hour.' So poverty is not like it once was. Fifty years ago the road would have been quiet apart from those occasional cars or business vans, a number of motorbikes, with sidecars maybe, and a plethora of bicycles! Those passing by would also be considerably slimmer than the fat rich (and poor) folks around us today, and can I just point out that this is a very baggy shirt! In short nobody cares enough to vote because we have enough, even if we have not got work. While this is good the lesson of history is clear, wealth brings sloppiness to morals and selfishness rules, precisely what is happening around us now. A liberalism that puts the individual first replaces a society that, in general, looks to improve the nation around them. Of course the choice lies (in the UK parliament) is poor. The leaders and most of their followers come from the punk generation, and it shows! Well educated and rich with no experience of real life, unlike the majority of those who have gone before.  There are also no great political divides outside of the Independence movement in Scotland. I wonder if we will be so reluctent to vote at the next General Election after the number of unemployed increase, financial collapse and much gnashing of teeth?

Still, at least we are not talking about that wedding!


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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

You think English is easy?

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This arrived by e-mail the other day. What appears quite easy at first can become a real tongue twister!

Read to the end .. . . A new twist

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce .

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row ...

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2

meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by

filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick' ?
 
You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP ? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report ?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP ! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP...

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so........it is time to shut UP! 


Good innit? No idea who came up with this but I salute them!


Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Tuesday, All Day

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I suppose one benefit from the end of Osama bin Laden is that he removed that wedding from the news. On the other hand they now talk endlessly about nothing else! Without a doubt this is a major story, however the news media do have a terrible habit of concentrating on one story often to the extent of ignoring almost all others. However if they concentrate on a decent football* story then I might well change my mind of course.

*By 'Football' I emphasise for one or two of my unlettered American readers, by 'football' I mean 'football' and not either 'Soccer' or that throwball game, the one that bores intelligent peoples, that they play in the United States!


Isn't it always the way. At one point last night I began in my cavernous head a post for today. It was excellent, it made a good point, it was worth posting. I knew the picture I would use with it, and I was sure that it would elicit a response. It was interesting, and not just to me, enjoyable, and in my humble view I was writing it very well.
I just canny mind now what it was!
How often does this happen? This is not the first time I have mentally written a post (as opposed to writing a mental one) and either forgotten what it was or when writing the thing discovered it just would not come out right. All too often the thoughts in the head appear to be right but as I write they do not work. Could it be that typing on such a keyboard as this, including the sticky 'E' makes it too easy to rush ahead of the thoughts. Maybe writing longhand would produce better results, if I could remember how to do that! Anthony Trollope wrote many books, lots of letters, pamphlets, essays, items for magazines and newspapers often while on the move. His job as boss of the Post Office in Ireland (then under British rule) meant constant travelling. On coach or in the train,and you know how shoogly they can be today, imagine Victorian ones, he wrote in longhand. At least that way his thoughts were slower in appearing on the paper.
In fact one of the ways people can overcome trauma is doing just this. The very slow process of writing in longhand can help the mind to sort out lots of confusion that trauma, especially serious trauma can leave a person. A great many men who came out of the war had serious difficulties dealing with their experiences. Guilt, conscience, shock, the loss of friends, sights often too revolting to mention, all these can be the results of war and in 1945 people were for the most part just told to 'get on with it.' There was nothing else to do!   While this may not be a total answer to trauma it can help the mind organise the thoughts and help ease the difficulties problems can give us.
Hmmm I think I might go look for a pencil.....


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Monday, 2 May 2011

Monday Blue Skies

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As I was sitting in the early morning sun looking at the deep blue sky the media was rejoicing in a story that had nothing to do with that wedding! Although I suspect one or two still managed to mention it on several pages.  US soldiers had taken out Osama bin Laden. After ten years of searching he had been traced to his hideaway in Pakistan.  An efficient cut throat operation removed him and brought some sort of closure for America and those bereaved on wounded by 9/11. The whole incident leaves many unanswered questions, and I doubt Wikileaks will help here, however time will reveal much of what has occurred.  One thing is sure, those who attack the United States in such fashion now know they face a very real threat of being caught. There is now of course a very real danger of reprisal attacks, on a smaller scale than 9/11,occurring in several places.Groups such as these will encourage suicide bombers, although not doing this themselves, and human life means little to them and their twisted philosophy sadly.

It is inconceivable that there was nobody in high circles in Pakistan that did not know of bin Laden presence in the country. His establishment was not far from a military base and the compound was clearly too important in the social hierarchy of that nation to have been ignored.  Maybe the government did not know of his existence, but someone clearly knew! What effect will this have on the many violent groups in Pakistan now? This poor country has an very ineffective government, and one that appears to care little for their people.  It does however have constant bombings, on buses, in buildings and in main streets.  There are shootings of people of all rank, even amongst the highest, and vast numbers of police and army have suffered at the hands of extremists of one group or another. Pakistan Taliban claim they will attack the government because of this, and it appears the suffering within this sad nation is to continue. Muslim kills Muslim, Christians are in mortal danger, and even cabinet members are shot for speaking out against the violent ones. On top of this floods devastated the land and little aid was forthcoming, within or without Pakistan.  This is a very sad nation at the moment, fear fills the people in a manner not known before reports a BBC journalist with many years experience of the country, and no end is in sight after this incident. At least the US can be satisfied that one major door from 9/11 has now been closed.


 
To lighten the mood somewhat here is a picture of a steam train. What could be better to lighten the mood? Nothing! This one, 'Morayshire' is as you can tell, a  Nigel Gresley built D49. By 'built' I do not mean Nigel actually 'built' the thing himself, oh no, he was the designer of the beast and he just 'designed' it and had others put the thing together.A machine such as this is not built in your garage you know. He did this while working for the London & North East Railway Company. In fact I do believe, but have yet to prove, my grandfather drove steam trains for them also in the late 19th century, or at least he did until drink appears to have made him 'move on' to labouring work! He was last known to drive the shunter down at the gas woks in Granton, in between pints. The lovely engine shown here served its time since completion in 1928 working the lines of Scotland. This lasted until 1961 when the ignominy began under Beeching and rail lines and steam engines disappeared overnight. The new efficient diesel and electric trains that appeared throughout the nation were much more efficient indeed, except when they broke down of course. The romance of steam remains, the aroma of the coal inspired steam filling Caledonian Station stays with me yet, as indeed does lots of little black specks that landed in my short back and sides. This engine is now preserved you will be delighted to know and has been known to run at the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway.


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Sunday, 1 May 2011

Sunday Evening and Nothing to Say

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Sunday evening and I have nothing to say so here is a picture of a door. 'A' used to like picturing doors, although I am not sure if this is one that would receive her consideration!  That lass tended to go for doors on ageing castles, ch√Ęteaus and cathedrals. This is just an unused door on what is now a church with too small a membership to require more than one entrance, and this side door that once led to the gallery has not been in use for many a day.  The minister, a wee man from Glasgow, well past his 70th birthday, is a man who knows his God and continues to follow his calling. A grand speaker and canny man. His wife is what makes him what he is. The Bocking End Congregational Church once had several hundred attending, today there may have been less than thirty, especially as many are older than the minister, he has buried two thirds of his congregation since arriving 20 years ago! They are good people but the fabric is like me, a bit run down.







My empty, tired mind has nothing else to say. Many regard this as a good thing.....


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