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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Gray by name and grey by nature.

Iain, our present Labour MSP leader in Scotland has given his last speech in the position. In doing so he has underlined the reasons why the Labour Party in Scotland finds itself in a position that they could never have contemplated. Their support is disappearing quicker than “snaw oaf a dyke” and they have scraped the bottom of the barrel for political talent and come up wanting.

That their fall from grace should be so fast and so absolute is no surprise. For years they have treated Scotland and the Scottish people as theirs. They have used Scotland as a means of shoring up their Westminster presence. They have said they represent “the working man” and yet they have failed over and over again to address the real needs of Scotland.

They have failed to manage the change form heavy industry and the more traditional trades which had provided jobs for the Scottish people. The new jobs they chased were transient, low skill and even worse public sector. Labour also have to shoulder their share of the blame for squandering the oil “bonanza”. Shame on them.

Can we trust Labour? No matter what they say they are a Unionist party. Westminster draws the best Scottish Labour talent, it’s a bigger stage for them but they then become more anti-Scottish than any non-Scot. Just look at the treatment of RBofS and BofS and the Dunfermline Building Society. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling couldn’t get them sold off quick enough. No thought about the impact this might have on Scotland. You would really expect more from Scots with a pride in being Scottish.

This isn’t an anti-Labour whinge. It’s an anti-Labour as they have become whinge.

It looks like Labour are heading up a dead end. They might rally a bit but they are looking tired and the three leadership candidates? None of them look like good long-term propositions.

The reality of course is that this is actually bad thing. The Tories are nowhere and the next election will wipe the LibDems from the political map. Where is the opposition going to come from? Not the aggressive, negative and grey of Mr Gray. The confident, well informed and challenging opposition which will ask hard questions of the SNP and most importantly keep them honest.

History will judge failure to take full advantage of the present drive towards independence very harshly. This is the time for all MSPs to put Scotland first. Nothing else will do.

 

 
 

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Pick of the Pops Vol 4.

This week I’ll start off by saying now then, now then… Jimmy Savile died yesterday as you will probably know. He helped bring popular music into mainstream through his radio show, Top of the Pops and various other activities.

This weeks music is for the most part laid back and relaxing. Consider it your very own chill out session.

All the titles below are also links although for some strange reason they aren’t displaying as such. Life is too short to waste trying to find why. They just work. Honest.

Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street

The saxophone riff all the way through the song is amazing. It’s a fabulous song by an artist who probably never had the recognition he deserved when he was alive.


Dave Gilmour – Red sky at night 

He prefers David now apparently, he’s more mature now since the heady days of Pink Floyd. This is a fabulous, laid-back saxophone track. Relaxing. Lying on a hot beach in the hot sun. Wonderful. Just the thing for a cold autumn or winter day to aid daydreaming perhaps?

Sting – Fragile

This is a pretty old song, which Sting has reinvented a few times since he originally wrote and recoded it. It was originally written as a tribute to Ben Linder, an American civil engineer who was killed by the Contras in 1987 while working on a hydroelectric project in Nicaragua.

The Blue Nile – The Downtown Light

A Scottish band of towering ability and the highest standards of production. They recorded on the Linn record label. That’s the same Linn as makes and sells high end hi-fi equipment. Over the years The Blue Nile have released a few albums but at a frustratingly slow rate. This track sums up their talents, for me at least.

Craig Armstrong – The balcony scene

Craig is a highly successful movie sound track composer. This track is from Romeo and Juliet and is pretty amazing. My wife and I chose this along with three other of his compositions as the music for our wedding.

Eddie & The Hot Rods – Do anything you wanna do

From the punk era which favoured musicians with little in the way of playing ability. The American punk bands had a lot more musical ability and this is such a band. I remember this track most fondly from the Ferry fair at the Hawes car park back in the 70’s. The jungle ride. Looking out over the Forth at the two bridges. Worth a listen even now.

Daniel Beddingfield – If you’re not the one

We’re back in one hit territory again. That’s actually not accurate but sometimes an artist writes and records a song which is so good it eclipses anything else they have done or will do in the future. The acoustic version is the best. It’s incredibly easy to play this on a guitar, try singing it though. Oh dear.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Music, Uncategorized

 

Buses, trams and Gaels

This article was originally written for and appeared on the Subrosa blog and is republished here wih permission.

We’re still in a fairly tricky financial position. The EU is teetering on the brink and it’s beginning to look like there is no way out. Not to worry though the last minute hard fought deal to save the Euro will be tomorrow nights news. Back slapping all around. 2 Trillion Euro fund to spend. Result! Oh goody!

In Edinburgh we have the trams. A billion pounds of light railway, falling well short of what it should have been whilst costing twice as much. The debt will have to be paid back by the council taxpayers. Oh goody!

Then we have the small question of the Edinburgh Gaelic School. Does this sound remotely familiar?

Exhibit 1.

The Scottish Government decision to provide capital funding of £1.4m to cover the cost of the project as identified by the City of Edinburgh Council.  Recently however new estimates of £3.6m have emerged, putting a question mark over the development of the school.

Result! ”That’s only just over 2.5 times the original estimate. Shortfall in funding? No problem. Borrow it. Use council money to pay for it. Of course there is no council money there is only taxpayers money. Oh goody!

Strolling swiftly along there’s the small issue of the statutory notices issued by the Council for repairs to Edinburgh buildings.

Exhibit 2.-

“The value of statutory notices issued by council surveyors has increased dramatically in recent years, from £9.2m in 2005 to more than £30m in 2010”.  

Edinburgh Council surveyors arrange the work through approved (well approved may not be the correct word) contractors and recoup the cash from homeowners who are told what is to be done, who will do it and what it will cost. Oh goody!

Exhibit 3.

“Edinburgh Council, the local authority, receives 15% of the final bill.”

So this system, designed to preserve Edinburgh buildings is a cash cow providing £4.5m to the council. Oh goody!

One final thought about Edinburgh. Let’s think transport. No not trams again. No. Buses. Lothian Buses. The only municipal owned Bus Company in Scotland. They provide a very good service. Well they would since they have an almost complete monopoly. Will they cut services, which may mean that people will have to use the trams? Of course not. Edinburgh Council wouldn’t do that. No way. Never.

Those brave souls staying out in tents (well maybe not staying out) without running water (well only until they nip home for a shower etc,) who are demonstrating about the unfairness of capitalism? You know the same ones as are outside St Pauls? Well maybe they should take a long hard look at Edinburgh Council. Maybe they would see some financial practices which make their present targets look like saints. Oh goody.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2011 in Politics

 

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Tha’s twenty minutes of my life gone that I’ll never get back.

Once again I fell upon Question Time last night but, only for twenty minutes. It seems to be a shadow of it’s previous self when Robin Day was the anchor/host/chairperson/presenter. That aside the panel were pretty uninspiring. Iain Duncan Smith looked totally stunned most of the time, Nigel Farage didn’t seem to get much of a chance to speak, Gloria De Piero the Labour person trotted out the usual garbage and Jo Swinson… talked endlessly, as David Dimbleby either couldn’t or wouldn’t stop her.

The panel were still in denial. The EU is a good thing. We can’t rock the boat at this moment. There will be a referendum if the treaty is changed. At one point Jo Swinson was talking about voting with the whip. She could do this with a clear conscience since the LibDem manifesto said the EU was a good thing. Dellusional?

She then went on to say that if it had been a free vote it would have been a matter for individual MPs to vote as their views dictated. Oh really? MPs are in parliament because a majority of voters in their constituency voted for them. They are sent to Westminster to represent the constituency. In an ideal world they would canvass the opinions of their constituency voters and having identified the most popular voters option vote accordingly.  They would be welcome to voice their own opinions but that is all they would be, opinions.

Jo also said that people weren’t happy with the “political class” and MPs  in particular. Well she got that right at least although what an arrogant term that is. Mind you that phrase sits very nicely with the majority view of MPs that they know better than you and me, the voters. They know better about the EU.

Everyone apart from Nigel F thought it was a good thing to be in the EU, that we should play a leadership role in it. More of the same apart from a few throw away lines about “renegotiating” or taking advantage of the current situation to further the UKs aims.

It’s like you’re sitting in the bar and everything appears fine although you’ve noticed smoke and flames coming from the lounge next door. You ignore the flames and smoke for a while and then decide that the most productive thing you could do is to set fire to the bar, making sure that your own chair is burning brightly. Don’t phone for the fire brigade though, phone for the largest petrol tanker full of the most flammable liquid available you can get. Encourage all your mates to join you. If anyone tries to put the fire out, treat him or her with absolute contempt. After all you know best how to put a fire out. The fire will go out, eventually and there will be nothing left of the bar and most of the surrounding area. Result!!

The EU is a goner. They do not have enough money to reduce the debt sufficiently. Any money they use to ease the situation adds to debt elsewhere. But they are right. Unfortunately they will continue to be right until it’s far too late and they realise what they did was wrong. They won’t even give up then. Oh dear.

Print money and be damned. It’s such fun.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Politics

 

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It’s not default of the Barber of Brussels

Well here we are. It’s almost the weekend. Relaxing time doing things we like to do and the chores and food shopping etc. etc.

Those nice and ever so generous EU politicians will no doubt be tired after a very busy week of spending other peoples money. They have sat through difficult negotiations, enjoyed fabulous meals, given things away, enjoyed fabulous drinks, told people what to do, enjoyed fabulous snacks and then stayed up very late and saved the world. Well their bit of the world, which, unfortunately, we are a part. Just don’t mention default.

Greece has had a haircut. They have had their debt trimmed by 50%. What lovely, simplistic language. Nothing frightening there, move along. We should be very pleased to know that they have only needed to create an additional bail out fund of 1 trillion Euros. Result! Just didn’t mention default.

The reality is somewhat different of course. The Euro won’t survive. The only way to try to fix the Euro is to grown the economies of the EU states. Now that would be tricky because of the general stagnation of the EU economy. How to boost it? Simple. Strip out all ridiculous regulatory legislation resulting in a huge drop in operating costs for businesses. Go through the entire EU budget and strip out all costs, which do not support economic growth. No more global warming windmills nonsense. No more support for fake charities and the like. Greatly reduced overseas aid. Reduced contributions from member states.

Sell of EU assets. Reduce staffing numbers. Reduce wages for all EU employees. Reduce expenses. Freeze pay rises. Now I know that sounds a bit drastic but the EU leaders should look upon this solution as giving the EU a haircut. Trimming a few things here and there. Just don’t mention default.

At this point I should mention ‘default”. This is a bad word. The “markets” don’t like it. The Banks don’t like it. The agreements put in place are not defaults. The money they have created/borrowed/agreed to be available are not there to promote defaults. The “hit” the Eurozone banks have taken are not default based. The moon is made of cheese. Fairies are real. I will win the lottery this weekend. Obama will win a second term. Call me Dave knows what he is doing.

I think you catch my drift.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Politics

 

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A pint of milk, a Mars bar and a bag of white drops.

 

 

 

 

If you listen to Radio2 in the morning you might catch the segment where Chris Evans has a kid on with a sort of show and tell. This mornings wee chap of ten had been to his first session with his fitness instructor. I kid you not. What is happening to the world? What are his parents thinking about?

When I was young eating was something we did. We’d start with toast or porridge or a cereal, chosen due to the free toy that came with it obviously.

Two pints of proper milk was delivered fresh every morning sometimes it was a bit less than a pint, because the birds pecked a hole in the foil top and helped themselves. Sometimes it was a bit more because the milk was frozen and it expanded through the foil top.

At school morning break we got a wee bottle of milk with a wax straw, which invariably flattened after a few “sooks”, and you had to coax the straw back into enough of a tube to allow further “sooking” repeating as necessary until said bottle was empty. I’m pretty sure playtime required a play piece although I’m not sure what we were given. My Mothers claims it was an apple or a bit of some other fruit. It certainly wasn’t chocolate biscuits and stuff though although I’d have been just as happy if it had been.

At that time we had dinner and tea and sometimes supper, none of the lunch, dinner and always supper that we modern types foist on our bairns! At dinner, it was either a home lunch or a school dinner. Home lunch would be a cooked meal, along the lines of mashed potatoes and mince and custard to follow. Parental eating rules were formly in place. Clear your plate or no pudding. I well remember a lunch with my Mother hovering over me telling me to eat my mash. I was struggling because the mash had gone cold and there were wee hard lumps of not quite cooked potato in it. I never did get that pudding.

Tea would be between 5:00 and 6:00 and feature stovies or some sort of smaller warm meal. Cups of tea and either Rich Tea or Digestive biscuits perhaps with a thin covering of apple jelly or margarine for afters with maybe a slice of toast and another cup of tea for supper.

Saturday lunchtimes were traditional Scottish pies and Sunday breakfast was fry up with white scones included. Sunday tea was served at four and was a bit grander in general. Carry outs?  Of course. Fish and chips or some sort of pudding or mini steak pie with two large pickled onions being compulsory, they are veg aren’t they?

In the winter home made soup was the staple and each morning I was given a spoon of malt, which would stick to my ribs apparently.

Cakes came in the form of tray bakes or tea bread and were a Friday thing (people were paid on Thursdays then, in actual money). The Co-op bakers van came to the door as did the Co-op grocery van. At least one butchers van also came as did a fish van (my dad for a few years). There was a grocers a few doors along and another a few doors along in the other direction beside a co-op grocery and a fish and chip shop.

Cakes were also quite bountiful when visiting Grannies and Aunties. Home made of course and a lot of them came with butter icing and mushy jam

fillings. Chocolate? Yes. Chocolate biscuits, oh yes. Chocolate bars, oh yes.

Nutritional values? Never heard that mentioned ever… at all. Fruit and veg? Easy. To have us kids eat it was simple, just mush veg up in soup. Having to eat veg included in a main course was much harder. Enter bribery or threats from stage left. Eat them up and you get a treat. Don’t eat them and you may be at the table for some time and/or no pudding or sweets. I wasn’t a fan of barley in soup. I would fish out every last bit and line them up along the soup bowl rim. My Dad would get really ticked off at this. I still avoid barley.

We managed just fine. There were some kids who, shall we say, carried a bit more weight than the rest of us. There were adults of a similar rotund appearance. Maybe there were more or less rotund people around who knows. We were too busy doing stuff. And here we are today.

Scottish Grannies nutritional advice – Everything in moderation! Who’s to argue with that? A mantra for all things. Well… maybe not all.

Finally a period nutrition story.

I had school dinners for the last two or three years at high school. The seconds (helpings) or even thirds of Syrup sponge and custard was particularly difficult to pass up.

My friend and I decided to change and started going a local wee shop. They sold good stuff from our staple lunch was drawn. For the same price of a school dinner we bought a bottle of milk, a Mars bar and as many white chocolate drops as the money we had allowed.

I related this to my son when he started high school. Horrifically he told my Mother! I mean shopped by your own son! I had to endure a lecture from her.

Do we ever reach an age when our parents stop giving us rows?

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in General

 

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A walk in the park.

Our normal walking around town in Edinburgh was a bit more colourful on Saturday. We normally walk through St Andrews Square Park on our way to George Street and on occasion when the sun is shining we may even stop for a coffee.

This week however the park was very busy. It also had a number of those flip up tents pitched and lots of people were milling around including some policemen. We weren’t going to let our normal route to be hijacked so we strolled through. The protesters seemed to fit into two categories. Schoolies/students or professional protestors. They had draped banners over the statue base in the middle of the park and were having discussions and sharing thought etc.

This was of course a protest based on the Wall Street and St Pauls versions. Anti-capitalists. Anti big business. Anti what’s fashionable to be seen to be taking part in this week. I’d imagine that all of those present owned their very existence to capitalism and the fact that they will eat, have drinkable water, clothes on their backs and a warm home to go back to all provided by the capitalist system may have escaped their notice.

To a degree I am not entirely happy myself with “big business” and it’s fairly obvious that our capitalist system has been hijacked and could do with a bit of a make-over to say the least. But the basic premise of capitalism seems to work pretty well for us all. We sell our labour and buy such goods and services as we see fit with the resulting wages. I’m not anti Tesco for example, since I can choose where to shop. I choose to spend money as I see fit and on things which I enjoy.

Of course choice goes out the window when we come to taxes and all the other add on charges, which the state forces on us all. I didn’t notice any banners suggesting that smaller and more accountable governance would be worth considering. That would fly in the face of the controls these protestors undoubtedly would require to make sure capitalism was contained as their vision of the future requires.

Everyone should have the right to an opinion. If group A stop group B sharing their opinion then they have become fascists, even if they started out as communists/socialists and the same is true of the extreme right if they are subdued unfairly they become less right than those who subdue them. It is important that these protestors make their point as long as it doesn’t impinge on anyone elses rights.

So the demonstrations will go on. St Pauls should not have to close its doors due to the protests. Whilst it’s in the financial district there are other places nearby with adequate space to pitch your tent and get on with rubbishing capitalism.

However, having rubbished capitalism the biggest question is “what would you replace it with?”  I’ve not heard any sort of alternative, which has worked or sounds as if it will work. Centralised economic planning? Like the USSR? I don’t remember that working. Self sufficiency, self drudgery more like. Tilling the soil takes up a huge amount of time and nature isn’t co-operative.

As I’ve said before, if anyone doesn’t like capitalism, and thinks we aren’t green enough then go and live somewhere where you can actually live the way you think would be ideal to meet your beliefs. Try parts of Africa. No power, dirty water, ineffective mosquito control, very limited medical facilities, droughts, wars, high infant mortality rates, reduced life expectancy and on and on and on. Big business will be to blame for those as well though I’d imagine. Not the UN or the large numbers of charities, which have not been able to solve the problems and help the local populations after years and years of trying?

At St Pauls the protestors use their mobile phones, use the toilets in local coffee shops and buy their food and drink in them as well. The protestors in Edinburgh do the same or similar. Is that not just a wee bit hypocritical?

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Politics

 

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