Wednesday 29 June 2016

Here's A How-De-Do!

Wouldn't Gilbert and Sullivan be having a field day if they were alive and writing and composing just now? I would love to have the talent to parody some of their work and adapt it to modern circumstances.

I really want to write a considered serious post or two on the present situation because I think it is far more serious and the consequences far more far-reaching for our children and the world and the future of the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Indeed I may do that but for now I'll address one point: that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is not made up of four regions! People's ignorance astonishes me demonstrated by the number of time I have heard a reference on television and radio recently to Scotland being a region or area of the UK or, on one occasion, a region of England (sic) not even of the UK.

Perhaps it's the weather:

Monday 27 June 2016


England voted out.

Iceland obliged.

Resignation followed.

Monday 20 June 2016

First World Problems

After yesterday's post I wondered what First World problem I could come up with to rival that. Then I thought about Marmite jars.  The idea of upside down jars is great for sauces and the like but for Marmite? Forget it because it just doesn't work. Apart from needing hands with a vice-like grip (which fortunately I have even if they are not as strong as they used to be) you still have to take the top off to get at most of the contents towards the end. I'll stick with the traditional jar thank you.

Sunday 19 June 2016


I caught an article on BBC2's news roundup about someone from the UN or a similar body staying at a hotel in Syria which such people stay at because it's regarded as being as safe as any hotel can be there. The person had written a review on TripAdvisor saying that the hotel was good but criticising the shortage of water. Now it seems so implausible to me that I would love to think that I got the whole thing wrong but I didn't. I might have got the detail wrong but not the gist of it.

It made me think just how bizarre are our thought processes these days. Millions in Syria are starving and dying of thirst not to mention those being killed by armaments of one sort or another by one side or another. And yet people are still writing on TripAdvisor and about water shortages a couple of miles from the carnage.

You couldn't make that up.

Monday 13 June 2016

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I have just read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I'm not sure how I was first introduced to it but, as I said recently, I had a feeling it was through Monica or Meike. Anyway someone mentioned it on Meike's blog recently and I decided that as I bought it a while ago it was time to read it. It's not a long read. It is, however, a very good read. 

Of course that's a very subjective statement. The book, set in 1946, is written in the form of letters between the person who can be regarded as the central character/narrator, her friends and people on Guernsey who have lived through the German occupation of the Island and who formed the literary society which forms the title of the book.

The book was published in 2008 and according to the many positive reviews it was well received.

Once I had started the book I couldn't put it down (for long) but I have to say that the first part was far more compelling and promised more than about the last third provided. 

One of the things that kept me going though was some absolutely splendid quotations which, as always, are better in context than on their own:

Early on in the book: That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment. True not just of books but of blogs too.

I much prefer whining to counting my blessings.

Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.

....'Life goes on.' What nonsense, I though, of course it doesn't. It's death that goes on. Ian is dead now and will be dead tomorrow and next year and for ever. There's no end to that. But perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it.Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take time to recede.

Sunday 12 June 2016

And After Something Serious

My knees don't match any more!

Saturday 11 June 2016

Cynical Campaigning

I have always been committed to the idea of the European Union: anything that increases inter-country understanding is, in my mind, a Good Thing. Whether the UK's current membership of the European Union achieves that may be open to question. Many, perhaps most, people are cynical about the great bureaucracy that is the EU. That, combined with many other considerations, may well lead to a vote on the 23rd June to leave the Union. 

It doesn't end there, though. The regional makeup of the vote may also have huge ramifications for the UK. If, for example, English votes are sufficient to take us out of the EU but Scotland votes to stay in what then? If the Scottish vote is sufficient to 'overrule' the English vote what then? There are many permutations. 

There is certainly the possibility that the result could lead to a renewed call for Scotland's independence.

How does one make a decision based on the outright untruths and emotional arguments that are being made? They look more and more like a fight for the leadership and political control of the two main UK political parties.

However what really bugs me is the most cynical of all advertisements: the NHS advert. Wouldn't it be wonderful to think that we could spend that £350 million a week on the NHS. The possibility that the £350m a week could ever be available in or out of the EU is a complete myth. But even if it wasn't the three main protagonists: Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Ian Duncan Smith have all supported directly opposing policies when it comes to the NHS: Gove wants it privatised, Johnson wants it charged for and IDS was responsible for one of the the most iniquitous of all policies: PIP (which targeted so many of the genuine claimants because they were the easy soft targets).

Put them in charge of the country aided by Nigel Farage and then have PM Boris Johnson negotiating with President Trump and world politics will certainly be 'interesting'.

I'm just not sure I want to be living in it.

Thursday 9 June 2016


I looked out of the window and thought it was a strange time of the evening to have a fog bank so far inland. Silly me. So I followed the smoke:


 That'll be an oops then.

Sunday 5 June 2016

"Do not stand at my grave and weep"

As I mentioned in my last post yesterday was a Good Day. Today the sun is shining out of a solid blue sky and there's hardly a puff of wind: just enough to be pleasant. So I spent three hours gardening. I have never regarded that as work. For me it was, and is, a way of relaxing and allows me to think about the meaning of life in a way that I can't if I'm doing anything else.

Today I reflected on the life, and death, of our older son, Andrew, who died ten years ago yesterday. Who knows what might have been. To be honest I never think of that. 

One of the things that has struck me more as I get older and as the two World Wars get further away (I was born 2 days before D-Day) is how many parents (on both sides) lost their children without them even getting out of their teens or early 20s and how many had children who went away as 'normal' children and came back mentally or physically scarred and changed: often beyond recognition? 

No parent expects a child to die before they do. It goes against the natural order of things.

Andy, as he preferred to be known, had cancer. He had the very best of treatment at the Royal Marsden in London one of the finest specialist cancer hospitals in the country. It was a horrible cancer and it was a horrible way to die. That was as bad a period of life as a parent as it could be.

There was no funeral. Andy had arranged for a Humanist celebration of his life with his friends and family. We celebrated that life.

I think of Andy most days. I think of the good times. I think of the positive things he did. I don't think about the pain and the suffering. I do not grieve. Grief is a negative emotion. We grieve for ourselves and those who are left behind. Grief doesn't help the person who has died. 

So today I thought even more about the happiness that he brought to the family and to his friends during his 33 years on this earth. And I was thankful.

I posted pictures of Andy last year here but here are a few more:

Andrew's first catch?
Andrew seemed to spend a lot of time in small boats which was strange because on the ferry he was always sick before we left port.
In Uig
Early signs of a career as a computer programmer?
A birthday with friends at Coll (some of you may recognise yourself!).

Saturday 4 June 2016

Another Birthday

Today is the anniversary of my birth. I've always thought the term birthday rather odd because one only has one: the day of one's birth. Anyway by common usage today is my Birthday. I rarely celebrate my birthday. In fact I've never given birthdays the importance that many people obviously feel they are due. Somehow, though, I had a feeling a few weeks ago that this birthday was going to be a bit different: it was going to be a Good Day.

It has been. It started yesterday with a meal out at Digby Chick with my son Gaz, his wife and her parents. It was a very special evening.

Today the sun has shone and despite the wind still being from the North it was not so cold that I haven't been able to spend three hours in the garden during the day. My knee isn't complaining either.

I've had visits and phone calls and messages and cards and presents and I don't know whether I've just been more sensitive to it but I actually feel I'm having a birthday in a way that I haven't for as long as I can remember: well my 60th actually when very dear friends organised a huge party.

So I'm writing this whilst waiting for a lift to Pat and Dave's for dinner where I know that I will have a lovely, relaxing evening with good company, good food and good wine. What more could a man want?

My birthday is also the anniversary of the death of our son Andrew. This year is the tenth anniversary. It is also the anniversary of the death of a very dear friend's father.  

Our son Gaz proposed to his, now, wife Carol on this day too.

So today is a day of special memories and reflections and of mixed emotions and despite that it is still a Good Day.

I will do a more reflective post tomorrow but for now I shall sit in the sun-drenched conservatory and pour myself a G and T (Thank you Gaz and Carol) :

Isle of Harris Gin

Friday 3 June 2016

STS Morgenster

I looked out of the window and below the house in the bay was a sailing ship.  Whilst we have the Tall Ships and occasional sail training vessels visiting Stornoway and the Islands this is the first time I have seen one anchored in the bay. It was a calm evening. The ship anchored overnight and then in the morning gently slipped away without, unfortunately from the picture point of view, unfurling her sails (which given how calm it was would have been pointless).

She was the Nederlands registered Sail Training Ship Morgenster sailing between Kirkwall and Belfast.

Carrying the name 'Vrouwe Maria', this brig was put into use in 1919 for the catching of fish in the North Sea. A motor was fitted in 1928 and in 1947 it got extended and re-measured. In 1959 the name changed into Morgenster. Later on the ship served in sport fishing and as a radio ship for Radio Del Mare. In 1993 Harry Muter bought the vessel to rebuild it into a Sail Training Ship. In 2008 the ship can be found sailing the waters of Europe once again.

First view from the house
I couldn't resist a second shot emphasising the beautiful sea
...and another emphasising the sky
Settling in for the night
It's light almost 'till midnight here on a good day at this time of year

Calm in the dawn light