Thursday, 22 March 2018

A Fire and An Allegory

I'm in Glasgow. Tomorrow I go into Ayr Hospital and, hopefully, the Surgeon will sort out the problem that has been contributing to my bouts of sepsis.

Today Anna and I went into Glasgow City Centre. As we were driving in and were still some miles away we could see and smell smoke. It became obvious that there was a pretty serious fire somewhere in the City Centre. As we drove along the street into the car park we could see the flashing lights and the fire engines and the tall water cannons with the firemen mounted high into the sky above the buildings.

In fact the fire had only started or been discovered an hour or so before we left Anna's. It was in Sauchiehall Street - one of Glasgow's main shopping streets (although a shadow of it's former glorious self).

We went to John Lewis for coffee. The main windows in the café look right up Sauchiehall Street and the fire and firefighting were there for all to see.  I put my stuff down on a table and went to get the coffees and cakes. Anna came into the café as I was getting the food and went off to the table. 

As I sat down with the tray Anna announced that she had got the news on her phone and regaled me with what was happening - as I was looking at it. Anna had been so busy going to the table and looking for the information on her phone that she was blissfully unaware of what was unfolding in front of her eyes.

And that, I thought, is the story of so much of our lives these days: it's all happening in front of us but we are too busy looking for it (whatever 'it' happens to be) elsewhere that we miss what is staring us in the face.

From the bottom of Sauchiehall Street just below the window we were looking out of.
Aerial press photo
Aerial press photo

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Heinz 57 Varieties

YP's  post yesterday was entitled Pictures.  It had absolutely nothing to do with Heinz Beans. However in the esoteric comments that followed he mentioned "Heinz 57 Varieties" and Kylie of Eclectica asked "57 varieties of what?"

It made me wonder. Having grown up with the brand of tinned and bottled foods Heinz 57 Varieties it occurred to me that our antipodean readers might not be aware of the significance of the reference. So I decided to enlighten you and myself at the same time.

I have always assumed that the original Heinz brand produced 57 varieties of tinned/bottled foods. I also assumed that it was a British company. I was wrong on both counts.

Heinz 57 is a shortened form of an 1896 advertising slogan "57 Varieties of Pickles" by the H. J. Heinz Company located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. It has come to mean anything that is made from a large number of parts or origins. It was developed from the marketing campaign that told consumers about the numerous pickle products available from the Heinz company.

The reason for "57" is unclear. Heinz said he chose "5" because it was his lucky number and the number "7" was his wife's lucky number. However, Heinz also said the number "7" was selected specifically because of the "psychological influence of that figure and of its enduring significance to people of all ages". Whatever the reasons, Heinz wanted the company to advertise the greatest number of choices of pickles. In fact by 1892, four years before the slogan was created, the Heinz company was already selling more than 60 products.

In Britain I would think that Heinz is best known for its baked beans. I didn't know until I looked for some pictures for this post that Heinz Baked Beans had been  re-branded as Heinz Beanz. So the Heinz tin showing the 57 very clearly has been relegated to less prominent type.

For my antipodean readers Heinz is branded as Watties in New Zealand (where it is a very large company) and as Heinz Watties in Australia.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Elderly Nurse

When I was in Glasgow's Royal Infirmary last December my first ward after A and E was the Medical Reception Ward. Whilst there I received lots of questioning, tests and so on. When one has sepsis one is often confused but I was alert enough to know what was happening when  a nurse walked across the ward towards me announcing "I'm the elderly nurse.".  My response was quite simply that she didn't look anywhere near as old as I am and I don't think of myself as elderly.

"No. I'm the Elderly Nurse." Ah. That was her title. Of course I knew that but it did seem a very strange moniker.

The standard questions followed: did I know my name?; did I know my address?; did I know where I was?; and did I know why I was here? Able to answer the questions without a problem I was pronounced not to have dementia and off she went to find another patient who might not have been so fortunate.

So when the nurse taking all my details when I got onto the ward last week said "And now for The Questions." I knew exactly what was coming and answered them without her having to ask. Without batting an eyelid she then asked me to recite the months of the year...backwards. As it happens I can do that almost as fast as I can recite them in the correct order: something I was totally unaware of until that moment.

Monday, 12 March 2018


I'm home: back on Lewis. It was a lovely day's drive and sail on Friday. I've unpacked and regrouped (Glasgow = shopping as well as concerts, visiting etc etc as well as hospital, hospital and hospital). Yesterday was spent corresponding: snail mail, email, WhatsApp, Messenger, Telegram. Today was soup making day; a visit from Gaz and wee Brodie for lunch; and a general clearing up in the garden in the lovely weather this afternoon.

When one is in hospital one has all the time in the world. Everything is done for one. And yet with all that time at my disposal I achieved nothing in the time I was sitting in my nice little room with not even a television for distraction. So I listened to music, read the previous Saturday's 'Times' from cover to cover and did all the Mind Games. And almost nothing else for three and a half days.

I did gaze out over the Glasgow Necropolis occasionally. A great view from a hospital! Glasgow's Great and Good of old lie there.

Okay. I was rather ill for the first day or so until the intravenous antibiotics worked their magic but why didn't I actually use a pen and paper and draft some of the blog posts I wrote in my mind whilst sitting or lying there? Why didn't I write letters? (I write at least a dozen snail-mail letters/cards each week - usually more). Why didn't I read more than 3 chapters of the McCall Smith book I had with me? Why?

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Life - An Update

I’ve been in Glasgow for a couple of weeks.  I should have been home last week.  I came down for routine scans and an appointment with the drug trial coordinator for my cancer treatment. Once more things have not turned out as planned: partly because of the snowy weather and partly because I’m back in hospital with an infection again. One of the problems of being in hospital is that I’m separated from my laptop. This makes Blogland laborious using my iPhone. 

All my British readers will likely have seen plenty of pictures of snow much worse that the snow we’ve had in Glasgow but the chaos here has been considerable with trains cancelled en masse and general transport disruption. At Anna’s where I’m staying the road was totally blocked for cars except a few 4x4s for several days. I eventually got to The Beatson on Friday by walking out to the main road 25 minutes away on foot and getting a bus. In places the snow was over the top of my wellingtons.

I had planned this post with photos but despite all my efforts I cannot find a way that Blogger will post the photos from my phone. The original Blogger app was discontinued long ago and using Google’s Chrome app on my iPhone as my browser elicits the same message as do all the other browsers ie that it is not a Google supported browser for Google Blogger. How strange.

So that’s all folks: for now.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


I’m not the world’s greatest analytical  thinker. In fact I’m probably not the best in my own household which is amazing given that I live alone. So the following comments are simply musings.

There can be few people who have seen Blue Planet 2 who are not to some extent now anti-plastic.

I have for years been wondering about the use of plastic in supermarkets. I think it began ten years ago in a small town in France called Civray at a chain supermarket called Intermarché . It was the first time that I had seen every single orange wrapped in plastic. Since then it has become a challenge to get into almost any food without removing layers of plastic.

This is a huge subject but I shall just make a few observations.

Plastics help keep food fresh and without them we in the UK (and presumably much of Europe) would be denied many all-year-round foods. Indeed we would be denied many foods that we now take for granted. It was very obvious when I lived in Napier (the same may not be true of the more cosmopolitan cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch) that, generally speaking, fresh food was seasonal. There were exceptions: oranges always seemed to be from the USA for example and were available all the time. They don’t need plastic to stay edible! Apples - one of New Zealand’s big crops - were held in inert gas in massive storehouses so were also always available. In fact I don’t remember anywhere near as much plastic being used for packaging as is used in the UK.

One of my greatest joys in New Zealand was to stop at the roadside in The Handbag and buy a punnet or paper bag of cherries right off the tree that morning. I would then drive home and arrive having devoured the lot with not a bit of plastic involved. (Don’t tell anyone but, given that The Handbag was open topped, I used to curl my tongue and expel the stone).

I digressed.

Just about every food that is transported across the world (at great air mile environmental cost) is wrapped in plastic and probably could not be transported without it.

I’m not advocating no action. Indeed there are many things we could and should do and we should do them quickly.

However we should also think before we commit to alternatives.

Bioplastic much beloved by the vegan food industry takes 1.7 sq metres of arable land to provide each kilo. I think I read that Europe consumes about 60 million tonnes of plastic wrapping a year. If all this were grown in fields then it would take 40,000 sq miles (one tenths of Europe’s arable land).  It also tends to compost to methane very quickly which has 20 times the potency of CO₂.

Lots of ‘plastic’ things are being made of bamboo derivatives. That sounds good to me but, apparently, the bamboo crops of the world (it’s not the fastest growing plant) are being decimated fairly rapidly.

I have no idea what the answers are but there are great analytical  thinkers out there and perhaps the politicians should employ some to solve the problem before it becomes unsolvable as the world sinks in a plastic mire.

As an aside I think the hardest problem to solve is going to be secure bottle tops. You can’t press the side of metal caps in to release them from a medicine bottle.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Spelling Bee

Rainbow today over Bayble Bay, Isle of Lewis

I can spell 'rainbow'. In fact I can spell lots of words pretty well. I should be able to too. Words were my stock in trade. However, I have always had some bêtes noir. Diphthong, diarrhoea and, oddly, muesli spring immediately to mind. I also went for much of my life convinced that 'across' was spelt 'accross'.

At primary school spelling bees were a common way of testing and improving our spelling ability. They were also supposed to be enjoyable and, to be frank, I did enjoy them. So did Joan Rigby. Joan was the brightest person in the school by far (teachers included I rather think). On one occasion she and I were captaining two spelling bee teams. The teams were level pegging until she and I had to face each other. I cannot recall what I was asked to spell but I spelt it correctly. Really at my wits end, and definitely in awe of Joan, I asked her to spell 'bee' as in 'spelling bee'. Much to everyone's astonishment she either couldn't or she miss-spelt it and my team won.

I don't expect YP to have any such problems but I'd love to know what bêtes noir the rest of my readers have: if any.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Washing Machine Detergent

How sexy and grabbing is that for a blog post title?

So much has been said about plastics recently that I was drafting my tuppence-worth when I read the label on a bottle of washing machine detergent (it is called so many things these days). I actually wanted to see what the number was in the re-cycling triangle on the base. I was astonished. I've obviously never read one before and I was completely taken by surprise. 

How many of us have read the labels despite a message hidden amongst all that small print exhorting us to do so? How many of us knew that it is severely deleterious to eyes? All that and much more is in the small print on the back of the bottle. On the front in very large letters it is emphasised as being suitable for sensitive skin: so much friendlier.

By the way do you have any idea what the red diamond sign means? Well so far as I can gather it means corrosive substance to materials and flesh. That doesn't sound very good for sensitive skin (or any skin) so far as I can make out.

Friday, 2 February 2018


If there is a way of making someone homesick it is sending them lots of food and goodies that are unique to 'home'.  I recall my Uncle who had emigrated to Canada in the '50s saying the same. 

'Home', though, is a very strange concept in my mind. I was born in Liverpool and have a certain nostalgia for that great city which once rivalled New York for the size of its international trade and had docks larger than those of London. However the day I moved away was the last day I felt that it was 'home'. 

I came to Lewis for two years in the '70s and never left. Wherever I am now, Lewis is 'home'. I think that it always will be.

However I'm a Hebridean Kiwi at heart having lived a half-life there for a decade. Every time I flew into Lewis or flew into New Zealand or every time I left either, my heart would give a jump and my eyes would well up with tears of emotion.

So when The Family in New Zealand sent me a goody-box for Christmas I was overwhelmed. I'm still opening packets and eating memories.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Moon

Humans everywhere and through all time have been obsessed with The Moon and tonight's super-blue-moon has engendered lots of interest. It's not particularly easy to photograph the craters at a full moon because the direct light flattens it to the ordinary camera. My photo in the sidebar of this blog (taken with a far less powerful lens over 10 years ago) is not a full moon and some of the craters are more obvious because of the shadows. However despite the fact that everyone will have seen pictures of superb quality in every newspaper and on television I cannot resist showing my own effort. It was taken about 4 or 5 hours before the optimum time for this grid reference. 

When I think about it the words in the sidebar are even more poignant at a time like this when so many people everywhere in the world are looking at the moon. "We may be apart but when I look at the sky and remember that we are standing on the same earth, looking at the same moon, somehow you don't seem so far away after all." I love the notion imparted by those words.

Friday, 26 January 2018

My First Digital Photo

On the 18 July 2000 I took my first digital photo with my first digital camera: a Kodak DC280 Zoom Digital Camera. The zoom was x2.

The picture was of two of my parents' 'mascots' which lived on the settee.  The koala was brought back by me from Australia the previous year. I cannot recall the origin of the other one.

We went for a drive to Delamere Forest where the next picture was taken. This one is of CJ and I and is unusually rare in that CJ is outside but does not have his camera on him (obviously it would have been within easy reach). Interestingly, despite being the owner of a newfangled digital camera, I am still carrying my trusty Pentax SLR which, in fact, I continued to use in parallel with the Kodak for several years.

The Kodak with it's 2x zoom. A far cry from the 50x zoom of my last digital camera (a Canon SX50) before I decided a couple of years ago to go back to Pentax but with a DSLR.  I still use the Canon occasionally for its sheer lightness and convenience.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Clean Recycling

As I was washing out a peanut butter jar I was pondering on the hot water, power and washing up liquid  being used to wash out the jar. 

A friend refuses to wash any jars he puts out on the grounds that he will not waste the time and resources I've mentioned.  That's a considered point of view. I know from the smell and flies that a house I pass occasionally does not clean out any animal food tins before disposing of them. That may or may not be a considered and conscious action: it may be sheer laziness or lack of thought.

I have two arguments in favour of washing dirty items before disposing of them. The first is out of consideration for the people who have to work in the plants sorting all the rubbish (or for one's neighbours on a warm day). Degrees of automation in recycling plants vary enormously. The second is that whilst glass  and metal may be automatically cleaned as it is crushed I understand that plastic cannot be. One of the reasons China gave for refusing any more recycling was the amount of plastic that cannot be recycled because it comprises jars etc with food still inside them which have to go to landfill. How true or significant that is I do not know.

Friday, 19 January 2018


Heron of A Heron's View posted recently on the problems of commenting on Blogger recently. From the comments he is obviously not alone. As it happens I had already started to draft one on the inordinate time it takes for comments to publish I recently timed some comments that I made and the fastest to appear after I'd clicked 'publish' was 17 seconds. That's not a lot if you are waiting for a bus (whatever a bus is) but it is if you are commenting on blogs and responding to comments on your own. Just for the record I have super-fast broadband

On the other hand if you want real slowness hard to bear the Royal Mail with this one. I received on the 7th January a Christmas card which had been posted on the 2nd December (sic) so had taken over 5 weeks to travel from Sheffield. It was designed (possibly not intending it to be a Christmas card!) by my great nephew Toby (aged 1) which I thought showed a remarkable talent for colour and composition. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

It's To Be Expected

This week we have had some beautiful weather....until yesterday and, particularly, today. For your information the mainland is about 40 miles (60 kilometres) across The Minch from the Isle of Lewis where the photos were taken. The photos were taken throughout the week with the last one taken this morning.

Sunrise over the Mainland with Lower Bayble in foreground

Late morning

 Late afternoon

Sunset over the hills of Lewis

But sometimes it was also cold and frosty

Today we had 70mph winds and all the ferries were cancelled.
Most will recognise Bayble Bay down from my house.

Monday, 8 January 2018

An Envelope

I sometimes receive unusual mail. No one, though, can surely ever have received a letter in an envelope like tihs work of art which I received from my brother a little while ago:

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Snail Mail

On 2 January I decided not to turn on my laptop until the evening. Given that it's usually the first thing I do after I've had my shower in the morning that was quite a big decision for me. Of course for WhatsApp etc I still had my iPhone but I tried to keep away from emails etc. What was the reason for this decision? I wanted a whole day to write letters, cards and billydos. Well perhaps not really billydos as that term comes from billet doux (literally, in French, sweet or soft ticket but translated as  a mild love letter) but you probably get my drift.

In fact I did spend a most enjoyable day with a fountain pen in hand writing to friends in various parts of the world. 

I have become a devotee of Moo who, amongst many other things, will custom print greeting cards, post cards and books of stickers. They featured amongst many 'ordinary' letters.

PS.  If you want to use Moo please let me know and I'll recommend you to our mutual benefit (Love MOO? Refer your friends and you’ll get a £10 Referral Gift Card when they place their first orders. And they’ll get 20% off, too! High fives all round.)

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Thankful Thursday....'I am!'.

I was chatting to a dear friend in New Zealand this morning. We were talking, amongst many other things about being alive. She made the point that we are so astonishingly lucky to get a life. "How," she asked rhetorically, "do a bunch of molecules come together...against all the rules of entropy? And call themselves ‘I Am’?"

She keeps a book in which she writes down things for which she is grateful. Tonight she will write ‘I am glad that today I am still alive’.

Over breakfast I kept thinking about that and how I, and probably most of the society in which I live, take for life granted. In fact we take so much for granted. 

Of course my friend was talking on a much higher level about life itself rather than 'our lives'. 

On the 'our lives' level though a very large percentage of the world's population can't take life for granted at all even at the most basic level. We have become aware of that because of television and, ironically, have also become inured to to it. A million or so Rohingya Muslims added to the millions of other war-torn and starving nations hardly makes us even bat an eyelid. Shame on us.

It made me feel very sheepish about feeling irritated that I have had this stinking cold that has kept me from seeing my new Grandchild and about the water in my oil tank that had caused my central heating to fail and the boiler to need new parts. My cold will get better and Bob has just repaired the boiler and my heating is working again. I have my health and I have the money to pay Bob's bill. 

Today I am very thankful for my life (at every level) and for the lives of my friends too.