Friday, 28 December 2012


We still haven’t cleared up after Christmas.   Presents to stash away or hang in the wardrobe, dishes and plates brought for special visitors have to be re-stored, and leftovers still hanging around have to be eaten or binned tout-de-suite!   So much money is spent at this time of year that it is best not to think about it.   Still a great time was had by all.

Everything seems to be about money in one way or another these days.   Shops are desperate for money to be spent, students need money to live, to party and celebrate the holidays, and if you want to rent or buy a flat you sure must have money.  When I was a child I had an uncle who owned a Pawn Shop (Really!  No kidding!)   Outside his shop was a big sign which said “Money Talks for You a Loan” and at the end of the sign was a big finger pointing to the door of the shop.   It was funny and it was clever   And lots of people used his pawnshop in those distant hard-up days.   Come to think of it, I heard that pawnshops are being much more used again these days.

In the USA they are absorbed in something called the Fiscal Cliff.   It appears most of the Democrats want to save the serious financial situation by putting up taxes for the people who earn most money.   Some say that should be for people earning above $250,000 while others suggest to tax earnings above $500,000.   Then again the Republicans say no to all tax rises.   They want the government to reduce the country’s deficit by CUTTING SPENDING.   Presumably this would be on WELFARE and STATE PENSIONS ETC.   It is a familiar story for countries all over the world – two opposing arguments – two opposite political ideologies.   Watch and listen and hope and pray for sanity and workable solutions to arrive.

Snippets of news:

1.      There is a petition going around in the USA requesting the deporting of Piers Morgan because he has spoken out against the gun laws in America.   Lots of people do not like to be criticised about their culture.   They say Brits are jealous of their American dream.

2.      Mrs. Thatcher was unsure of what to do about the Falklands invasion in 1982 – so it has been revealed today.   Also information has come out today that she discussed ways to dismantle the Welfare State.   Well, there you go!

3.      It will soon be Hogmanay and we will all have to start celebrating and partying again.   OMG will it never end?   I think old Gerald and old Margaret will get into their nightgowns and snuggle under the duvet and dream of how to have fun in 2013.     Grandson Calum and his mother, youngest daughter Maggie called today.   We discussed Christchurch, New Zealand and wondered if it was bigger or smaller than Inverness.   I said NO.   I was wrong as Calum could tell from his smart phone.   Christchurch is much bigger, having a population of 350,000   Mention anything preceded by ‘I wonder’ and young ones will produce their phones to tell you the answer.   What a funny world!

4.      Bought Gerald a weighty tome for his Christmas.   It is a book called ‘Spillover’ written by David Quammen, an American writer.   It is about viruses which can spread from, for example, bats to horses, and even from animals to humans.   I thought he might be interested, him being an animal breeding research scientist.   However, I think he finds the present a bit daunting and perhaps harrowing.    He tells me he also finds it to be intriguing.    Nevertheless I feel quite cruel to be burdening him.   Also he was given a calendar of gorgeous pin-up girls.   Poor soul!   He is after all 86 years old.

5.      Do have a wonderful New Year’s celebration.   And sing Auld Lang Syne to your heart’s content.   Maybe we will look again at “Dinner for  One” on YouTube like Germany and Austria do every New Year’s Eve.   The drunken butler is so funny!  We need all the laughs we can get.   Happy 2013 to all my friends, enemies and relations.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


Today I have weighed out the fruit and nuts for three Christmas cakes.   This I have done every December for as long as I can remember.   Why three?   I rather stupidly keep up the habit of helping out my two daughters at this busy time of year.   Especially busy as we all know for housewives and working mothers.   So I have weighed out the dried fruit and added a little brandy to each bowl.   I’m doing this year’s baking in stages.   First stage:  concentrate on the task until you’re fed up, or until you wish to make the lunch for two, do the ironing (much needed task) or go on line and write a topical blog!   Well it will be short this time, I promise.

Talking about teachers, I heard briefly on the radio that Michael Gove is prodding and provoking teachers in England about their proposed work-to-rule because of a deterioration in their working conditions.   He has suggested that head teachers should dock the pay of their teachers if they consider they have not stayed clear of any such disruptive action in school.   One pundit on the page I was reading suggested that Gove’s plan was to provoke an all-out strike of teachers, in order to divert attention away from the government and all the things going wrong for David Cameron and his friends.   It was suggested that the newspapers would love such an event as a school strike.   They could get their teeth into that.

Meanwhile the Daily Telegraph seems to be getting its teeth into the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, who it has been revealed had some claims for alleged expenses for housing.  Ninety thousand pounds is the sum I read about.   We shall await the result of the enquiry proposed.   She is the person in the government who has deal with the newspaper editors after the report of the Leveson Inquiry into ‘phone-hacking and the rest.   How will she cope?   Is this for Cameron, a case of “Another one bites the dust”?

We have got used to the accusations for the government of their Minishambolic governing methods.   But how about the new phrase of some politicians, imported from the USA, about their ‘shovel-ready’ projects which would encourage growth in our country.   And David Osborne who is keen on helping ‘strivers’ and loves ‘hard-working’ families.   Out of my sight you ‘medium-working’ families!   And as for you non-employed idiots – I despair of you!”   At least, I think that’s what some of our ‘leaders’ think.

On a lighter note, I heard in an advertisement on TV that a great CD for Christmas is called something  like “Now that’s what I call Christmas”.   I think I will seek it out.   I need cheering up!   On the home front, last night in bed, I got exasperated with my pyjama trousers as they do not turn with me when I turn in bed.   Gerald riposted that he had the same problem.   “I am going back to nightgowns”, I said.   “Maybe I’ll get one for you, Gerald.   And a little matching nightcap.   That would suit fine!”   So I leave you with that strange image.   “Gerald in a nightgown and still going strong!”   Don’t eat too much Christmas Cake this year, and behave yourselves, just like I always do!   And a very merry Christmas, and a happy NewYear!!!

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Oh well, it’s November all right.   Here it is raining and cold in Bonnie Scotland.   The leaves are shades of orange and yellow, lots are still on the trees in Lochardil, Inverness, but a good percentage of them are now lying around the paths of the garden, and along the streets.    In some ways Autumn is sad   -----

‘And the Autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,   And I haven’t got time for the waiting game.’

I think it was John Houston that sang September Song in some film or other.  He was finding it melancholy trying to have a love affair and realising it was probably going to be kind of heartbreaking for an aged person.

Really I am lucky,  -----  old as I am.   I mean I am having steak and sausages for my meal tonight.   Me and Gerald.   And we will watch TV and try not to eat too many chocolates.    The freezer if full of waiting meals for my guests tomorrow – sister (Stella) and brother-in-law (Stephen), and sister-in-law (Irene) she, from another era, like the nineteen fifties.   Anyhow, we will laugh, drink, eat and be merry because 23rd November is my birthday.   So that can’t be bad.

Unlucky is to be in the Gaza Strip, or Israel with rockets and bombs going off, people injured and dying, and whole buildings being smashed up.   Politicians try to help to get some form of compromise going in this latest upheaval in the Middle East.   Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Egypt.   They have a Cease-Fire just yesterday and today, but people don’t believe it will last.  

‘And the days dwindle down to a precious few, September, November, And
these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.   These golden days, I’ll spend with you!’

 That’s what I’ll sing to Gerald tonight, Well maybe, if we can stop  arguing about, you name it, we can make an argument out of it – all in a good cause, of course.

He has been making a flat-pack shelf-unit I bought from a catalogue.   Swearing, of course, as the instructions were incomplete, obscure, and WRONG!   In his dressing-gown as usual, and kneeling in the hallway, he announced to me that the illustrations were wrong, and that the screws DID NOT FIT!.   ‘They’re never wrong, dear’, says I.   But no flies on himself, he goes and looks the catalogue up on the computer, still cursing me, and finds out what?   THE INSTRUCTIONS WERE WRONG!!  Oh well, the unit is completed now and looks as if it had always stood in the kitchen holding Cookery Books.

Reading a library book called  “To Travel Hopefully” by  Christopher Rush.   It is about the author who, after the sudden death of his young wife with undiagnosed breast cancer,  he is devastated and experiencing a tragic time of it, almost a mental breakdown.   Eventually, he decides to make a change in his life, really to get his life back.   He makes up his mind to follow in the footsteps of R. L. Stevenson, and to go walking in France in the Cevennes with a donkey.   You may remember the book is called “Travels with a Donkey”.   I remember reading it in school when I was about thirteen.   It had been translated into French and we had to learn to read it in class in French in school.   The author, Christopher Rush’s experiences are quite fascinating, once you work your way through the devastation of his bereavement in Edinburgh with two young children.   However, I stuck it out and now he has just got his donkey and is getting ready to start alone on his journey through the lonely hills of South West France.   Good luck!   Bad luck!   We all get our share.   Let’s hope good luck holds for me over the weekend, the month even, and maybe until my next birthday.

As they used to say in Scotland in the olden days, when we had coal fires.   “Lang may your lum reek!”   which translated means “Long may your chimney smoke!”   And Christmas is only 32 days away!    Yipee!  Good luck to all my distant relatives and friends who find the time to read this!!

Friday, 9 November 2012


This is a “guest” blog – and the guest is the Gerald that the true blogger, Margaret Dunlop, refers to from time to time.  Gerald is of course the husband of long-suffering Margaret.

So here goes:  I have no claims on literary merit – as will become clear in the next few paragraphs.  My claims to writing are a couple of scientific textbooks, one on animal breeding and one on the yak – yes, that bovine that is the mainstay of the mostly Tibetan herdsmen and their families in the mountainous regions of Western China.  That in addition to a bevy of scientific papers in the field of animal genetics – and anyone with an acquaintance with scientific papers would agree that such writing is a mile away from literature.

It may seem strange to our American friends and relations that I should take an interest in the politics of the USA.  But what a sigh of relief went up – probably across much of Europe and other parts of the world – when the US electorate bade farewell to Mitt Romney.  Perhaps he was misrepresented in the media here but the impression came across that here was a man dedicated to assisting the already rich and caring little about the welfare of those struggling at the bottom of the heap.  Sure, there are some feckless among the latter, but many at the poorer end of society are trapped in a condition from which only a minority can break free.  And yet we owe respect and concern for the wellbeing of our fellows and most especially for the vulnerable and the sick.  Perhaps the majority of the American electorate felt this - and that compassion did not equate with the Romney intention to repeal Obama’s modest health care reforms, or the fact that intended tax breaks would benefit the rich much more than those in the middle.   Furthermore, Romney’s foreign policy (if he didn’t make it up on the hoof), especially for the Middle East, could arguably head us towards conflagration and potential disaster – perhaps the majority of electors realised that too. 

Mind you, in respect of domestic policies, some of the apparent Romney philosophy pervades part of our Tory-led government in the UK – which is a godsend to the Scottish Nationalists as they know that these attitudes are alien to the vast majority of Scots and thus aid the SNP’s ill-judged attempt to separate us from the rest of the United Kingdom.   David Cameron (the UK prime-minister) must be just about the best recruiting agent for Scottish Independence.  Pity he does not seem to recognize that.

Away from Politics, I am astounded by the huge number of TV chefs imparting their culinary wisdom.  But what amazes me is that in spite of this onslaught we are told that a majority of the population don’t do any real cooking and rely on ready meals and junk food – thank goodness for Margaret, in this house.

We were all appalled by the hurricanes and storms afflicting much of the American east coast and beyond and hugely saddened by the misery and loss caused to millions of people.  Folk often complain about the “miserable” Scottish climate (we were recently told that the average daily sunshine was only 3.1 hours).  But it’s so temperate, the grass is green, drought is rare, we rejoice when the sun does shine and we are spared extremes.  Let’s hope that climate change does not alter all that.

A final disclaimer:  Margaret has no responsibility whatever for any for the views expressed in this blog and will hopefully return with saner words soon – once she has finished re-organising the kitchen, making curtains with the most difficult material ever and other self-imposed tasks.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Well, at present Gerald is busy planting two rambling roses in the garden against the wall which I look out on from my usual position at the kitchen sink.    Yesterday he gave a second coat of white paint to the same wall.   It looks great now although the activity exhausted the poor soul.   This same 7feet high wall used to be covered with clinging ivy.   Always it was green and cheery with, in summer, blackbirds flying out from their nests, and blue tits swerving in and out of it.   But, last winter the snow brought half of it down, Peter and Shirley next door pulled it up again from their side, however, during this so-called summer with rain and high winds, the hedge fell down again.   So we are planting stuff against the wall to make it glamorous and attractive.   G. is just off the phone and to please me he has purchased a Prunus lusitanica (Portugese laurel), a gorgeous tree with purplish leaves.   It’s already about 7feet tall, so I am excited about that.    Small events please small minds I hear you say, but I look out of my window often and I might be like Prince Charles and talk to my plants to keep me and them happy.  

So, it is the end of the Ivy and the beginning of the Prunus and the new roses.   It seems to be the end of a lot of things from my point of view.   I just finished knitting a very expensive Fair Isle scarf.   It is almost 5feet long, (I was starting to go wonky with it so couldn’t quite make the suggested length).   It has taken at least a year and is composed of eleven different colours of wool. And about twenty differing patterns.   Like the ivy hedge, I am sorry and glad at the same time that the scarf has come to an end.   I hope to wear it in the cold weather just to show it off.

What about the badgers that the government had intended to slaughter?  They wanted to kill at least 70% of these poor animals (in one area) because many of them are said to have tuberculosis, and with this they are infecting many of our cattle herds in the UK.   Very hard on the cows and the farmers as the animals (not the farmers) are immediately slaughtered if they test positive to TB.   Anyway the cull has been postponed for a year because the task of killing so many lovely badgers is proving too difficult and  too large to start on at this time of year.   But another end is coming.

Let us hope it is not soon to be the end of President Obama’s term in office in the USA.   I prefer his politics and his outlook on life.   Ask yourself which one of the two contenders has most experience of the struggles and hardships of the majority of the people who make up the population.   I would say Obama.   He is a family man and, relative to his opponent, is not, I think, rolling in money.   On the other hand the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, a multi millionaire, seems to have a very easy position in life and ……..   well, he appeals less to me, what little I know of him, than does the Democrat Leader.

One end I am sure you will be glad about, as I am, is that of Jimmy Savile.   What a horror that man is proving to have been!   Too bad that he is dead in a way, because he is not around to hear how much he is despised and hated for his paedophile activities.   He confused many people because of his smokescreen of raising millions for charity. It’s hard to get one’s head around the contradiction. But some people knew his game.   They should have spoken out   The children and young girls should have been listened to.   The monster  should have been caught and put in jail.   He has brought shame on the country, on the BBC, and even the charities that received the money feel so tainted that they are disbanding and giving the money anonymously to other good causes.

Holy Moses!   Where will it all end?   Talking about swearing, I did just that last night at the beginning of the News on the BBC when I thought that Celtic, Glasgow’s football team, had beaten the mighty Barcelona.        1 – 0 for Celtic the announcer said.      “Bloody hell!” I said.   But by the end of the news, we were informed that in the dying minutes of the game, the famous Spanish team had turned a coveted 1 -1 draw for Celtic  to 2 – 1 for Barcelona.   I was so disappointed!     I needed a Gin and Tonic to revive me.   So many things seem to be going wrong.   My mother used to say, “The back is made for the burden”, especially if she was referring to women with many children.   Anyway enough of this ranting.    “The end is nigh!”   I shall just  have to concentrate on my Prunus lusitanica and my rambling roses.   Oh I must not forget the Tweeting Birds (mechanical) which I left on by mistake, in the summer-house where they live.   They scared life out of Gerald yesterday as he passed and the three tweeted at once.

Saturday, 6 October 2012


I like Barack Obama, and I am sorry that at his head-to-head discussion with the Republican leader in the USA, he came off worst.   This shows how difficult it is to get your message across.   We know that Obama is on the side of the most deprived in society.   We know that he has spent much energy in trying to achieve a better Health Programme for those most in need of support in accessing Health Care.   And yet Romney, who reportedly has a low opinion of those on whom hard times and poverty have fallen, wins the debate, or so the media pundits tell us.  Let’s hope the next two debates give Obama a better outcome.    He should be ready to go on the attack from the first seconds, just as Romney did.   As they used to advise young teachers when irate parents appeared at the door of the classroom, “Attack is the best form of defence!”   For example say, “I am afraid Mrs. Smith wee Jimmy is impertinent, and may be said to be slow in the uptake and DIFFICULT TO TEACH!”   This to be said before she has time to speak.

The same goes for the politics of the United Kingdom.   I support Ed Milliband and of course, therefore, find fault with David Cameron and George Osborne and their mates.   So I wish Ed to be ever-ready for the attacks that will surely come against him in the future.   The cleverest person in the world can be floored in front of an audience by an opponent’s or an interviewer’s carefully and slyly thought up question .   It takes time, seconds, minutes, even hours to present a cogent answer to sharp and cleverly-thrown up questions.   I have long been of the opinion that TV debates are unfair and that the best actor often wins.   Am I wrong in believing that Nick Clegg and David Cameron looked young, good-looking and almost charming against the tired and older worn-down Gordon Brown when they debated as a threesome and Brown was beaten down by their savoir-faire?

Enough of politics and opinions!   I have my own troubles.   For example, to stop enjoying my food so much, and to keep my promise to go down a dress size this month.   Also to stick to the suggested amount of liquor suitable for a lady.   (no laughing!).   Well I just remember St. Augustine’s prayer all those centuries ago as the Holy Man, living the life of a monk, and devoted to follow the life of Jesus, he tried to contain his lust for the pleasures of the flesh   -   he prayed, “Oh Lord, give me Chastity and Continence -  BUT NOT YET.”

My sainted Mother, Honor, (God, rest her soul) used to say, “We all have our own ways of going daft!” and I think she had a point.   So endeth the lesson.  

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Today in Inversneckie - Troubles afoot!

Well today I seem to have what I believe the Germans call a ‘worm’ in my ear, or they call it something like that.   It is the repetition of a tune.    My worm is saying or singing:

“Oh I love to climb a mountain,    And to reach the highest peak.   But it doesn’t thrill me half as much as dancing cheek to cheek.   Heaven!   I’m in heaven,    And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak.   And I seem to find the happiness I seek.   When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek."   

Shades of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.   God knows who I think I’m dancing with but I keep on singing along to it.   What a sad ass I am.

Why I should be so happy I do not know because I have had a few bad experiences this week.   Worst was in the hateful Inverness main post office.   There I arrived at 3.25pm on Friday with a small parcel to post.   A queue of about 20 people snaked in a double line around the room.   There were seven (of the nine)  stations with numbered lights above them and voices which called you forth when they were free.   So I waited although I am not good at standing for long periods.   It won’t be long I thought.   After a few minutes five clerks or clerkesses had left their positions never to return.   So two people were left to service the queue.   One of the windows was staffed by a female who was attending to travel money.   So that left  one woman for the rest of us.   The upshot was that 30 minutes later I along with about two dozen others,  from young mothers with toddlers to age 86 were still queuing like sedated Martians awaiting the favour of the authorities.  

After at least sixty years of using Scottish post-offices in many different towns, this is the worst service I have ever had.   Are we becoming a third-world country?   I will write to the manager, as I told the woman who eventually appeared, still chewing her afternoon biscuits while she deigned to serve me. 

I read an article in the Mensa Magazine, actually it was a letter to the paper replying to a piece about how we desire to have children to reproduce our genes. The old “Selfish Gene” story.   This person’s idea was that this was untrue because the off-spring of a male and a female in turn passes on only half the genes of each parent and that in new combinations.   So this person maintained that this process allows for the evolving improvement of  humanity to changing conditions on earth.  EVOLUTION, not the “will” of the genes is the driving force, he said.  Deep stuff!   Also the thought was expressed that those who decided not to have children were taking an intellectual decision, and were right and intelligent to do so.   Well, now you know!

My thoughts turned to the old U-tube “Same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie” to be found on Google under “Dinner for one – youTube”.   It is VERY funny if you are in the mood for it.   Especially if you are having a cocktail or two.  (It’s shown on television in Germany and Austria as a ritual every New Year).  Me, I am off to have my roast carrot soup and smoked haddock and mashed potatoes.   Must keep the old vitamins and calories going!  

Good luck to all the runners in the 10k run around Inverness tomorrow (Sunday) morning.     If you see two oldies supporting each other in Dores Road, who have come out to wave to you, then you know that is the well-fortified M&G worthies from Lochardil.   Cheers!   And as they say in Glasgow  -  Go on Yourselves – or more likely: Gaun yersells!!

Friday, 21 September 2012


Is the age of fifty, the new thirty?  Today for lunch we had two fifty-somethings   who had just finished a ten-kilometre-run followed by a seven-mile bike-run.   This was a practice-run for the real event in a couple of weeks.   They were both having a day away from their regular jobs, and were totally bright and lively after their exertions.   They ate a hearty lunch with us, and were off to plant some hundreds of bulbs and do general gardening, and so on and so on!   By the way, you may know them as Laura and Gordon C.  Perhaps, if fifty is the new thirty, then eighty is the new sixty.   I think I will buy roller-skates for Gerald and myself.

It seems that soon there will be more and more people aged 85 or over in Great Britain.   I suppose it’s the same all over.    We’ll all be up close and personal with our neighbours soon if this goes on!   You need to have a good sense of humour in the modern world, ready for any wild news that comes over the media!   It really is very strange.   

The other day, the leader of the Lib/Dems, Nick Clegg apologised for his broken promises regarding university tuition fees, and how they would never be increased if his party had anything to do with it.   Of course, when in power with the Tories, this promise was ignored as everyone knows.    Now fees are higher than ever - £9,000 per year in many cases.   Well, Nick has apologised.   Some pranksters on the internet have taken the speech, and they have dubbed it with a funny singing voice repeating his “sorry” remarks over and over.   They say that the tune is going up the charts.  Maybe it will be No. 1 by Christmas.    God!   What a crazy country!

Postcard this morning, a bit late, from Calum and Fiona, from holiday in Croatia.   It looks a lovely place.   Maybe they will bump into Jerry and Mari while they are there.   Anyway this part of the world is becoming very popular for holidays.

Also looked up Cairns, Australia this morning because that is where Laura Martin and Lauren have driven to from Darwin.   Isn’t the internet wonderful?    Within two minutes I was reading descriptions of the barrier reef, how it is formed and many more facts to be assimilated if one wished.   Also there were even jobs advertised, at least a few when I keyed in ‘Jobs in Cairns, Australia’.   It is all unbelievable!

Joke 1:    This man says to his friend.    “Well, my wife and I, we have a very successful marriage.   We go to a restaurant two nights a week, soft lights, some music, maybe a little dancing.   It’s wonderful!   She goes Tuesdays.    I go Fridays.

Joke 2:   The pope is talking to his cardinals high above St. Peters Square in Rome.   One of the cardinals looks out of the window and sees Jesus coming up the stairs.   He tells the others and they rush to the pope in a panic.   “What shall we do your holiness?”   Says the pope.   “Everybody look busy!”

Thursday, 13 September 2012


I have forgotten how to make Eton Mess.   As I intend to use up the strawberries I bought at the new Asda for supper this evening.  I will now look the recipe up and refresh my memory (I have mislaid the original print).   OK!   According to Delia Smith, you blend half the strawberries.   You whip the cream.   You chop the other half of the strawberries.   You mix a packet of meringues with the cream and the two lots of strawberries, and Bob’s your uncle!

I have a cheek talking about strawberries as if the world was all basically a semi-paradise and I should indulge myself.   Well, that’s what I feel like, so what!   I want to forget about:

a)     The Liverpool Hillsborough football disaster.   Sad!   Sad!
b)    The poor souls being blown up in Libya.
c)      Some politicians. One’s name begins with G, one with O, and one with C.   Also a few more alphabetic disasters, who function in Westminister.

      But I don’t want to forget about, ‘cos I admire, Ed.M.and Ed.B and Douglas Alexander.   Terrific in New York this week at the tennis championships!  I am so proud of ANDY MURRAY!!!   What must his mother feel like?   What a son!”  He makes me feel like taking up tennis myself.

I send love to clever, pretty, laughing Laura Martin.   I saw the birthday pictures of you in Aussie, with the note saying “Kiss me!”   stuck to your forehead.   LAURA and her friend , LAUREN are working and hanging out somewhere around Darwin.   I hear you two have bought a car and are going to drive to Sydney.   You are so-o-o  adventurous!   Miss you lots!   Also, must not forget the two in Sydney already. Hurry home Emma and Kevin!   Scotland needs you!

By the way, Laura, Gerald says to tell you the Salt Crocodiles around Darwin won’t attack you as long as you’re right at the bottom of the river-bed – preferably in a diving suit.   So just remember that!   Get down to the bottom fast – or preferably don’t swim at all in the vicinity of crocks – so said the intrepid divers studying the crocks in their programme on TV.

Good Holiday and Safe Journey is wished by Gerald and myself to Jerry and Mari, our family and guests this summer.   They painted the town red in London and then flew off to Berlin and then on to Croatia.  Intrepid travellers, great organisers, great fun and good company.   Hope you arrive safely back in Whidbey Island at the right time and with your i-pads and puzzle games safe and sound.

Dyed my hair this morning.   It’s beautiful, brown and honey.   Don’t have to pay the hairdresser this month!   Off to meet Mimi Martin and Science Tech and child psychologist Laura Christie at 5pm. at Girvans, Inverness.  Further News Later!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Friday 31 August 2012


We have to learn new names today.   Boris Berezovsky – a Russian Oligarch has lost his legal case.   He was suing his countryman. Abromavich, owner of Chelsea Football Club and another Oligarch, through the courts in London for £3billion.    He claimed this as recompense for “blackmail” and for being done out of money from some oil deals in Russia.   Anyway he lost his case we heard this morning.

Also on TV we saw a clip of Neil Armstrong being made a freeman of Langolm, a town in the Scottish Borders in the 1970s.   It appears that his ancestors came from this town, and they are very proud of this fact in Langholm.   Armstrong’s funeral is to be held this week in America.    He is considered to have been a very great man throughout the whole world for being the first to have landed on the moon.   Space travel has never been as adventurous or as mind-blowing since that great event in the seventies.   Apparently Mars is the only other planet on which a man might walk, and the United States have recently landed a nuclear-powered vehicle weighing one tonne on that  planet.

The Paralympics are ongoing and amazing feats of skill and endurance are being achieved every day.   It is such an inspiring triumph!   The history of Sport for people with physical handicaps dates back to the great medical work of Dr Ludwig Guttman at Stoke Mandeville  Hospital.  He encouraged sport to rehabilitate his patients and started the first “Stoke  Mandeville Games” - forerunner of the present-day Paralympics, another wonderful achievement.

Mari and Jerry got here on time on Wednesday 29th August only their luggage did not arrive with them.   Luckily luggage arrived on Thursday, so that was not so bad for them.   You won’t believe this but Jerry has an app on his iplayer which gives him great glee.   He tells you he has taken a photo of you, and when you look an orangutan looks back at you, speaks and repeats what you say ad infinitum.   Is he a school-boy or what?   At first I thought I ‘God I look a fright today!”   Much to his amusement.   I think he also has an app that is a cat that talks.   God Almighty!

Hilarity this morning when a package arrived from Thompson & Morgan.   I had ordered this from the Radio Times advertisement.   It was twenty-four plantlets of viola which I thought would make good ground-cover for Gerald’s border.   He is always complaining about all the weeding he has to do.  Well, Jerry insisted that they were marijuana plants.   They were NOT!   We were scared of what Gerald would say when he saw the package.   He loves to shout abuse at me about any minor infringement of his authority.  So-----after about 4 minutes the plants became his.    His business entirely.   He managed to enlist the help of the ever good-natured Mari, and within quarter of an hour, the plants were re-potted and sitting in the garage window.   They look amazing!

We go to Skye tomorrow, and so the men are poring over a map of the famous island.   Let’s hope it is not pouring with rain for our one day visit.   Keep smiling!   More news in due course!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Gerald caught eight mice with his new trap in the garden this week.   He adds that he  also caught two giant slugs.   Well, he is a bit of a boaster!   He said he could tolerate them in the garden, but come winter they would come into the house.  The mice were never seen by me in the garden, but daughter, Laura stared at one for minutes.   It was not afraid of her.   We have had few strawberries from our plants this year, due we think to over-fertilising them.   Any that did show up were eaten by the MICE.   A friend says we are cruel to kill them.   She has a trap which catches mice without killing them.   Then she takes them to the woods and sets them free.   G. used the word “justifies” today in another context from mice, but my mind ran to Robert Burns’s lovely poem, “To a Mouse.”    It was a mouse which he had just turned over with his plough.


We sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie,    
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!    
Thou need na start awa’ sae hastie
Wi’ bickerin brattle,    
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,  
An JUSTIFIES that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,    
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal.


But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,    
In proving foresight may be vain:    
The best-laid schemes o’ MICE AN’ MEN
Gang aft agley.    
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
            On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see
            I guess an’ fear!

Not bad to quote this famous poem (mostly) from memory.

Anyway, grief and pain are all behind us two oldies now.   We luxuriate in leisure time, and any work we do is all of our invention.   Well, aside from cleaning the house, toilets etc.  Showering and dressing each morning.   Battling with weeds in the garden.  Sometimes even writing!  We’re sometimes slobs!   Shh---   keep it a secret.

Jerry and Mari are arriving tomorrow.   They are crossing from Whidbey Island, Washington State, to Houston, on to Newark, on to Edinburgh, and then the Megabus to Inverness to stay with us for a week or so.   Great fun will be had by all.   Oh, and we are going for one night to Skye where the Cuillins are calling us away.  

Finally, I quote Michael Brooks from the New Statesman who cites a scientific discovery about the Neanderthal genome and the fact that humans and Neanderthals may have had sex together, and that we may be the result.   “We didn’t get where we are without genetic programming that makes us value eating, drinking and having sex.   Add to that an inbuilt compulsion to tell stories and draw lessons from them and you have a heady mix.”    Well, I admit to the inbuilt compulsion to tell stories!   More news soon!                         

Friday, 24 August 2012


Read about Lionel Fanthorpe, author and member in Mensa, in the Mensa Magazine last night.   He has published 250 books in 60 years.  I think, a world record!      By the way, he dictates his stories with a blanket over his head.   Must try it.    He writes mainly Science Fiction, books like “Mind Forcer” and “Time Echo”.   Amazingly, he was born in the same street in England as famous Sci-fi writer, Brian Aldiss.   Among other things, this Mensa member believes in, and has seen, a ghost, and this ghost spoke to him.   It was at a funeral of a man called Bill where Fanthorpe was conducting the service.  Suddenly appearing among the congregation was the ghost of the dead man who said to Fanthorpe, “Tell Ian (the local vicar)  that Lady Juliana of Norwich was absolutely right.”   When Ian, the vicar was told of this he was gobsmacked.  He had been discussing with the deceased Bill how Lady Juliana in the Intensive Care Ward of the hospital,  had said only a few evenings before that Heaven was a place of great happiness,.    Mystery!   Mystery!   And this is a story from a normally sceptical Mensa person.   Straight up!   It’s in black and white.

Saw a shadowy picture of Prince Harry on the Internet.   Radio presenter said that anyone with half a brain could find the picture on the Internet, so I had to try.   I have seen only, I think, two men naked in my life, so it was not much of a surprise.   Their bodies look all the same at a cursory glance.  What a fuss about nothing!

“I will never forget the wall of noise from the crowd at this Olympics.   70,000 people roaring seemed liked 170,000, roaring my name".   That name is Oscar Pistorius, a runner with two metal legs.   He will be running again in the Paralympics which is, I am told, completely sold out.   How wonderful!   Saw Claire Lomas, the lady on crutches who ran the London Marathon, it took her 16 days.   She lit the flame for the start of the Paralympic Games.  What determination and strength of character some people have!”

Italy’s tax-hunters are shouting from helicopters at luxury yachts.  On the occasion the reporter saw them there were about fifty of them, off the coast of Sardinia, the Costa Smeralda.   “You are in a forbidden area.   Please move on.”   The billionaires and millionaires are anchoring in these beautiful waters where they can luxuriate in the sun without paying any tax due to the Italian government.   Italy is suffering great austerity and the Prime Minister, Mario Monte is organising a crack-down on the tax-avoiding super-rich.   Good News!

Jessica returned from her travels on Tuesday.   She looks a little jet-lagged and the usually tireless girl could be said to look slightly exhausted.   She is twenty-one and my grand-daughter.   She has been studying in Hong-Kong as part of her course of International Business at Glasgow University.   From there she got a place as an intern in New York in an International Insurance Office.   She has been to The Grand Canyon a few weeks ago (the bit she liked best) and I know to San Diego, San Francisco and Las Vegas.   Then, suddenly she HAD TO COME HOME!   Quite right, Jessica, Scotland’s the best!   And the Black Isle is hard to beat on a sunny day. 

Monday, 20 August 2012


It all started when we finally got the Water-Feature to perform its charming little fountain of trickling water down several levels of fake wrought iron.   G. and I loved it.   And we loved the little patio that Peter had constructed around the summer-house.   So of course we had to take a photograph.   And, of course, with Gerald having new skills on the computer, the photograph had to go on Facebook.   More than this, the photograph turned out to be a Video of things in our garden.

“Leave the cooking, and come out and be in the photo!”  he shouts.   Dutifully I seat myself in the open doors of the S.H. and while awaiting his jiggling with the camera, I look about the place in a grumpy manner, occasionally eyeing the tinkling W.F. in front of me.   The result was horrific.   In the video I look like H.M. the Queen on a bad day, as she wishes people would stop singing “God Save the Queen.”  Only worse as I have no make-up on and am wearing an old summer dress with unlovable fat bare legs on display.   “My God!”   I plead “you can’t publish that on FB.   It goes all round the world!” (a bit of an exaggeration, but you know – we know grandchildren, for example and others abroad who look at these things on occasion.   So we did it again, this time with a quick application of slap on my face, a stylish gypsy scarf hiding my hair, and an Indian shawl covering my legs.
The risible result has to be seen to believed.   The camera swivels shakily around the Water Feature.    And I am seated with an open book dressed like an idiot and smiling spookily at the camera.

Well, after Gerald’s efforts to find out how to work the placing of a Video on Facebook, accompanied by despairing curses at the lack of help from the computer, we were sort of dismayed to be told by my sister in the wilds of the South of England that his video made her seasick – the shakiness of the film I suppose.   My daughter said it was the weirdest video she had ever seen – my strange outlandish smile she meant I suppose.   G’s brother in America says “it makes him want to………… a pause.   Does he mean “to pee” or “to commit suicide.”   After a thousand dots, he says “want to visit!”      For myself, I cannot look at it without dissolving into uncontrollable giggles of laughter.   It’s surreal.   But then so is life.

We soldier on.   We await the great show we will have in town soon, that is the resumption of parliament and the march of political chicanery.   For the retired, like the two of us, it’s a fascinating scenario.   Great Britain, Europe, U.S.A.,  the Middle East, Africa.   You name a country in this weary world, and you will find fascinating things going on.

Now reading in bed at night “HANIF KUREISHA COLLECTED STORIES”—Absolutely Brilliant!”

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


Two daughters are despondent this week because, believe it or not, school started again yesterday in Scotland, and they are both primary teachers.   Oh well!  Been there!  Done that!   Once you are again yoked up to the prospect of earning a living by throwing yourself at the mercy of a room full of strange, starry-eyed young  children for a while, that is until the October holidays, the only way out is to become philosophical about it.   It could be fun some days and it must be better than coal-mining.   You think?

The Olympics have dropped out of the news although I believe that my granddaughter, Shonagh thought someone had slipped LSD in her drink when watching the Closing Ceremony on Sunday evening.   Nuns in habits on skates.   I see what she means although at the time I thought this must be the Zeitgeist – how it’s done nowadays.   We all go around on the top of motor-cars – singing like the Spice Girls.   Why not?
We got our WATER FEATURE for the garden yesterday.   It’s quite dinky, sort of two-tier trickling water on the patio outside the summer house.   It’s sort vintage Victorian made to look like wrought iron.   G. and I will sit and drink cocktails and listen to the water.   Or that’s what we hope, if autumn and winter don’t hurry us back into the warmth of the house.

Alicia called in from work at the hotel in Inverness to help Gerald set up the camera for a Skype call we are going to have from Sydney, from Emma and Kevin.   We are so modern now talking to people all over the planet.   We are entering Cyberland.

The news in Britain is that inflation is up a bit, and the government are putting the fares on the trains up by ca. six percent in England (three percent above inflation) and four per cent in Scotland.   This has infuriated commuters all over the country, especially in London.   I feel sorry for them.   More money out of their pockets.   Less money for daily living.   Where will it all end?   Thinking of the Beatles  -   “There will be an answer.   Let it be.”   Did you see the little  film of John Lennon at the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, shown on BBC?   He was singing “Imagine”.   Sort of spooky and still emotional and quite moving at the same time.   Thousands of people watched in the Stadium , and many millions on TV.   On Monday I heard one contestant being asked what was the best moment of the Games for him and he said “being in the same Stadium as the Spice Girls.”   Well there you go.   It takes all sorts to make a world.   Might as well try to be philosophical.

Friday, 10 August 2012


Gerald is 86 years old.   Today he has spent hours putting his photos of our holidays in Nice on FACEBOOK.   No way could I do that.   Now he is still going strong changing an old twenty-year –old video into a CD for a relation through marriage.   I can’t do any of these things.
Just made Irish coffee for the two of us so that we can watch the Olympics in the dying light of Friday 10th August and ruminate on the strangeness of life.

Jamaica is alight with pride, and no wonder!   What a name for a sprinter  -  BOLT  -  Who could do what their athletes have done?   One, two, three right enough.   Still GB and wee Scotland have not done too badly.   And what about those thousand pipers in Glasgow next week.   All those long lost Scots from Canada and USA and New Zealand and Australia here playing their hearts out, blowing their heads off with wonderful music.   What a world!!   They say there are many more pipe bands coming from Europe in the future, some of them this year.   I can’t play the bagpipes, either.   So, as Charles Dickens would say   “God Bless us, everyone.”   Or as long late Tony Hancock would say, “It’s such a game, life, such a game!”   I rush for the Gaelic Coffee.   Cheers!!

Monday, 6 August 2012


Well, it seems that Team GB are winning lots of lovely Olympic Medals.   Andy Murray, Tennis Star of SCOTLAND beat Number 1 Star, Federer !   Can you believe it?   Andy won a GOLD MEDAL and said it was the best performance and the best day of his life.   He is my favourite Scotsman right now.  (Next to Gerald!)

Nick Clegg and David Cameron have agreed to differ about the House of Lords and how this Second Chamber of Government should be composed.   Should they be appointed, these old worthies of the Second Chamber?  (There’s hundreds of them!)   Or should they be elected by the populace of the country, you and me?   Or , as at present should we retain the custom of allowing hereditary peers, unelected and un-appointed be part of our government?    Nick Clegg, Liberal leader and his party, of which G. is a supporter, say that they should all be elected by the people.   But the Conservatives won’t  play ball, and the Labour party stand on the sidelines watching the Coalition disagreeing strongly.  (Amazingly, successive governments have tried to reform the “House of Lords” for a hundred years and have ever only achieved relatively small changes).  The Liberals are accusing the Tories of going back on their contract when the Coalition was formed.   We underlings watch with bated breath to see where all these politics will end.

I took some money out of the Bank of Scotland today in order to give birthday presents to two of my grandchildren.   August is a terrible month for birthdays in our family.   Since I am one of the British citizens who now own much of this bank since 2008 when they were bailed out, I felt quite entitled to take money out.   Why not?

An interesting programme on Radio 4 today when an American man was, I think, reading "Book of the Week" on the 9.45am slot ---yes, he was ( I just looked it up in the Radio Times).   It is called “Tubes” by Andrew Blum.   The internet has revolutionised Commerce, Finance etc., etc. and when a squirrel chewed through the tube to his house which was connected to his computer,  Andrew Blum tried to discover just how the internet got started and when.   The potential was not at first realised.   Leonard Kleinrock from UCLA explains “I thought it was just going to be computers talking to computers.”   But it’s not.   It’s like me talking to you.    They very nearly threw out the rejected old machine discarded by the US Military.   But Kleinrock saved it, recognising its potential.     The book is being read every morning this week.

Also tonight on BBC there is a programme, Horizon, about a US experiment on Fasting and how it can and does improve your brain cells, and lower cholestorel and does other things.   Will watch it to see if I can improve my life chances.  Will tell you all about my Alternative Medicine website another time.   This newly discovered website is also fascinating.   People from all around the world with the same complaint as myself talk to each other, and  suggest possible cures for stiffness, and give helpful hints – that is for Polymalgia Rheumatica.   In other words I am an old stiffy!   But only intermittently.   Three cheers for the INTERNET111