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