Monday, 29 July 2013


Hello again,

Here are a few notes from the North of the British Isles.   We are having intermittent French Riviera weather some days, and with the Rain Forest in Brazil for others.   For a few days we are lounging on our steamer chairs among the sweating roses in the garden, already worrying about looking out for too much sun on our skin, and then in the next few days the heavens open and the rain cascades down.    We go from 27 degrees Centigrade to 16 degrees within a short space of time.   Then we have to store away our cushions and sunglasses while the thunder cracks.   Oh, well, we don’t get bored with the sameness of things in this country!

Just now GB is sort of divided between the enamoured millions who are charmed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, and their new-born son, little George Alexander Louis.   Then, there are the fewer millions who think it is time we became a modern democracy and, well, do away with the privileged Royal family.   There are as well, of course, those people, the millions, I suppose, whose cares about money, and about how to manage their household budgets in these hard-to-fathom times, are enough to think about.   Many younger couples with families are struggling too hard to care for very long or have time to dwell on the great wash of excitement gripping the newspapers and the television programmes.

Most papers have led their headlines with “It’s a Boy!”.   However, one paper, I heard, I think it was Private Eye magazine, had the headline, “Woman has Baby”.   I have to admit that  Gerald and myself were sort of smiley and happy for the young royal couple.   After all, for some reason I cannot explain, I had great empathy with William’s mother, the beautiful and sadly deceased Princess Diana.

Our wonderful National Health Service is receiving a lot of publicity just now.   Many people from all sides of political opinion are worried about the way things are progressing.  Anyone I know who has had treatment has praised the nurses and doctors to the skies.   And the fact that one walks out of hospital after a short stay, as I did with my knee replacement, and there is nothing to pay is marvellous.   It is a miracle in these frenzied days.   Yet I know that there are reasons that the strains on finances from the government are large.   Money is in short supply everywhere.   The other reasons for worry are well-known.   An ageing population, needing more and more drugs and attention, and the continual technological improvements and pharmacological improvements, although fantastic, are the reason that people are living on and on and on, even with serious diseases.   Yet, we oldies, who remember the days before the establishment of the NHS, pray that some compromise will be found to save the system.

Things don’t look too good, however, it has to be said.   A book review which I read the other day in the New Statesman illuminated some of the worries we all have.   It was of a book edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis called “NHS. SOS. HOW THE NHS WAS BETRAYED AND HOW WE CAN SAVE IT”.   The  Conservative party are wholly on the side of competition in all things.   Yet according to this review there is not a shred of evidence that competition in the area of public health does improve health.   I quote, “On the contrary, we know only too well that creating competitive markets in health is extremely harmful.”   The article goes on to cite the USA where competitiveness applies, and where costs have been driven up, and where the health service provided is very variable.

The man who has written this article, the critic, is the editor of the medical journal, “The Lancet”,  Richard Horton.    He talks of a very British coup that destroyed the NHS, heading his piece, “Cowards, Betrayers and Appeasers.”   He blames of course the former Tory health minister, Andrew Lansley, and he blames the press for not questioning what was going on, and for the promises, pre-election , “no new top-down reorganisation” of the NHS.   He also blames some of the outgoing Labour administration for preparing the health system for privatisation with some of their methods of management.   The Tories accelerated the destruction with the connivance of the Liberal Democrats.   And so a “beacon of advanced democracy” is almost destroyed.   A sad tale really for this old leftie.

Staying on a serious note, one of my heroes, Alan Turing is being talked about a lot just now.   He was a scientist and mathematical genius, and also a homosexual.     In the House of Commons there has been passed a bill allowing gay marriage in the UK.   The House of Lords have recently agreed with this decision.   The Lords have also debated whether Alan Turing should be pardoned.   Turin was convicted of gross indecency with another adult male in 1952.    Turing was a brilliant man, inventing and developing the first computers, he cracked the Nazi Enigma Code used between the German War Forces, especially ships.   He was a brilliant man whose genius for cracking codes using his early computers, and reading the German messages shortened the war, it is said by up to two years.   He later committed suicide, supposedly for his disgrace in being arrested and tried for homosexuality.    Well, just another sad tale!

Things are going well enough for us, plebs in the Highlands.   Everyone seems pleased with the weather and the telly, and the feeling of holidays, for teachers and schoolchildren anyway.   My latest  sojourn into insanity was when using up Gerald’s carefully-grown fennel bulbs, having looked up several recipes for FENNEL SOUP, the one I chose said to chop up the fennel and then to boil it up for a while, and then to throw the bulb away, and to make soup with the liquid.   So, as they say, the British built the British Empire in a fit of Absence of Mind, what did I do?   I strained the pan of fennel and stock over the sink, watched the liquid go down the plughole and was left with boiled residue, a useless soggy bulb.    So “Old age doesn’t come alone!”   No it comes with stiff muscles and general fits of sort of craziness.   Time for a large GIN AND TONIC.   From the two old soldiers among the roses, I will say goodnight!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Well hello all!   Yes, it is the return of the oldie blogger, Margaret, the unvanquished.   My replacement knee is finally settling down.   I no longer need two crutches or even one to get around.   I have done all my exercises, and look forward to having two well-functioning knee bones.   This is all thanks to the marvellous surgeons and the nursing staff of Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.   Here the National Health Service is working magnificently, and Gerald and I are glad we moved to within a few miles of this great establishment.

That said, and having been constantly encouraged to start doing my occasional blogs again, I have been thinking of things to talk about.   Sadly I seem to have got hooked on a subject brought on by the “Start the Week” programme on BBC Radio 4.   This goes out on a Monday morning around 9 a.m. and I always try to listen to it.   This week it was a discussion about a book, “Ten Billion”, by Stephen Emmott.   The author, a pessimist about the situation of the planet, was talking to Danny Dorling who has also written a book on the subject, with a bit more optimism.    Also an Indian philosopher and Nobel Prize winning economist was taking part.   His name is Amartya Kumar Sen, and he believes that we must individually change our behaviour to save the planet from Global Catastrophe.   In particular he believes that the education of women would result in a fall in the fertility rate of poorer people.   Danny Dorling, on the other hand, thinks that we must think that things will be OK.   We must be positive.  He described himself as a “Possibilist”.  He contended that economists cannot cope with the idea of reducing consumption and the restriction of growth.   We must stop buying so much stuff, especially clothes.   These things take an enormous amount of water and energy to produce, and are for the most part unnecessary to our lives.   Danny Dorling maintains that the ‘baby peak’ has passed in 1990, and there have been a smaller number of babies born since then.  

But to confound the issue, we are all living longer and this is a big cause of increased population numbers.   According to Stephen Emmott the scale and the nature of the problem is simply not being communicated.   We must tell the politicians ‘WE WANT ACTION NOW!”  Another contributor to the discussion, Jill Rutter, a former director of strategy at DEFRA, agreed that governments must do more, but politicians prefer to think only in the short-term. 

Did you know that it takes 4 litres of water to produce one plastic bottle of water, and we throw away 9 billion plastic bottles in the UK in a year?   You could if you wanted to do a small thing take the same plastic bottle with you all day, and fill it up with water from a tap.  This is just a small fact on a long list.   Don’t talk about cars and mobile phones, computers and t-shirts, and our waste of resources.   And, don’t forget that the rest of the world, the underdeveloped countries want to be like Europe and the USA.

Anyway you can buy the book “Ten Billion” by Stephen Emmott for £6.99.   It’s frightening stuff.   Also there’s a big article about it in the Sunday Observer, on 30.06.13.


1.      The garden is looking lovely.   We have fantastic peachy, orangey roses, and white roses and red roses.   Gerald has been working hard.   We also have a raised bed, and we are growing lovely fennel bulbs, leeks, onions, rhubarb, and loads of lettuce.   The tomatoes and strawberries are not ready yet.
2.      I have started practising the piano again and can make a fair rendition of ‘Let it Be’, ‘The Entertainer’, and ‘Fur Elise’!
3.      Going to Glasgow on Thursday for the graduation of Jessica, granddaughter who has     managed to get a First class honours degree in International Business Studies.   I am so proud of her.   She is a little worker, and deserves to succeed.   Also I will meet ancient college friends, and sister and brother-in-law for a dinner at George Square.
4.      Andy Murray is in the quarter final of the Wimbledon Tennis Championship.
5.      We are having filet de porc, Chasseur for dinner tonight.
6.      I bought a new hat and beach bag at highly reduced rate in TK.Maxx.   They are sort of orangey shades, no doubt will match my over-scorched skin when I return from a holiday in Tenerife.   Will be married to G. for 28 years then, if God spares us.
7.      I’ve lost 7 pounds in weight since my knee operation.
8.      The ironing is finished for the week.
9.      We’ve now got two water hoses in the garden which makes watering the garden much easier.   Listen to me using up the earth’s resources.   Well in Scotland we have too much rain, and therefore too much water.
10.  Last, but not least Linda, my doctor granddaughter now working in New Zealand is coming home to take up a job in Aberdeen hospital, a few hours drive away.   The call of  boyfriend, Gregor, and of course her very friendly and humorous family was too strong to keep the girl away from Bonnie Scotland!  Cheers!   Keep on keeping on!