Posted in Current Affairs

‘Banks, Are You All Right?’ (Mary Poppins film)

How the UK is getting on… especially Scotland:

Banks ‘were close to collapsing’
(but the UK has now turned the corner) by BBC News
Why a Lloyds TSB takeover of HBOS is bad news for the Scottish high street by The Scotsman

Mum is still keeping her fingers in her ears and going ‘lalalalala’ so I just told her the governor of the Bank of England says we’ve turned the corner. And we might be able to save money on broadband and phonecalls if we switch to Sky.

It was me who said the last bit, not the governor of the Bank of England, but it cheered her up anyway.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Books

About a Scottish Poet

I quickly finished the biography of George Mackay Brown by Maggie Fergusson. It’s shorter than it looks because of the references at the back. I enjoyed it and found it more informative than GMB’s autobiography (From the Islands I Sing) but it was fairly dry in the middle, around the period when GMB was spending a lot of time with the other poets.

I suppose each person’s life is bound up with others and you really can’t separate them too much. These other people supported, influenced etc.

In his serious writing, GMB had a taste for the dark things of human existence (such as what happened to the local witches). But he also had his lighter, friendlier moments.

GMB suffered from periodic depression as well as agoraphobia. I wonder if many of the reviewers and critics really understood how that would impact on him. I was reading a review by someone who had read the biography who kept saying “but it was hard to work out why GMB [this, that or the other]“. In turn, it made no sense to me how anyone could read that book (or know anything about him) and not understand.

It’s true that some people think in black and white terms. They would imagine that if you have agoraphobia, you never leave the house. And if you leave the house regularly (like GMB going to the shops), you don’t have it any more. But as GMB found, it hangs around… sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it’s barely even present. He stared at the island of Hoy and wondered how he ever found the energy and courage to go out there. I do that myself – I think about places I’ve been and things I’ve done, and marvel. It doesn’t mean I would never be able to do them again – I would just feel currently unable.

To come close to understanding another, you really have to join up the dots.

Posted in Current Affairs, Health Issues, Political and Social Issues

Smoking Ban Could Drift Further?

I have friends who smoke, and my father also smoked, so I’m careful how I express myself on this subject. When it comes down to it, though, my feeling is that the smokers have had their way for long enough and now it’s our turn.

I went to a huge cat show once, and though people mustn’t smoke amongst the cats, they were allowed to smoke in the rest area at the side of the hall. Eventually the smoke drifted into the Siamese cat section. At first I didn’t pay a lot of attention, but after a while I realized I was having trouble breathing. And in the next moment I realized it was because of the drifting smoke, which always seems to affect me that way.

When I got home, I sent an email to the show manager, saying it was a good show and very well managed, but the one niggle I had was the smoke. In her response she said it wasn’t a problem as they weren’t smoking anywhere near the cats.

Ha! I was standing in the middle of the Siamese section and there was plenty of smoke drifting around. It wouldn’t have affected me otherwise, as I never sat in the rest area. The smokers, the non-smokers and the cats were trapped together in the same hall all day, and there wasn’t really anywhere else for any of us to go. Not good.

Well now there’s a smoking ban in Scotland. There are those who agree with it, and those who disagree. There are those whose horizons have broadened and whose profits have increased, and those whose scope has narrowed and whose profits have shrunk, and there is very little middle ground. Probably because you either need smoke or you can’t stand it. There IS no middle ground.

Even if there was, the smoke would drift across it and permeate everybody.

Remembering that my father was a smoker (though he never smoked in the house, and quit a short time before he died) I don’t like to throw my weight around. But the other day I was in our usual café and noticed smoke. I was puzzled. When I investigated, I realized it was someone sitting at a table outside the door. He’s allowed to smoke there, but his fumes blew right into the shop.

I couldn’t help smiling slightly when I read this article from The Scotsman: MSPs look at calls to extend smoking ban. There is all the usual anger from smokers who feel hard done by, but I understand the reasons for people wanting the smoking ban to go a little bit further yet. It’s not walking through or past the smoke that bothers me so much – it just seems futile to have a smoking ban and then sit in a smoky café anyway.

When I reached the end of my blog post, I suddenly realized I had a fascinated audience – see photo below.

Large cuddly sloth sitting on the desk

Peeping out of the bookcase behind my hairy reader is a red book with a green dustjacket. There’s only one reason why I kept it – it belonged to my father, and has his name on the flyleaf, in small neat capitals. And it doesn’t smell of smoke – it smells of book.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was on Blogigo:

1. Iain wrote at Sep 27, 2006 at 23:55:
The inevitable question: what’s the book?

2. Diddums wrote at Sep 28, 2006 at 00:05:
‘The New Beginners Please: for those who want to invest profitably’ published by the Investors Chronicle. I don’t dip into it very much. 🙂

3. Pacian wrote at Sep 28, 2006 at 13:18:
I want one!

The sloth I mean.

Posted in Current Affairs, Political and Social Issues, Rants

Media Stirring

I found this Scotsman article (with lots of comments from its readers) and thought “why has this started up again?”

Cumming hits out at Jack’s ‘racist’ own goal

I like Alan Cumming as an actor and first noticed him in Bernard and the Genie (a much-mourned film that we never see in the UK anymore). He’s also the evil hacker in the James Bond film Goldeneye – the one who shouts “I am invincible!” and then something happens… Yes, him.


Anyway, it sounds to me as though he got onto this topic when he was discussing what it means to be an expatriate Scot on the prowl for work. The media, as usual, blows everything out of proportion; Alan Cumming’s part in the discussion as much as Jack McConnell’s own personal stance. Granted, the politician could have expressed himself more carefully, though who asked them these questions in the first place? If we don’t want to have to deal with their replies, or are only expecting a bland “may the best team win,” why ask politicians (or actors) where they stand in a football match – and then publish their responses widely?

What is not explained here, exactly, is why Alan Cumming was given advice to pretend he wasn’t Scottish if he wanted a job. Why should any of us have to pretend to be something we’re not because of other people’s prejudices or expectations? I can’t believe it was purely because of one man’s comments about a football game – in fact I doubt it, which makes me wonder if this is a much larger issue than it’s being presented as.

As for tourists in Scotland – I’ve blogged recently about falling ill again with agoraphobia because of the sheer numbers of holidaymakers in town. Mum reported hearing plenty of English accents – not because we were discussing whether or not they liked us enough to come over here, but because she was trying to identify who the tourists were and what sort of holiday they were having. If a few decided on the strength of World Cup clashes not to visit Scotland… I have to say we really didn’t notice! There are a lot of forgiving, intelligent, broad-minded people out there, so thank you. You are really very welcome.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this entry when it was hosted on Blogigo:

1. Diddums wrote at Sep 17, 2006 at 16:25:
PS The Google ads on that news article are advertising Scottish holiday cottages, which is ironic. And I didn’t realize Alan Cummings was exactly my age – hmm! 🙂

2. drifting wrote at Sep 18, 2006 at 07:11:
Golly – what a to-do about nothing! (the ‘anti-English’ comments). McConnell was simply stating his preference for football teams surely. Anyone who takes offence and decides either to leave Scotland or not holiday there as a result is totally overreacting!

My brother is an avid football fan and will always barrack for the ‘other’ side – ie the country he’s not currently living in – so while in Germany he never supported German teams – while in New Zealand, he doesn’t support NZ teams – it’s one of his contrary ways – probably more to annoy the locals than anything. I must admit – I enjoy supporting Australia if there’s a NZ vs Aust rugby match and am forced to watch it. Love the reactions from the patriotic All Black supporters. Hehehehe.

3. Diddums wrote at Sep 18, 2006 at 20:12:
Absolutely right – I agree with the ones who say it’s about rivalry, not racism. On both sides there are always those who go over the top, but that doesn’t mean the heart of the entire nation is in the wrong place. Someone suggested (in the comments to the news article) that it exposed a flaw in the politician, that he was anti-English – but he was actually quite careful to say it was about the sport, not politics.

Posted in Blogging, Lost in Thought

Signs of the Blogs

While categorizing the older posts, I found this one: Spelt Exactly How it Says on the Tin

The bit that caught my attention was:

It’s impossible to switch off my niggle radar – my whole life is a kind of busman’s holiday. I just know if they put me in a reality show to swop lives with someone else, they would be forcing me to write ‘WD40’ without hyphens. “You must learn to loosen up. It’s good for you,” they would say. Then they would catch me red-handed, in the middle of the night, correcting my blog by flashlight.

It crossed my mind that swopping blogs would be mildly entertaining, though to no real point – imagine if you took over another blogger’s blog for a while and tried to write the sort of posts they might write. It would be easier if you also lived their life for a while so that you would be writing about the same people and things. Or then again, it would be more fun to stay in your own home and make it all up, then you could add silly things like “I went up Ben Nevis with my wheelie bag and felt quite alright, thank you kindly.”

Come to think of it, I’ve seen people ‘blog-sitting’ so it’s not really a new idea. It can be confusing. I remember tuning in to one blog and not realizing it was under the control of a different writer. There was something not quite right and I was perplexed, then realized the stark truth… imposter!

I suppose it’s more fun for the bloggers than the readers, an exception being the sort of situation where a friend or family member steps in to convey information while the main blogger is elsewhere.

On a slightly different subject, you would think personal blogs (if saved for posterity) would be interesting for historians if viewed as a whole. Even the most casual blogs (if not too introverted) reveal patterns and directions similar to shoals of fish darting about the reefs. For instance a number of British blogs recently have been talking about ‘torrential rain’. Not just any rain, you notice. It’s torrential rain. Most of us enjoy it even while we complain – we speak of the comfort we feel when looking out at a damp grey landscape. That won’t be interesting to historians, who will presumably have access to proper weather reports, but it’s just an example – there are other common topics and viewpoints.

Like… hem… well, very early in the year I was noting down bloggable topics – I wanted to describe the beautiful Scottish spider webs coated with ice. I never got round to it, but when I visited other Scottish blogs, they all seemed to be admiring their frosty cobwebs. One provided photos – much nicer than anything I could have come up with. It gave me a shock. I thought I was the only one observant enough to come up with such blog posts, and at the same time I was struck by the fact that all the blogs about icy webs (at least just then) were Scottish. I’m just a typical Scot after all – nothing out of the ordinary. Just one of the tiny silver fish in the middle of the shoal.

Maybe some of those other ‘silver fish’ live next door. Right at this very moment they could be posting: “as I gaze dreamily across the road, I see a woman sitting at her window – she stares into her computer monitor all the time and never looks out at the world long enough to behold small but beautiful things… such as spiders’ webs bejewelled with dew.”

Hang on while I draw my curtains.


Posted in Current Affairs, Political and Social Issues

Who Do You Support – and Should it Affect Business Decisions?

Anybody else notice this news item from The Scotsman about Scots losing business because of the sides they take (or don’t take) in the World Cup? I wonder if it is happening anywhere else? It’s a hot topic… when I read that news article there were at least 98 comments at the foot of it.

What I see is a company taking business away from another company who, as far as I’m aware, have said nothing at all about which teams they are supporting in the World Cup (and it’s probably a fair mixture). That seems a shame to me.

As a child I was clueless when it came to supporting one’s own nation. We were watching It’s a Knockout! – a wacky obstacle-course sports thing with different countries participating. My sister said “I support the team with GB on their backs.”

I was too young to know that GB stood for Great Britain, or what the other letters meant – all I knew was that my sister supported GB, so I had to find a team of my own to support. That way it was more fun and maybe I could beat her. I thought the letters CZ looked nice, so I chose that. CZ and their small Scottish supporter didn’t do particularly well, as far as I remember. But that’s the name of the game.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was on Blogigo:

kateblogs wrote at Jun 12, 2006 at 20:37:
There are 237 comments now – it has certainly got people talking. Unfortunately, bigots from both sides have also crawled out of the woodwork, but I suppose that was to be expected. It is a shame that we are still having these petty arguments, we are neighbours for goodness sake!

I think the programme you were watching was It’s a Knockout! Well, if I am remembering correctly.

Diddums wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 01:04:
And now there are 315! Many that should have been reported – some of the ones I saw before have probably been removed already.

Thanks, that’s right! Oddly, when I looked up It’s a Knockout, I found a bit about it on a page with the heading I love 1966. That’s a year that gets mentioned a lot in the football argument.

drifting wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 07:20:
My brother, although married to a German and having lived in Germany, refuses to back the German team. He was disappointed they won their first game. Instead he likes to support the underdog. Similarly I don’t want to support NZ or Australia (we’re a contrary lot). I’ll probably go for the Brits!

Diddums wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 12:52:
Yes, it’s strange – you like your neighbour or resident country, work with them, trade with them, but when you’re used to having your own separate side, it doesn’t seem quite right to support the other side when your own side isn’t playing. As some of the people commented in the news article, it boils down to a normal spirit of rivalry. In this case though, I’m not taking sides as I’m not following the football.

kateblogs wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 17:04:
“I found a bit about it on a page with the heading “I love 1966.” That’s a year that gets mentioned a lot in the football argument.”

Well, 1966 was a very important year – I was born! I believe some English team won something too, but my birth was obviously the thing everyone was celebrating. What else could it be? LOL

It is curious the way people decide which team they will support. I do it myself, teams with players from Liverpool FC are my top choice, followed by teams from countries where I have had a nice holiday. Those are followed by teams from countries I would like to visit.

BTW Pete at has mentioned your post!

Diddums wrote at Jun 13, 2006 at 23:00:
Ah, that explains why 1966 kept popping up :-).

Rushed hotfoot to read Pete’s blog post on the football. It led me to think that the thing that’s interesting about the difference between sports and the Eurovision Song Contest (cough) is that we get rapped over the knuckles (particularly by Terry Wogan) if we vote for neighbours. In our case, people might say “they gave 12 points to Ireland – of course they would!” I suppose it’s not at all the same, except that I stocked up on snacks and soft drinks for the Eurovision while others stocked up on beer and crisps for the World Cup. Yes I know, I’m sad, don’t tell me… LOL.

kateblogs wrote at Jun 15, 2006 at 21:46:
LOL yes that’s true. Britain always votes for Ireland in Eurovision, and that is seen as cheating, but at any other time we are expected to support each other. It’s very odd. Having said that I did notice both groups of fans supporting each other durng the last World Cup.

Mr Blogs bought some beer for the match earlier, I stuck to a glass of wine. Beer gives me hiccups. I don’t blame you for stocking up on snacks and drinks, it makes it more of an event.