Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Bulletin from Beaune

The euphony of the title above appeals to me! It also has the virtue of being factual as I am currently in Beaune in the Burgundy region of France, nearing the end of this stage of my return to Scotland. Since I last posted here (* - see at end), whilst spending a night in Valencia at the start of my journey back north, I have spent two nights at a very nice bed and breakfast in the hills outside Sitges, a little south of Barcelona. Unfortunately the weather, although rather nice on the day I arrived there (Sunday), deteriorated on Monday and remained overcast with a little rain for most of the day - none of this prevented me having a very pleasant long walk along the Sitges promenade and back (probably 6-7km) followed by a very good lunch on the terrace of one of the restaurants on the promenade. Tuesday started overcast, too, but before I left Sitges the sun had already begun to poke through the clouds and my resumed journey north into France became increasingly bright as the day wore on, and most of the afternoon was in bright sunshine and on my arrival in Vaison-la-Romaine (Wikipedia article here) to visit with friends we were able to sit on their terrace enjoying the evening sunshine (and aperitifs with tapenade) before a superb home-cooked dinner. The lady of the house is a good cook and the meal started with copious quantities of new-season fat white and green asparagus accompanied by a sauce of mayonnaise mixed with a little Dijon mustard and beaten egg white; a real treat. Followed a speciality paté of the region (pork brain and black olives) accompanied with butter and bread, then a local variant of boeuf bourgignon in which both mushrooms and green olives play a part, in addition to the usual ingredients. Following this was a selection of cheeses and finally a copious bowl of the first local strawberries of the season. Naturally the meal was accompnied by bottles of local white and red wine. I slept very well las night!

This morning (Wednesday) I awakened to the sound of heavy rain outside. By 11am I was on my way again and the rain, which had lessened a little before my departure, came back more strongly during my drive back to the motorway. There are many vineyards in this area which sell wine direct and offer wine tastings to visitors, so I called in at one such in the small town of Suze-la-Rousse and after tasting a number of their wines I purchased several bottles of one of their red wines and smaller quantities of two of their white wines, together with a bottle of each of their Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and Creme de Myrtilles (blueberry liqueur); as I was already carrying quite a lot of Spanish wines and sherries, mainly to give as gifts to people I will be visiting on my way back home or to people at home, the amount of wine I could purchase today was limited by what I could carry in an already quite well-filled car!

Tonight I am in the town of Beaune in the Burgundy region. Dinner this evening was very good, too. I started with more new-season, mainly white, asparagus with a vinaigrette dressing, then followed on with some fish (ray in butter - not a fish which I have very often been able to have in Britain, I've mainly eaten it in France and Morocco). Finally a plate of local cheeses. The meal was accompanied by a half-bottle of a good white burgundy (a Mercurey, a wine from the Côte Chalonnaise village of the same name) with a glass of red burgundy (whoe name escapes me at this late stage of the evening, but was delicious) to go with the cheese.

It is now rather late. Tomorrow I shall be travelling on to Vioménil in the Vosges region; it is a tiny village with about 170 inhabitants and is the source of the River Saône. I will be out of the reach of an internet connection until I reach the Netherlands on Friday, although will probably have little time or oportunity to blog further until I reach home in Scotland next Tuesday. By which time, of course, who has been elected as the new Mayor of London will be old news; no doubt I'll have something to say about that next week, whatever the result is tomorrow.

(*) - Unfortunately this article seems to have disappeared; I vaguely remember removing it for other reasons some time after I wrote it, but have no offline record of the text - so it is gone into the ether.

Friday 25 April 2008

Bill signs-off from Mazarron - tomorrow my journey home to Scotland begins

I shall be departing Mazarron tomorrow morning to begin my journey back to Scotland, which I am scheduled to reach on Tuesday 6th May after having driven north through Spain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, spending some nights in hotels, others with friends and/or family.

Earlier today I recorded a couple viedos of my preparations for my final lunch in the house here; the last videos I uploaded (see here) had music tracks, but no spoken content from me and someone made a comment that he would prefer to hear me talk, rather than have music - so you are duly warned, that is what you get in these latest videos! Whilst preparing lunch I run through my itinerary for the next 10 or so days in some detail - I hope you find it informative even if not precisely 'enjoyable'; I'm no professional as you will readily observe!

In the first video I prepare a salad and provide a running commentary of the food I am preparing and the itinerary I shall be folowing for the first several days of my journey to Scotland (as with the lunch in the earlier videos, although I prepare the salad first, I eat it after what you will see me preparing in the second video):

In the next video I'm preparing some salchichon (a little like a sliced chorizo sausage) and continuing my narrative of the rest of my journey back to Nairn:

I'll be in Nairn until the first week of August, then flying to the Netherlands for a party, then flying on to Mazarron for several weeks until early September. No doubt there'll be enough to pique my interest in doing some blog posts during the time I'm back in Scotland. Probably I'll manage to do a few blog posts during my journey home, assuming the hotel wi-fi is working. However, until then, this is Bill signing of from Mazarron for the present ...

Thursday 24 April 2008

Can you spot fake and genuine smiles?

Another of those interesting online quiz things - this time to assess how well you can tell a fake from a genuine smile, and vice versa.

I got 15 out of 20 correct, perhaps slightly better than I thought I might get - but still with enough mistakes to realise I can be fooled rather too often. Of the five I got wrong, 2 were genuine smiles that I thought were fake, 3 were fake smiles that I thought genuine.

(thru Rachel from north London)

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Are you English?

Happy St George's Day to all my English readers!

G K Chesterton:

St George he was for England,
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon

- now I can't promise I'll be drinking ale tomorrow, but I'll certainly raise a glass of wine to my English friends. Cheers!

It's not only Britain's Prince William who likes to fly

After reading about Prince William's recent use of a Chinook helicopter to hop across to the Isle of Wight for his cousin Peter Phillips's stag do, I was interested to read that Spain's Crown Prince Felipe likes to fly too, though in his case it was a Eurofighter.

I'm not certain whether the similarity between the UK and Spanish royal families in their love of flying carries over into other areas, though. Does Crown Prince Felipe, for example, have charming bloggers posting 'admiring' posts about him, too, I wonder?

Sunday 20 April 2008

Trips to Almeria and to Aledo

I took a trip down to Almeria last Tuesday (on the AP-7, then the A-7 motorways) and today I went up to the monastery near Aledo, not very far from here (the new RM-3 motorway from Mazarron to Totana means this is a much quicker trip than before, although beyond Totana it is still the same twisting road with lots of hairpin bends up to Aledo, of course). You can read about these trips, and see some photographs in my other blog here.

I like Boris Johnson, but ...

... his contradictory views on homosexuaity are so off-the-wall that it makes me question his suitability to be London mayor. On balance I probably still think he is the best of a poor choice of candidates, but his temporising and double-speak on homosexual law reform are troubling, to say the least:

I ceased being a subscriber to the Spectator magazine in 1999 or 2000, when Boris was still its Editor, because of the strident anti-homosexual tone it adopted under his editorship, 'going with the flow' of the right-wing agenda then sweeping the Conservative Party (which I resigned from in 2001 - scroll down the page) in its effort to stop Clause 28 being repealed. One must continue to ask searching questions of Conservatives on this issue as it could appear, to a cynical observer, that the views of most have not changed one iota, except they see the need to use different language in order to get enough votes to win elections. One does wonder how long it would take them to change their tune (again) if they thought it would not damage their electoral prospects. The reason I would be prepared to gloss over this 'defect' so far as Boris's mayoral ambition is concerned is because I think he is the one most likely, on balance, to govern London well, coupled with the fact that his ability to influence national policy on issues such as homosexuality will be limited. Nevertheless I would love to know what David Cameron's reaction would be if he read the article linked to above, including the video.

Friday 18 April 2008

Blood donations and the gay ban

I haven't donated blood in a long time, since about 1984 I think when I lived in Hong Kong - I used to donate regularly when I lived there (my blood is AB+, apparently in quite short supply). The UK and many other countries have banned blood donations from gays, however, since the 1980s in the immediate reaction to the new disease at the time HIV/AIDS, then effectively a death sentence - I think the ban then was probably justified.

However, things have moved on since then. Both in terms of the prognoses for people infected and methods of testing blood for infection. Nevertheless the ban remains in place and the petition this week for the blanket ban to be reviewed in Scotland seems to be receiving short shrift.

Whilst the blanket ban may have been justified in the mood of panic when HIV/AIDS was first identified in the early-mid 1980s I think it is more relevant now to question all donors about their sexual proclivities; of course promiscous gay men shouldn't donate blood, but nor should heterosexuals who indulge in unsafe sexual practices, or anyone who injects illegal drugs. Some gay men, myself included, have NEVER indulged in unsafe sexual practices - I have had many sexual partners over the years (very few in recent years), but it so happens that my own practices (since long before HIV/AIDS was first identified) make it highly unlikely that I could ever have contracted, far less passed on, the infection; call it fortuitous happenstance if you like, but that is a fact even if I don't make a practice of discussing my private life in intimate detail in this blog and I'm not about to start now. However the guidelines for blood donations are not interested in this (I could be lying is, I suppose, the attitude). However self-declared heterosexuals (married, two kids, etc) do not have to justify themselves, even the 'happily-married' donors who occasionally visit a prostitute or have a secret bi-sexual side.

And what about people who have been eating beef-burgers regularly for years, decades even? There is, from what I can see, no effective blood-screening test as yet for CJD, despite earlier claims that one might be developed soon, although it is recognised that having such a test would itself create huge problems.

Now, I have rambled on quite long enough - a very good summary of the issues is given by J Arthur MacNumpty and I agree with all he has written. I had thought I might just link to his post and leave it at that, but anyway I decided finally to do my own 'take' on the issue as well. Some of the other blog posts on the subject (well, one in particular!) have a high degree of prejudice and self-confessed ignorance (on this as on so many other subjects over the months when challenged; see comments), mixed in with a devotion to 'statistics' to mask the woolly thinking, that I have given up debating directly with this person on any matter even if his blog remains in my blogroll and I continue to read some of what he writes on occasion as 'entertainment'. Well, I really must stop now - I've descended into simple ad hominem; I generally try and remain respectful of the views of others, whatever I may think privately, but even I occasionally lose patience ...

A 'doggy' tear-jerker from Japan

A very touching short film from Japan about a young girl called Mika and her dog Marimo:

- this did strike a chord with me as it will very soon be the first annniversary of the death of my own little dog Tara.
(thru Toby at Vividblurry)

Welsh ex-Councillor unwilling to stay weaned off public 'teat'

I thought this was some kind of April Fool's joke when I first read it, but it seems that eight local authorities in Wales took part in a Welsh Assembly Government scheme in 2004 to try and persuade (aka 'bribe') long-serving councillors not to stand at elections again, as a way of bringing in 'fresh blood' and 'fresh thinking'; payments of between £16,000 and £20,000 were made to Councillrs who applied for grants under the scheme. One of those who applied and received money was a Carmarthernshire councillor called Eunydd Thomas.

However now Mr Thomas has decided to stand for election again, citing pressure on him by his supporters who wanted him to. Amazingly a Welsh Assembly Government spokesman is quoted as saying:

"The assembly government made it clear when it launched the Past Service Award Scheme that only councillors retiring at the 2004 elections, and who had no intention of seeking public office at this level again, should apply for an award.

"However, for legal reasons it was not possible to include in the regulations a provision which would prevent a recipient of an award from standing in a future election."

What that last sentence states, in terms, is that the Welsh Assembly Government embarked on a scheme to use public funds to achieve an objective (itself of dubious merit, in my view) in the knowledge that it did not have to legal power to enforce the terms of the scheme. Instead the scheme was to rely on the honesty and integrity of those applying for pay-outs under the scheme. I ask you! We're talking about 'politicians' here, even if they are of the relatively-lowly status of councillors! One might think that such people are, as a category, more honororable than people who stand for higher levels of government, being mostly amateurs known personally to many of the people who elect them. However, the truth is that they are just fallible human beings like the rest of us.

The real problem with this whole scheme is that it was ever dreamed up in the first place. The only criterion that matters about who should sit as a councillor, MP, MSP, AM, etc, is for the electorate to be able to choose from amongst those who wish to stand for election. I fail to see how it is within the remit of the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), or any other government, to try and 'pre-select' those who should stand, based on some notion of bringing in 'new blood' or fresh thinking'! I can certainly understand that the WAG's (in the circumstances a curiously apt abbreviation!) legal advisors advised it of the difficulty of barring persons who accepted pay-outs under the scheme - after all, they are not criminals or prisoners or otherwise barred from standing for election and any attempt to enforce such a ban would undoubtedly contravene the Human Rights Act. However, if this bizarre scheme was decided upon, I don't see why a clause could not have been added to the rules to provide that anyone who took a payment, but who then subsequently stood for a similar elected position, would have to pay the money back, possibly plus interest. No-one's legal rights to either be elected or to elect whom they choose would be affected, but the public purse would have been protected from being squandered ineffectively.

Monday 14 April 2008

ASA dismisses complaints against "Some people are gay. Get over it!"

At the end of February I wrote a post about the "Some People are gay. Get over it!" poster campaign being run by Stonewall.

Predictably enough, this poster campaign generated a significant number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on all sorts of [spurious] grounds, generally from people with a 'religious' axe to grind, in short 'homophobes'. I am pleased to read that the ASA has rejected all these complaints and the full ruling reproduced below is shown on the Facebook campagining page:

ASA dismisses complaints against "Some people are gay. Get over it!"

The Advertising Standards Authority has refused to uphold any of the 54 complaints it has received about the "Some people are gay .Get over it!" billboard campaign. Complaints about the 600-billboard campaign will not now prevent it being re-run later this year.

The ASA said in its ruling: ‘Although some people might disagree with the advertiser’s approach, the ad did not contain language or imagery that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence, or particular offence to heterosexuals or religious groups. The ad did not imply that heterosexual people were homophobic, and did not promote homosexuality as an attractive lifestyle choice or as taking advantage of issues arising from children’s sexuality for political gain.’

Six hundred billboard panels, donated by Titan Outdoor Advertising, were displayed across the UK in February. The visual was developed by Warwick Worldwide in collaboration with 150 secondary school pupils and teachers for Stonewall’s Education for All campaign.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, says: ‘We’re delighted at the ASA’s decision. This was a carefully-designed campaign which has had a significant impact. We’ve received supportive messages from teachers and young people across the country saying it has helped them raise the issue of homophobic bullying in their schools for the first time. This sort of bullying, which blights the lives of young people, has festered in the past precisely because it has been invisible. ’

Among the complainants, seven claimed the ad was ‘inappropriate for display where it could be seen by children’. Five objected that the ad was ‘particularly offensive to Christian and other religious groups’. Two objected that the ad was offensive because it discriminated against heterosexual people and implied that all heterosexuals were homophobic.

The ASA ruling means that the campaign can be run again later in the year. Quite frankly the fact that the original campaign provoked the number of hostile reactions it did shows just how necessary this campaign is. When such campaigns no longer attract the negative feedback this one did the first time around, that will be the time to declare that campaigns like this are no longer necessary. Meantime it is quite obvious that the simple message that:
"Some people are gay. Get over it!"

is still one that people need to hear.

Thursday 10 April 2008

Lost ...

... it!

I haven't watched Lost in quite a long time; this quite amusing compilation video encapsulates nicely why that is:

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

(thru Andrew Sullivan)

Bill does lunch

Strictly for YouTube addicts! I thought I would share with readers the sight of me preparing my lunch earlier today. Usually lunch for me, even when I'm in Scotland on a cold winter day, is cold - either cold meats or fish, accompanied by a mixed salad. What I decided to have today was some Serrano ham (a Spanish dry-cured ham) and my usual salad. I always prepare the salad first, then the meat/fish, but I always eat the meat/fish first then the salad; this order of eating food dates back a long way for me, really from when I lived in Djibouti during the 1970s - it was then that I came across the French custom of eating a small green salad after the main course at formal meals/banquets, also of the custom of following this with cheese before serving any pudding or dessert; I came to realise how much better this is for the digestion so now always eat at home this way, specially when I'm on my own. Another peculiarity of my eating habits is that I almost never mix different kinds of food on the same plate, a custom I learned from my amah when I lived in Hong Kong for the first time in the early 1980s; what this means, for example, is that if I am having steak accompanied by, say, green beans and courgettes (I never eat potatoes, rice or pasta), I will first eat the steak on its own on a properly warmed plate with one set of cutlery, after that I will eat, say, the green beans on another warmed plate with fresh cutlery, finally I will eat the courgettes, or whatever other green vegetable I am having, on a third warmed plate with a further set of clean cutlery. This prevents flavours being mixed; it also slows down considerably the speed at which I eat - again I believe this is good for the digestion. Of course all this uses up a lot of crockery and cutlery, but that's what dish-washers are for, in my view.

Anyway, with that preamble I thought I'd share with you part of my preparations for lunch today. The first dish I prepared was a mixed salad (romaine lettuce, rocket, celery, radish and cucumber, sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil, low sodium salt and garnished with parsley), to be eaten following the main course, prepared next. Here's the salad preparations under way, accompanied by 1980s/1990s French band Gold singing 'Josiane':

After this I set about preparing the main course, Serrano ham. Six or seven slices of thinly-cut ham, a sliced pepinillo (a large sweet-pickled gherkin) and some Greek-style black olives, all sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil and finished with freshly-ground black pepper. During the preparation of this dish I'm having an aperitif of a small glass of chilled fino (dry sherry). Accompanying this the music is again by Gold, this time singing 'Plus près des étoiles'. Lunch itself was accompanied by a glass of local red wine. Bill at pleasurable work:

If I do any more videos, I'll try and getting the lighting a bit better. Oh, other good news today - I finally got a working electric door bell fitted this afternoon. This has been for many weeks the remaining item on the 'snags' list I gave to the builder's office months ago and despite regular visits to remind them about this (the young lady there is very pleasant, always smiling, but only intermittently effective) the fault had not been repaired. I therefore decided a few days ago that I was fed up waiting and would get it done independently (at my cost) - the same electrician who fitted my lights came and did the job in about ten minutes. Luckily the wiring from the bell-push at the gate to the bell was intact, but the bell itself seems to be kaput so has been replaced with a much better type of bell.

It is an absolutely lovely evening here today - very windy, but sunny and warm (probably about 22 or 23 degC, down from the 25 degC it got up to earlier in the afternoon); better than yesterday when it was warm, overcast and sultry in the afternoon - until it started to rain. I was out on a lengthy walk when that happened so I spent the next hour walking back in the rain, getting thoroughly soaked with rain which was a little cool if not precisely cold - a change of clothing when I got home sorted that out!

PS/ I should clarify that I have been thinking of doing some YouTube podcast-style uploads here for some weeks, but more in the style of the audio comment-style podcasts I did in this blog a few years ago. I hadn't got around to doing that unfortunately. However, a few days ago one of my recent regular blog-reads, the very cute, gay and witty London Preppy, started to do a series of videos of his day-to-day mundane existence, the first of which showed a rear view of him doing some ironing - of course his torso, and his bottom(!) is much more eye-candy material than mine, but that's where the idea came from for my video efforts today.

Ofcom looks at 'sharing' licence fee with other broadcasters

More broadcasters, it seems, want to get in on the act by getting their hands on some of the television licence fee and Ofcom, the regulatory body, thinks that there is a case for this so that ITV, Channel4 and Five can get help to fund their 'public service' broadcasting obligations (news, local news, etc).

I'm not in principle opposed to 'sharing' existing revenue (I'd rather see the licence fee reduced or abolished entirely) as I think it would be a salutary reminder to the BBC that it does not exist in a vacuum, irrespective of what the public feels about it - who are increasingly voting with their remote controls for the wide range of alternative broadcasters now available.

However, there is an ominous statement at the end of the linked article:

"Ofcom concludes that if this money comes from the existing licence fee, which generates £3.2bn per year, it could be damaging to the BBC."

- I'm assuming that this does reflect what Ofcom actually wrote and has not been 'doctored' editorially by the BBC - hardly a disinterested party in this matter. However, what this seems to imply is that what is being talked about is not 'sharing' at all(!), but increasing the revenue (and the licence fee, presumably) so that the BBC will not lose out! Apart from the Newspeak attempt to disguise a potential increase in the licence fee as 'sharing', I think it is time that broadcasters realised they do not have any right to our money; I accept that the commercial broadcasters (ITV and Five) have a right to turn a profit, but they should be required to fund whatever public service obligations they have out of their own revenues, not ours - and if they can't achieve this they can go out of business so far as I am concerned. As for the BBC and Channel4, they need to focus on their core obligations and not attempt with public money to compete with purely commercial broadcasters in every type of programming.

Sunday 6 April 2008

Ian Blair's bane?

Do you think this new law would apply to Sir Ian Blair if another incident like the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes were to occur? Fat chance in the quasi-'Police State' the UK now is!

More Australian satire: 'Holy Homosexuals'!

My last post prompted me to look on YouTube to see if there were any more online sketches from this Australian television comedy show and it's a rich seam!

This one shows the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, being waylaid by an interviewer trying to get clarification about some of the things written in the Bible:

It's amazing how the spectacle-wearing Jensen conveniently wants to ignore that other verse in the Bible, isn't it? There's lots of other inconsistencies in that 'novel' for anyone who cares to look. Once more I suggest you read the captions floating along the bottom, too.

Scientific breakthrough: Christian gene isolated ...

... leaving open the possibility that this 'affliction' can be eliminated ... worried parents delighted!

This very amusing satire is aparently a sketch from an Australian comedy show. Don't forget to read the captions scrolling across the bottom of the screen; some quite witty observations there, too. Yes indeed, believers in 'imaginary friends' everywhere will be alarmed by this research!

(thru the very naughty Aussielicious, one of my favourite reads of late)

Thursday 3 April 2008

Bill's first 'Eurovision' post for 2008

So far I've resisted the temptation to blog on Eurovision this year, but I saw the video below this evening in a blog I've been reading for a few months (Unzipped: Gay Armenia) and thought it would be a good place to start. Much of what artmika has been writing about over the time I've been reading his blog has been less than happy (it's a gay blog about Armenia, obviously), but I'm glad he has found something cheerful to write about.

The video shows the Armenian Eurovision performer, Sirusho (a pretty woman), flirting during a Moscow photo-shoot with Russian hunk, and 'babe', Dima Bilan who is this year's Russian entrant again:

Six years and counting – Happy Birthday to my blog!

Reading through the 5-year blog anniversary post I wrote a year ago today, some of what I wrote there has been curiously prescient – I talked about the possibility of 'hanging up' my blogging clogs, something which I did in fact do at the end of last September. However, that didn't last very long! It was in the second half of November last that I felt provoked into resurrecting my blog because of some things that were happening in the country at the time.

One of the things I did though, whilst this blog was in abeyance, was to start another blog devoted entirely to my adventures in Spain; indeed I began writing there the day after I [temporarily] ceased pontificating here. I think, in retrospect, what this indicated was that I had become somewhat jaded, bored even, with the prospect of writing yet more of the same kinds of post commenting on current affairs in the UK and beyond, when our government seemed determined to continue on its misguided economic and social path - quickly taking us back to some of the conditions that prevailed the last time Labour was in power in the 1970s. After writing about this for over five years, at that time, I began to feel that I was wasting my time banging my head against the wall of socialist stupidity, which might continue for several more years, and that I really needed to concentrate more on things I could influence in my own personal life, being relatively insulated financially, as I am, from the worst aspects of the Labour government's ideas on how to run the country.

However those couple of months when I wasn't writing here coincided with a growing realisation among many British people of just how awful had been 10+ years of Labour rule for the country. Although I have thought that way almost since May 1997, far too many of my fellow Britons seemed to believe the 'hype' of Blair/Brown that they would run the country sensibly and prudently - I saw through their smoke and mirrors a long time ago! Now that more people were beginning to appreciate just how catastrophic Brown's lengthy spell as Chancellor has been and just how badly he is performing as Prime Minister, I began to feel that there was a real possibility of Labour being turfed out at the next election - so I thought that writing here was no longer quite so pointless. So I brought the blog back.

Of course I haven't touched in this post yet about the equally grave damage that Labour have caused to civil liberties in Britain with their seemingly unabated desire to inflict yet more and more authoritarian policies on us. It's true to say, I think, that relatively few people have become overly alarmed about this - basically the complacency of a population living in a relatively prosperous and peaceful country which is prepared to let the government do what it wants, for the sake of an easy existence. By the time people do wake up to what has been going on it may well be to late to reverse the change to post-democracy, where no-one even pretends very much any more that the views of the electorate count, provided they vote the 'correct' way at the tiresome elections they are still obliged to hold, for form.

So, there is all to play for. Hence my return to blogging here, albeit sporadically whilst I am in Spain with many more interesting things to deal with here. As I write this I am sitting with front and back doors open, in my shorts, a T-shirt and my sock-less deck shoes, listening to the classical music station put out by RNE, the Spanish national broadcaster - it's very much in the style of BBC Radio3, my preferred radio station (apart from Radio4) in the UK; of course I listen to those too in Spain through the digibox attached to my television. It's currently 23.3 degC - now that the irrigation has been installed (this morning) in the planting areas in my garden I will this evening order some soil, gravel and of course plants to finish off the external landscaping that has been going on for the past couple of weeks. I'll try and blog about other matters more the usual style for this blog either later today or in the next few days.

Finally, but very importantly, I'd like to thank the gentle readers who visit my little blog from time to time and those who take the trouble to comment on what I have written; feedback is always useful and I am grateful for it.

Article heading list for latest 6-month period (October 2007 - March 2008) now up

The archive of 'Article Headings' for the latest 6-month period is now available - click here for the period October 2007 to March 2008.

There are permanent links in the right bar to this and earlier 6-month 'Article Heading' indices, immediately below the standard 'Blogger' monthly archive links.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

'Halls of Residence' one of possibilities in MPs expenses review

(Please see UPDATE at end)

This amused me greatly when I read it! About six months ago I wrote a post, picking up on a Green Party suggestion for a similar arrangement to be considered from MSPs in Edinburgh - and was mocked with all sorts of spurious arguments against it (see the comments to that post) by a completely disinterested party [not], i.e. someone who will be a candidate at the next Scottish Parliament elections (note: I was reminded - see comments - that he wil in fact be a candidate at the next Westminster elections).

Although the linked article considers that the possibility of the country acquiring a suitably large premises to accommoddate all the MPs who need to travel a significant time/distance to get to Westminster from their constituencies is somewhat remote, if only because of the sheer cost of land/buildings in London, I am pleased that it has not been ruled out completely; perhaps those on the committee felt that, in the current climate of critisism of parliamentary expenses, they just had to look at every option, even those which might perhaps be less attractive to some of our [aspiring] representatives.

UPDATE: (Thursday 3APR08 08.45 RST+1) Guido has taken up the call for Halls of Residence for MPs; some of the comments to that post are quite pertinent.

Shape-shifting clothing may become a reality - in the Highlands!

I think quite a long number of years ago I read in some Sci-Fi novel a storyline which involved shape-shifting clothes (can't remember who the author might have been), but now I read that such 'technical' clothing may become a reality. According to the linked report, the clothing 'could carry sensors to monitor the wearer's health' and contain 'mechanisms programmed to change shape when warmed, or in response to an electric current'. Other storage features can be incorporated, such as MP3 players.

Distance Lab of Forres, Moray, is to hold an open day on 29th May when Di Mainstone, the designer, will discuss her Haute Tech creations. The technology was developed 'along with Joanne Berzowska, founder and research director of XS Labs in Montreal'.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Bell's Cherrybank Garden is closing

Cherrybank Garden, on the outskirts of Perth, houses a fine collection of heathers; it is not an ancient garden, having been established only a relatively brief number of years ago, largely with the aid of a grant from Diageo PLC, one of whose whisky brands is Bell's Scotch whisky. I've visited the garden a couple of times in the past five years and although I found it a little stark, partly because it was so new, I thought Cherrybank was a worthwhile attempt to exhibit a wide range of heathers, a plant which has varieties which flower in all seasons of the year, not just in late summer. Now I learn it has just been closed having failed to win further funding from the Natonal Lottery.

Sad as I am to read of this development, the petition of the 3,000 people who 'demanded' it be kept open and held a protest to that effect raises some more questions in my mind. How many of the 3,000 protesters had visited Cherrybank (or indeed any other garden open to the public) in the past year, or indeed ever? Possibly some of them have, but I would venture to suggest it will probably be a relatively small proportion; I live over a hundred miles from Cherrybank, so my visits are necessarily infrequent, but I do visit other gardens closer to my Scottish home on a reasonably regular basis, and pay relatively trifling sums for the privilege of seeing fine collections of plants. People seem to believe that charities conjure resources out of thin air; they do not. Perhaps if a few more people took the trouble to visit gardens and other repositories of national collections of flora, protests to keep them open would not be necessary. Walk the walk, don't just talk the talk!