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

Thursday, 30 July 2009

An SNP supporter's tipple of choice (for pay)

Well-known SNP supporter, Sir Sean Connery, drinks that well-known brand of [not Scotch] whisky from Japanese producer Suntory. Presumably this ad. gets played to introduce the one-time 'Bond, James Bond' when he attends SNP functions?

And he looks so happy, don't you think?

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Good riddance, Councillor John Hogg!

Another 'Good Riddance!' post so soon (see here). The idiot this time is Councillor John Hogg, an Independent member of Moray Council, representing Heldon and Laich Ward. Mr Hogg has announced he is resigning his membership of the Church of Scotland because of the recent [confirmation of the] appointment of an 'openly' gay minister to a church in Aberdeen; it's the same case as before, involving the Rev. Scott Rennie. Mr Hogg explains himself thus:

"I find that I can no longer reconcile my communicant membership of the Church of Scotland with either the General Assembly’s support for Aberdeen Presbytery’s decision to sustain the call from Queen’s Cross church to the Rev Scott Rennie, or their fudging of the issue of ordaining openly practising homosexuals.

"I cannot be a part of a church which places secular liberalism above the authority of the Bible."

Actually, Mr Hogg is not in reality doing much more than make a 'gesture', for 'he would continue to attend and support the church at Alves (*). He will not take communion, however, and said that will mean he is not technically a member. He said it would not in any way affect his relationship with his local minister, the Rev Duncan Shaw, whom he informed by letter. Mr Hogg said his decision was not about condemnation nor simply about making a point.'
- but that's of course exactly what he is doing - simply making a bigoted point. He adds:

"It’s about no longer being part of an organisation whose decision-making I currently disagree with. When that changes, which it will do, I’m sure, I may well ask to be reinstated as a member."

Who knows, maybe he's right for all I care! Maybe the 'Kirk' will take itself even further away from the modern world than it is already, and see its support amongst the wider public drop away even more than it has in recent decades, with the consequent further drop in its income, which has already led to many parishes having to double-up with one or more negubouring parishes in provision of ministers and services. Tough. Good riddance to Mr Hogg and other folks in the Church of Scotland who think like him! If a schism in the church occurs because of this bigotry maybe it will be time to start campaigning to have the charitable status of this so-called 'Christian' cult revoked and deprive it of the tax-breaks it currently benefits from and which I, as a taxpayer, contribute to funding.

(*) Alves is a village about half-way between Forres and Elgin, about 17 miles from Nairn, where I live.

There's no law that says one must like or use 'Twitter'!

I really do get bored with some 'holier-than-thou' bores who judge people by whether they use certain modern technology or not, specifically various 'social media' such as Twitter; I happen to use Twitter, and 'follow' the writer of this comment ("Cameron doesn't like Twitter. Need to know any more?"), but neither make me a bad or a good person, they just are. If someone doesn't like someone else's politics (in this case David Cameron), fair enough, but this kind of pointless carping seems to me, well, just pointless - and deeply silly. After all, Tony Blair was said to be a stranger to usage of email, but my feelings about him are unaffected by this 'quirk' in someone of his generation. I daresay there are characteristics of politicians from every political party that one might use to mock them or belittle them in some way, thereby expressing one's dislike of their politics, but it really adds nothing to the argument in my [ever so humble] opinion. I happen to think Facebook is something I prefer not to use, but I do not make particular judgements about people based on their usage or non-usage of this platform - I may in some respects be anally retentive, but not to that extent!

In any event, the remarks of David Cameron to which my esteemed Twitter correspondent seems to have taken exception are contained in this interview:

- I must say that as a British person, just like David Cameron, I had not been aware of the specially vulgar connotation of the word 'twat' - and as my Twitter correspondent is also, I suspect, British, I must also say that I find his [faux-]outrage somewhat laughable. Pass the sick bag, Ethel!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bill's tribute to Gordon's 'Big Brother State' is due

The 2nd payment on account of my tax bill for the 08/09 financial year is due by 31 July, so I'm going up to the bank to pay it this morning.

I usually get it in at least a week early, but I've decided that the idiot who is inexplicably in charge of our lives in 10 Downing Street can wait until just about the final moment before he gets his hands on yet more of my money. Possibly I wouldn't feel quite so irritated if it wasn't absolutely clear that he has squandered huge amounts of public money (including my previous tax payments!) since he first got his moronic hands on the levers of our national finances in May 1997.

Call an election, Brown!

MP 'duplicity' contrasted with MOD 'pettiness'

I think two cases I came across whilst scanning my morning news reports indicate that not much has changed in Britain. I'm not, as readers will know, any kind of 'socialist', but this kind of thing does make my blood boil!

Case 1 - MP 'duplicity'
The so-called 'reform' of MP's expenses will actually allow an MP to claim almost double the level of monthly subsistence/food allowance currently permissible, without producing a receipt. Naturally, one of the members of the 'tribune of the people', Labour MP Tom Bell, is indirectly quoted in the article as:

'... denying the system could be abused, saying MPs would be expected to keep a record of nights spent away from home.'

- although according to BBC political correspondent Reeta Chakrabarti believes 'the wording of the new rules, set out in the parliamentary green book, is broad enough to enable MPs to claim the [unreceipted] subsistence allowance every day of the month if they wish.' Most likely without any form of audit. So that's all right then!

Case 2 - MOD 'pettiness'
The MOD is attempting to claw back increased compensation awards from military personnel for injuries suffered during military service, for injuries incidental to [but consequent upon] the service injury for which lower compensation was originally granted and increased upon appeal. The MOD wishes to overturn the increases granted during the appeals and claims it is trying:

"... to clarify an earlier judgment about how the armed forces compensation scheme is administered, and to protect the key principle of the scheme: the most compensation for the most seriously injured."

That's official-speak for 'not set a precendent' and 'reduce the impact of compensation pay-outs on the public purse'.

The moral of these two cases? Well, it seems that there is one rule for those whom we elect to our elective-dictatorship and another for those who risk their lives to protect that elective-dictatorship. It stinks!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Thuggery in Nairn

Very sketchy details so far of an attack in Nairn late last night which has left a man seriously injured.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Good riddance, Reverend Thomas Mackinnon!

This kind of idiot is why I will have nothing to do with his Church or indeed any other organised form of sky-fairy worship! The humility and geneorsity of spirit I thought typified Christianity seems to have completely passed bigots like Mackinnon by.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Asda gets go-ahead for superstore in Inverness

The Scottish Executive (aka 'Scottish Government') has apparently granted Asda outline planning permission to open its superstore in Inverness at Slackbuie. At long last, 'Tesco Town' will have some serious competition to back-up the Morrisons outlet near the Eastgate Centre.

Tesco currently has three outlets in Inverness (with permission already granted for a fourth). Other supermarkets operating in Inverness include Lidl (with plans to open a second store), Aldi and the Co-op.

For Asda it will be its first store in Inverness and in the Highlands - the nearest store currently is in Elgin. As with the Asda application, the application by Sainsbury to open a supermarket in Nairn (also its first in the Highlands - nearest is in Aberdeen) was 'called in' by the Scottish Executive (aka 'Scottish Government') following its approval, against planning officials' recommendation, by Highland Council; a public inquiry was held recently in Nairn and it is hoped (by me and many others in Nairn) that Sainsbury will soon be granted approval to go ahead with this much-needed food retail outlet.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

What's wrong with the human body?

Well, it seems that the law, in the august personage of Perth sheriff Richard MacFarlane, considers it such a danger to public order that he feels obliged to lock away, effectively indefinitely (*), a man whose only crime is that he wishes to walk the length of the country the way his Maker (+) made him.

This seems completely crazy to me. I have no desire whatsoever to parade the highways naked, but if Stephen Gough wants to risk catching his death of cold, even in a British summer, then my attitude is - let him get on with it! What harm is he doing to anyone? Surely such extreme prudishness went out when our Sovereign Lady, Queen Victoria I, shuffled off this mortal coil more than a century ago? And she was, by all accounts, a bit of a 'raver' in Her youth, despite the seeming prudishness of Her later years.

(*) He was re-arrested within 30 seconds of his last release because he walked nude from the gate of the prison to Edinburgh Road, and shows no sign of 'recanting' or conforming to what the Sheriff requires - and why should he?
(+) If you believe in a 'Maker' and other 'sky fairy' concepts.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A most enticing programme preview. Not.

(Please see UPDATE at end)

This week's Radio Times has one of the most devastatingly unfavourable reviews for an upcoming programme that I can ever recall reading. So explicit is the withering comment about what viewers can expect to see tonight at 9pm on BBC4 television that I felt I just had to reproduce it here. The preview is on page 82 of this week's print edition of Radio Times (at least in the Scottish edition) and can be found in the online Radio Times here. Marvel at its frankness:

How to Be Old with Nicholas Craig
Tuesday 14 July
9.00pm - 10.00pm BBC4

Third-division thespian Nicholas Craig is inexplicably given another hour of airtime to sound off on acting technique, a subject where his lack of expertise could not be plainer. This time, the precious gasbag delivers a footling, downright insulting bulletin on how to portray elderly characters, betraying his trivial outlook by advising on coughing, hobbling, falling ("into a coma or under a bus") and playing grumpy butlers.

It's hard to know what's most unbearable about Craig: his vain self-promotion (he plugs his dreadful Charming Walks for Older Actors book), his flagrant name-dropping or his evident bitterness at having been written out of Doctors when his salty sea-dog character went mad. In any event, Derek Jacobi, Patricia Routledge and Liz Smith are among those who'll be livid when they see this.

Radio Times reviewer - Jack Seale

No doubt Mr Craig and his agent (assuming he still has one after tonight) will have been overjoyed to read this write-up.

I can't record this easily, as I'm already recording two other programmes on my DVR at the same time this evening, so may end up watching as much of it as I can stomach, failing which I will have to try and rig up one of my rather ancient VCRs to record it on the now somewhat outmoded videotape so I may savour it later.

UPDATE: (Wednesday 15JUL09 14.30 BST) Well, it seems this whole show was a spoof by the actor Nigel Planer, a fact I was alerted to by James Higham in the comments. Well it is a fine conceit I suppose, one that I seem to have been completely taken in by. Doh!!

"Welcome to Scotland" ...

... but take care you don't inadvertently stray onto a motorway-standard highway when entering our lovely country if you are 'driving' under pedal-power! No, not even if you're undertaking a ride from Land's End to John O'Groats on a charity fund-raising effort for a young disabled girl and a Hospice she attends. Obviously this cyclist had to be taken off the motorway pronto, for the safety of himself and others (and Jamie Barton, the cyclist involved, agrees), but I do tend to agree that the punishment meted out is a little harsh in the circumstances.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Labour: such a very charming group of people

The title is my euphemistic way of describing what is in fact a vile political party, led by a vile moron - and now a[nother] Labour MP has blurted out what we all know to be true.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Pride in the British military

Yes, there's a double-meaning there! Firstly because of the prominent role played by members of different parts of our military forces in London Pride last Saturday and because the presence of lesbian and gay personnel is now widely-accepted and uncontroversial in most quarters. It is specially pleasing to see the latest issue of Soldier (*) (which is published by the Ministry of Defence) and various of the articles it contains (for example - "Equal Partners: Gay Soldiers Hail Army's Strides In Diversity." ).

(*) - You can download the complete .PDF version of the July issue via the link at the foot of the linked page.

The other aspect of pride in our military forces relates to their bravery and courage, or more precisely the profound respect they have earned and which is if possible heightened by the recent surge in fatalities they have suffered in Afghanistan.

I salute them all.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Hitler reacts to the news of Michael Jackson's death

Yet another spoof on the Hitler "Downfall" theme. Some of the captions are quite amusing:

(shamelessly 'filched' from Jason's COUNTERCOLUMN: The Adjunct of Evil blog)

The 'Gays in the Military' debate rumbles on in the US

I don't write much any more about the bizarre debate which continues to rumble on (fester, really) in the United States over whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military, whether the current policy of "don't ask, don't tell" should continue, or even in a few case that a complete ban should be reinstated. And in any case the excellent FiveThirtyEight blog did projections some months back on the slowly evolving attitudes across the 50 States on the matter of homosexuality, indicating that in the next decade or so the bulk of the country would be completely comfortable with it (that was the 'gist' of the analysis, so far as I recall) and that various changes in the current legislation in force across the States might be likely to happen.

In any case, what provokes me to write this article now was a link to an article I wrote five and a half years ago in my visitor stats last night, from a new article written by Jason, the same blogger referred to in my article all those years ago. At that time Jason was serving as an officer with the US military in Iraq; it's not clear where he is now or even if he is still a serving military officer or is now a 'vet'. His recent post is quite interesting and as usual finely-honed, with the final paragraph seeming to me to display a pragmatic attitude to dealing with the practicalities of the law (or 'military code') which officers must operate under, given the existing legislation. It obviously still bugs Jason that my initial assessment of his 2004 article was that it was a 'homophobic rant' even though I later in amendments modified that view somewhat. I don't pretend to understand fully the motivations underlying attitudes toward homosexuality, gays in the military, 'gay marriage', 'gay adoption', etc. in the United States, except that the stock phrase that the UK and US are "two countries divided by a common language" seems apposite.

The US is a much more 'religious' country than the UK - no politician here who has any sense makes his/her own religious affiliation, whatever it is and if he/she has one, an issue, rather it is kept deliberately low-key and semi-private; basically no-one cares much. Those that transgress this rule are quickly made to realise that their lives in politics will be limited as we are uncomfortable with overt religiosity in our politicians; there have been a few recent examples. In the US, on the other hand, prospective elected politicians are almost obliged to profess a strong religious faith, whatever it might be - an admission that religion plays little or no part in someone's life is probable political suicide. I don't want to take this analogy too far, but I think it does have some merit. However, if you believe the analysis in FiveThirtyEight, younger generations in the US are generally more comfortable with homosexuality than were preceding generations. Maybe it will all 'come right' in the end.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

North [of Scotland] 'cheapest for seaside home'

If you want to have a home at the seaside, and many people do, then the least expensive part of the country to achieve this ambition is the north of Scotland, according to this report based on a property survey by Bank of Scotland. Perhaps unsurprisingly the least expensive seaside location (in a town) is Wick. There are certainly spectacular locations there, but it can be both bleak and 'bracing' and probably attracts only a relatively small number of people from outside the area who seek actively to live there. The prices are merely a reflection of market supply and demand for this location.

The other 'cheapest' locations are apparently Girvan, Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Thurso. The final three suffer/benefit (depending on what you are looking for) from many of the same characteristics as Wick, in my view. As for Girvan, it is located in the south-west of Scotland on the Clyde coast, parts of which have traditionally been sought out by wealthier Glaswegians who wish to have a home near the seaside. Quite why Girvan is different is unclear to me, but there must be specific local conditions for its position in this particular survey.

Now for the five 'most expensive' seaside locations (St Andrews, North Berwick, Nairn, Dunbar, Dalgety Bay). I'd say that apart from generally being more attractive places, although I'm not familiar personally with North Berwick or Dunbar (but from what I've heard), but they all share a couple of other characteristics. Each is home to, or is close to, at least one well-known golf course and all have pretty good transport links and are not too distant from conurbations to which people might commute for work. I happen to live in Nairn, as readers of this blog will be aware, and it is certainly a pretty location with many attractions. There are downsides to living here too, of course - lousy winter weather (like the whole of the UK!) and great distance from the Channel Tunnel or a major airport - apart from those, however, I can think of few negatives. And the long daylight hours in the north of Scotland during the summer months and living as I do about 50 yards from a beautiful beach in a designated 'green area' of the town are certainly some of the area's major attractions for me.

PS/ Further to my post here, last night was the first in the last five that I have managed to have a semi-decent number of hours of uninterrupted sleep as the pain was not quite so intense, but courtesy probably of better pain-management rather than any underlying change, even if the shingles rash now seems to be under control, although still scary to look at.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sporadic posts, even more than usual recently, for the next few weeks

It is possible I shall not be blogging much over the next few weeks, or at least even less frequently than has been my habit of late. I have not been feeling well since the weekend and at lunch-time today I had a doctor's consultation to diagnose the problem. It took him less than 5 seconds to decide what is affecting me and prescribe the treatment.

My ailment is not, thank goodness, in any way life-threatening but it is painful and the parts of the body affected are rather scary to look at (as a rather unpleasant rash is very often one of the symptoms). Apart from a dull and pretty intense headache in my case, neuralgia is a feature of this ailment, although I have thankfully (so far) been spared the worst 'stabbing' pains, rather it is a severe tenderness of parts of my body. I have now commenced the course of treatment, which lasts for a week, and one must hope that the rash will slowly clear up over the course of a few weeks. It's far too soon to tell, but it seems that at my age the pain could potentially linger for some considerable time; I'll just have to hope I'm one of the lucky ones who escapes that particular burden after only a relatively brief period. So far, apart from the pain, it has made me somewhat listless and nauseous and not feeling much good for anything - not even for my occasionally obsessional blogging activities. Maybe I'll occupy my time with reading some of the books I'm either half-way through or those in my pile of 'to read' books I've yet to start. I may even pop into blogging from time to time if I'm feeling up to it.

PS/ I've diasbled comments and trackback links for this post.

Mr Gordon "0% increase" Brown

If the country was not in the very serious financial mess it is, at least partly(*) as a result of the economic policies implemented by Gordon Brown since 1997 as Chancellor and more recently as Prime Minister, then his performance today at PMQs might have made me smile wryly. As it is, whilst I do feel a certain human sympathy for a man so obviously out of touch with reality, my over-riding feeling is one of seething anger that this moron, this ignoramus, has so much control over my economic future and the futures of every man, woman and child in our country. Can we really survive as a nation with this person as our political leader for almost another year? At a purely mundane level, does the Labour Party really have a total death-wish? I can think of no other explanation for keeping Brown as their Leader, unless it really is a completely cynical determination to continue drawing their salaries as Labour MPs for as long as possible, knowing that many will be turfed out by the voters whenever the election is held.

For the full performance click here, but for a prime example of the surrealism and fantasy politics that Gordon Brown now seems wedded to, watch this brief excerpt:

* - and in my view he's a lot more than just 'partly' responsible for the country's present economic woes, even if I accept he is not solely responsible.