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

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Local 'good service' award - "Stitch in Time, Inverness"

I can sew on a button, I can do a few other basic haberdashery tasks where functionality is more necessary than elegance in the finished product, although I am a reasonably proficient embroiderer and enjoy the detailed work this involves - it relaxes me.

However, hemming trousers is way beyond me; it is probably unnecessary to add that I do NOT possess a sewing machine. I did occasionally (under supervison) use my mother's sewing machine when I was a boy, but only avoided sewing my finger to a piece of material as a result of her panicked intervention on one memorable occasion, so it is probably safer for me to stay away from these devil's devices! I jest, of course.

In any case, apart from the quite rare occasions nowadays when I wear a suit or even more occasionally a dinner suit, as a 'retired gent' I tend to wear jeans or chinos. I usually buy both from the UK part of an American mail-order/on-line company [Lands' End] because their styling suits me and because their sizing is reasonably 'generous', no doubt to cater for its mainly US clientele and of course British people such as me. One important feature that particularly attracted me to them is that they offer 'free' hemming (either turn-up or plain) for all their trousers and jeans and as I am shorter than the standard 29" shortest trouser length this is quite important so that I can get a good fit. I've been using the Lands' End service for over 15 years and have always been and remain completely happy with it. In addition to trousers and jeans, I tend to buy shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts and jackets from them and various other items from time to time.

Fairly recently I got a pair of dark brown chinos from them, perfect as usual, but after two or three cleanings the stitching on one of the leg hemmings unravelled, so for a couple of months they have hung forlornly in one of my wardrobes. Rather than send them back to Lands' End for repair I hoped to find a local solution, but in recent years places to get minor jobs of this kind done have grown scarce in most cities and towns. I was not aware of a local service (apart from a lady who used to do adjustments for my late mother) and whilst I had thought of contacting her I had never gotten around to doing so. Anyway, yesterday a leaflet appeared in my postal mail-box from a local firm in Inverness called "Stitch in Time" offering all manner of tailoring adjustments for male and female clothing, so I thought I'd give them a whirl for my minor problem. Today I had occasion to go to Inverness to do some food shopping and during the visit I popped in to "Sitch in Time", located in the Victorian Market (covered market) at 5 Queensgate Arcade - one of the assistants took the torusers from me, asked me if I could wait and I said 'Yes'. He moved across to one of the sewing mahines along one side of the shop and in less than 5 minutes had done the job perfectly. I got out my wallet to pay and he waved it away, saying that for such a small job they didn't want payment; I said I was happy to pay and he laughed and said no, it wasn't necessary. Now that is what I call service! And good business tactics, too! I shall certainly always think of them for jobs like this in future and recommend them to friends. Incidentally, two of the three staff I saw were Indian/Pakistani/Iranian (not sure which) and the other was British. I dealt with one of the former as it so happens. It is really pleasing to find such courteous, willing and helpful service nowadays - and offered with a smile. I have a lot of experience with Indian/Pakistani/Iranian/Chinese tailoring services from my time in the Middle and Far East, invariably they were expert at their jobs, friendly, courteous and willing. It is a pleasure (and a little bit of a surprise, I must admit) to find such similar superb service so close to home.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Rabbie Burns an a' that!

To celebrate the Bard's birthday, a couple of short poems which strike me as ususually pithy, even for him!

Pinned to Mrs Walter Riddell's Carriage

If you rattle along like your Mistress's tongue,
Your speed will outrival the dart;
But a fly for your load, you'll break down on the road,
If your stuff be as rotten's her heart.

Epitaph for Mr Walter Riddell

Sic a reptile was Wat, sic a miscreant slave,
That the worms ev'n d....d him when laid in his grave;
"In his flesh there's a famine," a starved reptile cries,
"And his heart is rank poison!" another replies.

Charming, eh! And such economy with words!!

Friday 21 January 2011

Nairn getting emergency pothole repairs?

I have just noticed (from my apartment as I ain't going outside tonight) that temporary traffic lights have been put in place on the road out of Nairn going east (heading for Forres), with many road-works vehicles with yellow flashing lights. Presumably they are going to be working during the night and I can only imagine they are in process of repairing some of the quite bad potholes that have appeared in that area since the really cold weather began in early December.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll be able to see what they have achieved overnight.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Denying gay civil partners a double-bedded room is illegal

(Please see UPDATES at end.)

The BBC is reporting that Bristol County Court has ruled against a couple who own an hotel, and who have 'Christian' beliefs, who said it was their policy to deny double-bedded rooms to couples who are not married, even if they are heterosexual.

From what I understand the court has ruled the couple's policy illegal because 'civil partnership' for homosexuals (male gay or lesbian female) is the legal equivalent of marriage for heterosexual couples and the law forbids discrimination of this type. In running a business, hotel owners may not impose their religious beliefs on others. There was a video-interview with the gay couple who brought the action following the judgement and understandably they are very pleased with the outcome of their case. There are no online links as yet, as the judgement has just been given, but I will undoubtedly come back to this story in due course.

It is very pleasing that this clear case of flouting the law by this homophobic couple has been stamped on by a court.

UPDATE (Tuesday 18JAN2011 11.03 GMT) PinkNews now have an article up about the judgement. The BBC have now also shown a video-statement made by Mrs Bull, one of the joint hotel-owners; she seems still not to accept that her 'beliefs' are not justification for discrimination so far as the law is concerned.

2nd UPDATE (Tuesday 18JAN2011 11.17 GMT)The BBC now have a report on the judgement.

Friday 14 January 2011

Daniel Balavoine: 25 ans déjà

Daniel Balavoine sadly left us 25 years ago today.

- for 'SOS d'un terrien en detresse' visit here (this was his only public performance of this song). Here is a video-compilation with slides of Balavoine which uses the same song as the backing track:

Read his Wikipedia biography / Lire sa biographie Wikipedia:
English version / Version française

He died much too young (5 February 1952 – 14 January 1986). In the run-up to the 25th anniversary of his death I wrote a tribute to Daniel Balavoine last October here.

So sad. Rest in Peace.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Early planning - possible house move in prospect

A desire I have been harbouring for some years to move from the north of Scotland to the south of England may possibly come to fruition later this year. With the recent passing of my mother I now have no very close family ties locally (in the north of Scotland) to keep me here (apart from a cousin and her husband and their son); I would gladly have remained here in Nairn, in all probability, however long my mother might have lived, but now that is no longer the case I feel free to look to my own future without regard to anyone else. Much as I love living in the north of Scotland (specially during the longer days of the summer months) - and I was after all born and had close family ties in this area, even if I never lived here as a child - I do find it somewhat isolated and lacking in some of the things I want out of life.

Whilst there is no particular urgency to a possible move, I would ideally like it to happen within the next year; apart from anything else, I am not getting any younger, however trite that may sound. The first step is to make a number of exploratory visits to my target destination (the Sussex coast of England) and the first of those visits will be happening early next month. In all probability I shall make a further visit in early May so that I may see the area in Spring (as I shall be at my home in Spain from March to June I shall be travelling to England from there for this second visit) and there will probably be several subsequent visits prior to any final move. Of course I have visited various parts of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire many times over the years so none of it is entirely new to me.

There are various attractions for me in considering a move:
- a slightly milder climate than we have here on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland;
- proximity to Gatwick aiprort for my regular visits to and from my home in Spain;
- proximity to the Channel Tunnel to allow me to make occasional visits by car and/or train to various parts of Europe, particularly Normandy and Brittany;
- proximity to London to allow me to make regular visits to concerts and the theatre, not to mention close proximity to Brighton and the 'delights' on offer there.

I don't often post very personal and self-indulgent articles here; this is one of those occasions, if you will forgive me.

"Brothers & Sisters" - series 5 begins Thursday 20th January on More4

At last there are firm details about the start of series 5 of "Brothers & Sisters" on More4. Until Sunday the few announcements about it just mentioned, tantalisingly (and irritatingly), that it was 'coming soon', but I expect that in advance of the TV magazines for the week 15-21 January going on sale today meant that Channel4 could no longer plausibly keep it secret!

According to my Radio Times, purchased today, the series will commence its run at 10pm Thursday 20th January on More4, with a repeat later that night at 12.50am. On past experience it is likely to be repeated at least once more before the next episode airs on 27th January, but I won't know about that until next Tuesday until I get my Radio Times for the following week 22-28 January.

Here are edited excerpts of the final episode of series 4, when 'Senator Robert McCallister' (actor Rob Lowe) was [it would seem] killed in a car accident:

- apart from the 'promo' for series 5, currently being shown on More4/Channel4, I've seen some parts of the coming series 5 episodes online (already shown in the US), so I know some of what is going to happen, but I won't spoil the 'excitement' for others. I'm just looking forward to seeing the gorgeous couple, 'Kevin' (Matthew Rhys) and 'Scotty' (Luke Macfarlane).

Friday 7 January 2011

The truth about inflation, interest rates and Mervyn King

Fraser Nelson in this week's Spectator tells it like it is about the policies being pursued by the Bank of England under current governor Mervyn King: inflation is being allowed to gain a hold, probably quite deliberately, as a way of inflating away the value of debt. Read a summary of Fraser's contention (with which I agree wholeheartedly) in a CoffeeHouse article appropriately entitled King's Ransom. The tool of choice to engineer this madness has of course been the now-ubiquitous 'quantitative easing', in other words 'debasing the currency'. A couple of excerpts from Fraser's article:

Inflating away debt is politically attractive.

It makes cuts all the more easy. Freezing pay means a 3.3 percent pay cut, thanks to inflation (of 4.8 percent if we were using RPI, as we did from the war until the Brown era). Reducing the actual amount of government debt – or staff salaries – is hard. But to debase the value of the currency in which they are paid has always been the easy option.

But once unleashed, inflation is very difficult to control.

As we know to our cost. Rates have to be rammed up to emergency levels, and the only victors from such struggles against money tend to be people like George Soros. Fiscal problems do not go away if you ignore them – that was the moral of the last crisis. Credibility, once lost, is very hard to retain for a central bank. And, given how much debt the UK government needs to issue, credibility is a very precious commodity.

- read the full article here

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Ballet as acrobatics

A quite extraordinary performance of Swan Lake by the Great Chinese State Circus. Perhaps not entirely conventional 'ballet', but very beautiful to watch and demonstrating amazing skills on the part of the two central dancers - balance, dexterity with grace and total confidence in each other.

- a suitably uplifting way to begin the New Year for this blog, I think.