Some Guardian links

It’s ages since I’ve linked to any Guardian articles that I’ve enjoyed, but this Saturday’s edition has some particularly interesting pieces, so here goes.

I was on my way to Edinburgh on Friday when Hilary Mantel’s death was announced on the car radio. It’s such a shame, especially as I’m sure she had several more books in her. You can read her obituary here. And Lucy Knight has written an article about her here. I’ve read most of Mantel’s books but I was just thinking that it’s about time I re-read her Cromwell trilogy.

There’s another article about her here, by Charlotte Higgins, the Guardian’s chief culture writer.

Elsewhere in the newspaper there are extracts from the actor Alan Rickman’s secret showbiz diaries, from the year 2000 to 2011. They’re from his book Madly, Deeply:The Alan Rickman Diaries. He’s another sadly missed person.

I don’t often descend into politics but the mini budget which we’ve just suffered is so depressing, especially if you have already lived through the Thatcher years and know the outcome.

Marina Hyde’s Opinion piece on the madness is well worth reading. “If you are poor, ask yourself now: why not be rich instead?

Flying the flag?

How do you feel about flag flying? I don’t often stick my head above that political parapet but I’ve always been very suspicious about people and places who feel the need to fly a flag. I think it dates from when I visited Northern Ireland where flags are everywhere and then some months later the first time I was in France I noticed that the town hall doorways were flanked by enormous flags. I think it’s a manifestation of basic insecurity if you have to do things like that.

Recently there have been various Conservative MPs on TV seemingly vying with each other to see who can have the biggest and fanciest display of union jacks/flags – in their own homes – strategically placed for their webcams. Honestly I felt embarrassed for them and the TV journalists couldn’t help having a wee bit of fun with them. Those MPs must feel deeply insecure!

Anyway, to make matters even worse the news today is that all government buildings in the UK have been told they must fly the union flag. Previously they were only flown on around twenty days a year. It’s more than a wee bit worrying that in the middle of a pandemic there must be people in power who are wasting time on nonsense like this. It’s so obvious that they’ve been watching the copious displays of flags during the recent US elections and for some reason feel the need to emulate them.

You can read about it in this Guardian article.

It’s rather unfortunate that the union flag has been hijacked by the British fascists over the years, but then it seems that the Tory party has also been hijacked by them. It’s just very sad that David Cameron didn’t realise that himself and was so out of step with his party that he was clueless to the danger he was putting the country in when he caved in to them and had the EU referendum.

This building in Perth has a lovely array of wee flags, it has them all, or as many as they can fit on it anyway and they’re of equal status, click on it to enlarge it.

Perth, Scotland

It was Samuel Johnson who said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. – Enough said.

Election – again

Skip this if you’re sickened by politics as this is a bit of a rant – I’m just incensed!

For lots of reasons I’m furious about this upcoming General Election. For one thing we had only just been to the council offices to arrange postal votes for the local council elections taking place on May the 4th in Scotland, when we will be away on holiday. We confidently told the woman attending to us that we only wanted the postal vote for those elections, never thinking that there would be a General Election on June the 8th when we will be in Orkney, so we’ll have to go and sort out postal votes for that one too.

That’s annoying enough but when I put the TV on to watch the 1 o’clock news and saw that Theresa May had decreed that she was having a General Election I was fairly flabbergasted. So much for her saying that we needed a period of stability. I suppose that in the grand scheme of things what she has done is preferable to Thatcher who deliberately provoked a war between the UK and Argentina over the Falkland Islands, knowing that the jingoistic tabloids would adore it and ‘winning’ a war would guarantee her re-election. I don’t know how many mothers’ sons died in that ‘police action’ an awful lot that’s for sure, but one would have been too many.

With the Conservatives being miles ahead of Labour in the polls at the moment it seems that May has decided to take the advantage, no doubt knowing that if she holds on until 2020 when the election should have been due, things will be much worse economically all round when the effects of Brexit start to bite.

It’s no wonder that so many people decide to steer clear of the ballot booths as it seems that no matter which country you look at the politicians just lie their heads off to get elected, with absolutely no intentions of keeping to their promises. The most blatant one that I witnessed was just one minute after the polls had closed on the EU Referendum – when Nigel Farage said that the only thing he regretted was the bus advert that said that Brexit would mean 350 million pounds A WEEK would be going to the NHS. Something that was obviously never going to happen – but so many people actually believed it.

So how much is this snap election going to be costing us – the tax payers? At a time when everything has been pared to the bone in the NHS and education and essential services and our roads are falling apart due to the never ending austerity – this election is the last thing we need. The TV news is full of members of the public being asked by news journalists who they will be voting for and an astonishing amount of them are saying Conservative, it makes me wonder, are the interviews edited that way or do the people genuinely think that a Conservative government with a large majority will not beat them to the ground via taxes? whilst their rich corporate friends get off without paying any tax at all.

It’s a fact that the Conservatives spent far more money than they were legally allowed to on the last general election and there should have been up to 36 by-elections in the constituencies where they cheated. They were taken to court about it and lost because they had in fact cheated, but now that will all be swept under the carpet and forgotten about – but not by me, I have a very long memory where election cheats are concerned.

It’s not democracy as I know it. I really wish that we had an entirely different system where there would be an equal number of MPs for each political party so that there was always a balance of power via coalition. It’s the only way that extremists can be reined in and the ordinary people be protected from people who have no idea what it is like to worry about keeping a roof over their families’ heads. But coalitions are roundly despised by all politicians as power and hanging on to it is the only thing they care about. They certainly don’t care about us.

I knew as soon as May got the job that she would be even worse than Thatcher – given her background it was inevitable (believe me I write from experience) but one good thing is that she is so blatantly duplicitous and treats her colleagues with such disdain that she will never last as long as Thatcher, they’ll get rid of her the same way though.


Reasons to be Cheerful

Let’s face it, there haven’t been many reasons to be cheerful recently in the UK anyway. But this morning I spotted a red squirrel not far from our house. He was just sitting on the grass by the edge of the woodland. That’s the third red squirrel I’ve seen since we moved to our more rural location in Fife. Or maybe I’ve just been seeing the same one each time. I hope not, they did say on Springwatch that red squirrels are beginning to move back into areas that had been taken over by those pesky US grey squirrels. Apparently it means there must be pine martens around, but I’ve never seen any of those. Of course I didn’t get a photo of the red squirrel.

So as you can see I’m trying hard to see some optimism in the world, not an easy task given the Brexit vote and the fact that the Dutch news channels are calling the UK a banana republic. That’s putting it mildly I think. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the horror of that outcome, especialy as the whole Brexit cmpaign was based on lies, it’s not what I call democracy.

Another reason to be cheerful is the fact that Michael Gove has been well and truly trounced in the Conservative vote for PM. It has long been a puzzle to me that that man isn’t in jail, given his lack of monetary honesty and nasty habit of charging his luxuries to the tax payer. It was no surprise to me at all that he knifed Boris, not that Boris is an awful lot better than Gove.

I’m always happy to spot deer out of a back bedroom window, which I did not long ago. This one was munching away in an abandoned smallholding at the back of our house. I suspect that the deer might be the reason it is abandoned as they can easily just step over the fences. Sorry the photos are a bit grainy. I had to crop them to show up the deer.

Deer 2

Deer 4

Deer 5

EU Referendum Outcome

I went to bed last night not long after the first vote was announced, Gibraltar. Something like 853 people there managed to vote for leaving the European Union. You might think that that is a very small number compared with those who voted for staying in Europe but given their situation it seemed like a bad omen that there were 800 odd people mad enough to vote that way.

So I knew then that I would wake up to an OUT win. I’m absolutely shattered and will never forgive David Cameron for being such a weak minded idiot in bowing to pressure from the loony right wing of the Conservative party, those Tories stab us every time they get power, not that Tony Blair was any better.

Scotland of course voted to stay in the European Union but as usual we will just be dragged along in England’s wake. And that’s where we differ so much from people in England. We in Scotland are well used to being ruled from afar by Westminster despite how we vote, so it was no big problem for us to have the European Parliament throwing in its rules every now and again.

As for the fishermen who are so upset by the EU fishing regulations – where were they when the miners/shipbuilders/steelmakers and just about every other industry was put out of business by UK governments?

Jack’s blogpost for today is The Price of Sovereignty.

EU Referendum

I swore that I wasn’t going to mention anything about the EU referendum here but that scunner of a man Michael Gove has annoyed me so much that I’m sticking my head up over the parapet.

I’m for staying IN Europe although I think that our position in it is far from perfect, but then what is perfect? Every country in the EU has their gripes over it and I really think that they will eventually have to curtail the freedom of movement within the EU and keep it only for people who have skills that are required.

So what enraged me about Michael Gove yesterday? It was the fact that he has dragged his elderly parents into the campaign and what they are saying is just completely WRONG. They are arguing that their family fish merchant business went down the drain in the 1970s due to Britain entering the EU. What rubbish!

As it happens my family had exactly the same business experience of being fish merchants (my grandfather and uncle) – my father had a fruit/veg/flower shop. They all went out of business in the late 1960s, before Britain entered the European Common Market and the reason they went out of business was the huge upsurge in supermarkets at that time.

As a ten year old I witnessed their conversations about being squeezed out of business due to not being able to compete with the supermarket prices. The same thing happened all over the country and small shops like theirs slowly gave up the struggle to compete with the supermarkets, it just wasn’t possible. Some hung on longer than others but as you know an independent food shop is a rarity in a British High Street nowadays and has been for a very long time.

So why is Michael Gove dragging his elderly father into the argument? Gove is quite a bit younger than I am, too young to know what was actually going on – whatever, it was nothing to do with EU fishing rules.

Never forget that Gove was one of the MPs who merrily charged us the British taxpayers for his family’s holidays at very expensive spa hotels and he also “flipped” his mortgage at our expense. If he had been anything close to being a gentleman he would have found a hole for himself and stayed down there, instead of carrying on regardless, like someone who has nothing to be ashamed of. If any of us had stolen like that we would of course have been banged up in jail.

I’m voting IN on the 23rd because I’m sensible enough to realise that you can’t turn the clock back and I know that we will be ‘done over’ by everyone when it comes to making separate trade deals. Even if the OUT vote wins we’ll still have to adhere to all the EU rules to be able to trade with those countries, and we’ll have absolutely no say in anything.

Working conditions will plummet and Gove and company will do what they really want which is to dismantle the welfare state. You can wave bye bye to the National Health Service, and that’s another piece of Brexit duplicity that’s enraging me – they speak as if this mythical £350 million would be given to the NHS. But they KNOW that that is a mythical and in fact just plain non-existent amount of money, and they also know that they intend to whittle away at the health service until that is non-existent too.

I blame David Cameron for this whole debacle, he should have had the guts to stand up to the more eccentric and bullying members of Parliament who howled for this referendum, because the very last thing that this country needs is more instability but that’s exactly what he has given us.

As for Boris Johnson – he’s just on a Boris for PM campaign and if that comes to pass there’s just no hope for any of us.

I’m Back (I think)

Whilst some necessary work was being done on ‘Pining’ I’ve not been having a rest. We decided to bite the bullet and start painting the hall and stairs. We’ve had the paint for months and have just been putting it off, because we knew that as always – the house would turn into a bomb site, with furniture and picture frames all over the place, not to mention ladders and paint pots.

Anyway, we’re doing it a bit at a time, the lower hall first, two coats of paint called hot sand  which as usual, turned out not to be quite what I expected it to be, but luckily I like it. It looks like a sort of creamy colour on the pot but it is more a buttery yellow – or ahem sand colour. I think in future I really should ignore the colour on the paint pot and just choose going by the name as that is always more accurate.

Today we gave the walls at the stairs two coats and all the many prints are back on the walls. Tonight I managed to get half of the upper hall done, I suspect it’ll look patchy in the light of day but it won’t take long to give it another quick coat tomorrow morning, then we’ll have reached the worst task, two bookcases will have to be emptied so we can get the rest of the hall finished off.

Meanwhile as I/we’ve been doing that, the news has been full of yet another referendum. At least this up and coming EU referendum has a fairly short time to run, compared with the Scottish independence one anyway.

All the complete lunatics are coming out for Brexit. I think that they might think that if the UK leaves the European Union then things will go back to how they were in the days of empire. The EU is far from perfect, but it’ll end up being more expensive for us to leave than it is just paying into it, and whatever – we would still have to do everything by the EU rules if we want to trade with them.

I have been having a few good laughs though- as whenever they ask any EU migrants what their opinions are – they say that they should stop any more migrants coming in to Britain. There’s nothing like pulling up the drawbridge after you get in I suppose!

Tonight I didn’t even bother to watch the 10 pm news, and we have all the way until the 23rd of June to go. I’m referendum sick already and if I caught a glimpse of Donald Trump on the news then it would be more than I can stand. It seems that the lunatics are planning to take over the asylums, both sides of the pond.

Me, I’m just going to ignore the lot of them, as there’s absolutely nothing to be done about it – there’s just no point in worrying!

Fracking = Crazy!

At the weekend I switched the TV on and saw a load of people clapping and generally behaving like they had just won the lottery, but of course it was just the politicians at the Paris Climate Talks behaving like a bunch of idiots. Possibly it was because they could at last go home after coming to some sort of climate emissions agreement.

Anyway I knew then that it was a lot of nonsense as they will all say anything and sign up to anything, knowing that none of it is legally binding. Each country will expect all the other countries to stick to the agreements, but will have no intention of doing so themselves.

But even I was somewhat taken aback when there was an announcement on the BBC news tonight saying that fracking was going to be allowed in England. Apparently they’re going to be fracking in the Peak District, despite the fact that it’s a National Park. You can read about it here if you’re interested.

So, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t fracking just going to produce more fossil fuels, which is exactly the opposite of what was agreed at the Paris Climate Talks?

Yet again, I feel like I’ve fallen down some sort of Alice in Wonderland nightmare of a hole.

If you want to see what the Peak District/Derbyshire looks like, have a keek at the images here. It happens to be one of my favourite parts of England, but I don’t suppose it’ll look like that for much longer.


It isn’t often that I feel the need to stick my head above the parapet and blog about politics but the crisis in Greece just goes from bad to worse and I have an almighty urge to knock heads together.

We all know that if an individual has a credit card then they are given a maximum sum which they can spend on it. So why did the countries who have loaned money to Greece not have something similar in place. The lenders have a duty to only lend what can be paid back, if they ignore that then as far as I’m concerned the lenders are more at fault than the borrowers are. Anyone who is owed money from Greece should just write off the debts and learn from their mistakes.

Apparently the UK is owed around £1 billion from Greece but for the Germans the sum is closer to 40 billion Euros. I haven’t been following the minutiae of the subject but I have heard that the Germans loaned the money to the Greeks so long as the Greeks spent a large part of the money on buying German goods, mainly armaments, which is something that I’m sure the Greeks didn’t plan on spending any money on.

This is a strategy which goes on in Third World countries with the so called overseas aid money from First World countries coming with long strings attached to boost the manufacturing in those countries.

This evening on the news I heard that the Dutch prime minister was the latest leader to wag a finger at the Greeks and tell them that they must abide by the rules of the European Community. What a laugh. I happen to know that the Dutch governments have been cocking a snook at European rules for years and years. They still have tax relief on mortgages there, something which they should have stopped when the UK did some 20 years ago when the EU told us to stop it. The UK government is always very quick to obey any rules whilst other governments just say – our people will not stand for that – and ignore the rules which don’t suit them.

At the beginning of the German bullying of Greece I said that as far as I was concerned it was come-uppance time for the Germans, a bit of pay back for what they did to Greece during World War 2, and I still feel that way. The Germans have completely forgotten that at the end of the war their debts were written off and more than that – they had money thrown at them so that there would not be a repeat of hostilities within 20 years – as there was after the First World War.

Meanwhile the UK was debt ridden and in fact it was only a few years ago that we paid the last instalment of our debt to the Americans. Angela Merkel was brought up in East Germany so she almost certainly doesn’t know that the difference between 1970s Germany and 1970s Britain were vast. I was in Germany in the 1970s and I was astonished by the country. Compared with Britain it was so wealthy looking and the standard of living was way beyond that in the UK. In 1970s Britain there were still bomb sites which still hadn’t been re-built on. Areas of housing in Germany which were thought of as being poor were in fact of a far higher standard of anything in the UK. That’s what happens when a country is given a blank cheque to re-build.

As everyone has been saying that the financial meltdown of 2008 will have to be paid for by generations to come – I see nothing wrong with expecting the post Nazi German generations to write off the Greek debt – as war reparations, a fine for what they did to the Greeks during World War 2.

Apart from anything else, have you had a look at the map of that area of the world. Syrian refugees are making their way there to get away from the mayhem in Syria. How easy it will be for the real bad guys, ISIS or whatever the hell they call themselves – just another kind of fascist if you ask me, to follow them to Greece when they want to, if we don’t get on top of it. And of course, Greece has loads of tanks and armaments which nobody wants to fall into the hands of nutters who will turn them against Europe.

We can’t afford to let Greece fail as a state, we stand together or we’ll fall together.

And another thing … I heard somewhere that Greece has actually already paid off the amount of money which they have borrowed, the money they still owe is actually all interest. If that’s true then shame on anyone for hounding them for more payments.