Monday, 18 August 2014

Ticked Off

Now that all the dust has settled on the Commonwealth Games, Scotland is now bracing itself to focus on the upcoming Referendum to decide whether to remain part of the UK or to stand as an independent nation.

I'll lay my cards on the table; I have absolutely no idea which way to vote. As my blog is the nearest thing I have to a personal diary I am planning to record some of my thoughts towards whatever the eventual decision I make will be. It is said that you should never discuss religion or politics in polite company, but an opposing opinion is that views that are not exposed to the light of reality can breed unhealthily. I may not reveal where my X eventually lands but putting my thoughts on virtual paper may help me reach a decision I can live with.

What are my political leanings?
I have none and am actively apolitical and apathetic about the whole process. People interest me, improving our living conditions interests me and the dual notions of being a responsible citizen and having the opportunity to achieve this are important to me. I don't have a political affiliation as I don't believe dogmatically framing society works either in a consequentialist or deontological sense. A political stance doesn't define me.

My simplistic experience is that at each general election all the parties offer great promises in their manifestos, but whoever gets into office always fails to deliver citing the fact the last government left everything in a bigger mess than they expected then asks the country to vote them in again after 4yrs of broken promises as they've now cleared the backlog and can start delivering.

I believe individuals enter politics with high ideals and ethics around improving society. However, I do not believe that an adversarial political arena is the right place to harnesses ideals such as working together for the common good. Perhaps a contemporary parliament in a newly independent country would be something fresh and devoid of traditional bloat.

On a personal level I have no real competitiveness in my nature but am old enough to recognise and value this as a virtue rather than a failing which is probably why political sniping causes my eyeballs to roll backwards all of their own accord.

What is my view of this Referendum?
I think this is quite a massive decision and one that should only be decided 'in the round' after very careful consideration of all the facts. Sadly, facts and figures are not being shared and I find both sides of the campaign evasive, actively scaremongering and unconcerned with putting an intelligent and truthful case to the voters.

I watched the debate between Salmond and Darling the day after on the iplayer. I thought it was a shamefully wasted opportunity and I learnt nothing of value. Similarly, the literature falling through the letterbox has been sparce and not overly helpful.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the Yes campaign to demonstrate a brave new future of how a contemporary, purposeful Scottish national parliament would conduct business. Instead we are facing a hand of cards which we cannot really see. As a devolved government Scotland has made some major societal decisions which have made significant improvements to areas of Scottish life that impact everyone. The NHS in Scotland is far from perfect but it remains far more stable than NHS England which is teetering on the brink of implosion. Schools and social care seem more societally focussed than in England. There are arguments that Scotland draws in more than it gives but, I suspect that even if this is the case, the funding disparity is not so large that it would explain the way that Scotland prioritises budgets towards vulnerable citizen services. The care sector in Scotland is shockingly underfunded and unfit for purpose in many ways but the English comparator is worse. However, can this a government, used to partial decision making on devolved issues, continue to make good decisions when it is fully responsible for all national elements?

The No, or Better Together, side haven't bothered to put together a case at all and seem simply to taunt in a manner of a child withholding a ball unless everyone agrees to play their game. I don't understand the unidentified and undefined promises of greater powers for Scotland if we stay as part of the UK. If we are as wonderful as the Better Together campaign allege why has this not already happened? I am also, as a sentient adult who has attained their majority, deeply offended by the paternalistic element to the manner in which the unionist case is being made. I may not be minded towards the Independence campaign but I will be damned if I am going to patronised into not rocking the boat by the alternative.

Neither side has endeared themselves to me and I have found the poor behaviour by both sides to be most unedifying.

Which side of the fence am I on?
I am resolutely welded to the fence. I can find no compelling reason to choose one over the other. The polls suggest only 7% of people are undecided. No-one I've ever known has formed part of any of these "representative opinion polls" so I'm not surprised that they don't represent my experience or that of the people I associate with. When it has come up in conversation, aside from a few with strong views one way or another, the majority seem perplexed over knowing which are the key variables in the proposition so my view is that the greater majority are in the undecided camp.

What influences me?
I've grown up with the dual national identities of UK/Scottish. I absolutely love my Glasgow/West Coast/Scottish heritage but have never felt any less Scottish by being part of the UK. I think Scotland gets a raw deal from a London centric government but by the same logic so too does Wales, Northern Ireland and the North of England so how far do we go in carving up the country/countries?

It is important to have a sense of history and to learn the lessons of the past but there is a time to move forwards and not keep rehashing old battles. Whether that means keeping a UK union or striking out on our own is unclear to me.

How much of both campaigns is based on fact and how much on scaremongering to coerce my vote. I want to make a positive decision that I am believe to be right. I don't trust politicians in general and neither side is endearing their campaign to me as I need intelligent, evidentially based debate and facts.

I didn't really see the point of devolution beforehand but in the light of experience it has made a huge difference to Scottish public life. So I need to consider may be something of a similar quantity?

This current trend of extending the retirement age means that I'm only just over half-way to retirement. However, I don't want to work beyond 60yrs old and on that calculation I am just about to reach the last quarter of my working life so pensions and living a comfortable third age are my priorities. I have a plan to live some or all of my retirement years in the Peak District and this vision motivates me get out of bed and to work some days. Depending on the result of the referendum I may have to apply for a visa or passport to do this and the economic repercussions may make such a move nonviable. Therefore, I need to know what I am voting for.

I do wish 'celebrities' and others in the public eye would stop burping out their strong views. Most seem not to live in Scotland or have a vote here but that simply doesn't stop them spouting rubbish. I would defend to the death the right of free speech of a strongly held personal belief but as public figures I also believe this places on them a duty to consider where, when and how to wade into a debate in which their views are simply not publically relevant.

Honestly, would you make the decision on whether to cleave a nation in two or not on the basis of the opinion of a celebrity hairdresser such as Nicky Clarke who neither lives here or has a right to vote because he tells you he thinks Scots are too thick to make the decision? Much more impressive today was David Tennant who says he has forfeited his right to a public opinion as he no longer lives here and it should be up to the politicians to make the case and Scots to decide. Although I am choosing to make my personal views public I am not seeking to alter anyone's opinion or make a case either way. Instead this is a means of recording my thoughts regarding a potentially momentous historic event, which it will be, no matter what the outcome.

What will my eventual choice say about me?
Come what may I will cast my vote and I hope it will speak of an informed choice made on soul and conscience. How I will achieve this is less clear.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A Grand Day Out: The Trossachs

This was a Grand Day Out my friend and I went on during the heatwave while the Commonwealth Games was on and has been in my queue for posting. I am not genetically or temperamentally suited to being over heated and the fact I still had my chest infection and no respite from the heat, even at night, made things hard. I'm better now and it is significantly cooler (and wet!!!) so we are all coping again. I know some of you live in significantly hotter places and cope but your average Scot is more of a larder item best kept cool and damp! You only need to see the shocking radiation style burns on the loonies who expose themselves the second the sun peeps out to know this.

There was a minor skirmish on one of the hot nights as everyone tried to find a space on the bed which was directly in the middle of the air cooler flow, on top of a cool bit of the quilt and definitely not touching anyone or anything else. My ankle got tail whacked as I managed to get my roasting hot foot too near Magic while searching for a cooler bit of the quilt. I'd have hated to see the aerial picture as there were bodies, legs, arms and paws splayed everywhere. Red wins the prize for funniest 'unable-to-cope-with-the-heat-while-wearing-a-fur -coat' impression.
 He kept doing his agonised wee howl an inch from my nose till I realised he wanted a space at the cooler edge of the bed so, with some negotiation everyone rejigged to afford him a place. This was fine till he got comfy and did a big starfish impression thus taking up more space. Once again proving that if you give a cat an inch you'd be as well chucking in the bed and all worldly goods too. Never let fluffy cuteness fool you!
My friend and I are always promising ourselves we'll make more time for ourselves and have committed to trying to find a day, or few hours each month or two to do something together. We have a notion to do something 'tourist-y' as it seems mad that we rarely seem to take advantage of what our own city and country has to offer on the doorstep. As the Commonwealth Games was taking over the city our decision over breakfast at the Wishing Well in Gartness was to do the Trossachs Trail and Callander. It turned out to be an excellent choice which was spectacular and gave some welcome respite from the heat as we drove along with the windows down and the sunroof open.
Our first stop was at the Scottish Wool centre at Aberfoyle. Inside it was more gifts and clothing rather than yarn which was rather disappointing but good for the purse!
 There was an owl display outside but it was sheltered from the scorching heat.
 Also outside was a fabulous sheep and duck herding display by this chap who was training the cutest young collie in history.
 I could not believe I didn't get a good pic of the dog as it was seriously gorgeous and so eager to work. You can almost see it to the left of the pic but I am annoyed with myself as I wanted to dog-nap Brit as he was amazing.
 
 
 
 
I think the mountain in the distance might be Ben Lomond but I'm a bit geographically challenged so don't take it as gospel.
Loch Katrine is where Glasgow's water supply originates from and is famed for being pure and clear. I'm not entirely convinced how pure the stuff is that flows from my home tap as we've had some spectacular blunders from Scottish Water over the years including an accidental diesel spill and cryptosporidium contamination from sheep poop at the Milngavie works. However, new treatment facilities have been built or upgraded and this should have improved things.
 
What really touched me about this drinking fountain was how much it reminded me of the Peak District Well Dressings that Louise has been sharing this summer.
 I've decided the next I go here I am going to petal a little plaque and place it beside the fountain as my own special link between my beloved city and the Peak District which I love. I just hope it is not prohibited to place a little petalled dressing outside of the confines of the Peak!
 
I've no idea why this pic is squinty but can only think I was probably propped on my elbow crutch taking it and am so used to listing to the one side that I didn't realise. Either that or I was wilting in the heat as it was around 1pm and fiercely hot.
 
On the spur of the moment we decided we'd like to do the cruise.
However, the lady in the booking office warned it was 'quite full' as three coachloads were booked on the one we wanted to go on in that kind of voice that says 'oh, you really don't want to do that...!' So we decided to save that for another day and go for lunch in the adjacent café.
Just as well, as the boat was utterly mobbed. This is the view from our sweet little shady pagoda where we shared an afternoon tea stand, some snacky chips and gallons of tea, juice and iced water to rehydrate.
 I liked this shot with the lavender in focus but as I am a point and shoot photographer all credit goes to the camera 
Sauntering back to the car we noticed an old fashioned telephone box beside the bike hire shop. (You'll note there is NO mention of us hiring or returning a bike...!)
 
On closer inspection we realised it contained an AED defibrillator which seemed both odd and apt. Nice as a safety touch for a tourist area which caters for high volumes of often elderly coach tour parties or sporty sorts. However, my wicked mind was off having fun at the idea of some poor foreign tourist looking to call home and ending up with a bad perm and a shocking headache! Bet they'll 'reverse the charges' next time.....tee hee!
It could be worse, you could have been stuck in the car having to listen to my friend and I prattle on like this......still, it kept us amused.
I should have taken more pics but I was just enjoying the journey and chatting so much.
 
On the return journey I was definitely in seriously soporific mood with droopy eyes as it had been such a fabulously relaxing day. Or at least I was until a BMW driver did a dangerous overtake heading into a bend and oncoming traffic and my friend had to take action. She is a very cautious driver and I feel very safe in her care but both of us were quite shaken with her having to avert a crash and me trying not to face plant the windscreen. Fair woke me up!
We had such a lovely day, and it was great to get some respite from the heat, especially as this was the car reading when I got back to mine after the air con had been on for five minutes. My friend and I have also decided she will do the summer runs as her car has a sunroof and I'll be the winter driver as mine has hot seats. Bearing in mind we usually only get a week of sun here each year I may have got the heavy end of this deal!

I hope you enjoyed accompanying us on another Grand Day Out.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Handy Hankie Box

I still have a lovely hankie box cover which used to match my old bedroom décor and have always thought covered hankie boxes are a very ladylike touch. This got me thinking of making a bedside hankie/storage box as a gift for a lovely friend's birthday last month.

Although, it is a very simple concept it took me days to do as I was shaping and designing it as I went along and kept re-doing bits that weren't as good enough as I wanted them. I found getting the edges square and straight was one of the biggest challenges. I also wanted to use a range of complementary fabrics to give it extra interest.
The top opening took ages to get a good even match
 Each pocket contains a little treat, the flat one has some pretty tweezers
 The pocket for her mobile has some Tinkerbelle socks
 The little crossover pocket has nailfiles
 This big pouchy pocket has space for all the little odds and ends like hair elastics, lip balm etc
 I made a little matching pocket hankie holder for a handbag and popped it in the larger pouch for safekeeping
  
This little holder came from a free pattern at Craftsnob here
 I wondered how to secure the bottom and had quite a few trial and errors. Eventually I decided on a simple strap with a popper that would allow the box to sit squarely while holding the cover on. Because it has lots of pockets I was concerned that it might slide about if I didn't get the bottom correct. I covered the popper with a beadwork flower I'd made ages ago which was just waiting on a use.
 As my friend loves knitting I made her a lined square bottom bag with a pocket at the front to hold her latest WIP.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Body Bag

I just have to share tonight's OMG moment as I was visiting my Mum tonight at the care home. I'd forgotten they were having a special open evening as they were updating relatives, friends and residents on some new plans and there was a buffet, drinks and entertainment.

I joined my Mum where she was sitting in the foyer and didn't go into the main lounge where the musical entertainment was but the staff kept passing with offers of refreshments. The staff are really brilliant and it is a lovely warm atmosphere so the evening was very convivial and the music helped the ambience.

However, later on, I was dumbstruck to see two ladies of a certain age smartly dressed in Country Casuals skirt suits walking out pushing a wheeled barrow containing a bulky black body bag which was the same height as the lady at the back pushing it. I honestly couldn't work out what the hell was going on with the westend's answer to Burke and Hare! The staff were helping them out and giving them fond 'goodbye's, 'look forward to seeing you again' and 'thanks so much, its been great' as they wheeled what looked like a deceased relative out the door. I was totally bewildered but caught the care home manager's eye and saw her snort with laughter.

When the staff came back in the rest of the story unravelled. The well-dressed G12 bodysnatchers were apparently lady entertainers who provide music for hospitals and care homes and the 'body bag' contained their keyboard, cables and accessories which is why it was so bulky and tall when carried on its end. They were not actually removing a deceased loved one.

Their arrival had apparently been equally eventful as they'd arrived at the front entrance which has a number of stairs instead of the ramp access at the back. A young chap who was jogging past saw the pair of grandma's with their considerable cargo, stopped, stared, popped his earphones out, stared some more and obviously wondered why they had a full body bag and were taking it IN to a care home! However, this being the Westend he was mannerly and polite and asked if he could assist them, which he did. One of the staff came out as the polite but clearly still dubious jogger was bumping the trolley up the stairs, followed by the grandma's and watched as the body bag began to sag in the middle and list to the side which made it look even more suspicious.

Everyone knew what it looked like so were falling over themselves to explain how it was all very innocent but their effusive protestations made them look even guiltier. To the jogger's credit he took the stuff right into the lounge and set it down as one of the grandma's desperately tried to unzip it to reveal the contents so that the chap didn't think he's been aiding and abetting a crime. The staff member said she was scarlet in the face between being mortified and trying not to laugh.

All this lead us onto a conversation about the wonderfully silly 80's film Weekend at Bernie's which always creases me up. The story is very simple but the expressions on the eponymous, and very dead, Bernie's face are priceless. It is not high art but it is very amusing.

I don't recall much of the music they played tonight but I certainly wont forget their finale.....!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

July/Aug Year in Books

I have been joining in with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees: Year of Books but haven't been good at posting my monthly books. I always have a physical and an audiobook or two on the go but my posting hasn't kept up. This is a review of some of my July reading and I'll do a catch up on the others when I get time.
The Bird that Didn't Sing by Alex Gray is about a terrorist plot to blow up the Commonwealth Games and people trafficking. It was recommended by a customer and the sales assistant at the till in Waterstone's last month and I loved the idea of a very topical subject in crime fiction. Not so wild on the idea of something happening at the Games but this is why I only read crime fiction and never the true stuff.

The title refers to the Glasgow City Crest which represents the legend which is told of Saint Mungo who is the Patron Saint of the City.

"Here's the Bird that never flew
Here's the Tree that never grew
Here's the Bell that never rang
Here's the Fish that never swam"

The book was well written and apparently had many references to previous books in the series but this doesn't spoil the enjoyment as I've only read one other of her books. It is a little pedestrian and the characters seem a little 'dry' and predictable but it was ok. I was very keen to finish it before the end of the Games just on point of principle.

My other physical July book was the fab James Oswald Dead Man's Bones but I am going to give that a post of its own.
I have been listening to two audiobooks. The first is Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy. Normally I avoid short story type books as I find too much bitter-sweetness and repeated poignancy a real turn off. However, since the sad death of Maeve it is just too tempting to hear some of her stories read beautifully by Kate Binchy. Some of the stories must have been published elsewhere as I recognised one or two. Chestnut Street is less short story-ish and more a collection of stories about the neighbours on Chestnut Street. It is curtain twitcher heaven told in gentle Irish tones and sad with the knowledge that this is the last of these stories which have been a reading strand of my life since the 80's.
The other audiobook, Hurt by Brian McGilloway, is kind of hard going and I usually reserve it for my journey to or from work. It is a crime fiction novel and ok to pass a journey but it is formulaic and not in anyway gripping. It is also made worse by the beautifully mellifluous tones of Caroline Lennon being shaped into an uncharacteristic Northern Irish accent. I love listening to her narrating novels set in Eire and, if she is the reader, I find that can be the clincher when I am choosing an audiobook. However, in this book her accent seems too slow and clunky. If I was reading this as a physical book I'd probably check the end to see if it was worth continuing with.
My august book is going to be one I picked up from the bookshelf in the kitchen as work. There are a number of different departments which use this kitchen and I love finding something I would not normally choose to expand my reading repertoire. Normally, if I purchase a book I will buy something I know I am definitely going to like which leads to me always buying similar types of novels. I also love the sharing aspect of the communal bookshelf as people who work in fairly close proximity, but only know each other to smile at in passing, are actually sharing their reading tastes.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Commonwealth Games Snippets

As promised some little snippets from my life as the CG's have touched it. I still have no interest in televised or spectator sports and have spent time avoiding any traffic issues which mercifully have not really impacted on my journeys at all even though the liveried Games vehicles depot was on my route to work.
 
I suspect the lack of disruption to my long work journey that passed multiple games venues that might have something to do with the traffic management plans which left games fans walking for ages to venues or using park and ride facilities that almost incurred the need for passports. This sign in Hamilton had me laughing as I thought it sounded like the height of meanness for those going to the Triathlon.
  
However, I think that what they meant was free parking for those walking to the event rather than an instruction to abandon your vehicle and start hoofing it! 
 
Two nights before the Games started I managed to see the Queen's Baton Relay which changed over at Lincoln Avenue in Scotstoun.
 
 I'd love to say I'd planned this but I actually happened upon it on my way home so it was opportunistic rather than organised.
 Apologies to the young lady carrying it as I managed not to get a decent shot of her
 
 
Last Saturday I was involved in doing another glucose curve on my newly diabetic cat and had only 2hrs between each test. 2hrs sounds not too bad but it is very limiting and a bit like an Anneka Rice dash to get out, do what is needed and then be back bang on time for the next one.
 
I only realised the Flotilla was coming up the River Clyde from Greenock the night before and really wanted to see it. If I had realised it was happening in advance I would probably have tried to join one of the passenger vessels and do the glucose curve on the Sunday. I feel very attached to the river as I've lived my entire life around its banks, my father was a shipbuilder and, for almost all my working life, I've crossed over or under it daily.
I calculated that they would be passing a little local spot where I could see it between doing the 12pm and 2pm blood glucose tests. Great vision for a midget like me as I could see perfectly, little to no walking distance and places to sit if needed, choice of car abandonment space and all within a couple of minutes of home.
Across the river there was another little locals viewing spot too
Compare our little nooks with the volume of people across the river at Braehead Shopping Centre who were absolutely crowded. Yes, we were on some amenity free industrial ground and they had all the facilities of the centre but I would certainly not swap.
 
It was also lovely as a friendly older couple who were joined by their daughter began chatting and we had a very amusing time as they were very witty. Coincidentally their daughter, who is of a similar age to me, is having a career change from the Navy to go into a career allied to mine so we had lots to chat about as we watched the boats.
 There were boats of all descriptions joining the Flotilla and these are just a selection of the different crafts.
 
This was one of the newest Cal-Mac Ferries which had passengers on to enjoy the Flotilla on board.
 
It was great fun as each of the boats was hooting horns, waving and there was much shouting and responding to "Oggy, Oggy Oggy..!" 
 
  
 
The boats were making their way up to the temporary pop-up marina at Springfield Quay.
The girl I was chatting with and I were laughing and trying to spot Simon Le Bon as we both remembered his boat from the 80's. We also reckoned it rather accurately pegged our ages! However, later checking shows Drum is apparently now is owned by Arnold Clark, the car dealer, and not the delicious lead singer Mr Le Bon.
Today is the last day of the Games and it is such a pity that the weather is playing foul with odd spots of sun drowned by torrential such that an Ark is looking like the transport of choice. I just hope the closing ceremony goes as well as the opening one and well done to all those who brought joy and medals to their own countries.

Ps. Re: the 'we will dress like numpties' Irn-Bru poster. I've now seen it televised as part of an advert and it seems it is a comment on fans who dress to support events rather than a direct comment on the bizarre parade outfits. However, some people might believe there is no such thing as a coincidence!