Sunday, 14 December 2014

My Sparkly Wall Tree

I saw this idea while browsing the internet last year and it stuck with me. The essence of it is lights attached to the wall using the 3M command hook products to recreate a stylish Christmas Tree which takes up no floor space. I've not been sponsored or anything just inspired by the unconventional idea.
It is really hard to get a decent picture of it but it looks much better in real life, honestly!
The wall fixings were two medium command hooks, fourteen small hooks and two packets of decorator clips. The clear variety is the best with the clear tape but mine are a mixture as it is what I could get from Amazon or locally as one of my orders went astray. It took 400 soft glow LED lights, 75 teardrop fairy lights 12 baubles and a tree topper. The topper was a bit of a concern as we've always been in the fairy for the top of the tree camp but it needs something that is flat against the wall and can be attached somehow which was a bit of a challenge.
Firstly, the hooks were placed for the tree shape and I stuck with a height I could work at without using a ladder. It's such a novelty being in a house that doesn't have a 13FT ceiling and not having to clamber up a 7FT ladder to get to things! These lights are actually twinkly ones and I was a little sceptical they might leave the living room looking like a disco but they are very discrete.
Next the fairy lights were strung across diagonally. Instead of placing the hooks in advance I just decided to hook as I strung them. In the end it took 3 packets of 25 lights to my surprise, and annoyance, as I'd only bought two.
The baubles form the 'pot' at the bottom of the tree and are just a square shape. I was ONE decorator clip short so tried to use three along the bottom but it didn't look great. (the bottom of the tree shows why the clear hooks are better than the white tab ones.)
This is much better, I think. (I know it is squinty but I am trying to ignore it!)
The tree topper is still making me laugh. I have no idea where my deliberations over how to either buy or make a fairy turned into a.......ruddy great stag's head!

Its been named Big Eric after the stag in the Monarch of the Glen. I do believe the original met an inglorious end but mine has no chance or being eaten.
I do love it though and as the tree is non-conformist then its probably right the topper should be too. Big Eric has also been graced with two spare baubles as earrings
 So that is my main tree this year. I've loved the idea, had good fun creating, it has been fairly hassle free, the cats haven't mugged it and best of all there is no tinsel needing hovered up.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Pause in Advent 2014: Week Two - Being Present

pause in adventMy Pause this second week of Advent is on the subject of being present. Thank you so much to everyone who commented on last week's Pause for your loving and very kind words.

On Sunday I'd hoped to sit and consider what my Pause might be as nothing particular had sprung to mind and I didn't want to write something trite. However, life brought me a lesson! My Mother has been increasingly unwell cognitively and is presumed to be in pain. For the last fortnight she's been distressed and irrational including refusing her medication which now has to be given covertly. I am not going to go into the gory details but despite the best efforts of the wonderful carers she was a ball of fury and no-one could connect with her on Sunday. It was all they could do to get her into some clothing as she had been naked, livid with rage and lashing out on the half landing of the main staircase.

When I arrived it was clear she had no idea who I was which is the first time there was absolutely no recognition and her behaviour included purposefully trying to push the carers and myself down the long flight of stairs. The attention was simply fuelling her distress so I suggested they leave her with me and I sat on the steps on one of the wings of the staircase within reach to grab her if necessary. I tried all my tricks to get through to her to absolutely no avail and eventually resorted to feigning calmness and disinterest while being alert to making sure she was safe. Many times while I sat there I questioned what the heck I was doing. I was doing nothing to improve the situation and anyone could have done the same for her. There seemed to be no value to our relationship as the connection was broken on her side. She persisted in standing for two and a half hours which was obviously causing her great discomfort but she was absolute in her refusal to sit as she knew better than everyone. Eventually, she began finally giving into the pain and effort of standing and she agreed to sit beside me on the stair. When she accepted my hand to help ease her down she leant against me in distress, and I have to admit I just sat cuddling her with tears pouring down my face at seeing her so distraught and out of control, oblivious to who I was which was heart-breaking.

Obviously, this is a personal story which has little to do with Advent on the face of it. However, afterwards it has made me reflect on the nature of 'being present' which is a facet of the reciprocal relationship with God. Relationships sometimes seem deepest in those times where neither party asks anything of the other beyond being there and knowing an unconditional love which transcends words or actions. I have always loved the Footprints poem and the hymn Walk with me O my Lord which characterise the element of God's relationship with us which enables us to live our lives while feeling the comfort of having his strength nearby.

Being present can be both an active role of witnessing or it can be a passive, loving and non-judgemental role which contains humanity, humility and compassion all of which are intangible but deeply felt. Being present can also refer to engaging in the present moment.

Being present with my Mother on that staircase listening to the rain drumming on the glass cupola overhead met a need neither of us could articulate. I felt utterly useless and wondered why I continued to sit there as clearly I wasn't 'doing' anything yet I felt compelled to remain. It also made me think of my own relationship with God this Advent.

I have been trying to throw myself into Christmassy things, to power through work and make an effort with the house. I thought this purposefulness and activity was me being present in the moment which would strengthen my connection with God, allow me to hear his voice and embrace his presence. Yet Sunday showed me that being still, attending and pausing to be present can be of equal value. Just as we often call on God to bestow the blessing of his presence in our lives we perhaps also need to be reminded that the quiet gift of being present is something we too can give to someone in need.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Pause in Advent 2014- Week One

pause in adventI'm delighted to join in again with the Pause in Advent which was hosted last year by the lovely Floss of Troc, Broc and Recup who has passed the baton to the equally lovely Angela of Tracing Rainbows.

I cannot believe a whole year has passed. It has been another year of tumult with some very deep and desperate lows particularly around serious illness in those that I love. I too have been severely limited in my mobility by on-going knee pain. There have been lovely and fun things that have happened, wonderful friends, blessings and abilities that have enabled, supported and created a sense of joy at times too.

In my daily life I hate routine and love going with the flow to engage and respond. I positively loathe having my days mapped out with appointments and demands. Where others enjoy structure, anticipation and planning I often find I've lost interest by the time a long awaited concert or event finally rolls round.

Conversely, in the important aspects of life and in my relationships particularly I crave certainty and security, finding it almost insurmountably hard to deal with uncertainty and not knowing where things are going to end. This often makes me very risk averse and I over-ponder decisions through my need to explore every single potential outcome and alternative. While this is hard enough to do for yourself it is even harder to do on behalf of someone that you love such as a child or parent who lacks capacity. This self-imposed pressure often becomes overwhelming which in turn makes things even more difficult and I neglect my own needs.

This is when I find it hardest to let go and let God and to hear the voice of reason that can only be heard internally when I am ready to listen. This Advent I feel the need to renew my connection with the Lord, to live in the moment and to find a way to negotiate a path between my fears and the need to embrace freedom.

This year particularly I need to make the best of this Christmas as it is likely prove to be more bittersweet than any other due to my Mother's advancing illness. To stop myself becoming overwhelmed by anticipatory grief I need to find my balance, to operate in the moment and to make time to meditate quietly so that I can draw on God's Strength, Wisdom and Love.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Spooky Walk Remembered

All the ghoulish Halloween Tales reminded me of a Ghost Walk night out my colleagues and I had in Edinburgh one dark night some years ago. The plan was a ghost walk, dinner then the dancing I insisted on.

The ghost walk was a hoot, or at least I reckoned it was! My colleagues of a more nervous disposition were less convinced. We followed our guide round while listening to his tales of gore and yore and both of the team who had broken ankles tried to out do each other by proving how fast they could walk! They are both very competitive people and nearly knackered the rest of us with two functional legs who were trying to keep up.

It was a really good dark and atmospheric night and the guide was full of scary tales of the city's ghoulish past. I had to hold two of my colleagues hands on the way through the creepy, windy closes as the were both 'feart' and kept threatening to get a taxi to the restaurant to wait for the rest of us. The underground vaults at the end were very atmospheric but we didn't experience any phenomena which I was partly disappointed by and partly relieved about. However, I made sure I kept a close eye on the colleague who'd arranged the spooky tour as he was the very one I trusted least not to pull some stunt, broken ankle or not. I thought the tour was actually quite tame and tried to drum up some interest in us doing the Mary King's Close tour next but was met by pale faces and outright refusal by most of the group.

After a refreshing drink we headed off for dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant where I had to resurrect some schoolgirl language skills to explain to our lovely waiter who spoke virtually no English that I'd been given the wrong prawns. Replete after a great meal we headed off to go dancing but found the place was mobbed. A drunken girl, whose make up had melted and was not clinging to the original features she'd applied it to, staggered by the stairs and exclaiming it "was too hot and all the men were ugly". Trip Advisor she wasn't but after we managed to wangle ourselves into the place we realised she was bang on the money! Worse was the dance floor was the same size as a piece of plastic cheese. Four of us who are vertically challenged managed to weave our way to the bar then had to be extricated by one of our chaps before we got a drink as the rest of the group had decided to decamp somewhere quieter. I never did get to boogie that night.

After an incredibly circuitous journey home the cherry on the pie as I crept in the door at 4.30am was finding the results of my dissertation were waiting for me and I'd passed!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Novel Shopping Experience

There are some family members that I love dearly and there are others that take more effort. What I didn't realise was that there was a place where they wouldn't go to waste and I could still feel I was doing something good for the environment. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Fast Food Dining Emergency

Who says fast food is bad for you? I was ravenous one day and decided to get a drive through Happy Meal as my prospects of getting home anytime soon for some proper lunch were pretty slim.
When I saw this I wondered if the stuff was as bad as people say and needed a paramedic and an ambulance response but no, it seems the only emergency here was their need for an afternoon break too.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Foodie Goodies

I was having a conversation a couple of weeks ago and we somehow got onto the difference between Scottish, Irish and Northern Irish foods. One colleague shared the info that one of the large Tesco's in the East End carries a range of Irish foods including Tayto cheese and onion crisps. Obviously I just had to have a little Irish fix, and sure enough they had a reasonable sized World Foods section. It wasn't huge but it had some favourites I've not tasted in ages. This was my Irish haul:
I've had to position the Tayto crisps carefully as there appears to have been some kind of pilferage that went on before they made it home.... *looking away shiftily*. All I need now is a Bewley's Cherry Bun and I'd have been happy.

They didn't have any white cheese popcorn but I've found an even better white cheese popcorn in the form of Popangles from ASDA. These are tortilla chip shaped popcorn which have the added benefit of not having the irritating bit of husk that gets stuck between your tooth and your gum. They are gorgeous with salsa dip. No pics as they didn't last long enough.

The section also carried some American foods that I've heard of but not tried so they also fell into my basket.
The Butterfinger was odd but quite nice, sort of like a peanut cracknel. However, the Milk Duds were absolute duds and after a few chews I realised they were foul and I ejected them into a hankie. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised as there were few ingredients I recognised on the label which is probably why they tasted so 'chemical-y'.

This Jamaican one is from a different supermarket. An old comfort food favourite used to be Knorr Chicken Noodle Soup which I would add a pile of pasta to along with chopped onion, leftover chicken, spring onions or whatever else was to hand or took my fancy. It was a great cupboard stand-by until they proudly announced on their packet that they were now meeting some reduced salt target and sadly it appears that all the flavour went with it. I tried adding salt to it but no, the actual chicken flavour is irretrievable gone. So I decided to give this one a whirl and found it was very good as a base for pasta/noodle soup. I just don't know if I'll be brave enough to take the packet through the till again!
Life doesn't seem to be easing up the pressure so I decided to take to the bottle with dinner tonight.
Sorry, it was only the juice option that came with my M&S meal deal. It was actually really nice and I'd probably buy it again.
Hope your week is going well and you are not being blown about by gales like we are right now. Take care.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

No Rest for the Wicked

It always feels a bit odd writing a blog post after a little bit of a gap. I can't decide whether to try write up everything, which leaves me feeling overwhelmed or just to write a little trickle which seems to misrepresent the chaos that seems to keep following me. However, here's what's been going on. No pics as I've mislaid my camera cable!

My Mum took very unwell this week and is in hospital for the second time in a couple of weeks. I decided to eschew the local hospital on account of their incredibly poor standards and carelessness. Last time she was referred there by the GP but this time I chose to scoot her through the Clyde Tunnel and take her directly in through A&E at another hospital where her care has been superior in the past. She is still on IV antibiotics; there is a staged approach to her immediate treatment priorities then to regroup and look at the other co-morbidities which might be implicated. I have Power of Attorney for my Mum and the staff have fully engaged me in her care and approach me with questions or answer me openly when I speak with them. Her behaviour can be quite difficult at times and I do not wish her sedated unless necessary so twice the staff have called me for assistance and both times I've been able to intervene to calm her. I cannot tell you how much of a relief it is to have confidence in knowing she is being well cared for and that I am still able to share her care.

I rarely get out much as I have to pace things with my gammy knee but have been making efforts to move things on. Sod's Law my Mum twice needed admitted to hospital on two of my three outings! I did manage to get to see La Cenerentola by Scottish Opera which was lovely even if I did get a call from the hospital, which I could deal with by phone. Scottish Opera are a fabulous company and the only complaint I could have is that the scenery is always done in black or gray with only the very odd bit of colour. It really makes me pine for the gloriously extravagantly coloured operas in Italy.

The gammy knee was looking hopeful as there was a little bit of improvement which has now been destroyed with the extra walking necessary from adding hospital trips. This has been quite revelatory as I thought I was coping and improving but it kind of shows me how just a tiny extra distance is enough to cause serious pain in my knee and bad numbness in my hand from taking so much weight on the crutch. On the upside it saved the physio hurting me when I had my appointment as my knee was actually too sore to do anything with...! I also had a couple of episodes of a strange facial numbness which could have been related to the medication I am on but has been ruled out as that. Thankfully, it seems to be going and hopefully wont come back.

The week before last I had a couple of visits from the Fire Brigade to replace my smoke alarm which were quite funny so I'll write them up as a post.

Magic remains as stubborn as Margaret Thatcher and is refusing to allow her insulin to have much of an effect. As so often happens this will entail more expensive testing and treatment and as her insulin doses are getting ever higher both her vet and I have developed a nervous tic. Her blood sugars are 18-24mmols on 8units of human glargine insulin which is deeply frustrating especially as she was doing really well. We are anxiously awaiting the results of her IGF1 acromegaly test which should be back in the next week or so. Both cats are as perceptive as usual and with all the stress with my Mum I've been waking up roasting hot and sweaty because one or other is wound round my head like a Davy Crockett hat and the other is acting as a foot warmer. It is most lovely of them but my default temp is superhot so the last thing I need is a pair of toastie cats trapping me under my quilt and boiling me to death.

On the crafting front I have lots of WIP's and ideas for things that need or would be lovely to do but finding the time is part of the issue. The dining room, where I usually do my crafty stuff, is also wreathed in damp washing as the weather is utterly foul and the rain torrential. It should be in the spare room which is still too full of boxes and miscellaneous items to get the washing in. Although I don't generally feel the cold I had to switch the heating on last week for a little while which surprised me as it had got really cold. Usually it is mid-Nov before I crack but who knows with our crazy weather.

The garden is a complete lost cause and the wind keeps blowing all my big plastic plant pots over. The buddleia and roses are down yet again but I'm not going out to stand them up again till it stops raining and blowing a hoolie, which might be nearer May next year! My theory was that the plastic would be easier for me to lift and manage. However, I didn't realise you need to weight them down! I'd hoped I might be better by now and could have cut the grass myself but that's not happened so I need to call the gardener and ask him to cut the grass and break the news to him that it hasn't been cut since he last did it in June....! I had to stop having it cut as the vet bills were my priority and cat wins over grass. This time though I may need to employ Indiana Jones to hack his way through it.

So that is you probably up to date. I'll try to post more often and wish you all a week filled with happiness and time to do what you would like.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Funny bone

Recently I finally managed to have dinner with two old friends who I'll call Mary-Kate and Ashley to spare their blushes. We've been trying to catch up for absolutely ages and we finally managed to get a time and date nailed down. Even this didn't go well as the week before Ashley and I had both turned up to find out the deranged Mary-Kate had had a brain burp and meant the following week!

Unfortunately, for me as my knackered knee saga continues I became the reluctant topic of conversation. Both friends used to be orthopaedic theatre nurses and they were 'keen to explore' my reticence at allowing anyone near any of my joints with a Black and Decker. Although I am beginning to knock on a bit, at my age it would still be classed as a 'young knee replacement'. Mary-Kate revealed to my astonishment that she'd had a conversation with an orthopaedic surgeon friend about my knee with no names mentioned and apparently it is not a disaster and I "should get a good 15yrs out of a replacement"! I knew she'd kept my confidentiality and was just info gathering on my behalf so I wasn't upset as they were both trying to make sure I got the best of care. However, the pair of them were like a dog with a bone...or more correctly a juicy knee joint! It took me ages to divert them and neither the starter or getting them on to the referendum gave me much respite before they got back to my knee.

I am peculiarly squeamish about my own bones and joints and this even extends to my dining habits. When the main course arrived I thought hallelujah as we could concentrate on the food rather than my knee. However, I realised too late that the chicken supreme I'd chosen comes with a leg bone sticking out! I couldn't help myself exclaiming "Oh, no!" as I was horror struck that I hadn't realised how chicken supreme comes. When I explained it was the leg sticking up and not the meal itself that had distressed me the pair of them fell about laughing. Thankfully, I was able to annex a chunk of my chicken and the bone went with it as the shame of having to have my dinner carved by an orthopaedic theatre nurse would have been just too great.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Scottish Referendum Reflections

Thank you to everyone who commented on my previous Referendum posts. Whether you were pro, anti or just generally supportive I have loved having your thoughts on this moment in my country's history.

I'd planned to post on Friday evening but, as often happens life got in the way. My Mother became suddenly very ill that morning and she became my priority. She required admission to hospital but thankfully she has improved even though we only have a presumptive diagnosis. She is still not entirely 'right' but I am just so grateful she is better than she was as the situation was looking grim.

Anyway, to wind up my posts on the Referendum here are my thoughts and reflections on the result. On Thursday night I stayed up until the first result came in. When Clackmannanshire returned a No majority I went to bed with a feeling of foreboding and was not entirely surprised at the overall result. Predominantly, I just felt an overwhelming sadness at an opportunity lost and a slight touch of relief that the necessary upheaval to effect that change would not be happening. I was also sad to see Alex Salmond resigning as I was beginning to develop a grudging respect for his political astuteness and skills. Though this may simply be him manoeuvring Nicola Sturgeon into place.

Two days on I still feel slightly saddened by the result but given how close it actually came in the end I believe there will be a resurgence of interest. I am amazed that Glasgow, which is a staunch generations' old Labour heartland and proportionally the largest council, achieved a Yes majority. I think enthusiasm for independence will return and that this has been a staging post towards Scotland becoming an Independent nation. SNP probably lost predominantly on the financial uncertainty and I would imagine the next time if this aspect is nailed down then the outcome may be different.

I completely reject the notion that 'healing' needs to occur between the two sides of the debate and between Scotland and the rest of the UK. I have not had a cross word with anyone online or in real life during this whole time. This is what democracy is, the answer was No, and we move forward on that basis. If you are grown up enough to vote then you make your peace with it and move on. I was saddened to see that the warm and fuzzy geniality in George Square on the eve of the Referendum was replaced after the result by vile, neo-Nazi, sectarian characters spreading their own brand of hatred and pack mentality. These looked to be the kind of amoral nutters who exploit any opportunity for foaming at the mouth mob based hatred irrespective of the 'cause'.

I found it quite strange that older voters were more heavily balanced towards No despite having probably benefitted most from the health and social care reforms enacted by the devolved Scottish government so far. I am acutely aware of this as I don't know how I would have coped to fund and manage my mother's continuingly complex care needs since 2006 had I lived elsewhere in the UK. Perhaps older voters felt more aligned to the idea of the union from past associations, wars and industries or just less inclined towards change. This might be why younger voters were skewed towards independence.

So, having had a No majority we now proceed towards the Unionist utopia of maximal devolution, or devo-max. This apparently promises greater powers for the devolved Parliament over taxation and decision-making for issues impacting Scotland. One of the most persuasive drives towards a further referendum might result from how well the Westminster government delivers on their alleged promises of devo-max, or not. I am cynical that three party leaders who clearly loathe and distrust each other can deliver, but we'll see.

The Prime Minister has opened the floodgates by suggesting that far from Scotland being the prodigal child he is widening the scope to ensure all parts of the UK will be given devolved powers. I agree entirely that this is right but it does make me laugh; instead of upholding the Union as something cohesive and homogenous he's proposing dividing up the very union he was advocating....??!

So, far from being the divisive nationalists portrayed as shunning their kindred UK brethren, Scotland has actually shone a light on the political inequalities of the dislocated Union and created a vehicle for improvement for all the four countries of the UK. Any chance the political parties will acknowledge this, or is it just easier to blacken the name of the upstart haggis bashers.....? (answers on a postcard or sealed down envelope on this one...!).

It has been fascinating for me to be involved in this Referendum, even if getting to a final decision was a tortured journey. I have seen myself move from a careless No to a thoughtful Yes who felt that Independence was, and is, something worth having. Maslow's Hierarchy places Esteem and Self-Actualisation at the top of the pyramid of growth in humans yet we settled for a Sense of Belonging. I hope that this 'sense of belonging' proves to be for the greater good of the nations of the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Voting Day

Well, I did indeed question myself and my motivation to the very last moment, but the deed is done. Glasgow is one of the last to report their results and, as the largest proportional area, this might be pivotal.
 My journey back to work took me a different route today and I have been utterly struck by how sombre and determined everyone looked. This is George Square in Glasgow which is quite strikingly different to last night's gathering.
There may have been lots of banter and noise in the run up to it but it looks like the decision is not being taken lightly which is reassuring. (Excuse the reflection from my dashboard)
I am anxious and uncomfortable about the result and, in all truth, I genuinely don't know which decision I hope prevails. The alarm clock is set for very early tomorrow to see what the dawn brings.

Eve of the Referendum

Tomorrow dawns the day of reckoning for me. It is a huge decision, and although I am only a tiny part of it, I will be putting my mark towards my country's future tomorrow morning.
I am leaning towards a yes but what a huge leap into the unknown this will be. The alternative is no less scary as a no vote would allow the Westminster government to put away their pretence of devo-max and trample Scotland for daring to oppose them. Both outcomes will be divisive. A yes result will mean Scotland stands alone and a no result will mean a justifiable outrage from the other nations of the Union who must stand by and watch Scotland potentially being gifted extra powers.  
I'd heard there was a gathering in George Square in front of the City Chambers so decided to go and have a look on my way home from work as I haven't joined in any public events with either side. That this one was a Yes event didn't sway me as there was no more definitive evidence to be considered.
It took me nearly an hour to get round the square as the traffic was all but parked, hence the lighting differences in the photos as it got dark.
Big clouds gathering over the City Chambers which I didn't notice till I looked at this pic 
No, I do not know what possessed this man to drive round with two planks sticking out of his windows with flags......!
The atmosphere was very benign and congenial and I had lots of mini conversations with people passing by as everyone was so chatty. The funniest were two African chaps who were clearly pals but smilingly opposite in their views.  
And yes, I did take one of this chap's booklets, as it would have been rude to refuse. I mean, who refuses a nice mannie in a kilt.....?

I've heard rumours of people who claim they've been 'abused' for holding mainly No voter views but this chap with the fabby bike and the no flags and stickers was a being treated like a star.
 He was very friendly and happy to pose with a whole succession of people sporting yes badges and items. The black Yes shopping trolley near the front of the bike is one of the odder items I've seen.
There was bagpipe playing, speeches and spontaneous singing. I joined in the start of Flower of Scotland but felt really choked and emotional, which I hadn't expected. The enormity of this decision and what it will mean for all of us just seemed to get so very real now that it has finally arrived.
This is the lion in front the of the City Chambers which is a challenge for every Glasgow child who aspires to be big enough to clamber up onto it with a sense of absolute achievement. I think it is part of the Cenotaph so probably very disrespectful but nonetheless one of mine and many others' childhood  memories. We are kind of known for 'embracing' our statuary, or sticking a traffic cone on their head, as the Duke of Wellington in Royal Exchange Square knows all too well!
The City Chambers is a very lovely looking building, especially in the twilight
No matter what the result of the referendum is on Friday, or how I vote, change will be inevitable.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Referendum Thoughts 4

Fear not, we're nearing the end of my reflection posts on the Referendum next week.

A week further on and no further forward essentially. It is odd that the No campaign, with all their attributes as the known quantity, seem to have nothing concrete to offer or to be showcasing the benefits. It should have been easy for them to persuade voters towards a safe, comfortable union. Used properly they could have batted the upstart Alex Salmond off like an irritating midge. However, something went very wrong; their scaremongering went on too long and they badly mis-judged their understanding of, and connection with, Scottish voters.

This week's unseemly scramble north has smacked of panic. Their smoke and mirrors offer of a devo-max 'process' to identify some crumbs to sweep Scotland's way with a timetable of decisions, rather than actual powers, on notable dates on the Scottish calendar was nothing short of disgraceful. If the campaign really doesn't know how to engage Scottish voters without offending them then they've lost the plot. Pulling out the tartan and shortbread only works if you are actually Scottish and not just using it to try to appeal to the haggis-bashers!

What I find strangest is the lack of cohesion between the Westminster political parties. Each of them has made a great play of telling us simpletons to remember it is "not about a particular political party", "its not like a general election" and even Dave in his emotional speech told us not to use the vote to "give the 'effing' Tories a kicking". Yet, each of the political parties has campaigned entirely separately, in their own traditional party playgrounds and advanced their own political party's ethos. For a campaign aimed at demonstrating how the union is Better Together they might have clocked the fact that they should have been presenting a UNIFIED front. A fragmented unionist campaign doesn't really walk the talk!

I am worried by the financial implications and uncertainty of this vote. The panic from the no campaign seems genuine and I can't decide if it is as a result of suddenly realising they've misjudged the situation or whether an Independent Scotland is going to impact the UK financial stability far more than is being disclosed.

I am deeply suspicious of the banks and retail giants wading in with statements which appear to indicate they will either pack up and go south, or enact massive price hikes, as Scotland is really just an expensive loss leader for them. My suspicion centres on the rather unhealthy relationship between 'captains of industry' and their government chums so I imagine some puppetry going on here and some nice wee knighthoods being dangled. Although the shares market is demonstrating the effects of the uncertainty it seems only to be UK companies who are narcissistically lobbing their toys out of the pram and identifying themselves as only trading in Scotland under sufferance and subsidy. So can I really believe all businesses will pack up and leave during a recession when they are already established, have their supply chain in place and the change will be a transitional one?

It is more difficult to criticise the Yes campaign over their conduct this week. This doesn't mean they've made a good case, instead they've astutely let the No campaign hang themselves. Compared to the chaotic union campaign they are presenting themselves as a steady and consistent leadership; Wee Eck and Nicola have complementary skill sets and are coming across as a unified team. I've still no idea if this pair can deliver a prosperous and effective Independent Scotland as they really will be 'first time parents' of a new nation, and that is not ideal. However, compared to the fragmented union campaign which Nigel Farage has now joined, I need to question whether the status quo is really that attractive. The quality of incisive newspaper reporting is also very poor and they really are scraping the bottom of the barrel with non-stories alleging as both are childless they can't understand family values and Alex Salmond is only doing this because an English girlfriend once dumped him.

Where am I now? Still on the fence and Yes-ward leaning, but this is no certainty. My search for facts and evidence has been nigh on impossible and sadly the decision is being made on a balance of probabilities rather than on empirics. I feel rather lied to and manipulated by both sides and remain equally disparaging about the veracity of each of the sides offerings. As I suspected, my eventual decision will have to be very close to the wire.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Driving the Referendum

Given that all the Better Together campaigners have pulled on their Saltire socks and tartan knickers and headed north. How much fun would it be if David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband hailed a cab together when they alighted at Central Station and got into this one....
...anyone want to hazard a guess which way this chap might be voting?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Surf and Turf

I don't like beef but I did wonder if you can get Mad Cow disease from a tempura prawn that looks like its bovine relative....?
As these prawns were the nicest I've had in ages at the Jam Jar in Bridge of Allan I decided to stop questioning and keep scoffing!