Greetings one, and indeed all. Your unworthy scribe is emerging slowly from the underside of a cloud of deep gloom. "How can this be?" you ask (...go on, ask...)
It is not a natural state for said scribe, I prefer the sunny slopes of optimism, the islands of cheer, even the glades of puzzled incomprehension, but the truth is a great injustice has been perpetrated on my fellow Scots.
Yes, born English, I consider myself now Scottish, I have lived here for more than half my life. I'm British too, and European, part of the Commonwealth, mostly male and at least 10% human. Click this if you don't believe me.
I don't doubt there are a few here who would call me 'incomer', there are places in Scotland and England where you are not properly accepted until the third generation, or if shorter, 100 years, but others where you only have to get a round of drinks in without being asked.
But I digress, a crime probably only exceeded by starting a sentence with 'but'.
To put the cause of this grief in a nut-shell, we have been denied our birthright. You can almost hear the rolling of the R's. The slime-balls, and I use the term in the kindest manner, in the westminster government seem to have managed to persuade 55% of the voting Scots to reject freedom from English rule. I say seem, remember the US Bush election previous to Obama?
I'm still baffled by the outcome, I can only assume the character-free pasty faced, self serving, foetid toe-rags pulled some kind of trick, quite apart from the lies and half truths, scare-mongering and bribery that was obvious to all. Even the Russian observers thought the vote counting was a bit suspect.
Fortunately, Cameron made wild and desperate promises just before it went to the wire. With a bit of luck they'll start weaselling out of the bribes offered, and will incurr the wrrrath of those finding their mess of pottage to be cold. In a part filled, cracked bowl.
In the meantime, it is a rather quiet introspective 45% of Scotland, which is wondering what could have made the other half so fearful. The 55% are being very quiet indeed. Probably because there are fewer of them than might be expected. Certainly the threats made to pensions had an effect, in spite of their lack of substance.
Ah well, another day.....perhaps tomorrow.
Sadly, it must be admitted, and inevitably, Autumn is creeping in. The leaves are turning red at the top of the Beech tree outside my window. The weeds are dying back a bit and the temperature is slowly falling. Today, so far however, it's been pretty good, and it looks good for tomorrow, in fact the overnight temperature was 14˚C. Today's clear blue sky, (occasional white fluffy notwithstanding) has been part of the longest stretch of warm, dry, calm weather I think I have experienced in Scotland.
The rain has been so noticeable in its absence that we even had to fill the poly-tunnel tank.
Away from home, Fiona and I wandered down to the Selkirk Vintage Motor Rally last Sunday, and the sun shone all day, a relief for the organisers, as the day before had been, unusually, rather cold and damp in the morning.
There was a good turn out, and we kept ourselves entertained buying lots of bits of old car and peering at wondrously preserved specimens up to 110 years old. Well I did, Fiona was kind enough to look interested in the grubby little bits of scrap that caught my eye, and even pointed out things I had missed. I have never had much enthusiasm for shopping, but I do love a jumble-sale or a market stall, and an auto-jumble, as they are called, provides me with lots of the interesting, obscure and ancient. Combined with the chance to talk with like minded, or equally deranged, enthusiasts it made a grand day out..
I mean, who wouldn't be fascinated by the endless choice of 1950's tail light lenses?
An example of my favourite archaic vehicles made an appearance. The Alvis Speed 25, top, red. I would very much like one, or a Speed 20, but the prices they fetch now would make your eyes water. I've pinched a couple of images from the internet. There were quite a few coach-builders in those days, making bespoke bodies for the basic Alvis chassis, and there are quite a few versions of that. so no two are alike. If the gods are listening, I'd like a '34 SB or a 1935 Speed 20 SC open tourer, Red or British Racing Green.
Since I would probably have difficulty explaining to Fiona that I had sold absolutely everything including our pensions and two of our kidneys, I'd probably better keep working on the Midges, they don't have the effect on the experts, but most people would think they were similar, the Speed 20 being bigger and more expensive. I actually saw a family of 5 walk past the Speed 25 and not one head turned!
They walk among us.
You will all be delighted that I have found the difference in use between among and amongst. According to the OED there isn't one, but the spelling 'among' is earlier, and possibly less pretentious.
Back at the Rally, apart from the excitement of finding a working SU fuel pump for £10, some tail light lenses, and an ignition switch, we found lots of things we didn't know we needed. I managed to resist the temptation of a Triumph Bonneville at a very reasonable £4,500.
To be honest I don't think my motorcycling reflexes were ever optimal, and they won't have improved over the last 30 years. I do occasionally worry about the amount of stress I have caused my family by risking life and limb, but I guess you cannot live in cotton wool, and I've got away with it (largely) so far.
Recently, I've spent a little while transcribing Mum's stories to web-pages. there are plenty more in the pipeline, though I confess that the bulk of the work, apart from Mum writing them in the first place, has been by Bren, who knows where to put proper punctuation, avoid alliteration, and when not to trust UK ENG spellcheck. (I think it was compiled by Americans, who mean well but....)
The stories are at http://wardrobestories.homestead.com/ although you can get to them with the button at the bottom right of my home-page. There are contemporary stories she has written herself, and traditional ones, re-told, where I have managed to include a sound-track. The traditional ones were written for school children's assemblies.
( A brief vision of small androids being put together on a wooden floor.)
The traditional ones have a Biblical setting that might now be out of date, although I suppose they still have the basic social guidance that was their original purpose.
Thanks to Paul Lennon, Ben Hewlett, John Mahoney, Sarah Hewlett and Brenda Margetts.
I'm gradually collecting Winter projects, that is to say there are some things I'm unlikely to get around to before then. Getting faster Broadband to the village is one, re-doing the wee loo is another. Some of the infra-structure of the village can be a bit archaic, and the drains are distinctly suspect. The main problem is that the villages around here were built by and for the Pumpherston Oil Company, ownership went from company to company, ending with BP, but when bits were sold off, it became apparent that nobody wanted to take responsibility for the roads, drains, lighting etc, because it was all a bit out of date. After the great strike, the mine never re-opened, and so by the 60's the villages were gradually becoming derelict. It was only when people realized that they could buy a car and a house in Tarbrax for less than the cost of a flat in Edinburgh that the village stopped it's slide into oblivion. Mind you it teetered for a long while. Some other villages disappeared altogether.
The near demise was a slow process, and had some side effects, not least of which was the demolishing of two thirds of the village. This included the 'Upper' and 'Lower' rows, being rather damp, and moving the tenants to the newer,dryer 'New' rows which now constitute the bulk of the village. It also explains why the house numbers go near 400 when there are only about 80. Around our patch some 80 houses were stripped and knocked down, 38 of which were the Upper rows, where the two remaining became 'The Old Manse', with garden and attached wood. Because the oil companies didn't want the responsibility of maintaining the roads, we actually own them. Here's me driving halfway up one of mine. Fortunately I don't have to maintain it as a road, as it only gives access to my property. Google maps took photos all the way along it, which was very kind, but they also called it Tarbrax Road, so periodically somebody drives round it guided by their sat-nav. That in itself is no problem, but there is a tree that leans out over it, and it now bears the scars of several high-top vans, and I have the remains of their rooftop lights.
One of the effects of the mine sell-off was the fact that the local (South Lanarkshire) Council road department was loath to adopt what they knew they would have to rebuild, and it can be quite difficult getting repairs to road surface, water supply, surface drainage, sewage and the like. The upside is that we can threaten to do it ourselves, which usually means they will come out immediately and do it 'just this once'. Recently the road repair people turned up out of the blue, and started patching up 'McGill's Brae', a short, steep road on the Northern boundary. I refrained from telling them it was actually mine, they might have stopped.
I think we've managed to improve the property, especially the wood. I'm rather proud of it, although I confess it was pure chance that it turned up very cheap but needing a lot of work (that I could do), just at the right time. The other house in Tarbrax cost twice as much, although still a bargain, and doesn't have any more than a small garden. My aim is that when we pass it on, (you can't take it with you,) it will be in better condition than when we bought it. Mind, since it was semi derelict, that's not setting the bar very high.
I've thought out a way of re-routing the wee loo too, which will make life a bit more convenient, hopefully I won't need as much heavy machinery as the road did.
It's not really a Winter project, but I'd really like to rebuild the East wing. It's actually a conservatory, into a D shaped ground floor room, a D shaped 1st floor with lots of window, and a round turret on top, possibly doubling as an observatory. I can afford to build it, it's a question of whether the local council will want to empty my wallet for the privilege. Sooner or later I shall have to ask questions of the planning department, and before that, I shall have to decide whether I actually want all that work, worry and expense, when we already have a quite reasonable pad as is. Here's a picture of a good one at Glenbogle, although I was thinking of more windows and fewer arrow slots. I think that one was built because the gate-house designer forgot to put in any stairs.
You might be wondering what the little pot is doing up there. Well it is filling a space that I didn't have a photo for. I made it to put my loose SD cards in. Well, actually that's an outright lie, I made it and then thought for several days as to what I could use it for, but it works as a space filler too. Neat, eh?
The car-park at Hermand Birchwood does suffer somewhat from fly-tippers. Usually domestic, casual littering or jobbing builders who prefer to avoid land-fill charges.
I think the SWT gets more money back from landfill tax revenues than it loses to cleanup costs, BIFFA certainly give us quite a bit. I usually deal with the stuff myself and recycle most of it, since if the council deals with it, the cost will come out of the rates, and I worry that they just land-fill it.
Here's a report on the last batch. I don't usually do a report, but a bit of feedback can sometimes help.
It is all gone now, two trailer loads, about two tons.
8 2'x2' broken concrete slabs,
40 yellow mono blocks,
20 red mono blocks ,
1 bag of cement,
5 Breeze blocks
1 bag of sand and
3 barrow loads of 'fresh' grey granite chips.
3 useful bits of wood.
1 Broken shovel
Actual current value about £50
All recycled into two building projects. Reported to 'dumb dumpers' (not that I expect that the usual bureaucratic obfuscation process can actually do anything)
3 bags of domestic rubbish sorted and recycled or composted. (1 large black bag full to land-fill)
Shovel blade re-designated as dustpan
There is one concrete block (fence post base) still there, I'll shift it later, but in the meantime it's propping up a broken fence-post to remind anybody (who puts their car through the fence) where the car-park ends.
Here's an idea. Put a microchip in the lid of a few cans, tyres, bottles or MacDonald wrappers. Insert them into the retail industry. Sooner or later one will turn up as litter. Wait till you have a really airtight case and then nail the culprit to a tree (metaphorically) with a big publicity run. Might discourage a few, and the saving in costs can pay for a bigger scheme.
ps. I don't think the Scots hate the English, they just hate Westminster, so you see we still have a lot in common.