Category Archives: Scotland

Better Together

NoAs both sides of the political debate continue to argue the pros and cons of an independent Scotland, the following words, written by a gentleman by the name of James Craig, couldn’t have put it more succinctly in favour of the No Campaign, helping those undecided voters to reach an informed decision on the 18th September. He says:-

“You currently jointly own a flat with your friend. You’re a bit fed up of him being stingy with the heating and the interior décor isn’t quite to your tastes. He can be annoying sometimes but overall, you pay your fair share and actually have a pretty good deal (because he pays for Sky Sports). You’ve had the ability to redecorate your bedroom for quite a while and your pal is also happy for you to repaint the living room in the future. Oh, and you’ve lived there for about 400 years.

Someone offers you the opportunity to purchase your own property to allow you full control of the interior design. They insist that you make your decision right now as there won’t be another opportunity to do so again. You must base your decision on the following info:

• You’re not sure what this house looks like (nor does the vendor), but a rough description has been given. It may or may not have windows and access to and from the property is uncertain.
• You’ve no idea how much the house costs, but you are told that regardless it is almost certainly a good investment.
• The housing market crashed a while back and the outlook remains uncertain and increasingly volatile.
• You’ve no idea what your mortgage terms are going to be or if you can afford even the smallest monthly payments, because you are already trillions of pounds in debt. You are assured that this is a minor detail because you can screw your pal over and transfer all of the debt to him if needs be.
• There is a rumour that the house has got a pot of money buried in the back garden. You aren’t sure how much is there, but a few people are absolutely certain that regardless of how much the house costs there will be enough there to pay the mortgage with.
• In buying this house, you’ll lose your Costco card that you share with your current flat mate. You’ve been assured that it will be easy to get one for yourself even though Costco is over-subscribed and with stringent entry conditions that you’re not sure you meet.
• You are repeatedly reminded that your Great, Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather once fended off a burglar from his house with a stick when he lived in Bannockburn and that this is a good reason to buy your own house. The house you are being offered currently has a burglar alarm but this must be uninstalled when you move in even though it is in high crime-rate area.

Finally, your 16-year-old cousin that you’re a bit wary of has been allowed to have a say in your decision.

Would you go ahead and move out of your flat?”

Pretty persuasive argument don’t you think?

Right now I’m staying put and just hoping for a clear majority to save the Union so that we can all just get back to normal and carry on ….. fingers crossed!!!

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It’s official

salmond sturgeon krankiesSo this morning it has been confirmed that Brussels will definitely refuse to let Scotland  automatically join the European Union if voters back Alex Salmond’s plans for  independence.   Officials at the European Commission have  revealed Scotland’s EU membership will ‘cease to apply’ if it is no longer part  of the UK and the Spanish government has made clear it  would ‘veto’ any attempt by Scotland to join since this would likely bolster calls for Catalonian independence.

Since the acceptance of any new member must be unanimous, this is a major blow [and embarrassment] for Mr  Salmond, who has publicly claimed that Scotland would automatically continue  to be in the Euro bloc.

Surely the last nail in this particular political coffin?

What day is it?

The good folks at Google are marking St Andrew’s Day today with one of their celebrated Doodles.

Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople [wherever that might be!?]

There are some very strange customs that are associated with this day, including:

  • If an unwed girl prays honestly to St Andrew the night before (29th November), she will be granted a good and caring husband
  • At exactly midnight, unwed girls should throw a shoe at the exit of the house.  If the tip of the shoe is pointing towards the exit then she will marry a noble and caring person and will leave her house within one year
  • Unwed girls should also peel an apple in one piece and then throw the peel backwards.  The letter which the peel has formed will be the first letter of the name of her future husband
  • It was traditional to eat a single sheep’s head on St Andrew’s Day
  • In Romania the women don’t just pray for husbands, they put 41 grains of wheat under their pillow.  If they dream someone will steal the grains, it apparently means they’ll get married the following year.

The Scottish flag, the Saltire, has the white diagonal ‘cross of St. Andrew’ on a blue background and is widely flown in Scotland. It would be natural to suppose therefore that Scots would celebrate St Andrew’s Day on November 30th in a big way.   THEY DON’T.   TV and radio mention the fact that it IS St. Andrew’s Day but that is about as far as it goes for most Scots.

However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. If November 30 falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a bank holiday instead. Although that day is a bank holiday under that act, banks are not required to close (and don’t) and other employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday. So it is more of a “voluntary public holiday” rather than a proper bank holiday. So far, few companies have negotiated the day as a staff holiday, though staff in Scottish government departments and a few local government authorities happily get an extra day off.

As every Scot knows, the time to celebrate Scottishness is Burns Night, January 25th. The poet Rabbie Burns holds a place of affection in the minds of Scots all over the world and perhaps this is why St Andrew’s Day passes with relatively little to mark it.

How petty?

If this story is true then it’s a sad day for anyone with any national pride – and I’m not just talking about Scotland!

A firefighter is claiming that Grampian Fire & Rescue Service (GFRS) chiefs have removed the Saltire from the front grille of two new appliances after just 2 complaints (one internal and the other from a member of the public) which branded the use of the national flag as “offensive”.   It is understood the complaints centred around the Saltire’s link to the SNP and fears the flag could be viewed as a sign of support for Scottish independence, but Grampian Fire and Rescue said the move was simply to bring the two appliances into line with the rest of the fleet.

The new engines, which cost just over £200,000 each, were given the Saltire logo in advance of Scotland’s eight fire brigades being merged into one unitary authority next spring and when they were unveiled in August, Grampian’s fleet manager Raymond Cheyne said: “The badging for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is needed because of the new single Scottish service coming into being next April.  We wanted to celebrate the new Scottish Service coming into place so chose to use the Saltire. We’ve used high-visibility striping to make it part of the functional design of the appliance.”   However, when contacted by the press over the removal of the Saltires, Mr Cheyne stated: “I don’t want to comment.”

And there was me thinking that the Saltire is the national flag for ALL Scots and as such should not cause offence to anyone living in Scotland.  And, surely 2 complaints are not a reflection of true public opinion – that can hardly be called “public outrage”!   What is the world coming to?

Let the train take the strain?

In the last week I have spent upwards of 40 hours on various trains, travelling around the country as part of my latest consultancy assignment.

It started last Thursday when, with about half an hour’s notice, I had to make my way from my home in Glasgow to a hotel at East Midlands Airport for a briefing at 8.30am the following day.   After discovering there are now no flights at all from Glasgow Airport to East Midlands Airport (despite the fact that I have done this journey before!), I had no option but to go by train.  This was my journey:

18:00 Get dropped off at Mount Florida Station for train to Glasgow Central and pick up tickets
18:40 Take train from Glasgow Central to Warrington Bank Quay – running 12 minutes late for no apparent reason
21:20 Arrive at Warrington Bank Quay and take a taxi (in the rain) to Warrington Central
22:03 Take train from Warrington Central to Nottingham, although this train was in fact running 20 minutes late – no explanation given
01:00 Arrive at Nottingham and take taxi to hotel at East Midlands Airport
01:30 Check into my room at the hotel
 

Fortunately my journey home the following night was made easier when one of my colleagues very kindly took me to Warrington Bank Quay so all I had to do (after a 3 hour drive) was to take one train back to Glasgow before getting home at some time around 10.30pm – exhausted and none too pleased to have to take the very same journey again two days later as I needed to be back in Nottingham for 09:00 on Monday morning!

I took a different route on Sunday, leaving home at 4:00pm and arriving at the hotel at 11.30pm.  The same colleague took me to Warrington Bank Quay the following afternoon and I arrived back home in Glasgow for a brief sleep at around 10:30pm before setting off again the next day (Tuesday), this time to Elgin!

Setting my alarm for 5:15am, I then caught the 7:06am to Inverness and then another train to Elgin, arriving at 11:41.  After a day of meetings I then returned home, via Aberdeen on this leg of the journey, and was back in my flat at about 10:00pm – extremely tired and emotional!!!

I know you’re mostly sitting down while on the train but it is an extremely stressful and tiring experience as people who commute regularly using this mode of transport will probably concur.  It would be less stressful if the train companies could make more of an effort to run the services on time so that you’re not scared of missing the various connections that might mean you being stranded miles from your final destination in the dead of night.  If they could also make sure there are enough carriages for the amount of people using the service that would also be helpful, thus avoiding the dreadful congestion on board and making the journey so much more comfortable for everyone! 

Moan over – perhaps next time I should just take the car?????

Only in Scotland!

My neighbour knocked on my door at 2:30am this morning.  Can you believe that, 2:30am?!? 

Luckily for him I was still up playing my Bagpipes!  BOOM!!!

Happy Burns Night

Tonight, the 25th January, is Burns Night here in Scotland and is an event which is celebrated by Scots across the globe. If you have never been fortunate enough to attend a proper Scottish Burns Supper, I would urge you to find where one is being held and give it a go! It is a unique and thoroughly enjoyable experience!

Burns Suppers have been part of Scottish culture for about 200 years as a means of commemorating Scotland’s best loved bard, Rabbie Burns. And when Burns immortalised haggis in verse he created a central link that is maintained to this day.

The ritual was started by close friends of Burns a few years after his death in 1796 as a tribute to his memory. The basic format for the evening has remained unchanged since that time and begins when the chairman invites the company to receive the haggis.

THE FORMAT FOR A BURNS SUPPER:

Chairperson’s opening address
A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace. The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns’ famous poem To A Haggis, with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line ‘an cut you up wi’ ready slight’, he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife. It’s customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky.

The company will then dine. A typical Bill o’ Fare would be:

Cock-a-leekie soup
*
Haggis warm reeking, rich wi’ Champit Tatties,
Bashed Neeps
*
Tyspy Laird (sherry trifle)
*
A Tassie o’ Coffee

The Immortal Memory
One of the central features of the evening. An invited guest is asked to give a short speech on Burns. There are many different types of Immortal Memory speeches, from light-hearted to literary, but the aim is the same – to outline the greatness and relevance of the poet today.

Toast To The Lasses
The main speech is followed by a more light-hearted address to the women in the audience. Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a time to toast the ‘lasses’ in Burns’ life. The tone should be witty, but never offensive, and should always end on a conciliatory note.

Response
The turn of the lasses to detail men’s foibles. Again, should be humorous but not insulting.

Poem and Songs
Once the speeches are complete the evening continues with songs and poems. These should be a good variety to fully show the different moods of Burns muse. Favourites for recitations are Tam O’Shanter, Address to the Unco Guid, To A Mouse and Holy Willie’s Prayer. The evening will culminate with the company standing, linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne to conclude the programme.

Haggis remains popular with expatriate Scots in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, owing to the strong influence of Scottish culture, especially for Burns Suppers. It can easily be made in any country, but is sometimes imported from Scotland.

Since 1971 however it has been illegal to import haggis into the US from the UK due to a ban on food containing sheep lung, which constitutes 10 to 15% of the traditional recipe. The situation was further complicated in 1989 when all UK beef and lamb was banned from importation to the US due to the BSE crisis. In 2010 a spokeswoman for the US Department of Agriculture stated that they were reviewing the ban on beef and lamb products, but the ban on food containing sheep lung will remain in force.[

This will hopefully help explain to the uninitiated reading this that haggis is something you eat – a fiction sometimes maintained is that a haggis is a small Scottish animal with legs on one side longer than those on the other, so that it can run around the steep hills of the Scottish Highlands without falling over. According to one poll, 33% of American visitors to Scotland believed haggis to be an animal!

Need I say any more?

The missing horses heads

My regular trips to Falkirk have been brightened in recent months by the appearance of the Kelpies at The Helix.  Just as you approach the Grangemouth junction on the M9 you were able to see these magnificent beasts standing proud at the edge of the canal.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I noticed that they were no longer there and everyone I asked in the Falkirk/Grangemouth area had no idea where they’d gone – or why they’d been moved!  If you go onto the Helix website they are still maintaining that “Although the equine sculptures won’t appear on site until the second half of 2012, we’ll be following them on every stage of their journey from final engineering design through to construction and installation.”

So what was it I was seeing before then … Scotch mist????!!!!

Today, however, the mystery has been solved – hurrah!!!  A friend tweeted that she’d seen them at Edinburgh Airport and, sure enough, there they are – apparently having been given a new temporary home. 

The Airport is currently looking at options for a sculpture on the welcome roundabout – something that will inspire those arriving in the city and give a memorable farewell for those departing.  The Kelpies give an idea of what a sculpture could look like and the impact it will have on the airport. Staff are keen to get feedback from passengers before they finalise the potential design for a permanent sculpture.

For the non-Celts reading this, a kelpie is a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland and Ireland  It was believed to have the strength of ten horses and the endurance of many more.

I had to find out more and so imagine my surprise when I found out that the full scale versions when they do get their permanent resting place at the Helix will stand 10 storeys high, a third taller than the Angel of the North, weigh 400 tonnes and be more than just decorative!

They will create one of the most dramatic gateways through which to enter Britain: two vast equine heads, centrepiece of this £49m eco-park at Grangemouth, are to guard the entrance to a canal link connecting the Firth of Forth with the Clyde in Glasgow.

But unlike Antony Gormley’s sculpture outside Gateshead, the Kelpies will be functional as well as aesthetic, operating the first lock on the east end of the Forth-Clyde canal near Falkirk. The heads will slowly rock forward and back to push water into the lock and raise boats into the canal.

“When you sail in from Europe or elsewhere in Britain, the first thing you will see will be these colossal horses’ heads welcoming you to Scotland,” the sculptor Andy Scott said.  “All the industries along the canal would’ve used horses, and all the farms along the canal would’ve used horses,” he said. “It’s a theme which keeps coming back. I just enjoy playing with the reinterpretation of an enduring theme.”

They will be a magnificent sight I am sure and I’m looking forward to seeing what theses beauties look like some time next year!

Hurricane #bawbag

Today Scotland got away from the practice of giving hurricanes boring names with their title for the 100 mph monster that has just swept across the country : Hurricane Bawbag.

Exactly who thought up the name was not known. And not everyone (at first) knew what Bawbag meant: Your scrotum , the place you keep your balls.

But the title was cheerily adopted by at least one council and STV. Twitter users across the globe made the “Hurricane Bawbag” term viral as the winds blasted through the central belt. The name did not appear on the BBC website. The Herald and Scotsman ignored it but the Daily Record gave it a whirl.

The term featured at the top of the world-wide trends list for several hours, reported the Edinburgh website Deadline News.

User Pazpaz was among thousands of Twitter users employing the hashtag #HurricaneBawbag.

He wrote: “American hurricane namers are lazy. They pick easy ones like “George” and “Kate”. Only in Scotland could they come up with #HurricaneBawbag.”

“It Makes Me Happy When the Scots get worldwide recognition for something other than bagpipes and haggis. Let’s hear it for #HurricaneBawbag”

Bernieleslie asked: “Can we not send #hurricanebawbag homeward tae think again?”

Meanwhile, Stirling council wrote on their feed, “All Libraries are closing up at 1 o’clock – Stirling Council Website for details http://my.stirling.gov.uk/disruptions #scotstorm #HurricaneBawbag”

Deadline News spelled it out: For those unfamiliar with the term, it is an indelicate reference to part of the male anatomy, as well as a derogative term meaning idiot.

One firm marketed “Hurricane Bawbag” T-shirts with the tagline “a load of old wind”. They were being sold for £14 on the Get aroundGlasgow website within hours of the winds striking.

Update: At 5p.m. #bawbag was reported to be trending in the UK rather than #hurricanebawbag, “dispensing with formalities and getting straight to the nitty gritty.”

Hurricane Bawbag had also acquired its own Twitter and Facebook pages.

On Wikipedia the report read, “Hurricane Bawbag was described as a stormy day in Scotland on the 8th December 2011. Winds reached over 100mph and many schools and nurseries were closed. Within hours of the severe weather warning ‘Hurricane Bawbag’ merchandise became available online.

“It also sparked Twitter Trending topic which became the most popular in Britain. Local Authorities and National Weather Stations also used the term.”

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