Tuesday, 23 February 2010


John has been out with his camera in the lovely wintery days we have been having. The mountains are covered in snow and it has been below freezing for about a week now. Blue skies, however, so we can't complain!

Loch Ard

Ben Lomond across Loch Ard

A Highland Cow in the gloom.

Friday, 19 February 2010


Over many years I have worked closely with printers. I use Quarkxpress and work on a Mac (my own). Once I prepare whatever it is I am doing I drive to Ayrshire where they are located and hand in a disk or a memory stick with the file on it.

I work closely with a couple of people who hold my hand if I have a problem with layout or with the software. Over the years we have all moved over to digital technology - me, working from home; them, installing new equipment in the way of computers but also replacing machines in the factory.

Well, I am sorry to say, that this week they have gone into liquidation. And I am really gutted. I guess the internet, combined with the fact that we are in a recession has a lot to do with it but, really, I think it is more to do with the fact that people like me are doing the work at home that was traditionally their work. The new technology means that we can do this. And what must make matters worse is that I do this work on a voluntary basis. Anyhow, what we are seeing nowadays must be something like when they moved from quill and pen to the printing press.

Most of the people have worked there all their adult life. I have seen it happen already, I'm afraid. Where do these time-served, skilled people go? Well, one I know now works in B & Q.

Photo: taken this morning in the grounds of Kilmardinny House.

Yes, it is true, as G.E. says: "The problem for printing businesses is that Laser Colour printing machines are now relatively inexpensive and the software is also fairly inexpensive and simple to use so a lot of small clubs and businesses that used to use printing companies do it themselves. The other thing is that small businesses would have to order a decent print run to make their literature low cost. Then if the product changed they had out-of-date leaflets. Now they print only what they need as they need it and can up-date it as they go along."

Thursday, 18 February 2010


I went out to Ross Priory today which is located on the southern end of Loch Lomond. It was very cold but the loch was showing its many colours. Also the snowdrops were out!

Ben Lomond has a reasonable snow cover but the rest of the country is snow free thank goodness!

They had a lovely fire going in the lounge and the coffee was hot and quickly served (not their usual practice)! I thawed out reading the Daily Telegraph and chatted to some men who were spending a few quid at the nineteenth hole!

This is the view of Ben Lomond out of the lounge window. I sat on until dark as I was undertaking a mini-test. I have inherited a MacBook (laptop) from Dawn and Alastair and I wanted to check it all out. There is a wireless network and it is 'open' i.e. no password required. I am delighted to report that all systems are working. So now it is Have Computer, Will Travel!

Thursday, 11 February 2010


I received a Christmas present from Mary: this book by Stuart McLean. He is a Canadian author and I first heard him on the CBC radio late night repeat programmes a couple of summers' ago. He is so funny and so Canadian! A great observer of people he writes endearing stories of ordinary folk in their neighbourhoods or communities. If you like Lilian Beckwith, Garrison Keillor, Alexander McCall-Smith, you'd like this author.

He has a rather catchy website here: "The Vinyl Cafe stories are about Dave, owner of the second hand record store, and they are collected in books and on CD. The stories also feature Dave's wife, Morley, their two children, Sam and Stephanie, and assorted friends and neighbours." He has written many books as seen here.

It is also possible to download podcasts here (where you can see the other CBC podcasts that are available!)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


At wee Ishie's playgroup nativity concert (see December 17/09 post) my number came up: I won 'A Visit for 6 People to Rangers Football Stadium'! Well, today was the day for the visit and what a terrific time we had!

Gathering a clutch of former neighbours we all headed off to Ibrox - the home of Rangers Football Club - for a 1 hour conducted tour of the building and grounds and, afterwards, lunch in their Argyle Restaurant.

As a person who doesn't follow football - I mean, not at all, I am afraid - it was a real eye-opener! In the west of Scotland there is a very (VERY) strong football culture. It's a long story with many facets. One place to get the gist of who they are and where they are located both geographically and in the world of football is here.

One cannot live in this part of the world and be unaware of football especially the 2 main Glasgow teams, namely, Rangers and Celtic. Over the 40 years I have lived here I've had occasion to pass by the (Ibrox) stadium (or more likely not... as traffic had to be diverted for the games whose times I did not check!) or I have been in the city centre as fans wearing the colours of their team streamed out of the underground station heading for the big game.

We are talking about thousands! After a tour of the building built in 1929, so is historically a 'listed building' now, we were taken through the tunnel and on to the pitch. It was quite awesome! It seats 50,000! Being a lovely bright day it looked absolutely terrific! I can see what it must be like with all the supporters filling the place and therefore why people pay to go along!

What I did not know was: there is a camber to the pitch. It rises 17 inches from the outer long edge to the mid-point. And all pitches are different. While there I noticed what at first looked like a series of irrigation spray pipes on wheels like you see in fields for irrigating grain or garden produce. It was a photosynthesis system, i.e. what I would call 'lights'. It is winter and the grass does not grow so they help it along.

Everyone told me the visit was well worth while and they were quite right. It is like going to a museum and being shown, with explanations, all the history and trophies. Just seeing the collection of gifts that clubs give one another was a bit of social history in itself. On the whole, the gifts (of which only 1/8th is on display!) were very, very high quality e.g. fine design and materials with workmanship done by a given country's finest craftsmen/women.

Color plays a big part in football - for better or for worse! What I cannot figure out is: what, exactly, is the Rangers blue?

Photos: Wikipedia

Monday, 8 February 2010


A lovely 89 year old lady has passed away and I attended her funeral last week. This lady and I shared the same first name and for many years we used to play the fiddle together. She was part of the car pool I had in the days when I was out playing at concerts... church halls, town halls, you name it.

I was the age of her children, some of whom lived in America. She talked about her family a lot and also about her days working in a factory in Clydebank, the time their house was flattened in the Blitz (she was in the cinema). At the funeral they mentioned that she was given violin lessons (in the 1930's) and when the Depression affected the family and they could no longer pay, the music teacher continued the lessons for nothing.

Memory is a funny thing: other players at the funeral remember stories of the 2 of us which I don't even recall whereas I have memories of her and I doing mischievous things that I suppose no one else knew about! For example, our orchestra was hosted in a town on Islay one year. She and I shared a room in the accommodation and I remember the two of us heading for the bar of the hotel and deciding that we would have a dram of any whisky that started with the first letter of our name 'Barbara'. Well, of course, this being Islay we had to tough it out: Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, Bruichladdich!

At the end of the service (where they played her party piece Czardas which fair had me greetin') we stood in line to shake hands with the family, i.e. her 4 children. I simply couldn't take my eyes off the 2 sisters who were absolutley identical in every way - height, hair style, mannerisms. Then I remembered that she had recounted to me that exactly 9 months after she was married she and her husband had twins. And also, within one year she had another baby (and her mother-in-law had come down rather hard on her for such a thing!) Then there was a long gap and another baby was born making 4 in all.

However what I did not realize, until it was pointed out to me, that the twins were in fact Person No. 1 and Person No. 4 in the line-up, not the 2 standing together, i.e. the 2 sisters. They looked like twins and, indeed, one was a twin but not with the 'clone' of her! Her sister who would be about 1 year younger was her double! It was really weird!

Sunday, 7 February 2010


This week Iain and I attended a memorial service for this lovely gentleman, Stephen Newell. Like so many services nowadays the event was very much a celebration of a life fully lived. Everyone in the Barony Hall at Strathclyde University had their memories of this man, a great enthusiast whatever project he was promoting but who Peter West said "If they wrote a book on tact and diplomacy, it would be rather small!"

We, indeed, have our stock of memories, one being of our visit to his and Gaye's island on the west coast. We arrived in Seol-na-Mara, rowed ashore in the dinghy, and were met by him on the beach. Off we set with him driving his golf-cart type vehicle bumping us over the grapefruit sized stones back along the beach to the farmhouse.

Presently, Iain and I had to pile into this Ronald Regan-esque vehicle and roar up the hillside to look at his dam. He needed an engineer's eye to inspect a weak bank. That done, we set off on our return journey, all downhill, at break-neck speed scattering sheep in every direction as we bumped over the lumps of bracken and into ditches and ruts. I was sitting in the front next to him with my feet up on the dashboard, hands on the roll-bars, shrieking my head off! "Eaghghghgh! Stephen! I'm going to fall out!" Of course, he just threw his head back and laughed uproariously. (Yes, you guessed it ... he was getting exactly the reaction he had hoped for!)

We miss him!

However, he was a grandpa to some lovely lads who were neighbours of ours for many years. Number 3 of 3 was my Little Philosopher Friend; we spent a lot of time together! They grow up but still, it's nice to be left with some chips of the old block!

What interested me however, as I sat with the order of service in my hand, was this wonderful, accurate portrait of Stephen. I felt (and not everyone agrees with me) that the artist caught the cheeky, cheery smile exactly. "Yes!" I thought, "That's him!" I pondered: how could an artist who probably did not know the man, achieve this 'essence' in a series of 2 hour sittings.? Who was the artist? There was no name nor acknowledgment given .... :-(

However, at the tea afterwards, I lamented this fact to Peter (who probably was in charge of the printing ... ooops!). One sees it so often in the music world and here it was in the world of art. "Ah, but the artist (and his wife) are with us today."

So I met the gentleman who painted the portrait and also his wife. His name is Barry Atherton and he painted the portrait 18 years ago. It still hangs in the University. On looking him up on Google I see both he and his wife are portrait painters in Glasgow. At the moment, the best way to find out about him is to go to her website called, Linda Atherton, Portrait Painter. She has painted her husband's portrait. It is, at present, the last portrait in the 4th row of her Recent Work.

So it was a most satisfying day giving us things still in our midst: memories, chips and talent!

Thursday, 4 February 2010


BBC Radio 4 is on to a real winner!

They have recently started an absolutely fascinating series of 15 minute programmes, The History of the World in 100 Objects. Having downloaded the recent programmes that I missed I have been catching up as the snow falls outside and I coorie doon [snuggle down] for the evening.

The one on the Olduvai Handaxe talked about how they were made and what they might have been used for. The 15 minute broadcast is here.

The man who is narrating in the series, Neil MacGregor, was talking to a gentleman, Phil Harding, who is a knapper, i.e. a flint knapper. This is "someone who breaks or chips (stone) with sharp blows, as in shaping flint or obsidian into tools". [Wikipedia]

Furthermore, MacGregor explores the idea that there seems to have been a big conceptual leap in the history of humankind going on here.

"Recently scientists have been looking at what happens inside the brain when a stone tool is being made. They use modern hospital scanners to see which bits of the brain are being used when a knapper is working with stone. And surprisingly, the areas of the modern brain activated when making a hand axe overlap considerably with those that you use when you speak."

With speech and language, he states, you now see the real beginnings of modern humans; "there is a huge leap between those earliest first stone tools and this hand axe."