Saturday, 17 April 2021


The bunting came out this week as we can now officially have 6 people from different households to visit as long as it is outside.  So Maggie and Brian came over with their bottle of NZ New Marlborough wine.  The sky was the bluest I've seen it in months!  We had a debate about this: is it because we have just come out of winter? Is is because restrictions are now starting to ease and it reflects (sorry for the pun...) our ache for freedom of movement? Is it because of the lattitude we live? It is to do with the nature or quality of the air, i.e. fresh, a certain level of humidity due to the climate?   In any event we sat in the back garden and just soaked it up as well as the ever-increasing heat of the afternoon sun.

The children of all ages go back to school on Monday - roll on the day!  They have been in a state of pseudo-hibernation for months.  To that end Ishbel and I went out for an 'inventure'... which means we don't quite know where we are going but will see what turns up.

We ended up at the Forth and Clyde Canal just east of Kirkintilloch.  I took these photos.

This is exactly how it appeared i.e. no Photoshoped adjustments. It is early afternoon facing east about 1 mile east of Kirkintilloch.

As we walked along the canal I was reminded of the above painting which is in the Burrell Collection. It is by a Scottish landscape artist:

The Last Turning, Winter, Moniaive by James Paterson (1854-1932). Painted in 1885, it depicts a woman walking along a riverbank towards the village of Moniaive in Dumfriesshire.  

[Burrell Collection Photo Library]

* * * * * * * * * ANOTHER CANDIDATE FOR THE BOOK OF BAD DESIGN ** * * * * * * * 

Ishbel and I are aching for the Braehead Mall to open which means a trip to Waterstones and then a pizza at Cafe Nero.

She reads avidly; I less so.  That being said recently I have enjoyed 3 Alexander McCall-Smith books I picked up in Tesco's in their Take One-Leave One bookshelf opposite the checkout.

Last month I heard one 15 minute episode of the above book called The Snow and the Works on the Northen Line on Radio 4.  It is by Ruth Thomas and published by Sandstone Press of Inverness with the publication date of 2021.  Editor: Moira Forsyth.

I was reading it in bed and found two things: I can't recognise the story ... very odd... but leave that aside just now....and secondly, I  just couldn't get the book open enough to read the text on the inner left side. Huh?  What's all that about?  I have just about had my fill of books with typos, poor grammar which,  on my most recent experience, was a self-published or should I say 'hybrid' book.  But this book had a cover which was not cheap and the type was clear; certainly no typos. Paper quality - not CheapO.

I looked up the printing details: 'Typeset by Biblichor Ltd, Edinburgh' and 'Printed in Poland'.  Well, somebody, somewhere has done something amiss here. And the book cost £8.99..... The photo shows an outside margin of 5/8 inch on left and right pages.  The inner margins are 1/4 inch. 

I am going to have to add it to my list of Bad Design which is so often about really basic stuff either missing or badly done.  Yawn....

Friday, 9 April 2021


At midday today Buckingham Palace announced that The Duke of Edinburgh died in the morning. 

He was residing at Windsor Castle with the Queen and had been poorly for a couple of months.  There had been no particular news about his health in the past few weeks so the announcement was unexpected.

It is  ironic that because of the lockdown restrictions the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have actually had more time together in this last year than they might normally have had.  Sadly, however, like most families, they have not been able to have family members (or anyone else) to visit because of restrictions.

People will, of course, remember him in their own special way... as will I.  Did I ever see him? Did I ever meet him to speak to? Yes to both of these.

[1] As a child in 1951.  Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip toured Canada and they arrived on the CPR train and paid a visit to Salmon Arm in October. The day was wet and I recall puddles in the CPR station yard where we school children awaiting the arrival of the CPR train. We were given flags to hold. Here we are below!

This photo is from The Salmon Arm Observer newspaper: "Princess Elizabeth Visit to Salmon Arm in 1951".  I recall being in this crowd as a Grade 2 child along with the other school children. I recall being about 5 rows back by the time the Royals had arrived.  Having looked carefully at this excellent photo taken from The Observer archives' website I cannot see myself.  But hold on.... what's this I see in the front row, or should I say "Who is this!? I reckonize that boy wearing that shirt...  my brother Don! I would have been 7 years old and he was 6 years old so that must be the Grade 1 class in the very front row.

[Later] A comment from JB on The Observer website next to this photo:  "October 25, 195l issue of the Observer and it mentions Mary Meek making a presentation. She was a great favorite grade one teacher of many of us 70 something kids. Looks like a young Marion Reece next to the princess. There was a much better photo of a sea of kid faces (I'm front and center next to Mary Jamieson and David Askew.)"

I have put a red circle marking him but it is very hard to see. However, the photo is very sharp especially of the children in the front rows. To clearly see faces it really would be necessary to copy it into something like Photoshop and blow it up. (The resolution is high so it will not go blurry.)

A second photo from The Observer for the same occasion.

[2] In the mid 1970s at Paisley College of Technology where Iain was Head of Department of Civil Engineering for 7 years.  The Duke of Edinburgh was there to confer the degrees at a June graduation ceremony.  Before the actual ceremony members of staff and their wives were invited to meet in an upstairs side room beforehand.  We were told he would be circulating in the room, with his aide, to meet people.  

I recall standing in a group of about 12 people, all staff and wives (there were no women staff in Engineering in those days) chatting while we awaited the Royal party moving through the room.  I am the sort of person who will easily chat to anybody so was eagerly awaiting his arrival.  Iain, on the other hand, had absolutely no time for any member of the Royal family and certainly would not push himself forward to speak!  

So what happens when Prince Phillip arrives to our little circle?  His aide introduced to him to all of us in the circle. He chatted to Iain who found that he was very well informed and asked perceptive questions about Scottish education in general and education of engineers in particular!  They then had this animated conversation; no one could get a word in edgeways!  Meanwhile, I stood there noting that (a) he was extremely smartly dressed with a beautiful light blue tie and (b) he had clearly done his homework! I was quite awestruck ... and, believe it or not... never uttered a word!

[3]  The Scottish TV News had lots of coverage of his life including funny stories that people recall.  For example one man recalls the time when he was being briefed  about The Duke of Edinburgh who was due to arrive for the opening of the Queensferry Bridge in 2017. "Whatever you do don't walk slowly and don't treat him as an old man!" (He was only 94 years on that occasion!)

And lastly, where I was and what I was doing on this particular day? 
Answer: getting my second jab of the cornovirus Astra-Zeneca vaccine at Milngavie Town Hall.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021


Another week of Lockdown but this coming Friday, Good Friday, restrictions will allow social groups to have outdoor contact.  There is, however, a third wave, in several European countries - another variant which is doing its Darwinian best to show us a good example of evolution in nature: the fittest strain dominates and the weaker ones do not. (Fittest, of course, means, more virulent, i.e people get sicker leading to more hospitalisation and it is more transmissible.)

Iain got his second jab today. I assume mine will come in about a weeks' time.

I also had a nice moment in our local supermarket when I was hailed by the tall man at the entrance (who monitors mask wearing) saying to me, "I got my jab this week."  This may not sound like much but this man who is from (I am guessing.... Ghana?) said he was reluctant to get a jab.  I recall explaining to him the importance that "we all must do it for the good of society" i.e. eventually it leads to suppression of the virus in the community.  I heard my words coming back to me... "Yes" he told me "It is good for society."!!!

* * * * * * * * * * *  TIME TO TALK OF SHOES AND SHIPS AND SEALING WAX ... WELL... SHIPS ACUTALLY  *  * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I've been following the container ship which had gone aground in the Suez Canal. There are several reasons: 

(1) Recreational sailing: having sailed 40 years in Seol-na-Mara I know it can happen for all the best and worst reasons.  Getting it afloat again is always 'interesting'!  Usually patience and the next (or next highest) tide does it.

(2) Ship Management: In the 1970 I worked for a period of time in a ship management office in Glasgow.  The  firm was Denholm's (and for a short while Denholm-MacLay) at 120 St Vincent Street, Glasgow.

Ship management firms (or Technical Management firms) are responsible for fleets of ships which are moved all over the world. In those days a lot of crew were from Scotland.  

So I followed the fate of this ship from the Evergreen fleet, called Ever Given, which has been stuck in the Suez Canal for a week. It is operated by a Taiwanese company called Evergreen Marine. (Many of the ships operated by Evergreen have names that start with the name "Ever," such as Ever Goods, Ever Glory and Ever Gentle.)

[Courtesy Suez Canal Authority]


I was fascinated to find that this ship functions with input from a variety of sources.  The flags and functions I have photoshopped into this screenshot above.

It raises an interesting question.  When  things go wrong, like containers lost overboard, or it collides into a dock, who is responsible for what?

Also, if I am not mistaken, it was one of these big container 'Ever' ships that lost a cargo of plastic toys in the  North Atlantic some years ago... which kept turning up in various countries for years afterwards.

Thursday, 18 March 2021


Spring weather has arrived and we are enjoying being out in the garden.  Time to put up the garden table and canopy, tidy the leaves and look for the new  green shoots that are coming up now.

Ellie, 6, is a 'hat person' son on goes the sunhat taken out of the cupboard.  Harriet, 7, is not a 'hat person'... too sensible for that.  

The cornavirus is still with us, of course, but vaccinations are continuing in the UK midst all kinds of news of countries in the European Union stopping the  administration of theAstra Zenika vaccine.  It started with Norway saying there was an increased risk of getting blood clots (it appears it is on the brain, not the normal thrombosis type of clot).  Then Germany and many other countries, separately, i.e. without acting within the European Union,  followed suit. 

Oh dear.  Question: what is the rate of blood clots in any normal population? How does it compare? What message does this send out to people unsure about getting the vaccination? What is happening at this time as well? Answer: there is a dip in supply from the pharmaceutical companies.  This is part of the anticipated process of procuring the drug, i.e. it will be delivered evenly... yet.  UK's supply comes from Belgium and India at the moment.   

Is vaccine which is not being used now being wasted?  It makes my head ache to think about the whole debacle!

And there is a third wave starting in Italy.

Saturday, 13 March 2021


I am reminded in the newspapers that UK and Scottish government announcements officially proclaimed the start of Lockdown on this day one year ago.  

People visiting family in Care Homes were no longer allowed, shops, hairdressers, gyms, sports of all kinds, restaurants and pubs closed not knowing how long this situation was going to last.

Where was I  on Friday March 12th a year ago? Our second last Music Appreciation class of the year took place in one of the rooms in New Kilpatrick Church Hall.  We broke for coffee at half time to find that the ladies were not putting out the usual fare.  The news was that all church and other public buildings were too close.  And so, regretfully, we in the class saw the writing on the wall... and unanimously agreed that this was our last class for 2020.  No whip 'round for Alastair, our teacher.  I took his 2 large speakers home in their box,  as was my habit, and they are still sitting under my desk today, a whole year later!

Other March 13th anniversaries are in the news this weekend: The Clydebank Blitz of 80 years ago [March 14, 1941]; the Dunblane Shooting of 16 Primary School children (and injuring 15) and one teacher was 25 years ago.

Earlier this week has had a lot about the Royals in the news with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry being interviewed on American television.

For those of us who are older and/or are aware of the history of the British Royals know that the Queen has been down this road before...and seen much worse behaviour. 

So for the Queen... it seems to have been a Bad Day at the Office... time to Carry On Regardless.  (Last night's TV news showed her on a Zoom call to a Science Festival group about the recent Mars landing.)

I can't help but notice that now, at the end of the week the news items focus on Chat Show Host behaviour, i.e. the media commentariat slagging off each other.  Yawn....

Wednesday, 10 March 2021


It was on Friday of this week, one year ago, that everything was stopped: no more meetings, classes, church services, music practices, concerts... you name it.  Plans for the future were cancelled.  Tickets for the ballet put on hold. 

So where are we one year later?  We are still on Lockdown at Level 4 but this Friday there is to be some lifting of some restrictions, namely, we can meet up with another household up to 8 people but do it outside.  Care home visitors were allowed one visitor last week.

Travel still restricted. Only shops selling food, alcohol, newspapers, plus the butchers, fishmongers and chemists are open.

This is Milngavie last week at the Friday market that has started up again... all outside in the pedestrian precinct, of course.

The entrance to Marks and Spencer ... a sad aspect of Lockdown


This week I met up with Ishbel for a walk outside in the early morning... just 20 minutes before she headed back to her next on-line session.

We had a short walk this morning to see if we could find where the swans on Kilmardinny Loch are making their nest.  We noticed that there are lots of snowdrops on Kilmardinny Avenue.  I told her that Lesley, Louise and I planted them (over several years) about 30 years ago.  The ones I planted came from Duntreath Castle’s old nursery garden where a friend was living in the Garden House at that time.  All the glasshouses were long gone but hundreds of snowdrop bulbs had made come to the surface of the surrounding unkempt land.

The swans and lots of other birds are still resident on the loch.  Are they the same ones that make a nest every year?  Do they mate for life?  

Ishbel has been doing Lockdown Learning since January.  She is pleased to report that after 10 weeks of being at home every day doing on-line classes school for her aged group (Secondary 3) goes back next week but is to be Blended Learning, i.e. 50% at school and 50% at home on-line.

I told her that I had to do a ‘wee message’ as they say in Glasgow.  On this past Sunday we held our final concert for the Young Fiddlers.  Last September when we realised we could not meet for our usual rehearsals we set up Zoom sessions.  It has been a great success!  Who would have thought it?!  Our concert lasted for 2 hours.   The first half was 45 minutes of playing with an interval  of 20 minutes then the second half was another 45 minutes.  During the interval we held a Quiz.  After a musical quiz by Adrian I hosted a General Knowledge Quiz.  The prize for the  most correct answers was a very big chocolate Easter Egg.  I bought the egg earlier in the week from Asda and put it in the back of my car awaiting delivery once I knew the winner.

On Sunday all the children were here for tea, i.e. a 5 pm meal of hamburgers and hot dogs. The children, Ishbel, Alastair, Harriet and Ellie, were very hungry.  I was very hungry as I had just finished the 2 hours Zoom concert.  I went out to the car in the garage to get some more Ribena when I saw in the back of my car the big blue box containing the Lindt chocolate Easter Egg  Quiz Prize awaiting delivery. lt look ever-so-tempting ... just waiting to be eaten!

Mr Nobody must have been about because somehow it ended up being put it on the table where we all devoured everything in the huge over-packaged box!

It was lovely to meet Ish again! We said  “Good-by”; she headed back to her on-line learning and I headed off to Asda … to buy a replacement chocolate Easter Egg!

Monday, 1 March 2021


Today is St Davids's Day and the TV news pointed out that it was a year ago today that the first coronavirus case was noted in Scotland, i.e. formally recorded.

Today it seems so very far away and yet it has gone quite fast.  We were not in Lockdown at this time last year but were watching and waiting.

Today they are isolating people who have arrived from Brazil as the Brazil variant is highly transmissible. They now have quarantine hotels (where 3 cases in Aberdeen have been picked up).  However there is one positive case known about but cannot be traced as the form was filled in incorrectly.  I guess it will be ever thus from now on.

Alastair, 13, Harriet, 7 and Ellie, 6 behind John on their Saturday hike this week.

Ellie and I play Snakes and Laddes a lot. We have a very fluid set of rules, i.e.   they keep changing depending on who is winning.  It drives Harriet mad! (Yes, maddening, I know!) But Ellie and I have heaps of fun going up snakes and down ladders or starting at the top and working backwards; there are no end of possibilities... as long as she wins, of course.  I accept that form of logic ... but it only works when the 2 of us play!