Thursday, 24 May 2018

Insatiable Appetite


    Eleven years to the day after the poet, Robert Burns was born, another boy was born in Scotland who would reserve a place in the history of Scottish literature, his name was James Hogg, born on January 25th, 1770.

    Burns and Hogg's lives were very similar, their fathers were both tenant farmers and both boys only attended school for several years due to the financial restraints of their families. Burns became a ploughman and Hogg a shepherd, their education came from books and of course life.

    While it seems never the twain did meet, their social circles had crossed. Hogg had the privilege to be mentored by Sir Walter Scott although having only met him once at the age of sixteen, was inspired by the great bard.

    Having only a little education as children didn't hold these two men back,  because they had a hunger for knowledge. An appetite that can only be satiated by books. Keep on writing authors.

"What is the life of a man more than the life of a lamb, or any guiltless animal?" - James Hogg 




Sunday, 20 May 2018

Let's Fly Away

    There have been so many women in the world that have fought for equality in the sexes and as we know the fight goes on. The Pankhursts both mother and daughter famously campaigned for the right for women to have a vote and their names instantly come to mind when we think about historical role models for women.

    There are so many gutsy women in the history of the world that I admire, however today I want to highlight one woman who I believe we haven't heard enough of and her name is Winifred Joyce Drinkwater.

    Winifred was born April 11th, 1913 in Cardonald, Glasgow and at the age of 17, she gained her pilot's licence making her Scotland's youngest pilot. At the age of 19, she became the youngest professional pilot in the UK and then went on to be the first woman in the world to hold a commercial pilot's licence.

    Yes, she was doing all this amazing stuff when many in the world thought that women should be barefoot pregnant and chained to the kitchen sink. Of course, there are those who believe that this still to be the case.

     I know I overheard a fellow passenger on a flight recently say "The woman outside checking the aeroplane must be the co-pilot on our flight. As she was too young and pretty to be otherwise." How I laughed inwardly when she introduced herself and her male co-pilot over the intercom.

    It's women like Winifred who sadly died October 6th, 1996 in New Zealand who are an inspiration to all women and we should celebrate every single one of them.



Friday, 18 May 2018

A Highland Folly


    It doesn't matter if it's a winter's or summer's day, each time I have visited, Oban, over the years it's beauty has never failed to disappoint me. Ferries sailing in and out of the harbour, transporting people and goods to the inner and outer Hebridean islands, add some bustle to the otherwise laid-back small Scottish town.

     The views from the town towards the islands are nothing more than spectacular and make the hairs on the back of my neck stand-up. My Scottish blood hurtles through my veins and my feet twitch on hearing the wailing of the bagpipes, that always seem to be playing in the background.

    The bells ring from the tower of St Columba's Cathedral inviting worshippers to mass daily, stopping the promenaders in their tracks as the sound echoes around the horseshoe-shaped bay.

    Then when prayers are finished it's time to try out one of the fish and seafood restaurants that give this gateway to the highlands the name of 'Seafood Capital of Scotland'. On the few occasions that food isn't on the agenda a walk up to the summit of Battery Hill, finishing within the magnificent walls of McCaig's Tower is worth the hike up the arduous incline.

    There are two reasons why anyone would take a sharp intake of breath on entering its towering walls, that is because of the exertion that has been applied to reach the top of the hill and the glorious sight that the eyes now behold.

    This folly commissioned by, banker John Stuart McCaig in 1897, five years prior to his death in 1902 was built as an everlasting monument to his family and to provide philanthropic support for local stonemasons during the winter months. One hundred plus years on, this dominating landmark makes an everlasting impression on each and every visitor to the town and port. Giving all who enter a birds-eye view of this part of the Scottish Highlands.

    Once back down the hill the blistered heels rubbed toes and tired legs can be eased with a glass of the whisky distilled in the town's distillery, which is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.




Sunday, 13 May 2018

Waters Run Deep

    I have two thoughts about soaps on the TV, one they can help you disengage from the reality that is going on round about you for a half hour, or it connects you with real issues that many people all over the world have to face in their lives.

    Recently, Coronation Street a soap opera that is aired a few times a week in the UK has focussed on some really tough subjects, one being male rape and the other male suicide.

    They were criticized by many for broaching these raw subjects, however, they have been applauded by a majority of their viewers.

    If we take the first subject of male rape, sexual violence towards men and boys isn't a topic that many of us have ever thought about. Reports of violence towards women and girls are featured in our news daily and encouragement is given to those who have been affected to seek help. But, in the case of males by not putting the facts out there we are keeping the harsh truth hidden away, leaving the victims alone and helpless.

    Then we have male suicide the biggest cause of death in the UK for men under the age of 45 years-old, again because the subject is kept locked away in a closet, those who have suicidal thoughts, mental suffering, pain and anguish don't get the support and help they need.

    These storylines in Coronation Street, have made the UK talk and that's what we need to do. Talk and share.


Friday, 11 May 2018

Some People Walk In The Rain

    Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
                           Thomas Jefferson

    It's National Walking Month in the UK and over the last year, walking has become part of my everyday life. I've been trying hard to shed extra pounds and as going to a gym isn't an option due to a musculoskeletal problem, walking fits the bill.

    I always have tried to get off my butt at least a couple of times a week, but now walking every day has had the desired effect and the pounds are slowly but surely shifting. Yes, there are days that I still want to hide from the unpredictable Scottish weather. But, a good raincoat and water-proof boots have meant that I have no excuse. Although my style isn't a cool look in summer, the health benefits are what keeps me focused.

    I've included a few photographs of some of my favourite walks in Scotland and abroad. I'm off to get my boots on. Yes, it's raining.

       Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.
                                                    Roger Miller


Monday, 7 May 2018

Numbers Game

    Whether at home or travelling abroad, a majority of us use debit and credit cards. In fact, our lives are filled with plastic cards and PIN numbers. It can be a little confusing at times especially if it's not a card we use on a regular basis. I know when I travel overseas, I have been left red-faced on a few occasions when I've punched in the wrong PIN.

    Recently, while shopping with my friend her husband had to come to the rescue and pay for my groceries. I was so adamant that it was the shop's fault and not mine, only to find out that, yes I was using totally the wrong number. My excuse is that I only use the card every six weeks or so.

    At times we do need cash in purses and pockets, rather than plastic and thankfully ATMs can be found easily. Instantly giving us access to our funds, bank balances allowing of course.

    It has been approximately 52 years since Scottish inventor, James Goodfellow, discovered PIN and card technology, a forerunner of what we use today. Although I did join the staff of a bank many years later I can still remember the original cash dispensers and the cards that Mr Goodfellow patented. The cards were only given to trusted customers because back then banks kept customers records in hand-written ledgers and therefore no checks could be made before the machine dispensed funds.

    If it wasn't for inventors such as James Goodfellow what would our lives be like now? Afterall with the huge difference in prices for everyday goods and services over the last fifty plus years, it would probably mean that we would have to carry our money in panniers on the sides of mules, just to go shopping.

    Sadly, Mr Goodfellow received little or no recompense for this modern-day invention. Something that would not happen today.


Friday, 4 May 2018

A May Day Celebration


    I know many of you will have already celebrated May Day this week, depending on where in the world you are. However, in the UK for the last forty years, the first Monday in May is when we have a public holiday.

    Celebrations will vary from location to location, some may dance around a Maypole, or crown their May Day Queen, while many of us will just relax, and enjoy a day surrounded by our friends and family.

    I found this classic poem by, Ralph Waldo Emerson and I've included an extract. Whatever you're doing, wherever you are this weekend, have days filled with pleasure and joy.

May Day

Daughter of Heaven and Earth, coy Spring
With sudden passion languishing
Maketh all things softly smile
Painteth pictures mile on mile
Holds a cup with cowslip-wreaths 
Whence a smokeless incense breathes
Girls are peeling the sweet willow
Poplar white, and Gilead-tree
And troops of boys
Shouting with whoop and hilloa
And hip, hip three times three
The air is full of whistlings bland
What was that I heard
Out of the lazy land?
Harp of wind, or song of bird
Or clapping of shepherd's hands 
Or vagrant booming of the air
Voice of a meteor lost in day?
Such tidings of the starry sphere
Can this elastic air convey
Or haply 'twas the cannonade
Of the pent and darkened lake
Cooled by the pendent mountain's shade
Whose deeps, till beams of noonday break
Afflicted moan, and latest hold
Even unto May the iceberg cold
Was a squirrel's pettish bark
Or the clarionet of jay, or hark
Where yon wedged line the Nestor leads
Steering north with raucous cry
Through tracts and provinces of sky
Every night alighting down
In new landscapes of romance
Where darkling feed the clamorous clans
By lonely lakes to men unknown
Come the tumult whence it will
Voice of sport, or rush of wings
It is a sound, it is a token
That the marble sleep is broken
And a change has passed on things
Beneath the calm, within the light
A hid unruly appetite
Of swifter life a surer hope
Strains every sense to larger scope
Impatient to anticipate
The halting steps of aged Fate

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882