Category Archives: Real World

Manchester

Last night a truly sick, evil and twisted individual took the lives of at least 22 people in the name of his religion and God. The victims only crime was to be out enjoying themselves at a concert. One of those who perished was eight years old. There really is nothing more which can be said other than we will never be defeated by terrorism, and we will never give in to terrorism – we can’t.

Thanks for reading.

General Election 2017 – Scottish Leaders’ Debate

Sunday night saw BBC Scotland hosting the first (not sure if only) debate featuring the Leaders of the main Scottish parties, and, err, UKIP. For those reading my blog who aren’t perhaps up to speed with Scottish politics, we essentially only have one wholly Scottish party, the SNP, who stand just in Scotland. The other party leaders could be looked upon as

(L to R) David Coburn (UKIP), Kezia Dugdale (Scottish Labour), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservatives), Willie Rennie (Scottish Lib Dems), Patrick Harvie (Scottish Greens)

heads of their respective Scottish branches. Not meant in a disrespectful way, but you get the picture. Currently the 59 seats up for grabs are split as follows: SNP (56); Tories (1); Labour (1); LibDems (1). While it’s probably unlikely that the SNP will get as many seats this time, there is little doubt that they will win the election in Scotland, with anything from 45-50 seats being predicted. The Tories are expected to bite back in a few marginal seats as the Unionist parties continues to trade votes to lessen SNP numbers.

As for the debate it was along standard lines. An opening 40 second salvo from each of the panel followed by a Q/A with an invited audience. I won’t get into the “audience” in this piece, but suffice to say it was the usual array of interest groups, plants and those who clearly had no idea of the difference between a Scottish and UK election. What then followed was a rather confused broth of Devolved (ruled on by Scottish Parliament i.e. Health, Education) and non-Devolved (ruled on by Westminster i.e. Defence, Foreign Policy, Brexit) policy questions. For reasons unclear the BBC decided to allow effectively irrelevant questions on devolved policy for the reason that “those were the questions people asked”. My response to that would have been to find other people who were prepared to ask relevant questions i.e. ones meaningful to a UK election. However, it is what it is, and as really pretty much any forum involving Scottish Leaders inevitably ended up focusing on the Scottish Parliament and in particular the job done by the SNP government.

Scotland’s Woman Leaders – Kezia, Nicola and Ruth go at it

The expected “No to second referendum” line was trundled out early doors by all concerned. It’s something the Scottish FM has heard a million times before and dealt with it comfortably. Really Nicola had a fairly easy night, and it was her Conservative counterpart who posted one of her weakest performances on television. Fact is Ruth Davidson has been cosseted by the Scottish media but in the last couple of weeks the gloves have finally come off. Last night she was actually treated as a Tory and asked questions a Tory (the UK Govt) would be expected to be asked. Ruth isn’t at her best when being put under pressure and she quickly resorted to shouting and looking extremely angry. Kezia Dugdale didn’t input much. I sort of admire Kezia for taking on the challenge of Scottish Labour leader but she just doesn’t have the substance to match any potential style. Willie Rennie was placid by his usual standards and saved his most savage attacks for the Tories, a change from his usual tirades on the SNP. Green party man Patrick Harvie spoke well. Not perhaps the most riveting public speaker, but he is passionate and did a good job. Not going to comment on David Coburn. He simply shouldn’t be there as he and his party are utterly irrelevant.

My overall feeling when it finished was one of frustration. While I enjoy politicians having a tear-up there was just too many areas and questions not pertinent to the up coming vote. Bit of an opportunity lost – a feeling shared by some in the post-debate spin room section. The only real loser on the night was Ruth Davidson who crumbled under the unusual sensation of pressure. All the rest stood their ground and can be happy with their night’s work. Sadly for Ruth, her national leader has also just had a day to forget with an interview by Andrew Neil being particularly grim viewing for those of a Tory persuasion. Things are definitely beginning to get a bit more interesting.

Thanks for reading.

Hidden Jewel of Netflix – Documentaries

One of the downsides of rural living i.e. a 2500 population town in the middle of glorious Scottish countryside, is that not every house is connected to the web via fibre broadband. We are meant to be getting it soon, however, until then our television channel choice is fairly limited. As such we have tended to rely more and more on subscription services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. Both have their plus points, but overall I’d say Netflix has more programs we like to watch. Allied to that is that everything on Netflix is free once you’ve subscribed. To be fair there are other benefits to Amazon, such as Amazon Prime membership, but in general Netflix just has more to watch. As the title of this piece suggests, one of things I enjoy most on Netflix is the documentaries.

Anyone new to Netflix will probably quickly spin through all 10 episodes of Making a Murderer. It goes without saying that the story of Steven and Brendan Avery is absolutely essential viewing. However, dig deeper and there are so many outstanding pieces of documentary work on the channel. Here are three more I’d recommend:

The Tower – Gripping story of Charles Whitman and the events surrounding his shooting spree from the top of the Austin University tower. The format is a mix of animation, historical footage and present day interviews. Really was a fantastically well made piece of television art on a subject I knew nothing about. One of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched.

Foxcatcher – This was an odd one. One strange (rich) man’s fascination with the relatively obscure sports of Greco- Roman and Freestyle wrestling. It ends up in cold blooded murder. Beyond that I won’t reveal more.

The Keepers – This one has just started and is being played out over several hour long episodes. It starts with the murder of a young nun in Baltimore. Sexual Abuse and its cover-up are core to what seems to he happening.

At the heart of this program is a group of amateur sleuths who are all former colleagues, pupils, friends of Sister Kathy Cesnick. A truly mind-numbing tale is unfolding.

And yes, these all involve death. I hope that doesn’t say too much about my personality. It’s just that many dramatic documentaries are ones focused on tragic events. I will try to watch some on happier themes, and if worth watching I’ll be sure to recommend them.

Thanks for reading.

General Election Countdown – Vote SNP, Vote Mairi

On Thursday the 8th of June the United Kingdom will once again open up its polling stations. It may have been only two weeks since the local council elections, and two years since the last General Election, but in those two years something fairly significant happened. It was called the EU Referendum and the result was a Tory contrived disaster which led these Islands out of the European Union. Having made this mess the typically opportunist Conservatives are now looking to get a moral and practical mandate to clean up an unholy mess they themselves created. To that end a snap election was called. The Tories clearly hope to seize on apparent Labour weakness to build a bigger majority.

However, I’m not going to get into too much, if any, detail today. All I wanted to do was kick off my General Election pieces with an introduction to the candidate I will be voting for, Mairi McAllan. At the moment I live in a constituency which has the only Conservative MP in Scotland. His name is David Mundell, and not surprisingly being the only representative of the UK Govt in Scotland he is our Secretary of State. His majority is only a few hundred but you can expect a heavily funded Tory effort to keep him in his seat.

Now, as much as at any other time in recent history, there needs to be tough, unflinching opposition to the Tories. That is something only the SNP seem capable of doing. If elected I’m sure Mairi will carry that fight as much as anyone else on the opposition benches.

Thanks for reading.

Truth Pulps Fiction

Just finished watching a documentary on Netflix about some bloke called Roger Stone. The programme was about this bloke, Roger, and another bloke he knew called Donald. They seemed to go back a long way. The lines between which one was running for President became blurred on a few occasions. Yes, Donald was front and centre but behind and centre (and quite often out front too) was the other bloke, Roger. They made for an interesting, if not overly likeable pair.

I’m not going to moan about American’s voting for Roger’s friend as their President. That was their own democratic choice to make, and they made it. What I would moan about was the cesspit of personal attacks, lies, allegation, counter allegation, media manipulation, distortion and obfuscation that turned the Presidential race into something from your worst nightmares.

The world does seem to be becoming an angrier place.  A more extreme place. A less likeable place. The battle for the moral low ground is in full flight.

Thanks for reading.

Blog Update – The Way Ahead

Apologies to anyone who follows my blog. It started off with the best of intentions, as do so many things in our lives, but I plead guilty to letting it fall by the wayside. I love writing and the original plan was to post articles on all aspects of what was going in my life. There would be bursts of creative fiction, thoughts on world affairs, reviews of TV, reaction to sporting events, allied of course to the occasional generic rant. However, fairly quickly the blog turned into a once a week repository for 100 words of flash fiction.  That’s not what should have happened, but it did. Now even that has stopped.

Why has this happened? Lack of inspiration. Too much time wasted on nothing in particular. Not enough time spent in a positive and creative manner. Perhaps I’ve not been in the best place mentally. Too much negativity. Too much beating myself up. I get easily distracted and easily put off my train of thought. Net result of all of this has been an empty blog. Not because I don’t want to do it, but because I just can’t seem to get myself to do it.

The solution? Well, for now I want to start making it easier to blog. This means smaller articles. More frequent posts. Instead of multiple paragraphs with pictures, a post may be one paragraph and no pictures. That’s not to say there won’t be longer posts – there will when I allow myself to do them. But I feel if I can just get back into the habit of posting this blog will be all the better for it, as will I.

Thanks for reading.

Tobermory

toby_01Tobermory Mobbs-Clements (Shooting Star Over Cowran of Nessaby)
11/03/2004-03/02/2017

The Clement’s household is eerily quiet today. Much quieter than normal. Much quieter than we’d like. Our broken hearts may heal in time, but the memories will never fade.

Sweet dreams Tobes. It was a privilege and a joy to share your 13 years.

Adieu Europe

diceGot to be honest and say I wasn’t really watching the EU Referendum hustings that closely. Why? Well, two main reasons. Firstly I didn’t appreciate there was a serious chance we would actually vote to leave. Naive perhaps, but for me Europe has simply never been an issue. Secondly, it all felt like an internal Tory squabble (most UKIP are ex-Tories) – a squabble that has been brewing for years and needed to finally vent steam. Well, vent steam it did, and driven by the racial intolerance currently rife in our politics, the voters of the UK took the frankly mind-numbing decision to cut themselves adrift from our European neighbours.

What now? Well, that’s a good question. However, I wouldn’t waste time asking the ‘Leave’ campaign as none of them seem to know. Unlike the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, where there was a 670 page white paper outlining the transition, in this referendum there has been nothing but soundbites and rhetoric. On the news of a Leave vote the UK markets crashed to the point where we dropped from the 5th to the 6th biggest global economy. Hot on the heels of share values being decimated the first lie of the Leave campaign was then exposed. Leaving the EU would apparently allow an extra £350m to be spent on the NHS, each week. As it turns out that was, err, “a mistake” according to UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. Conveniently it was a mistake plastered all over battle buses, hoardings, flyers and television interviews. As I type I’ve just read that Cornwall residents (who voted 57/43 to leave) want their current EU subsidies to be matched by the UK Govt. I wish them well with that request. There will be a long queue of people wanting their lost EU income protected.

Of course, I’m Scottish and a passionate supporter of my country and it’s right to become an independent nation once again. Many people will now be asking where this result leaves that dream. The answer is probably best summed up by this post-EU Ref map.

ukeu

The yellow bits voted to remain; the blue bits voted to leave. As you can see there is a rather large, unspoiled, yellow bit north of the Scotland/England border. In more detail, there are 32 council areas in Scotland. Of those 32, erm, 32 voted to ‘Remain’. Sad fact is if everyone who voted in Scotland had voted to ‘Remain’ it would have made absolutely no difference i.e. we were, as we always are, outnumbered by our fellow islanders in England and Wales. The net result is that despite an overwhelming desire to remain in the EU, Scotland is on the way out. With it will be an end to the EU funding so vital to many Scottish organisations. However, I’m sure we can expect the UK Govt to cover the shortfall, or more likely not.

Unsurprisingly this outcome has triggered talk of a second Scottish Independence referendum. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, made it clear during the recent Holyrood elections that only a “significant and material change” would bring “indyref2” onto the table. There can’t be much argument that being dragged out the the EU against our will more than qualifies. It looks like being an interesting year or two ahead on the UK political scene.

Thanks for reading.

The clock is ticking

Wee Ginger Dug

So that’s it then. The sun has risen but the darkness falls. The nightmare has happened. The nightmare is here. Two Unions lie broken. Last night England broke the Unions, and chose for us. Chose to take us into the dark forest, chose to take us off the path we wanted to travel. England and Wales have voted to leave the EU and Scotland has voted to remain. Every single council area voted to remain.  The union is divided but Scotland is united, and here we are again, sitting at the back of a bus that’s being driven to a destination that we’ve said we don’t want to go to. We cling on as we drive off a cliff. We shout from the back seat but no one listens. We hold our heads in our hands and we weep in frustration. That’s the best of both better together worlds. That’s…

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Flab Battle – Take Two

treadmillWell, not quite, more of a minor reenactment.

The original ‘Flab Battle‘, which commenced in March 2012, saw me go from an outrageous 18’6″ (116kg) to a low of 12’7″ (79.1Kg). In truth, I had lost too much, too quickly. There was very little fat/cushioning left on certain parts of my body i.e. base of spine. To this day I remain convinced that I somehow screwed up my metabolism and as a result even when it’s hot I can still feel cold.

For the best part of three years my weight remained in my defined comfort zone which capped off at 13’7″. However, we then decided to move house. This involved stress. This also involved dismantling our treadmill. These two things allied to me just getting lazy and into some bad eating habits saw my weight begin to rise again. Now that we’ve moved and are settled it’s time to get back on track. The stress is easing and of course the treadmill is now back up and running in the garage. A starting weigh-in last week shocked me to the core. The scales flashed 14’8″ (92.6Kg). This was all the motivation I needed to get back into action.

weight graph

A combination of treadmill sessions, every other day, and calorie counting (with my trusted app/website MyFitnessPal) has borne some early fruit. Not only do I feel physically and mentally better, but I weigh less. Today’s weigh-in showed I had dropped down to 14’4″ (90.7Kg). Yes, I know a good percentage of this will be water weight as my body starts to flush out the sludge, but it still an encouraging first week or so.

Plan is to lose at a slow, steady and sustainable rate until I reach my target of around 13’3″ (84Kg). Hopefully I can achieve that before autumn turns to winter. Regular updates to follow.

Thanks for reading.

Election Aftermath 2016

SNP_LOGOmed_copyYesterday the Scottish electorate went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2016 Holyrood elections. In 2011, Alex Salmond led the SNP to a historic, and apparently, all but theoretically impossible majority considering the constraints of the De Hondt voting system. Last night, the SNP, under the inspirational leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, came within 2 seats of breaking the De Hondt system for a second time. However, the overall result was never really in doubt. The SNP are re-elected as Scotland’s party of Government for the 3rd term in a row.

FM Nicola Sturgeon

A quick look at the numbers shows the SNP winning 59 of the 73 “first past the post” constituency seats with over a million votes – a record, and more than Labour and Conservative combined. However, despite over 950,000 votes on the Regional Lists, this only garnered the SNP an additional four seats. That’s the De Hondt system for you – it sometimes fights back and actually stops the thing it was designed to prevent i.e. a majority. In some respects this election was all about who would come second. Much to the on-going disappointment of Labour in Scotland, it was the Scottish Tories who now form the second largest grouping with 31 seats. This includes a constituency seat for the abrasive but undoubtedly media friendly figure of Ruth Davidson. Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale failed to win her seat and instead was once again elected via the top up list votes. Elsewhere LibDem leader Willie Rennie won his seat in Fife and the Greens did well on the list to move ahead of Willie’s party in number of seats.

Moving forward, despite no SNP majority, there is a natural pro-independence majority with the SNP and Greens having 69 seats between them. I can’t begin to speculate what horse-trading may go on over the next few years, but the SNP have governed before in a minority scenario (with many fewer seats) and I’m sure they can do so effectively again. Just as interesting as how the SNP perform is what will become of Labour in Scotland. It should now be clear to even the most blinkered Labour supporter that their party was well and truly used and abused by the Tories to save the union. The price they paid for that toxic marriage has been reflected at the last two national elections. Labour in Scotland need to move ground, reinvent, put distance between themselves and the Tories. Until they do I can’t see any way back. Until then the Tories will revel in Labour misfortunes – misfortunes of their own making.

Thanks for reading.

Moving House: Part 1 – Getting Ready

Pushed-into-Moving-HomeBack in 2003 we moved into our current house with the plan on staying for perhaps five years before heading onto somewhere new. Well that plan has finally come to fruition – albeit seven and a half years behind schedule. It’s not without a hint of sadness that we’re on on the move, but that’s only to be expected after so long in the one house. However, were excited to be starting a new chapter in our journey through life. It’s one we’re both looking forward to, and it’s also one I thought I’d tell the world about via my blog.

First thing to mention – where are we moving to? Well, the answer is a small town on the fringes of the Scottish Borders called Biggar. We currently live in Larbert, in Central Scotland, and the map below shows our move:

Moving1

It takes around 75 minutes to get from our old house to our new one. While it may not seem that far to some, to us it’s a big change. Biggar is a much smaller community with a completely different – more countryside – feel. It’s also much further from my work in Glasgow, but home working will mean it’s a journey I don’t need to undertake every day. The house we’re moving into is a new build. For details of the development, please click here.

Our moving in date is 04/03; however, we need to vacate our current house on 26/02 i.e. a week before. This will mean seven nights in a hotel before we can actually call Biggar our new home town. On 26/02 our removal people will take our belongings and place them in storage. A week later they will transport our possessions from storage down to Biggar. Between now and 26/02 it’s just a process of getting everything as it needs to be for moving day. Today we emptied the shed; next we will start to take some of our living room furniture to pieces.

Probably time I stopped writing and got on with something else. Hopefully this short blog gives you a picture of what we’re up to. Regular updates will be added over the coming couple of months – before, during and after the move.

Thanks for reading.

Aye robot

Wee Ginger Dug

In the absence of anything positive to put forward in the way of policies, suggestions, or even pleasantries about the weather, Kezia Dugdale has decided that the way to restore the fortunes of the Labour party in Scotland is to insult all the people who used to vote Labour but don’t any more. That’s folk like me, and quite possibly you. According to Kezia we are “robots that are given a chip and told what to think”. Kezia knows a lot about chips, what with Labour’s definition of well balanced being to have a chip on both shoulders. Or in the case of certain Labour MSPs, a rancid sausage supper drenched in bitter sauce. It does not compute.

Driven to distraction by her weekly drubbing from the Hive Queen in high heels, there’s nothing left for the branch manager of Labour in Scotland except insults. By giving up on the…

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The Charge of the Lite Brigade

Grouse Beater

England my England Tombstone of Lord Asquith, MP for East Fife, apparently 'Prime Minister of England' England my England
Tombstone of Lord Asquith, MP for East Fife, apparently ‘Prime Minister of England’

This week the assault on Scotland’s democracy returned with a vengeance. It brings to mind the charge of the Light Brigade, or in intellectual weight, the Lite Brigade.

The place is full of nonentities keen to do Scotland down for no reason they can muster. The crave unity but stir up dissonance whenever they can. If they get a momentary glimpse of reason the pull the drapes to shut out the light.

Just as you thought ruthless, liver spotted colonialists had relaxed into their button-backed armchairs reminiscing of the great days in India when the click of thumb against ring finger brought you a cool gin and tonic, spurred by SNP’s election successes they sprang into action again to double attacks on individuals considered an effective voice for Scotland. Even J.K. Rowling-Innit got in on the act by…

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