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.

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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.

Friday Fictioneers – Anniversary Supper

The last of the logs crackled in the fireplace. A bone-piercing chill steadily embraced the once warm and inviting front room. On the coffee table a bottle of our favourite cheap red wine was missing only one large glass, the take-away pizza less than half eaten.

This was supposed to have been our chance to talk, to patch things over – perhaps our last chance. He should have been here well before eight, been off the roads long before the storm passed across the valley floor.

I had red wine and pizza while waiting that night too, and every year since.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge

Friday Fictioneers – A Familiar Face

I hadn’t visited Uncle Jimmy since he’d gotten real sick. I felt bad about that, especially when I was told he’d left me something.

The small package contained a DVD and an envelope, the words “WATCH THE FILM BEFORE OPENING” etched boldly into the bleached, white manila.

Flickering, colourless reels of people and places of another time. A man on a rickety bicycle rolled unsteadily across the screen. He paused to raise his cloth cap triumphantly towards the camera. As the lens zoomed in my heart began to pound.

It can’t be. How could it be?

I opened the letter. Hands shaking, I started to read.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge

Friday Fictioneers – Pointless Recriminations?

‘Are we still doing this?’ I asked.

Johnny smiled and took a nonchalant drag on his cigarette.

‘Why? You lot going all chicken on Johnny?’

I laughed an unconvincing laugh. ‘Course not, just getting late is all…and…’

Before I could finish Johnny had scrambled up and over the iron gate. Through the rusting bars I watched as he paused to light a fresh smoke. He then beckoned for the rest of the gang to join him.

Some of us followed, one or two didn’t. Even now, all these years later, I still regret the choice I made. Still feel guilty about what happened.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.  

Friday Fictioneers – Unwanted Attention

ff150217Susie woke with a start. It wasn’t the first time,  and for sure, wouldn’t be the last.

‘She’s my daughter, my kid, mine, mine!’

The defiant words of her father as he was dragged away remained as fresh as ever. The smell of stale beer and nicotine somehow still in her nostrils. She’d never forget the pain he caused her. The pain which will stay with her forever, even in sleep.

From the cot below the window, her own daughter gurgled and threatened to cry before falling silent once more. Beside her Jimmy snored. Outside another dawn began to break.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.  

Friday Fictioneers – Retribution

ff080217We’d all had sessions in that basement room. The same pointless questions. The same insufferable pain no matter the answers.

‘Tie him up good and tight,’ someone shouted.

Most of the guards had evaded capture. A few had already been killed on sight. This one wasn’t going to be so lucky.

‘Come on, Tom. You’re first.’

I was handed the knife. The terrified face looking up at me was barely older than that of my own son when he too was killed. The numbing thought of that moment edged me forward.

For a moment I hesitated; almost felt sympathy. Almost.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.  

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.

Friday Fictioneers – Idle Conversation

ff010217Everyone on the block knew Victor. He used to work on the Pencove Estate, 200 acres of ornamental gardens, thick forest and water lily-covered lakes. It was his life. A bust hip then saw that life confined to his ground floor apartment, an arthritic dog and a single window box.

One hot summer’s day he invited me in for a brew and a game of dominoes.

‘Don’t you miss the estate,’ I asked.

He smiled and passed me a bottle of ice-cold beer.

‘Sure, I’ve nowhere to bury the bodies anymore’ he laughed.

I laughed too. Anybody would have. Anybody.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.  

Friday Fictioneers – Clearing The Way

ff250117Frank cursed quietly under his breath as he placed the handset back into its cradle. ‘A blown engine out on the Little Williams road.’

‘Oh, no, Frank, not again. Isn’t there anyone else who could go?’ Missy protested.

His wife knew fine well there wasn’t: his was the only pick-up truck for 100 miles.

‘Don’t wait up, love,’ he said. ‘It’s at least a two hour job, longer if they need towed into Greenburg.’

Missy had no intention of waiting up. Mr Brown from across the street had played his part. She now had to play hers and slip into something more comfortable before he arrived.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.  

Friday Fictioneers – Starting Over

ff180117A blazing sun shone over the fertile savannah. From the flowering branches of an acacia tree, a bearded vulture swooped to pick clean the last morsels of rotting sinew on a week old carcass. Two young lion cubs stumbled yawning from the bush, quickly followed by their concerned mother.

Dr Zerlon Juniper smiled a satisfied smile as he surveyed the scene from his observation bunker. Even by his own notoriously cautious standards the colonisation project had been an unmitigated success. As Dr Juniper continued to monitor his work, a troop of elephants rumbled majestically over the shimmering Mars horizon.

friday-fictioneers

These words form this my entry into this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt challenge.