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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Highway (A82) to Heaven.

Friday 22nd July was my birthday. It was also the day I picked up Brenda from dialysis and we set out on the road to Skye. We were only there for 3 nights in total, but what a place to spend the weekend. There and back is a total of around 11 hours driving, but it was worth every minute. With Glencoe (mentioned in another blog)  behind us, it wasn't long before Fort William hove into view. It's another of my favourite places to visit, but we had no time to waste. Pressing on, we were soon turning off the A82 onto the Glengarry road. This was a first for me and didn't disappoint. At the top of the road, there's a viewpoint looking down the glen. The views are just stunning. You don't get any idea of scale from the picture below, but it gives some indication of just how spectacular it is.

After Glengarry, things just got better and better. Travelling through Kintail, with its gorgeous Five Sisters, then on to Eilean Donan Castle at the juncture of Loch Alsh, Loch Duich and Loch Long, I knew the Kyle of Lochalsh,and the Skye Bridge were close. Eilean Donan is an iconic castle, probably one of Scotland's best known sights. It's even better 'in the flesh' than in the photographs.

A short time later, we found ourselves at the Sky Bridge and suddenly we were on Skye. Just to be there was a thrill. I'd wanted to do this trip for years and now it was happening. One of the first things I noticed was the quality of the roads, other than the last couple of miles up to Neist Point, a private road, I don't remember any potholes at all.

As we came up to Sligachan, we were treated to out first proper view of the Cuillins. Again, they were every bit as spectacular as I'd imagined. See for yourself, although oncve more the pictures don't really do it justice.

And so we pressed on to Portree, the only town on the island, and its capital. On of its more striking features is Quay Street, leading down to the harbour, with multicolured  houses. 

It was at this point we hit just about our only problem of the weekend. We tried every eatery on Quay Street with no success. There were just no tables to be found anywhere. Luckily, the next place we tried, The Cafe on Wentworth Street, had a couple of tables to spare, although we didn't get there a moment too soon, as the place began to get busy very fast. Anyway, after a dinner of calamari and steak, and feeling much better, we headed off to The Rowans B&B at Garalapin, a couple of miles outside Portree.

What a treat the Rowans turned out to be. It's run by Anne Long with help from husband Graham. Anne is a natural at running a B&B, with a not inconsiderable talent for breakfast, I might add. Honestly, if you ever consider going to Skye, you should think about giving them a call, or visit . 

This started out as a quick description of a weekend in Skye, but it just didn't feel right to try to get it all into a few paragraphs, so I'm going to split it up a bit. In the next episode, we trot around the edge of the Trotternish peninsula. with fantastic sights, the best tearoom in the world and a couple of museums.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The EDL are not racist. Honest.

I just listened to a YouTube video with a guy from Northern Ireland, on an ENGLISH Defence League march in Bradford, waffling about his wife's freedom not to wear a burkah. Oh, it was riveting stuff. "In America, they put these people in Guantanamo Bay and they interrogate them. What do we do in England?"  He's Irish, for God's sake! Obviously he does have something in common with the EDL. He's a bigoted thug. To cries of "Fookin' Pakis!" the animals do their best to intimidate both the counter protesters and the police, hurling missiles. One of them even rather comically adopts what he thinks is the classical boxer's stance, hoping to frighten off one of the other side. He fails, so his big brave mates come to his aid, all no doubt hoping to get a boot or two in once the other guy's on the ground.

Meanwhile, Tommy Robinson, leader of the august organisation so dedicated to preserving our freedoms by the Bush-esque tactic of removing them, denies any connection whatsoever between the EDL and Anders Breivik, that erstwhile Knight Templar so dedicated to democracy. Nice try Tommy, but you really need to do better. We're not buying it. Take your brand of filth and shove where the Nordic sun don't shine.

So obsessed are we with the perceived threat of Islamic terrorism, we are prepared to believe anything. White supremacists might not be carrying out attacks in similar numbers to others, but I for one was not surprised at the Norwegian attacks. A quick troll through the internet will show you that some of Europe and America's right wing extremists have been preparing just such atrocities. Just have a scan through some of the groups on Facebook and you'll see what I mean. Timothy McVeigh should have taught all of us that lesson. Be honest. When the news of the car bombing and subsequent shootings in Norway started to filter down on the news, what was your first thought? Who did you want to blame? Well, for most of us, we were probably wrong. That includes me.

If you want a glance at who's claiming to protect your freedoms, have a look for yourself.

I'll give you a couple of quotes from Breivik's 'manifesto'.

"It is highly advisable to structure any
street protest organisation after the English Defence League (EDL) model as it is the only
way to avoid paralyzing scrutiny and persecution."

"I may or may not have had contact
with at least 2 of these co-founders since the founding. Obviously, I can’t reveal any
sensitive information so the above characteristic might be what I want you to believe and
not the actual truth:-)."

To add balance, he does go on to describe the EDL in the way Robinson states, but it telling that he lists 600 members of that organisation as friends.

Here's another quote from Breivik. 

"Feb 28th: The Norwegian Intelligence Agency (PST) just released its annual report on terror
estimates in Norway. I have been waiting for this report for several weeks now. Apparently,
it’s the same expectations as usual when it comes to Islamic terror; imminent danger.
However, they then specify that the largest right wing threat in Norway is that a subsidiary
of English Defense League (EDL); Norwegian Defense League (NDL) is in the process of
gaining strength. They also state, between the lines, that both EDL and the NDL are
dangerous and violent right wing extremists that adhere to racism, fascism and Nazism."

This, in my view, is the tip of the nationalist, right wing iceberg. They're everywhere, and are every bit as nasty as the other fundamentalist groups our leaders would have us believe are the only threat to our peace and security. reader, beware.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Buachaille, Beauty and Betty

The title might at first glance seem strange, but those three 'Bs' sum up Glencoe for me. Approaching the glen from its eastern end, the huge massif of Buachaille Etive Mor, the Great Herdsman of Etive, is the first sign for me that I'm about to enter the brooding Glen of Sorrows. It's my favourite mountain, almost perfectly shaped from the right angle.

The Glen itself is darkly beautiful. If you know something of its history, it's hard not to let that colour your perception of it. For this reason, it can seem a melancholy place, especially when the weather is less than favourable. However, it is so much more. The Three Sisters, Aonach Dubh, Gearr Aonach and Beinn Fhada, each seem to use their huge buttresses to guard the southern flank of the Glen. On the northern side, the Aonach Eagach ridge runs 6km from Sron Garbh to Sgurr nam Fiannaidh, providing one of the country's premier ridge walks. All in all, the Glen really is beautiful and well worth a visit.

Then there's Betty. Betty Keyes, to be precise. She has worked at the new visitor centre since its inception in 2002, and appears to have loved every minute of it. Yesterday, one of the staff there told us she's often referred to as 'Mrs Glencoe' and that isn't really surprising, given her boundless enthusiasm. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I don't give money away lightly, and Betty has managed to sell us membership of the NTS twice now. I hope the NTS know what a diamond they have in Betty Keyes.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Cameron says he wouldn't have done it if he'd known then what he knows now. Milliband says he did know then what he knows now, but that he (Milliband) didn't know then what Cameron knows now. Clegg stares into the distance. Dennis Skinner (yes he really is still alive and kicking Tories) has a bash, but Dangerous Dave is too slick for him. Still, it's good to see the old war donkey braying, just to let us know he's not quite done yet.

Meanwhile, Rupe says those he trusted let him down. "Who did you trust? " "Her", he says pointing at Sarah Brown's slumber party playmate. "So she let you down?" "Oh no, I still trust her." Clegg stares into the distance.

By the way, is your sleep disturbed by images of Rupert, Gordon, Rebekah, Elizabeth and Sarah all sprauncing around Chequers in jammies? Doesn't it just make you shudder?

As the sun sets, Rupe wisely disappears into the western sky, leaving behind promises to 'look into it'. Clegg uncrosses his legs. He swivels around. He stares into the distance. Wise? Monkey? You decide.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Palais de Justice or Hammersmith Palais?

I hope you'll forgive the somewhat contrived title, but sometimes it really does seem that courts of law have become places of entertainment, trials appearing more like soap operas than proceedings designed to divine guilt or innocence. Today, Casey Anthony is free from prison. She is the American mother who was indicted for the murder of her young daughter Caylee. The whole of America, it seems, has a strong opinion on the fact that she was acquitted. It doesn't seem to matter that there was no strong forensic evidence to suggest that her daughter was murdered, much less than that Casey murdered her. The whole trial was about defining what kind of character she is. I have no compunction in saying that she is a pathological liar and was by all accounts an appalling mother. I think, although this is my opinion and not evidence of guilt, that she either played a part in or knows what caused the death of her daughter. She is clearly guilty of concealing the child's body. She led police in circles with one lie after another. How awful a human being she is is a given.

That's where I stop though. I cannot in all conscience decide whether the child died accidentally (unlikely, since the remains had duct tape over the mouth) and the mother and/or accomplices hid the body to avoid awkward questions, whether someone else she knew killed the child and she lied about it to protect them out of obsession or fear, whether she did the dirty deed herself or whether some other scenario yet to be invented by my warped imagination is nearer the truth. I just don't know, and no matter what you think you know, unless you're one of a very small number of people, perhaps as small as one, you don't either.  What I am fairly certain of is that the jurors in the case did the best they could with the evidence presented. The failings of the prosecution case lie squarely with the prosecution. Having read as much as I can find about the case, I really can't see how they could reasonably come up with another verdict.

The media, on the other hand, think otherwise. They apparently have a monopoly on truth. This woman's trial took place as so often happens in the media long before the trial started, and not totally without help from the prosecution team.

Looking back to the OJ Simpson murder trial, I found myself in a small minority when I described his acquittal as just. No matter whether the defendant is guilty or innocent, it can never be described as justice when the accuser is allowed to break the law in order to uphold the law. In the case of Simpson, the prosecution team perpetrated a vast conspiracy of untruth and invention. They got the only verdict their presentation of their case merited. I'm reasonably confident that a conviction based on such blatant lies would have been reversed at the appeal stage, as I also am with the Anthony case.

Just in case we on this side of the Atlantic get too comfortable, thinking it couldn't happen here, it does every day. The Megrahi case, with all the lies and suppression of evidence leading to the conviction of a man who is probably innocent, is evidence of that. People often ask of me, "So, you would be happy to see a guilty person walk free?". The answer is yes, absolutely and without reservation, given that the alternative the one asking that kind of idiotic question is that an innocent person might go to prison now and then. You know the saying; You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Another question is often posed; "If it was someone you loved who was murdered, wouldn't you want someone punished for it?" Well yes, of course, but not just anyone. I'd want to know with a great degree of certainty that the person convicted was the guilty party. Ask Dr. Jim Swire what it's like living every day knowing that, not only will you never see your beloved daughter again, but that a man you believe innocent of her murder still stands convicted, while the man or men who really did it are walking free. I don't envy him that, but I admire the way he continues to fight for that elusive Holy Grail, justice. I hope he lives to see it. I hope we all do.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Just for a change, how about one less for the sodding Gipper?

Is it me or is a dead President who couldn't remember his own name getting just a little too much credit for the fall of the Soviet Union? Is it all becoming just a bit vomit-inducing?  I'd strongly suggest a statue of Mikhail Gorbachev would be more appropriate. At least he had something to do with the whole affair, unlike the Gipper, a man who struggled to recall which hole his food went in. The old Spitting Image puppet of Reagan with the top of his head hinged up to reveal an empty space turned out to be so prophetic.

Under Ronnie, US debt spiralled almost out of control, with ridiculous projects like SDI (or Star Wars as the old fart liked to call it), a gigantic waste of taxpayers' money based on nothing more than boffins bullshitting politicians, who so badly wanted to believe what they were being told that they just ignored all the warning voices from those who could see what a laughing stock the US government would become. Nicaraguans died in their thousands thanks to the filthy deals done between the USA, Iran and the Contras in Nicaragua. Funds from arms sales to Iran were channeled to the Contras, specifically forbidden by Congress under the Boland Agreement. Remember all that? No? Neither could Ronnie. Then there was the invasion of Grenada, whereby Reagan's mob engineered for the Organisation of Eastern Carribean States to appeal for US intervention, an action which they'd already decide to take. It was a sham in that it once more reflected the USA's policy of simply ignoring international law and its own treaties when it saw self interest looming.

Who could have failed to feel the bile rising in the throat at the regular sight of Ron kissing Thatcher on the cheek (sorry if you're eating dinner and had tried to shake that image out of your head forever)? He was a slimy, despicable, domineering bully who deserved to be tried and imprisoned for crimes against humanity, not feted as being on of the great Presidents. They'll be making room for him on Mount Rushmore next.

Perestroika! Glasnost! These are phrases redolent of the real changes being made in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. "One more for the Gipper" isn't.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Lost in Translation.

"Disability Living Allowance (DLA) has not been fundamentally changed or updated since it 
was introduced, and no longer provides the framework for supporting disabled people that 
is needed in the 21st Century." - It's not broken, so we're going to fix it.

"Over the last 18 years, DLA has failed to keep pace with the 
changing approach to disability in society, as successive governments have not seized the 
opportunity to review how this benefit works to support the aspirations of disabled people 
today." - The idiots missed the chance to save a shed load of money by cutting back on benefits to some of society's most vulnerable people. Not me.

"As it stands, DLA is complex to apply for and to administer, lacks consistency in 
the way it supports disabled people with similar needs, and has no systematic process 
for checking the ongoing accuracy of awards. " - We can make it even harder and more discouraging to apply for.

"Now is the time to reform DLA and replace it with a new benefit for working-age disabled people. 
A benefit that better reflects the desire from disabled people to live independent lives, not to be 
labelled by a condition, but to be judged for what an individual can do not what they can’t. " - Now is the time to force disabled people back to work or out on the streets.

"I would like to thank the impressive number of individuals and organisations who took the time 
to respond to our public consultation on DLA reform. " - Of course, I'm not going to pay any attention to their needs. I mean, I'm not disabled.

"Currently 3.2 million people receive DLA, an increase of around 30 per cent in 
the past 8 years. The announced reduction in projected working-age spend by 2015/16 will 
bring working-age expenditure back to 2009/10 levels." - The disabled are going to get less money next year. I, on the other hand, will get a pay rise, on the level of which I will have a vote

Maria Miller, Minister for the Disabled

What did you think was going to happen? Did you think the Tories and their whores were going to have a change of heart and suddenly start caring about society's most vulnerable people? Before they're finished, they're going to find a way to shaft every one of us, concentrating on the disabled, elderly and impoverished. We (and I mean we, you and I) are going to keep paying bonuses to the industries which drove us, with the complicity of their political pals, into near bankruptcy. Tell them. Tell those thieving bastards Cameron and Clegg that we're onto them. We know what they're doing, and we're pissed off. Write to your MP, especially if he or she's a Tory or a Libwhore. Tell him or her that the birthright is ours, not his or hers. Tell him or her that he or she might want to ponder on the fragility of a delicately poised coalition government and the fickleness of the electorate. If Cameron thinks he's Thatcher, he's got another think coming. He's going to be looking for a new job a lot quicker than she was. Let's not make it any longer than necessary, shall we? Oh, and Maria, there's always voluntary euthanasia. Kerching.