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Monday, 3 December 2012

Gladys Delarm

An era ended this morning. Gladys Delarm passed at the age of 102 in South Carolina. She was my wife Brenda's maternal grandmother and had lived a long and fruitful life. I got the chance to meet her at last around eight years ago and wasn't disappointed. She was an amazing woman, full of surprises and had an impish air about her. When I met her, of course, she was merely in her mid-nineties, apparently showing some signs of deafness and dementia. Or so I thought, until I made a mistake playing a card game called Skip-Bo. Gladys was all over me like a rash. She was as sharp as a tack. From a French Canadian background, she hailed from Camden, New York and was something of a local celebrity having reached the age of 102 earlier this year. She had spent the last few years with her son Mick and daughter-in-law Kriss, latterly in Taylor, South Carolina, where the climate seemed to suit her.

Brenda doted on her Gram, as did most of the family. Her daughter Carol, Brenda's mother, would always try to spend time with Gram when passing through going to or from Florida, where she spends her winters. I'm personally glad that Brenda spoke to her Gram on the phone only last week at Thanksgiving. I hope that in time Brenda will tell some of the may stories of her Gram, because they're worth listening to. Meanwhile, this is truly a life worth celebrating. Goodbye Gladys and thanks for the memories.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Cancer, schmancer

I spent last night helping to man the phones at one of ScottishPower's call centres supporting the Channel 4 'Stand up to Cancer' campaign. the task was simple; to accept donations. I'm not sure what I expected, but it was an eye opener. By the end of the evening, I'd been through something of an emotional roller coaster, but I'd do it all again. One thing that did strike me was that an awful lot of help came from people who couldn't really afford to be all that generous, yet gave as much as they could. A large proportion of them were pensioners, and almost everyone had a story to tell about cancer.

One gentleman of over 70 had just had the all clear after having 27 lymph nodes removed and having had a course of chemo. He was crying as he spoke of watching the programme. "Kids shouldn't have to suffer that.", he said. A lot of this was tough to listen to, but I console myself with this thought. If it was hard to hear, it's a damn sight harder to live. Thanks if you contributed. Be well.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Pie in the sky?


Numbers. Just numbers, for now. The Earth receives around 12.2 million watt-hours per square mile per year. This equates, worldwide, to 274,000,000 gigawatt years. Another way of putting that is that we receive 8.2 million quads (quadrillion Btu). With me so far? Now, the earth's population, use around 400 quads to serve all our energy needs. So, is it possible that we could eventually serve all our energy needs from solar radiation alone? Yup.

It's not easy. We're up against lots of problems. There are definitely some huge technological hurdles to be overcome, but we are a race which managed to put men on the moon using technology less powerful than your mobile phone. Of course it's possible and if we all want it badly enough, it's likely. Don't let anyone tell you it can't be done.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Proud to be Scottish - honest.

It's been a while coming, but at last Scotland is to lead the way in the UK by enacting legislation to enable same-sex marriage. Another group of our citizens are to be given equal treatment and equal responsibilities. I for one am delighted, and I'm proud that the majority appear to be on board with the idea. Mind you, there are some nay-sayers. Philip Tartaglia, the new Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow claims he's received letters and emails accusing him of homophobia after the statements he's made on the subject. Welcome to the world of the LGBT community Phil. You ought to try living in a society where those who ought to know better whip up all kinds of hysteria against minorities. Oh, wait, you do live in such a society, and you're doing a lot of the whipping. Live with it.


He went on to say he believed religious freedom was now under threat from undemocratic and intolerant forces. So, kind of like his church then? Tolerance and democracy aren't exactly the watchwords of Catholicism.  Here's some more.

"A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: "The Scottish Government is embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale.
"However, the church looks much further than the short-term electoral time-scales of politicians.
"We strongly suspect that time will show the Church to have been completely correct in explaining that same-sex sexual relationships are detrimental to any love expressed within profound friendships.
"However, in the short term and long term the Church does not see same-sex marriage as an appropriate and helpful response to same-sex attraction."

A social experiment? Is that how this Neanderthal sees it? Equality is a dangerous social experiment. Remember that. That's the official church line. This from the organisation that won't countenance the use of condoms to counteract the effects of one of the world's worst epidemics, AIDS. The church doesn't look further, it looks back and yearns for a time when it ruled with a rod of iron.

Not that the RC church is alone in its opposition to progress. Many other churches take a similar stance. I'll repeat what I said before to a member of the clergy. Stand for election, get elected and make a difference. You don't get two votes, one for you and one for the club of which you're a member. Stinks, doesn't it?

So, well done the Scottish Government, I was against devolution. I've already admitted I was wrong. Now I know I was right about being wrong.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Keith, I'll vote for you. Aye, right.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien hit the papers today, attempting to 'intensify pressure on Alex Salmond over same-sex marriage by calling for a referendum on the proposals...'. Uh huh. Apparently 'far more people' are concerned about same-sex ceremonies than independence. Uh huh. Apparently over 27,000 people have signed a petition against the government's plans. Out of a population somewhere south of 5 million. Uh huh.

Let's deal with the word marriage first. It's a word. Nothing more nor less. It's an English word, so reference to Biblical concepts are meaningless. The Bible wasn't written in English, so the word is irrelevant. Next, to the concept of equality. If heterosexual couples are given certain rights based on their formalised nature of their relationship, then those rights are bound by any laws of common decency to be afforded to all who form similar relationships, same-sex or not. 


The Biblical arguments put forward by the RC and other churches are, of course, powerful anti-gay motivators. However, I do feel 'Christians' ought to be careful of what they wish for. If Biblical exhortations are to be used, how do we select which ones to be used and which ignored? Ought we to stone people for adultery? Ought we to execute gays? It's not exactly light reading, but try ten minuites or so of Leviticus. You might see things a tad differently.


Now we reach morality. I get mine from what I believe to be a well-grounded sense of right and wrong, instilled in me by a father who was not a believer, a mother who was but never once attempted to force her beliefs on me, and a lifetime of experience, observing as I went how cruel both the spiritual and secular organisations who loom so large in our lives could be in achieving their, ultimately, identical ends. Those ends are control and profit. You don't think the churches seek profit? Uh huh. Take a wee peek in the Vatican vaults.

Here's the deal. If Cardinal O'Brien will accept as binding a referendum on the RC church's attitude to birth control, I will canvass votes for him when he resigns his nice comfortable job to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament. Otherwise, my advice is, nice try. In a democracy, we value the whole of the people, not a narrow interest group, although I can't for the life of me understand what interest is served by a 'Christian' persecuting a minority group. You've probably noticed the inverted commas I've used around the word 'Christian' a couple of times. They were deliberate. Since Christ appears to me to have preached love and tolerance in his teachings, perhaps these people ought to use another name. Persecutionists perhaps?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

What if we called it Team England?

I'm British. I live in Great Britain. I'm told I should support Team GB in the Olympics, but I can't. The reason is that it isn't really Team GB. Northern Ireland isn't in Great Britain, but it is in the UK. Given that those who administer the UK effort know this, they are also aware that to call it Team GB is to insult the 1.7 million or so people who live there. If you're Scottish or Welsh, would you support Team England?

Of course, there will be a lot of people who simply laugh this off. It's not important. So here's the deal. Have your say. Let's see how many people from NI say it isn't an issue. I'll watch the Olympics, but I won't take any pleasure in Team GB wins.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Paisley RFC 2nd XV 31 - 10 Renfrew RFC

Paisley 2nds played host to Renfrew on Saturday on what was a near perfect day in terms of weather. Paisley had had quite a few call offs, so found themselves with several players out of position, notably with center Andy Conroy in his first start at fly half. Conroy's kicking game was virtually non-existent, but he did well in an unfamiliar position, leading the charge with one or two line breaks and some sharp passing along the line to new centres Marcus Cooper and Pascal Nissen.

Renfrew kicked off and immediately felt the pressure as Paisley set about camping in their half. For the next ten minutes, Paisley battered away at Renfrew's line until, after a flurry of quick rucks, scrum half Calum Walker made a break, feeding lock Gary Riddell for the opening score, duly converted by Paul Di Duca. Paisley were then guilty of a lapse in concentration as they allowed Renfrew to come back at them almost immediately, the home defence allowing a chip to the corner to be dotted down by the visiting winger.

However, Paisley were quickly back in familiar territory, moving fluently through ruck after ruck, recycling with uncharacteristic efficiency. After 32 minutes they got their reward for all the hard work, as Nissen, spotting that the Renfrew blind side wing had gone missing, screamed for the ball, duly provided by Walker, allowing Nissen to canter in unopposed from around 35 metres out. With Di Duca again converting, the game turned around at 14-5.

The second half saw more of the same, although a series of changes in personnel interrupted the flow somewhat. Five minutes in, the spectators were treated to what was probably the most dramatic moment of the afternoon as captain Gordon 'Flash' McPhee took the ball for a run starting at the half way line, sidestepping several flailing tacklers before rounding the corner and touching down under the posts. Nine minutes later, Number 8 Paul Di Duca had a fine individual run, committing the defence before releasing Euan Stuart to score in the corner. Shortly after that, paisley committed their second and final error in judgement of the afternoon, allowing the Renfrew 8 to pick up and trundle over for second try.

However, Paisley were not quite done. Five minutes from the end of play, hooker Antonio Jimenez picked the ball from the ruck and barreled over the line for the final score of the game. As the score suggests, Paisley dominated this game, with the scrum suffering no real problems. Scrum half Walker made his opposite number's life a misery, causing some the put-ins to be taken against the head, with Jimenez having one of his best days stealing opposition ball. The line out functioned well and the back row made things very difficult for the visitors with Colin McKay, the under 18 open side, proving why his coaches wax lyrical about him. Matt John stone at full back didn't have an enormous amount to do, but covered his position with confidence. Late in the game Iain Milne replaced Walker at scrum half, a position he has very little experience in, but handled it well.

After the game, team manager Jim Lewis said, " This is what makes it worthwhile putting in all the time arranging, worrying and organising it takes to get a game played. To watch the joy with which Paisley played the game today was wonderful. I'm very proud of every one of them. Even Craig Thomson, out with an ankle injury, showed how a team member behaves, running touch, delivering first aid and generally helping me to do the job. It's good to be King!" The Man of the Match award went to Pascal Nissen, player in his first season who has shown a real talent for rugby and played with intelligence and bravery while playing in a position which placed him outside his comfort zone.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Aren't we the lucky ones?

I am deeply honoured that a man as busy and so deeply respected worldwide as the saviour of Aberdeenshire and its natural heritage, Donald Trump, has once more leapt to the defence of the Scottish environment. He's at war with that wicked Alex Salmond, whose only mandate is through a majority in the Scottish Parliament, so long the bane of the life of St. Donald of Trump Towers, over the said demon's determination to meet green energy targets by having all of Scotland's energy needs serviced by renewable sources by 2020. That seems a bit unrealistic, so we shouldn't bother trying, right?

Saint Donald has wheeled his mighty organisation behind Communities Against Turbines Scotland. Cats (for such is their witty acronym) quite rightly voice concerns over the proliferation of admittedly ugly turbines, particularly in one spot it seems. From his spokesman:

"All the great links golf courses, that people from all over the world have enjoyed for centuries, are now being threatened."

Really? I really didn't know that people had travelled from all over the world to play golf, and for hundreds of years. Wow.




 "Another proposal we were shocked to find is at Loch Ness. If you stop 90% of the people in the street in New York they would associate Scotland with Loch Ness. It is an iconic part of Scotland.
"We were shocked to find out there is a proposal to put 150 turbines above it. It is complete madness. What we found was there is tremendous local opposition to many of these proposals."
Quite right. And if you stopped the same people in the street and asked them what they would associate with Ireland, I'm sure they'd mention leprechauns and pots o'gold. You see, Americans are known to be world leaders in environmental protection. Just have a look around Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
If you feel I'm being a tad cynical here, you're not that perceptive. I'm being very cynical. This guy, with his used toupee salesman appearance, doesn't give a toss about Loch Ness or "all the great links courses". He is, however, somewhat peeved that the view from his sizeable slice of Aberdeenshire will be marred by offshore turbines.

To quote from 'Benvironment':
"Yep, according to this news story Donald Trump has expressed concerns that an offshore windfarm could spoil the view his guests will get from his new golf resort.
Awww.  Personally, I’m having trouble caring.  This, from an organisation that knowingly built on a protected area, erected dirt banks and trees around neighbours they didn’t like (and thus obscured their VIEWS)……and wanted to evict existing residents through compulsory purchase orders…..for personal profit."
Is it all starting to make sense now? I thought so. Mr Trump, who still believes Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and is still attempting to buy the US Presidency, must not be allowed to buy Scotland to add to his portfolio. He's a bully,and bullies generally end up with a bloody nose. Let's give him one.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Craig

A friend passed from our lives this week, a boy really, less than a year older than my own elder son. Some people enter your life fleetingly and leave a lasting impression. Craig Grumoli was one of those people. Craig played for Paisley Rugby Club for a relatively short space of time before moving to Ireland to start a new life. I didn’t really get to spend a lot of time with him, but the little time I did was highly enjoyable. When my wife Brenda was in Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital, Craig took time from his own busy working life at the hospital to visit her and bring her some of his trademark cheer, just because that’s the kind of man he was. Such small kindnesses are long remembered.

If I have one lasting image of this young man, it was his almost constant smile. As a rugby player he was uncompromising and never took a backward step, but above all else his sheer joy in taking part in a game he loved stood out.  Of course, the social side of the game didn’t pass him by. He had a wild side to him which could be something to behold. Add to this a rapier wit (I can’t think of anyone better at the lightning reply), and you have a picture of a guy who was a lot of fun to be around.

Thanks Craig. Thanks for caring, thanks for the joy of watching you play and thanks for the fun and the kindness you spread around. Above all, thanks for being our friend. The boys at the club, Brenda and I will miss you terribly, but we’ll never forget you.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Is it me?

On a day when there are more important things to see on the news (Fred Goodwin having to change his stationery for one) isn't it just a tad wearying to watch Tweedledum and Tweedledumber spitting venom across the Despatch Box? We really need their mothers to march in there and march them right back out, to be grounded for six months.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Plus ça change...

Colonel Robert Bowman flew 101 combat missions in Vietnam. At the time of writing the following (1998), he was  bishop of the United Catholic Church in Melbourne Beach, FL. This was of course three years before the Sept. 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. 

'If deceptions about terrorism go unchallenged, then the threat will continue until it destroys us.
The truth is that none of our thousands of nuclear weapons can protect us from these threats. No Star Wars system no matter how technically advanced, no matter how many trillions of dollars are poured into it, can protect us from a nuclear weapon delivered in a sailboat or a Cessna or a suitcase or a Ryder rental truck. Not one weapon in our vast arsenal, not a penny of the $270 billion a year we spend on so-called defense can defend against a terrorist bomb. That is a military fact.
As a retired lieutenant colonel and a frequent lecturer on national security issues, I have often quoted Psalm 33: "A king is not saved by his mighty army. A warrior is not saved by his great strength." The obvious reaction is, "Then what can we do?" Is there nothing we can do to provide security for our people?"
There is. But to understand it requires that we know the truth about the threat. President Clinton did not tell the American people the truth about why we are the targets of terrorism when he explained why we bombed Afghanistan and Sudan. He said that we are a target because we stand for democracy, freedom, and human rights in the world. Nonsense!
We are the target of terrorists because, in much of the world, our government stands for dictatorship, bondage, and human exploitation. We are the target of terrorists because we are hated. And we are hated because our government has done hateful things.
In how many countries have agents of our government deposed popularly elected leaders and replaced them with puppet military dictators who were willing to sell out their own people to American multinational corporations?
We did it in Iran when the US Marines and the CIA deposed Mossadegh because he wanted to nationalize the oil industry. We replaced him with the Shah and armed, trained, and paid his hated Savak National Guard, which enslaved and brutalized the people of Iran, all to protect the financial interests of our oil companies. Is it any wonder that there are people in Iran who hate us?
We did it in Chile. We did it in Vietnam. More recently, we tried to do it in Iraq. And, of course, how many times have we done it in Nicaragua and all the other banana republics of Latin America? Time after time we have ousted popular leaders who wanted the riches of the land to be shared by the people who worked it. We replaced them with murderous tyrants who would sell out their own people so the wealth of the land could be taken out by the likes of Domino Sugar, Folgers, and Chiquita Banana.
In country after country, our government has thwarted democracy, stifled freedom, and trampled human rights. That's why it is hated around the world. And that's why we're the target of terrorists.
People in Canada enjoy democracy, freedom, and human rights. So do the people of Norway and Sweden. Have you heard of Canadian embassies being bombed? Or Norwegian, or Swedish?
We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations. That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism and in the future, nuclear terrorism.
Once the truth about why the threat exists is understood, the solution becomes obvious. We must change our ways. Getting rid of our nuclear weapons unilaterally if necessary will enhance our security. Drastically altering our foreign policy will ensure it.
Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children. Instead of continuing to kill hundreds of Iraqui children every day with our sanctions, we should help Iraquis rebuild their electric power plants, their water treatment facilities, their hospitals, and all the things we have destroyed and prevented them from rebuilding.
Instead of training terrorists and death squads, we should close the School of the Americas [Ft. Benning, GA.]. Instead of supporting insurrection, destabilization, assassination, and terror around the world, we should abolish the CIA and give money to relief agencies.
In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? That is the truth the American people need to hear.'

I came across this article by accident the other day and was immediately struck by how little things have changed. Now, this particular piece might have specifically targeted US foreign policy, but we in the UK aren't exactly innocent dupes. Our governments increasingly go along with the atrocious actions of the USA. In fact, you don't need to cast your mind back too far to when the Blair regime, ignoring the clear wishes of our people, and with the open cooperation of the opposition parties, went to war alongside America, a war based largely on lies propagated by Blair himself (The Niger yellow-cake uranium claims, the '45 minute' invention etc.).

The difference perhaps is that it's a bit harder now for Western governments to keep the rest of us from knowing about it. Of course, we have to want to know what's happening under our noses and in our name. The Occupy movement and others might give some hope that at last citizens are beginning to wake up to what going on around them, but that kind of action needs not only to be maintained, but expanded. I'm not naïve enough to believe that anything I write will have more than passing interest to a handful of people. In fact, most won't even get to read it, but it's important nevertheless that those of us who feel strongly enough at least register that fact and this is my way of doing so.

If you take nothing more from this, please at least consider the question; why do they hate us? If you're content to buy the old line of horse doody that 'they' hate our democracy, our freedom, there's nothing I can do to change your mind. If, on the other hand, you do question conventional wisdom, you need do no more than to ask yourself just how much democracy and freedom we do have. They'd have to be pretty stupid to envy us what we don't have. 

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic love to tell us that 'freedom isn't free'. These dinosaurs, who almost always manage to keep themselves and their families out of any conflict, waffle on about how disrespectful of the war dead it is to use our freedoms for purposes other than those to which they would limit us. I say it is they who disrespect the war dead by trying to limit the freedoms for which these brave men and women fought. 

So, ask questions, take nothing as read. If you're reading this, you're sitting right on top of a vast repository of knowledge. Take a break from the latest online game and spend a little time, just a little, finding out things which are important. Don't take my word for it...

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Ooh, Matron!

It's happened at last. A jury has seen sense and might force the ridiculous Obscene Publications Act to be reformed. Michael Peacock was acquitted yesterday of six counts of publishing obscene materials. The OPA defines obscene materials as that which 'tends to corrupt or deprave'. The DVDs marketed by Peacock might reasonably be said to contain images which would stretch the bounds of decency, but the likelihood of them corrupting or depraving anyone seems pretty slim to me. Given that the acts performed were some pretty 'out there' ones (gay fisting, urination etc.), it's fairly hard to envisage anyone renting the wrong DVD at Blockbuster and being scarred for life as a result.

Now here's the problem I have with all this nonsense. The acts contained in the offending articles are without exception legal ones between consenting adults. Why then might it be considered illegal for anyone else to voluntarily pay to watch them? I find 'reality' TV repulsive, but would it be right for me to legislate against it? I was horrified to switch on my television one night to find myself staring in awe at that weasel George Galloway on all fours pretending to be a cat, licking his 'paws' and to clean his whiskers, all in an apparent attempt at impressing a Polish countess. I hate to think of this absolutely shocking waste of the gift that is television, but I absolutely stand by the right of anyone stupid enough to watch this stuff the right to do so without interference.

In this case, the prosecution lawyer had the unmitigated gall to describe the likely audience for this kind of material as, "a man, in his 40s, married,  whose wife doesn't know of his secret sexual tastes." So, are we to believe that, if this material were never published, this "man in his 40s" would continue to lead a perfectly 'normal' life?  I imagine the jury was as unimpressed by this delusion as I am.

The OPA was and is an attempt to legislate morality. I am sick and tired of politicians, that happy band of highly moral lawgivers, constantly telling me what's good for me. I'm a grown up and perfectly capable of making my own mind up as to what publications I invest my hard earned in. This was a victory for sexual freedom, but it was more than that. It was a warning to those who think they know better than us that it's time they had a rethink. I seriously doubt, though, that it will occur to them for one minute to pay the slightest attention.

By the way, do you want to know what I think is obscene? Well, I'll tell you. I find footage taken from a smart bomb's onboard camera as it flies down the air vent of an air raid shelter, killing several hundred civilians obscene. Think we'll ever tire of showing that before the watershed?