Independence for Scotland: A Question

I’D LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION regarding Scottish independence – because I’m confused.

Every day I look at my Facebook page and Twitter feed, I read Scottish-based internet forums and online newspapers and come into contact many times daily with the views of a wide range of people in Scotland about all manner of things, obviously, especially the subject of independence for a good while now.

I see the polls and I look at the betting odds on the referendum. These consistently indicate a potential victory for the ‘No’ vote – not by much and certainly narrowing but consistent in their ratings of a few per cent in favour of staying together. They do not however, reflect what I am viewing and hearing from here – not even remotely so. I may have kindred views about many things with many of my friends in Scotland who I am in contact with regularly but by no means have my friends and acquaintances been chosen on the basis of their politics or opinion regarding the referendum. Indeed many of these people have been friends for a good number of years now and all we perhaps usually had in common outwardly originally was a liking for a certain football team in Edinburgh who play in green and white.

So here I am a few miles down the road in Nottingham, wondering exactly what is going on here? There is NOTHING about these forecasts that rings true to me from my personal experiences with the people I know who have a vote. To that end I have also observed every dirty trick in the book being played in the long run-up to this crucial vote that will decide the future of these islands and it leads me to believe that the above projection on the likely outcome on 18th September, 2014 is quite likely another piece of subterfuge – another grand lie intended to dupe the Scottish electorate into believing there is no hope of independence. Take the wind out of the sails of the ‘Yes’ vote. This and other Better Together strategies appears to have achieved little but galvanise the cause of independence, so insulting, threatening and condescending in tone have they generally been.

I’ve made my own views clear previously that I wish for independence for Scotland, I hope obviously then that the majority of Scottish people who read these words feel similar. Having said that this is still a democracy so respect to those that don’t share my view. In the meantime I’d genuinely love to hear an opinion or two on this conundrum? Am I inclined towards paranoia or is this the greatest lie of them all? After all, what part of the establishment can really be trusted now?

I’m not really looking for a debate on the whys and wherefores of Scottish independence here as others will debate that much better than me. The above is a question I’m curious as to other’s opinions about though.

Edinburgh – Time for Home

FRIDAY THE NINTH OF MAY, 2014 rolls inexorably closer and it’s almost at long last time to go back to Edinburgh. It is always time to go back to Edinburgh but this occasion feels especially significant.

The past few weeks since the calamitous and tragic loss of my dear partner, Sue have at times been shocking, harrowing, lonely and at times isolating. There have been ‘good’ things of course and at the forefront of that is the support I have received from my family and true friends, almost universally. I have learned much about myself, about life and about people. I take these lessons forwards as I plan a rebuild of my life alone. It is a rehabilitation process and not at times without it’s difficulties. I keep trying, I Persevere and (unbelievably to me at one point) I am still standing


Those early dark days of February saw a call to that dear group of volunteers, The Samaritans, when at first it all felt just a little too much and I didn’t wish to go on. There was another long talk with a suicide bereavement counsellor who spoke to me in a straight and forthright manner. How could I ever live the rest of my life after this horrendous experience? What meaning did it have? Survival mode kicked into place and I decided to play this game of life with a straight bat, without the ‘assistance’ of medication or by misusing alcohol.

I also knew instinctively that my friends could help too, by talking, by me asking for and accepting their support. None more so than a close friend here in Nottingham, my dear friends in Edinburgh of so many years and by a new friend from that city brought to me like an angel. I won’t embarrass those people but if you’re reading, you know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for me.

So on to tomorrow. I catch that familiar train and will walk upon Edinburgh ground by lunchtime tomorrow. I have awaited this time and upon feeling ‘up to’ doing it. Being in and around Edinburgh, with all it’s memories can have a powerfully emotional feeling for me and I needed to be ready to use that constructively. I’m now ready and it’s part of the pathway ‘back’ for me.

I have a Hibs-related surprise awaiting me tomorrow! A sweet gesture by my aforementioned new friend which I in turns feel intrigued and happy about. The fates have conspired to offer up a hugely important game for my beloved Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday which I will attend. Excellent sense of theatre lads but I nevertheless wish you had sorted out the relegation worries ahead of my visit to Leith! God bless the Hibs.

Anyway, I’ll try to fight the impulse to get down on the floor and kiss good old Edinburgh ground when I alight at Waverley tomorrow. After all, I’ve things to do and good people to meet. The very best. Wha’s like you?

When you pull on the Dark Blue of Scotland…

You don’t behave like Barry Ferguson and Allan MacGregor

The Glasgow Rangers pair have been in the news this week for all the wrong reasons as Scotland battle to gain their way to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After the Scottish capitulation to Holland by 0-3 in Amsterdam, Scotland captain chose to spend the whole night on a drinking spree with stand-in goalkeeper, MacGregor. Doubtless other Scotland players are not innocent but Ferguson appears to have no respect that he has had the honour of captaining his country upon him.


There are various lurid stories about what actually happened on the night after the Holland game but what comes across very clearly is that these two ‘professionals’ seem to have little respect for their country or the army of fans that follow Scotland around enthusiastically. Surely, at least the fans deserve better than this?

The Scottish manager, George Burley acted promptly after the incident by dropping both players. It was also rumoured that Ferguson may relinquish his captaincy also. Unfortunately the weak and mealy-mouthed Burley turned his decision around by re-instating both players to the team bench for the crucial Scotland-Iceland clash last Wednesday evening. Surely this sends out completely the wrong message regarding team discipline?

Continue reading “When you pull on the Dark Blue of Scotland…”

The Italian Chapel, Orkney

Orkney is a group of seventy islands some ten miles off the coast of Caithness in the Highlands of Scotland, twenty of which are inhabited. I have to confess to a slight fascination, if not affinity to Orkney as my late father went to work as a young man on the submarine base, Scapa Flow there, though I have little knowledge of his time on the islands in his days before he joined the Merchant Navy just prior to WWII.

The Italian Chapel, Orkney

Although visiting the Highlands and Islands of Scotland many times, I have never yet managed to make the sojourn to Orkney and that is to my regret. For a comparatively small place, The islands of Orkney have much to offer the visitor, including some of the finest examples of Neolithic dwellings such as Skara Brae and various monuments. Once under Norwegian rule, Orkadians still refer to the major island in Orkney as ‘the mainland’ as opposed to the Scottish mainland. The afore-mentioned Scapa Flow has been a natural harbour since the days of the Vikings and has a too remarkable history to be merely glanced through here. Today I want to concentrate on a building, built with much love and faith, that has become a visitor attraction over the decades since WWII, The Italian Chapel which sits on a barren hillside on the island of Lamb Holm. Orkney saw some 550 Italian prisoners captured in North Africa brought to it’s shores in 1942 and Camp 60 consisted of 13 huts and became the Italian POW’s home until 1945. The Italians looked after their new ‘home’ creating concrete paths and flower gardens whilst one prisoner, Domenico Chiocchetti created a statue of St. George fighting the dragon which still stands to this day. The statue was ingeniously crafted by barbed wire covered with concrete – two of the main resources available to the prisoners.


One resource not available to the Italian prisoners was that of a chapel and after consultation by a new camp commandant, Major Buckland and the camp padre, Father Giacombazzi, it was decided that two back-to-back Nissen huts would be provided for the purpose. the prisoners themselves would be charged with making the building into a chapel. Here is the part of the story that I find so touching. The Italians set to, constructing an altar from concrete, painting the glass of the windows. Some items were purchased from the prisoner’s own meagre funds. Chiocchetti himself painted the intricate decorations of the inner walls. A wrought iron screen was engineered by a former iron worker who had spent time in that occupation in the USA whilst other prisoners worked on plasterboarding to make it resemble brickwork. Others created a belfry atop the small chapel and a head of Christ which sat above the doorway. The ending of the war meant that the finished place of worship was only used for a short time ironically though it soon became a visitor attraction. Domenico Chiocchetti, after staying in Lamb Holm initially to finish his labour of love, kept up his association with the chapel however, firstly through a BBC-funded return to re-paint his masterwork and a few years later on, in 1964, to donate 14 wooden Stations of the Cross. In 1992 on the 50th anniversary of the inception of the chapel’s construction, eight of the original Italian prisoners of war came back to visit their chapel in an emotional reunion. Sadly Domenico Chiocchetti was not amongst them being too unwell to travel. Domenico passed away in his home town of Moena in 1999 at a grand old 89 years of age. He left the people of his adopted home with a building of rare beauty, one that was built from love. The Italian Chapel still stands as a testament to peace after those years of conflict and as a symbol of the islanders and the Italian’s kindredship and kindness towards each other despite the rigours or war.

Domenico Chiocchetti, 1910 – 1999

My Guide To Scotland

I love the country of my origins, I most sincerely do. There are however, numerous myths, mysteries and even downright untruths lurking ready to trip up the unsuspecting tourist and spoil that special, once-in-a-lifetime holiday to the Auld Country. There are quite a few stereotypes that surround Scotland and the Scots which can be unhelpful and misleading . In this short guide I hope to dispel some of the innacuracies associated with the subjects of:

* Climate

* Language

* Meanness

* Social Drinking

* The Loch Ness Monster

* The Haggis

* Highland Dress


So, to begin…

You know it’s Summer when:

It never gets dark – apart from when it’s night-time.

Scots drive around in their cars with the windows open wide and the heaters on maximum.

Acres of scaffolding suddenly appear around Scotland’s proliferation of historic buildings. Gift shops and craft shops mysteriously appear from thin air.

Outdoor pursuits such as cycling become extremely popular in the summer months in Scotland

Overcome those language difficulties:

If someone offers you a Glasgow Kiss, always refuse.

A Square Go is actually a threat of impending physical violence. lways worth avoiding in Scotland.

The Term Sex in Scotland refers to the thing people have their potatoes (tatties) delivered in.

Other vital words you might need to know:

Tattie Bogle – scarecrow

Minging – extremely smelly

Spirtle – porridge stirrer

Scottish meanness: The Truth

Teabags are re-used up to thirty-six times in some rural areas of Scotland.

A well-bred Scot will always attend a wedding with elastic on his confetti.

Copper wire was first invented by two Aberdonians fighting over a two pence coin.

It was reported recently in the Edinburgh Evening News that two taxis collided on the High Street . Three people were said to be seriously injured. The other twenty-two escaped with just cuts and bruises.

It was a Scot who invented the first cure for seasickness by leaning over the side of a boat with a ten pence in his mouth.

A Scot emerges victorious from where he dropped a fifty pence piece three days ago

Scottish pubs typically:

Have a jukey (jukebox) which continually plays Flower of Scotland – (twelve-inch disco mix).

‘Happy Hour’ is better known as ‘Frugal Hour’. During this hour of high jinks the bar staff traditionally refuse to offer any change to the customer. See square go.

Have locals who are obliged to offer a stunned silence when tourists enter the bar.

The end of another cracking night out on Lothian Road, Edinburgh

Loch Ness Monster sightings are often caused by:

Cardboard cut-outs constructed by the local primary school children.


English hoaxsters dressed in papier mache costumes.

Haggis Facts:

The first haggis birth in captivity made national headlines in April 2001, when Doctor Angus McCoatup delivered a twelve pound eleven ounce baby haggis in the Inverness Safari Park’s special unit. The haggis, affectionately named ‘Harry’ by the park’s staff, is hoped to be a visitor attraction for many years to come. It is understood that with the right care, the Highland Haggis can live for up to seventy-two year.

The heaviest recorded haggis weighed in at eighteen stone four ounces and was caught by an East Lothian farmer in 1907.

The ancient sport of haggis baiting has become ever more popular since the 1970s. This has lead to a genuine fear of extinction for Scotland’s indigenous animal. Haggis experts believe that if the sport of haggis hunting, using packs of docile Skye Terriers is not properly licensed, this remarkable creature could face extinction by 2025.

Wearing the Kilt

The wearing of Highland Dress has always been popular amongst Scots, especially for special occasions. Weddings and other formal affairs plus sporting occasions such as football and rugby matches featuring the national teams regularly see plenty of tartan swathing. It’s also useful because:

The burdz love it.

It can be used an an impromptu hang glider/fishing net/sleeping bag

Another popular use is for drunken bullfighting when holidaying on the Spanish Costas.

There are some wonderful new designs and tartans specifically targeted at the discerning tourist. The illustration below shows our model wearing the latest shocking pink creation woven from fabric that was first used for the Apollo space missions.


A Highland Tour: Introduction

On the 14th August 1773 James Boswell and Samuel L Johnson embarked upon an 83 day tour of the Highlands recording their observations towards their destination of Skye. Whilst not attempting to emulate their tremendous but somewhat formalised view of their journey, mine has been a great pleasure over the years in touring the Highlands of the country I love and I’d like to relate some of my own observations of the area.

It wasn’t a single tour as such, but rather a culmination of many, collated as a suggested holiday for a good friend interested in seeing a selection of the glorious landscape. For ease’s sake I have split the tour into separate sections as all of the places I talk about are, for me, very precious and special ones.

Now enjoy the road to the Isles…