#SoldOut Raising Funds and Awareness

I recall many years ago standing on the terraces at Hampden Park, Glasgow with 145,000 other rabid fans, waiting for the teams to come out of the tunnel to begin the annual Scotland v England ‘Home International’ football,(soccer), game. There would always be 140,000 Scots and about 5,000 English fans in attendance. As a Scot, born and bred, I was brought up, just like the majority of others who were standing around me, to ‘hate’ the English with a vengeance. It was just part of our parochial culture at that time, and probably still is today, although I have not lived in Scotland for 40 years and with the demise of Scottish football and an awareness that political correctness is now the order of the day, perhaps the ferocity of that hatred has mellowed. The two teams, now standing in the center of the field, would face the main stand, where all the dignitaries were seated, and the British national anthem would begin, God Save the Queen. This was before the Scots were allowed to sing their own anthem, a change in protocol that occurred some years later. The band, yes, a real brass or bagpipe band, would strike up the first chord and immediately there would be a wall of noise emanating from the Scottish support just booing as loud as possible at the UK anthem. It completely drowned out the band and any semblance they had in mind of being heard as a unit. We hated that anthem, supposedly, and we all gave it little or indeed no respect. Within seconds, our vocal distaste of everything that the British Monarchy stood for was demonstrated by this blasphemous howling and booing which seemed to last an eternity, but which in fact lasted only about 120 seconds, the length of the British national anthem being quite short. Once over, the game began and the fact that 140,000 Scottish football fanatics had remonstrated vocally against our forced inclusion under the monarchy we all loved, or at least some of us loved, was soon forgotten as the football took over and blood and guts was then spilled on the field of play rather than on the streets of Glasgow. It should also be noted that while the anthem was sung by the players on the field from the England team, all the Scottish team just stood in silence, some smiling, some not, but to a tee, not one of the Scottish team would sing along. It was an unwritten rule, followed religiously. Silent protests against supposed oppression, acceptable and respected throughout the world. No harm done, no one to cry foul. Until now!

When Colin Kaepernick knelt down for the Star Spangled Banner whilst playing for the San Francisco 49rs some two years ago, the whole world, at least the world that surrounded American Football and Donald Trump, went berserk, and for what reason? Well as far as I can tell, the National Anthem was never played at any sporting event before the end of the second world war. And even after that, there were sports events in the USA where the anthem remained just a figment of everyone’s imagination, laying silent as battle commenced on the field of play. So why, all of a sudden, after Kaepernick and some of his fellow Pro’s decided to protest, quite justifiably in silence to make what has turned out to be a very relevant point on an issue that has haunted this country for generations, has the President of the United States and the owners of some of the football teams where protests have been continual and well publicized, lost the plot by telling players they will be fired if they continue to ‘abuse their privilege’? There is not one reason on earth why anyone should be forced to alter their beliefs, especially those who feel threatened or abused and more especially inside a country that not only preaches pure democracy and a right to free speech to the whole planet, but a country that encourages its populous to be vocal in the form of protest when under threat of unjustifiable racism. Racism is rife in America. You can smell it in the streets, it’s a pollution that has become silent in its poisoning of its population. Racism cannot be tolerated, hatred of anyone, any race, any creed and any color has to be kicked out, but, unfortunately, and in the opinion of this author, it’s just being swept under an already filthy carpet, where, when the dust is uncovered, it becomes a mountain of trash that is becoming ever worse and unstoppable, fueled by a President and government that just turns a blind eye and looks the other way whilst telling us all, quite disingenuously that there is absolutely nothing wrong! Well, not much!

My guitar teacher Tony, remember him from the first article I wrote last week, inspired me to make the lapel pins you see in the image above. The players protesting and following in the footsteps of Kaepernick, have a right to do so. It’s not disrespectful, it’s poignant, it’s their human right, it’s peaceful and most importantly, it’s something they believe in. However, it seems if these protests carry on players will be fired or, and I say this with the utmost respect, the President will have to intervene personally, something not one of us would like to see happen.

With all of this in mind, I have this idea, not only to raise the awareness to a very great cause, but to raise money for charities associated with racism and the profound effect that racism still holds on our society. The #SOLDOUT will soon display the pins pictured above for sale, to make people aware that there is genuine suffering out there, whether it be in the murdering of Jews in Pittsburgh, or the simplicity of daily senseless traffic stops on innocent African Americans, it matters not. We have a right to protest, so by wearing this pin, our protests shall be seen, and by the money we raise, out protests shall be heard.

Keep reading this blog for more updates and check out our Instagram #soldout to get your pin.

If there are any athletes, well known or otherwise and or charities, who would like to be considered as spokes people for this idea, please get in touch. Colin Kaepernick, if you read this please know that I have tried in many different ways to contact you because I believe you should lead this movement, but to date, no response.

Thank you everyone.

Driving Miss Daisy

IMG_0341I used to drive to Santa Rosa once a week, a journey of about three hours from my home, to look after my Great Aunt Ella. I only met Ella in 1998, and even though she was my grandfather’s sister, I didn’t know she existed let alone lived only three hours from my home. I was attending her sisters funeral in Scotland when her niece told me of her whereabouts and asked if I’d ever met her. “No” was the extent of my curt response. I made a point of contacting her immediately upon my return to the US in the summer of ’98 and we became great friends and lunch buddies. She was an amazing person, with some incredible friends, some of whom I had the pleasure of getting to know rather well. One of her closest pals was Esther, a petit 80-year-old, at the time, and someone I grew not only to respect, but to love and admire.

Esther lived in the same complex as Ella, but in a house situated at the top of a hill about half a mile from the golf course that split this retirement paradise in two. I say paradise because all along Highway 12, where the complex lies, there are some amazing wineries, fabulous hotels, and tremendous restaurants, some of which I have had the pleasure of frequenting over the years, and most of which were above average in all their ‘Napa/Sonoma’ decorative splendor. The thing I loved most about going to see Ella and Esther was the lack of noise whenever we ventured outside. No planes, hardly any car noise and certainly no screaming kids. This was retirement at it’s best. You had to be 55 or over to live there, and most of the residents had been there since that tender age and were now pushing into their late 80’s and early 90’s. Some of the sights were just too funny to describe, such as the two ladies in the golf cart, who I saw every week, driving along with a dog leash dangling from the passenger side of the cart, and a brown lab, tethered to the end of said leash, enjoying his walk while they drove and chatted. Exercise for the !

As I got to know Esther, and some of the other ladies, such as Rosemary, Joan and Joe, I found it fascinating just to sit and listen to their stories, tales of times gone by, a different era altogether, and one that sort of made me yearn for the opportunity to have experienced the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Esther related countless memories of her times living in Seattle, Los Angeles and parts in between. How she’s met her husband whilst on a business trip with her father to Seattle. How she’d grown up in LA when traffic jams were just something in one’s imagination. How Santa Barbara was a fishing village with one or two large homes and a never-ending stream of billionaires trying hard to make their dreams come true.

Sometimes when I was headed back to Los Gatos, Esther would ask me to take her to San Francisco, where her daughter lived. Esther stayed with her daughter at least once a month, and unable to drive herself there, I substituted regularly for this drive who she hired to shuttle her down to the city whenever I was unable to oblige. We had some super conversations on these journeys into town, when Esther would relate her safari experiences, (she was 80 when she went to Africa), her fitness tips, (she was a yoga maestro) and her recipes to make the perfect Coke float, (one which I enjoyed every time I went to see her at her home). Yes, a true lady. She spoke so eloquently, she was a really lady and she never thought bad of anyone, other than my Gt Aunt Ella, whom she scolded constantly for becoming a hermit as the years rolled by.

Esther always reminded me of the movie Driving Miss Daisy. Me as the driver of course and her as Miss Daisy. Her character was just straight out of that particular era. And so, as time went on, my aunt died and Esther grew too old to live in her house all alone, she moved to San Francisco into a retirement home, where, instead of driving her up and down Highway 101, I continued to visit her for lunches and dinners. I used to say to her, “Esther, you are 95 and are the only hope I have of knowing someone who can live to be 100!” Her health was in great shape, her mind even greater. She hated growing old and still feeling like she had a mental age in her late 30’s. She attended regular lectures, traveled to Palm Springs once or twice a year and worked out in her gym every day. Miss Daisy was super it! Nothing was going to stop her. I brought her chocolate, and she reciprocated by buying me the same. We told jokes, she reminisced, I sat and listened.

I had lunch with her two weeks ago, and I took this picture, the one above. I’d never taken a picture of her before. Something inside told me I should. I mad a dinner date to see her on May 16, and then on May 13, I canceled because I had another commitment. She died on the morning of the 16th May, age 96 and a half. A stroke, sudden, quick, painless, and now she’s gone.

I lost a friend, a hero of sorts. RIP Esther, you were special. I shall remember you fondly for the rest of my days on this planet and no doubt we will one day meet again in a better place.

Yummy Yummy!

IMG_0029When I was a kid we used to look forward to the fair at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall. It arrived in December and played all through the Christmas and New Year period. It was an indoor fair but it still contained all of the attractions found in the more common outdoor versions that play regularly all summer long. There was a ferris wheel, dodgems, or bumper cars as most people refer to them, shooting the duck games, haunted tunnel, etc, etc. I also remember that we were often given a treat, just before we left to go home,  sharing a candy floss, (cotton candy), devoured in minutes by my two sisters and me.  Other treats you would find, (although we were never allowed to samples them) were hot dogs, (still in their infancy in Scotland at that time), Scottish pies, fish n’chips, and shortbread, (the real stuff), mixed with a plethora of sweeties and of course Scottish tablet or fudge. It was a huge night out for us kids and although at the time this event seemed as if it was held in a massive hall, once I grew up and traveled a little, I began to realize that the Kelvin Hall was really small in comparison to other venues I eventually discovered. Over the years, I have had the pleasure, although I sometimes wouldn’t be so bold to refer to it as pleasure, of experiencing fairs in many parts of America, all interesting, all filled with delights that would be better served on another planet and all frequented by people of differing sizes and ethnic backgrounds. But two weeks ago my son Paul asked me to go with him to the California State Fair, an opportunity I was unable to make, which, as it turned out, was a huge mistake from my standpoint. Read on.

The CA state fair is held in Sacramento. It only happens once a year, but that may be a blessing for those of us who are adventurous enough to try to ride the fastest rides, the tallest and most terrifying drops and sample extraordinarily strange and often delicious foods. My brief guide to the delicacies offered at this year’s state fair is brought to you courtesy of my son. I am going to list then one by one, along with his assessments.

IMG_00351 Krispy Kreme donut bacon cheeseburger!  An iced donut, split in two, encapsulated with a half pound Angus burger, melted cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato and onions and two rashers of thick salted applewood smoked bacon!! Calorific content, off the charts. Eating one of these would require defibrillation after consumption.  Red Cross volunteers provided by the fair, free of charge and lined up in waiting as each hungry fair-goer leans gently towards death by desire and stupidity with every delicious mouthful. Paul’s rating, a whopping 20 out of 10!

2 Deep fried turkey leg covered in smoked bacon. This 3lb delight is the largest turkey leg I have ever seen. It must have come off a prehistoric bird, or if was genetically modified just for this show. This monstrosity is filled with protein, fat and all the other good things that are bad for you. With two hands required to hold it and a mouth the size of the QE2 tunnel in London just to bite it, it probably feeds at least 4 but is sold as an appetizer for 1. Paul’s verdict. Go to the gym at least a month before attempting to ear this, not to lose weight, but to strengthen your biceps in order to be able to lift the damn thing off the counter when they serve it up.

3 Deep fried NY cheesecake. This whopping 1/2lb gooey ball, served on a stick, contains more cheese than is served daily at any Safeway, more batter than any baseball team has and the longest lollypop stick I have ever seen. It’s like looking at a Dunkin’ donut on steroids. A Rod is just a mere pretender in comparison to this beauty. Quite how they have managed to keep the cheesecake solid, I will never know. It’s deep-fried to perfection and boasted the largest line for people wanting to purchase any of these foods, with an incredible 45 minute wait just to be served. Paul’s verdict, and I quote, “One bite and I wanted to puke and then bite again!” In other words, it was incredible, but my stomach could only handle it one bite at a time and required emptying before the next bite.

4 I have left the best for last. Deep fried bacon covered chocolate. One large thick cut rasher of bacon, covered in dark chocolate,  fried once again and then served as a chaser to the cheesecake. Makes me want to throw up just thinking about it, but that would be after I have had time to take a wee nibble. Paul’s verdict. Keep clear of this one. Not only will it kill you instantly, it will embalm your body and corrupt your soul, simultaneously! Send LIPITOR!

And so, I have decided that the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, was just a pre cursor for me to go to the CA state fair next summer and spend all evening trying these abominably good delicious treats. I am salivating at the thought of ending my life prematurely in honor of my desire to to be the first person ever to consume all four of the above without any assistance, medical or otherwise. No wonder this country is obese. No wonder it craves more and more of the extraordinarily bad and no wonder everything that is good for you tastes like shit!  Kashi might be on a mission to make 7 grains delicious and popular, but with treats like this available and ready to go, who gives a shit about adding 10 years onto your life when your 80. I want it now, all the enjoyment, all the sugar, all the calories and all the satisfaction from eating what is simply, cruel and decidedly sinful!!

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Cruise Blues – Part 4

IMG_3899Sometimes in life a little solitude does one good. A cruise seemed like an ideal place to spend time together, rest up, admire the scenery, read a little and have some fun while seeing a little bit of the country that, until now, had remained illusive. Inside our cabin, state-room to be exact, we sat, turned on our mini TV set, looked at the map and coordinates the captain had projected onto the screen and then tuned into ESPN to watch the baseball highlights. This was excruciating. Next door, they were still fighting. The kids were unhappy about something and their balcony door was being slammed open and closed at regular intervals and with some gusto to boot. It was still light outside and my suggestion of ‘let’s go for another walk’ seemed to fall on deaf ears. By now my throat was on fire and my cold advancing faster than the speed this boat was moving. And so, with the clock ticking along to 8.23 PM, I rested my head on the pillow and the next thing I knew, it was 5.40AM!

The sun wasn’t up, although it was supposed to be. It was thick fog outside. We couldn’t see anything off the starboard side of the boat where we were situated. I looked over to Wendy and in the most sarcastic of tones said, “only 36 hours until we can get off, hopefully for good!’ She smiled, and as we stood outside in the freezing cold, looking into a solid grey mist, we realized this was not for us. We had contracted a severe dose of cruise blues.

The gym, situated on the 12th deck, forward of everything except the SPA, was delightful. On the evening we had boarded, a South African crew member called Garry had told us to come around 6 AM to work out or we wouldn’t get it. I thought he was joking, and I asked him, “with all these large people on board, does anyone actually work out?” He was adamant. Arriving at 6, there was even a line, all be it a short one, ready and waiting to get their out of shape bodies into some sort of shape to allow them all to eat all day! With a certain cold in the works, I was lackadaisical in my efforts to sweat and get my heart rate up into a frenzy, and after 45 mins, I was done. By the time we left, the gym was full to bursting. Garry had been right. It wasn’t even 7 AM and this place was claustrophobic. There was no place to hide, unless you fancied a shag in a lifeboat. But even they were locked up!

Buffet time again! You’re getting the picture now I presume? If not, look at the one posted above. We were at the rear of the ship, sitting outside, the sun was up, if only briefly, and there were hundreds of breakfast addicts munching endlessly on bacon, bacon and more bacon. The gentleman in this shot sat for at least three hours that morning just eating, and he wasn’t the only one. The sun soon vanished, sadly for the rest of the day, and after an hour session at 9 AM in the Spa with an acupuncturist, (arranged by choice to try to alleviate and old shoulder and foot injury and to pass some time), we sat back down in our room $394 poorer, and planned our escape. There was now 34 hours left until our arrival in Juneau Alaska and to freedom. We’d made our decision, we were off! The only issue now was how to get off and how to get a refund. The refund part wasn’t really an issue. We realized that we might just have to forfeit the money spent, which would be a complete waste and a tough lesson learned, although at this point, neither of us cared. The only thing that mattered was our escape. We felt like criminals, caged up for life but ready to do a runner after the lights were turned off. The only difference was, we would make haste for land at 2 PM the following day with the sun at its highest point in the sky and no place to hide.

Five and a half laps round the deck equals one mile, or so the sign states. They only thing it doesn’t say is that when it’s blowing 40 MPH outside, one side of that lap is impossible, the other side, well let’s just say you don’t need to try too hard to accomplish your goal. We walked a mile. We walked another mile and then, out of nowhere, the fog lifted, the sun, still hidden, refused to come out, but I could have sworn out of the corner of my right eye on the port side, the easy side, with the wind behind up, I spotted a whale funnel.  I looked again and then stopped. By now there were two, perhaps more, and then it happened. An Orca appeared!! If you look closely at the picture below, this is exactly how it occurred.

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I was really in heaven. I’d come to see whales, eagles, and bears, and here was my first whale. There were lots of them passing by, all moving with grace and at speed. All Orcas. Before we knew it, everyone was watching, and after about ten minutes, the crowd just dissipated, in favor of? You guessed it, more food. This was wonderful. To be positioned in the middle of the ocean with land at least a full day from where we now sailed and to be surrounded by whales, well, just maybe this cruise wouldn’t be so bad after all? Perhaps we were being hasty with our decision to leave? Perhaps the first sighting is the best and then after that it becomes boring? Maybe that’s why the majority of guests just retreated back into the buffet? No matter what, we stood mesmerized and momentarily happy. This experience was certainly different, it was cold, windy and it was desolate, but I was completely warm inside, and so was my feeling of accomplishment.

Another mile round the deck and then lunch. The whales had gone, the fog was back and we still had 26 hours until landfall. Perhaps it was time to check emails or perhaps it was just time to reflect on what had been a close encounter of the whale kind. I decided email it was, and so, armed with the thought of paying a fortune to get on-line (we had been warned in advance) I returned to my state-room, turned on my Ipad and hooked up to the internet at $1 per minute plus connection charges. It wasn’t too long before the temptation to book a hotel in Juneau and a flight back to San Jose, took center stage once again, and robbed me of any idea I had of remaining transfixed to the study of Alaskan whale behavior for any longer that I had to. Land was calling, and land it would be. Time to execute our exit strategy.

Cruise Blues – Part 2

IMG_3815I’ve stayed in some crappy hotel rooms in my time, especially when traveling to New York. Most of the rooms that have given me issues have come from reviews that looked great but upon arrival have turned sour the second the key is slotted into the door to unlock nothing but a box like impression of this gorgeous room you thought you’d booked on line. This room on the ship wasn’t the worst, far from it, it seemed quite spacious. It had two beds pushed together to make a kind of king size alternative. It had a miniature TV set, a nice closet, some drawers and the bathroom was a reasonable size, if you like to shit and shower simultaneously! The balcony was great, with two comfy chairs outside, and we had a couch and safe and refrigerator too. We looked at one another, decided this wasn’t going to be too bad and then without warning God came into our room via the loud-speaker system that appeared to be anchored into the ceiling. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a mandatory evacuation drill commencing in 15 minutes. Look on your key cards to identify the area where you are required to meet the crew member assigned to your muster section.” “Bloody Hell!” I exclaimed, “that scared the shit out of me. Where’s my pills!!” Without hesitation, we abandoned the cabin in favor of unpacking later and attending out life saving lecture, just in case! And so, back down on deck 7, of course by using the stairs, we congregated, along with the 200 other people assigned to our station, waiting patiently to be shown how to put on a life jacket. This process took 60 seconds, but the waiting time to finally see it happen was more like 25 minutes, accompanied by three further God-like announcements on the tannoy and one alarmingly loud blast from the ships foghorn. Drill over, and we were back up 5 flights of stairs, this time to unpack. It was now 3.50 PM and we were about to set sail. Panic over. My life was about to have another item crossed off its to do list, and it wasn’t too long before I realized that this was definitely not going to be one to write home about, more like one to write to everyone about!

Party Time!

The boat was moving, I was feeling nothing other than the urge to do something. The announcement was crystal clear.

“It’s time to party like a Norwegian!” exclaimed Pedro, out cruise ship entertainment director. “How does a Norwegian party?” I asked myself. The one’s I’d met in my lifetime had been incredibly boring, pleasant, but boring, and nothing like the ‘party animals’ Pedro was insinuating in his loud boisterous tannoy tone. Before I could say sea sickness, there was a stampede. Although I was in my cabin, I could hear it. It seemed to be resonating from right above my head, but to be sure, all I had to do was open my door and watch the herd, motivated by Pedro’s offer of free booze and BBQ, rush onwards and upwards towards deck 12, where all hell was about to break loose.

Now, let me digress. When I booked this cruise, this was the phone conversation I had with the lady at NCL. This is almost word for word, remembering I had this discussion in February of this year. Time is a great leveler, but I’ll do my best to relate it as accurately as possible.

NCL “Good morning Alan how can we help you book your cruise?”

Alan “Well, I’ve been on your web site and as I’m a first time cruiser who gets seasick getting into a bath, I wondered what advice you could give me if I booked an Alaskan cruise?”

NCL “You picked the right company to make your maiden voyage with.” ‘Duh!’ I thought! “Alaska is a good choice and on our boats you will not feel any movement and won’t be sick. I promise.”

Alan “We are thinking of going in July”

NCL “Best month to go”

Alan “OK here is my criteria before I book. I would like a room that is located in a QUIET part of the ship. My sister went on a cruise and all she heard for 7 days were seats being scraped across the deck right above her. I would also like to be in a part of the ship where movement of any kind is at a minimum, should it get choppy.”

And that, my friends is how I ended up on the 11th deck in room 050. Personally guaranteed by that NCL lady, not to be noisy and to be fairly steady in case of a squall. Those words and choice of room were now resonating, as 3000 people headed out to party like a Norwegian, and all of them, bar none, were banging chairs, glasses, feet and anything else they could party with, right above my room. I was not impressed, my heart sank and my whole demeanor changed in moments. On top of that, a family of 4 had moved in next door and while standing on my balcony introducing myself to the mother, the two kids were complaining that they would have to share a bed or sleep on the floor. “It’s a lot smaller that we anticipated.” she told me. “Fucking right!” I had no idea how 4 people would fit into this room. It was tight enough with 2. On the other side of me was Keith. Keith had his wife and his sister in the same room. Kinky! I prayed to my God, no not the one implanted in my ceiling, that this was going to work out, then we decided, “it’s time to party like a Norwegian!” and made a B line to join the herd, the BBQ and the on board entertainment. We were sailing into the Puget Sound and I was about to confront Hell on the high seas!

Scotti-Leaks- What you always wanted to know about Scotland that was until now, hidden.

imagesWith Edward Snowden now looking to live in Russia, God only knows why he would want to do that, I thought it was time to come clean and admit to stealing precious never before released secrets about Scotland. Should the Scottish parliament decide I have breached the Official Secrets Act, I will of course flee the country in which I now live, (yes, they have an extradition agreement with Edinburgh) and seek residence in Grand Cayman, where, according to all my ex-wives, I have hidden my millions of dollars from their once greedy finger tips.

Snowden was a fool. He should have made a B line for the Scottish Highlands, where the mere fact that it rains every day and is engulfed by a semi-permanent darkness called ‘Scotch Mist’, would have kept him hidden from all satellite tracking systems and fanatical ex military types hired to capture him and bring him back to justice. Instead he will now be roaming the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg, or even Vladivostok, hanging on dearly to his Marlboro’s whilst trying hard to flag down a taxi driven by an alcoholic Russian who couldn’t give a fuck about anything except where his next smoke and pair of Levi jeans is coming from. At least in the Scottish Highlands Snowden could shag sheep, (and there and plenty of them), instead of drunk ugly Russian women, whilst claiming insanity and an insatiable appetite for the bizarre. Poor Edward, he should have known better.

What I have failed to understand is, what’s so important about letting the whole world know America is spying on it anyway? We all knew that already. The fact that our government is spying on its own citizens through the interception of phone conversations, emails, and social media content, well, that’s a matter I cannot overlook. It’s getting to the point where two tin cans held together by a piece of string is the only way I can keep my conversations private. One mention now of Osama, money laundering, shooting it up in Vegas and countless other ‘buzz’ words, and yep, here we go, the ‘secret’ communications satellite rounds an infinite corner up there in space, finds the exact position and street corner where my ‘alleged’ conversation just took place, and within 60 seconds (often referred to as one minute) the men in the big black van are standing opposite me with their huge arsenal of guns and missiles, all loaded and ready to fire, unless I surrender peacefully. Oh how things have change and oh how sad we have become as human beings. I’m not suggesting for one minute that all the worlds populous are pacifists, nor am I suggesting there are absolutely no bad people on this planet, but surely our paranoia has taken this whole idea about ‘living’ a normal protected life to another extreme? Surely there are better ways to find those who are trying to destroy us without listening to Mrs. Jones tell her husband  over the phone she wants to shag him tonight but only if he plays the part of a rich terrorist trying to kidnap her and take her away to Afghanistan? It’s overkill, stupidity and it’s just as well someone like Edward Snowden has the balls to inform us all, big brother is not just here, he is also the biggest of bullies and isn’t going away any time soon.

In Scotland, the ultimate sin would be to remain sober while divulging exactly what is going on inside that particular country. With thousands of pubs, great beer and the best whisky on the planet, there would be no need to stand up straight and tell the truth about the inadequacies of the Scottish diet, sectarianism found inside the church, (not to mention the child abuse, all hidden of course), our insane belief that we should not be part of the United Kingdom, the staggering fact that we have more heart disease than any other place on earth, or the well known premise that is an outright lie, Scottish people are tight! (Thrifty) No, these are not secrets, these are well known facts. Our secrets are hidden deeper than that. Hidden beneath a society that dislikes express its own feelings, where the word ‘love’ is treated more like a matter of respect than actual sentiment. Scotland itself is a hidden gem, surrounded on 3 sides by water and on the fourth by the dreaded and often hated English. It’s no secret why the English are classed as the Auld enemy, but it is a secret that those who would stand up and be counted as ‘English haters’ are few and far between. More often that not it’s just good natured banter and old fashioned saber rattling that separates good from evil where the English are concerned and although most Scots would never admit it, there is an overriding and strong desire to be as one with their enemy and to get along and to prosper. There are probably more English living in Scotland that claim to hate their fellow countrymen than there are Scots claiming the same purpose!

Our beaches are better than any beach in Caribbean or Florida or Thailand or all of the above, combined. When you drive up the west coast of Scotland you are surrounded by white sands and the most pristine clear blue ocean, unless it’s pissing down with rain and you can’t see 5 feet in front of you! Mallaig, Oban, Ullapool, the all encompassing Isle of Skye, boasting some of the most unspoiled terrain you are every likely to witness anywhere on this planet. There are no 5 star Hilton hotels here, no Ritz Carlton’s and certainly no fancy Spa’s, but what there is, often surprises those who venture out into the wilderness to enjoy some peace and quiet with little distraction, other than the elements. Scotland boasts some of the best Bed and Breakfast homes that the UK has to offer. These homes are run by some real characters, (see previous blog about Granite City), offering a comfortable alternative to those concrete monstrosities that line every beach around the globe. And there are so few people living in this part of the world that when the rain stops, and you do actually venture out onto those incredible white sands, more often than not, you are alone. No need for the Marlboro’s or Levi’s and not a taxi in sight. I’m sure the people who live in the part of Scotland crave the sunshine, just like the rest of us, but frankly, and I realize this week is the exception to the rule, they rarely see the sun, and when they do, the really appreciate it!

And so, Mr. Snowden, you should have turned left and not right when you got to Hong Kong and taken the high road and not the one that has become so low. We in Scotland would have welcomed you with open arms, got you completely pissed, robbed you blind and hung you out to dry like the hero you are not. But, in doing so, you would have had a bloody good time, you wouldn’t have had to drink any crappy vodka, eat any shite caviar and you would have had the pleasure of watching the famous Glasgow Rangers, every week, for less than the price of a shag with a sheep in Leningrad.

Good luck Edward. See you in Siberia when I come to visit. Nostrovia!

Blog Complete

New design is complete, hope you like it. Posts will commence in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, please enjoy some pictures that I took in my back yard. I’ll post more later this week. Oh, and if you get a chance, drop me a wee line and let me know what you think of the new color scheme?

Back after my Alaska trip!

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