The Spider in the Bath

We have moved to one of the spare bedrooms as it is more convenient for Leo if he is wakeful in the night. Wakeful or not, he still starts his day at five thirty, collecting the dog bowls and recuperating any leftovers into the pan which will go out to the chickens. I, however, unless there is cricket on the radio in the small hours, give myself another half hour in which to come to life before checking my slippers for a scorpion which lives among Leo’s papers and has made more final appearances than Frank Sinatra, prior to trekking across the house to perform my ablutions in the main bathroom.

However, on that particular morning, I was not alone.

There was a very hairy spider, larger than my outstretched hand, trying to escape from the bath. Good luck with that, I thought…the bath was constructed by Danilo and resembles the sarcophagus of a Pharoah – without the lid.

Or the gold.

I don’t mind spiders as a rule…they rid the place of other pests…but this one is described by Danilo as a horse killer which does not inspire me with confidence.

I eyed the beast warily.

It was immobile. Probably eyeballing me with a view to goodness only knows what.

Best not to whinny.

I went to find the long handled dustpan and a heavy cloth with which to trap the brute

On return…no spider.

How long had it been trying to escape? And why did it choose that moment to succeed?

Why, in the wilds of Costa Rica, did I have to come across a descendent of the spider that inspired Robert the Bruce?

I know that the Scots get everywhere….but that this tradition extended to Scots spiders had remained unknown to me..

It was the worst of all possible scenarios…it could be anywhere.

However, as it was clearly no longer in the bath that was a safe zone. I drew a bath.

Now a bath is said to be a relaxing experience…not if you are scanning your surroundings for a monstrous horse killing spider it isn’t. Nor was it. I was out of that bath, towelled and dressed, with the speed of a rat up a drainpipe.

Over the next few days the spider made irregular and unexpected appearances…..on the wall behind my desk…..emerging gaily from the shower……..on the seat of Leo’s electric scooter…only to disappear before dustpan and cloth would be brought into play.

We christened him…not, as you might expect, The Scarlet Pimpernel, as we decidedly did not seek him either here or there…but the Black Douglas, Bruce’s companion in the Scottish Wars of Independence in the fourteenth century, the master of guerilla warfare.

Scots tend to go on a bit about Bannockburn and beating the Sassenachs…not so much about the raids led by the Black Douglas, more politely known as the Good Sir James, that forced England to accept the independence of the kingdom years later. As a reminder of his exploits, children in the Border regions would be lulled to sleep by the rhyme

‘Hush ye, hush ye, dinna fret ye

The Black Douglas willna get ye.’

I know how they felt.

Scots also tend to go on a bit about the union of the Two Kingdoms in the eighteenth century – brought about by the near bankruptcy of the lowlands of Scotland caused by the failure of the Darien scheme, which aimed to establish an Atlantic/Pacific trade route in what is now Panama in the face of sabotage by England and hostility by Spain.

As P.G. Wodehouse wrote, ‘It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.’ and the Act of Union certainly cast a cloud over the Scottish psyche in the succeeding centuries, fuelling calls for independence and a habit of ascribing all ills to governance of Scotland from Westminster.

Since 1999 Scotland has had a devolved parliament, deciding most domestic policy, and, over time, the Scottish National Party has assumed overall control, currently with a massive majority.

There was a referendum on independence on 2014, lost after promises were made by the leaders of the three main parties in the Westminster parliament, and the then First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, was obliged to respect the result.

However, as might have been expected, the promises came to naught, and the SNP settled into ruling Scotland with, in general, beneficial results for the country.

But there has been disquiet…to Alex Salmond and his like the new leaders of the party have lost sight of the goal of full independence and are, instead, intent on consolidating their power over party and country – potentially dangerous in what has almost become a one party state.

The criticism is unwelcome…..to the extent that women with contacts in the higher echelons of the SNP decided to bring concerted accusations of sexual impropriety against Salmond….since MeToo, how better to destroy a male reputation. Touch a woman’s backside these days and a man will be cast into outer darkness. Unless he is Prince Andrew, of course.

How the case was ever prosecuted is beyond me….the evidence was always questionable….but prosecuted it was and the jury threw it out.

A triumph for Scottish justice? Hardly….a politically motivated case is brought to court on evidence so shallow that it would not drown a mouse. The triumph is that the jury was more concerned to sift the facts than to be politically correct.

Yet the SNP government proposed to take unto itself the power to abolish jury trials as part of the response to the current virus scare and was only forced to withdraw by sustained pressure from the Scottish Criminal Bar Association, pointing to the potential for abuse.

What might have happened to Salmond without a jury, one wonders….

Given a judge who knows on which side of the bread the butter has been spread and we might have a new Lord Braxfield stalking the courts.

He was a judge in the period when the Establishment feared the influence of the French revolution on the people of Great Britain and he was an Establishment man to the core.

His view of his role was as follows, when it came to ordinary people seeking reform

‘Let them bring me prisoners and I will find them law’.

Responding to the claim of a reformer appearing before him on a charge of sedition that Jesus Christ too was a reformer, he said’…and muckle guid it did him for he was hingit tae.’

And were he in sole charge of the Salmond case his best known quote might well have been resurrected.

‘Ye’re a vera clever chiel, man, but ye wad be nane the waur for a hanging.’

Clearly the resurrected Lord Braxfield would adopt a different tone…that of political correctness, more soothing on the ear, but equally punitive.

Elizabeth I stated that she did not want to open windows into men’s souls – outward conformity in matters of religion was sufficient

Political correctness – especially in the sphere of what is called hate crime – not only opens a window, it ram raids the door. For a ‘hate incident’ to take place it suffices that the victim – or anyone else – thinks that what took place is motivated by prejudice or hostility. No intent is required to be shown.

Not unlike Braxfield’s invention of the crime of ‘unconscious sedition’.

And yet it can all look so reasonable. Complainants making allegations of sexual impropriety guard their anonymity nomatter what the outcome of the case. Given the hurdles faced by women bringing such actions guaranteed anonymity is a necessary encouragement.

So in the Salmond case, the women concerned have the right to the protection of the law if there is a risk of their names being made public.

The problem is that, given their proximity to Salmond in his role as First Minister and leader of the SNP it would not take a genius to work out who most of them are, and the press have gone pretty near the mark in so doing.

So are there any prosecutions of the mainstream press?

No.

Are there any prosecutions at all?

Yes……of two bloggers, neither of whom have gone anywhere near as far as the press.

One happens to be someone who was once high up in the SNP but disagrees with the current leadership, the other a man with a high profile on revealing the underbelly of power.

In the latter case a virtual hearing on management of the case will be heard and the gentleman concerned is anxious that he will not be steamrollered by inappropriately applied procedural devices.

He is keen to have people ask to have access to the virtual proceedings and, as his Twitter and Facebook utterances have a high level of suppression, asks people to read his statement of the case and to spread a link to it.

I am not a great fan of Alex Salmond, nor a follower of the gentleman in question, Craig Murray, but I am not at all happy at what seems like the Scottish justice system being used to attack fair comment, so here is the link.

Oh, and by the way, I thought I would float in the pool today before the afternoon rains started…and guess who was there already, clinging to the side?

The Black Douglas. Clearly the bath was not the limit of his aspirations to conquest.

Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me A Bow-Wow

We shall return to this in due course, though, in passing, my maternal grandmother’s neighbour, a woman of firm views and strong language, used to do an impressive interpretation of said Jessie Matthews singing ‘Over my shoulder goes one care’…

which involved her miming throwing one large breast after the other over her shoulders…though from a woman whose pronouncement ‘There she stood, tits akimbo’ had puzzled our youth, anything was possible….if well outside our comprehension.

Revenons a nos moutons.

The BBC, aware that cricket fans deprived of their sport might run amok with Awful Consequences, decided to run commentaries on famous Test matches…five days on the trot at eight hours a day should keep them from menacing the police with bodyline bowling in the hours of daylight, thus aiding said police in their mssion to prevent people from sitting on park benches – Avoidance of Piles Caused by Corona Virus Regulations as ordained by Statutory Instrument.

The first one, the second Ashes Test of 2005, was due to start today…advertised as being at 10.30 am U.K. time, which translated as 3.30 am Costa Rican time.

Accordingly, I rose at 3.00 am in order to set up the proxy server which is supposed to kid the BBC that I am in the U.K. Why the BBC cannot understand that any number of people abroad would prefer to pay the BBC direct rather than go through this rigmarole is beyond me…

Mark you, the subscription should be for the whole range of BBC output, not that which its mandarins consider ‘suitable’, that is, unfunny comedies, so called celebrities and blasted David Attenborough, whose extinction at the hands, or claws, of some primeval monster would give me great pleasure. Preferably underwater.

Make tea while waiting for the proxy server to kick in. Am detected in such as a plaintive voice announces that it, too, would like tea…but not tea on its own…that would give rise to indigestion.

Would there be custard to go with trifle?

Trifle at 3.00 am is, in my view, akin to the Pelagian heresy. And, furthermore, there is no custard.

Express said view.

Ah…would there, in that case, be any chance of a pickled sea bass sandwich with lettuce and mayonnaise?

Said mayonnaise is a bone of contention in this household. I think mayonnaise is made with olive oil. Higher Authority, reared on frites with mayonnaise made with inferior oils, thinks sunflower oil is fine.

Not content with that, he has introduced to the household a vast jar of appalling mustard, heavy on the turmeric and vinegar and light on anything else. It is dreadful…but ought to be used. Personally I would use it to asperse the rulers of the England and Wales Cricket Board as that would certainly learn them…but we are an ocean apart. It is to be used in the fabrication of mayonnaise.

You want mayonnaise with that?

Not if it is too much trouble…in faint tones…

Make said mayonnaise, apply to sandwich, supply same and tea.

Return to computer.

The so and so BBC have cocked it up…the broadcast now begins two hours later….5.30 am.

Return to bed?

No….the floor needs washing as doggie paws have revelled in the start of the rainy season and this is an ideal time as it will dry before Danilo stamps his boots over it.

Floor washed.

Settle in front of laptop.

Name of the wee man! BBC Five Live not available!Frenzy of hiding the history, turning off, restarting…same gravy!

Turn off and go to interview the tiny black kitten dumped here some days ago, now living in a large rabbit hutch while we try to find a home for her. Very sweet and cuddly….but who wants a female kitten even if we will pay for treatments and injections?

Return to house, humming ‘Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow Wow ‘….’I’ve got a little cat and I’m very fond of that but I’d rather have a bow wow wow.’

Am greeted by Higher Authority who informs me that the lyrics of that particular ditty indicate that I prefer a penis to a vagina…according to some article in ‘The Guardian’.

I may be in total agreement, but after the the affair of the mustard and the mayonnaise am in no mood to say so.

Return to laptop. Find BBC Five Live.It works!

Marcus Trescothick is flaying theAustralian bowlers…all is well with the world…or at least it was in 2005.

Is it time to open Joanna Southcott’s box?

Rulers, of whatever complexion of domination they claim to exemplify, are not generally a very intelligent lot. They get to the top by low cunning allied to the use of someone else’s money and, if they are sensible, once in power annihilate the someone else before he, she or it demands payment in kind.

Current rulers, either not being sensible or in thrall to Stockholm Syndrome, generally fail to do this and thus put their countries in hock to some very dubious hes, shes and, in these days increasingly, its.

However, that is not their chief concern…their armies do not go out to fight to protect their country…they are sent out, usually ill equipped, to protect and promote the interests of the hes, shes and its who put their government into power.

And the rest of the population? Can go hang as long as they vote the right way at the right time, ‘informed’ by the very media which promotes the politicians who will keep the media owners in luxury yachts and expensive women.

I was a child of the post war settlement in the U.K…..under governments, both Labour and Conservative, which recognised that good housing, good health and good education were the essentials if the nation was to thrive as a whole…governments which had a sense of nation, of society. Governments whose members had seen for themselves the results of the Depression of the thirties and the world war which followed hard on its heels.

And then came the Thatcher/Reagan years of deregulation, letting the wolves loose in the sheep pens…the years, in the U.K., of Blair and Mandelson, where wealth accumulation counted for more than societal justice…the years of Brown’s conjuring tricks which left the National Health Service paying private operators for the privilege of running the hospitals – which saw the gold reserves sold off for a song to the extent that South African gold miners were buying it in for less than their costs of production – in order to shore up the banks when the balls they had been juggling fell to the ground so spectacularly in 2008.

Banks before people. A sea change in national culture, feeding on the individualism and greed which had replaced the post war settlement as a paradigm. The individualism and greed of those who bought their council houses for a song used to justify the overweening greed of the really rich.

I had left the U.K. for France in the 1980s…and was that an eye opener! At least the U.K. had had its war…those returning determined not to suffer the inequalities of birth any more…in France the system remained unchanged…never mind the Trente Glorieuses, people knew their place and the ‘fils de papa’ would always trump the guy with good ideas but no money. An education system in which not only was there only one answer to a question…but there was only one question to answer!

Having lived there, in an area where the Front National was strong, I can see why both central government and the EU were loathed and how state power punishes ‘unorthodox’ thought and action. No wonder Macron thinks the corona virus outbreak is a perfect opportunity to crush the ‘gilets jaunes’…those who, week in and week out for over a year, have opposed his austerity measures which have ruined their lives.

Now living in Costa Rica, I see the same phenomenon….the state is bust as it will not attack the monopolies of the rich, any more than it will reform the bloated public service sector, the poisoned chalice it inherited from the governments of the 1980s, keen to gain adherents with the promise of jobs, pensions and perks. Driven to desperate measures by its full hearted response to the arrival of the corona virus it has sought a loan from the IMF.

Any study of history would show that the strings attached to a loan from the IMF will destroy the social fabric of a country…positing as it does private interest over public weal.

With that loan bang goes what is left of Costa Rica’s social coherence…the coherence which has permitted the people to accept guidance as to staying at home for all but unavoidable trips to town…

It will become like the U.K. where overweening police believe that they can corral the population nomatter what the law might say…law which has, without opposition, destroyed the civil liberties of the mass of the people in the name of controlling a virus which, as yet, seems less harmful than the outbreaks of bird ‘flu or pig ‘flu…

We feel this as, given Higher Authority’s susceptability to any sort of ‘flu, we have been isolating ourselves on and off for decades….but never under the auspices of a police state.

A friend in France has been joking that Macron has exceeded the powers of the Sun King, Louis XIV…who had only one man in an iron mask to silence….if Macron gets his way it will be a whole masked nation doomed to silence.

Is it the end of days? Is it time to open Joanna Southcott’s box?

Even were it to be so, you can count on current governments to act like King Tarquin when faced with the Sybil and her books….too expensive and we’re not buying a pig in a poke – while expecting the people of their country to do just that at their hands.

Let Gin Be Unconfined

After a few rough months we were finally lifting our heads again…we had had a visitor, life was returning to normal…and then you all know what happened – Corona virus. So now, as we are both elderly and Leo is more than vulnerable, we are supposed to stay on the property, have no visitors, wash our hands to an extent which would alarm Lady Macbeth – well, you know the drill. Distinctly frustrating, but at least we are not shut up in a small flat in this baking weather.

And, once the sun is over the yardarm we can enjoy a gin and tonic and look out over the valley below.

Makes me think of the First World War song to the tune of ‘in and out the window’…

Breaking out of barracks’, not to speak of ‘parading all unbuttoned’….giving rise to fourteen days in barracks…’as we have done before.’ ‘Yes, and we can do it, yes and we can do it, yes and we can do it, as we have done before.’

No doubt that we can…we have been living in each other’s pockets 24/7 for many years as Leo has been too ill to work since in his forties and so far homicide has not been on the menu.

Thanks to having lived in France, at the first sign of problems we stocked up on essentials so were not taken by surprise by the Presidential address to the nation which sent the entirety of said nation out in search of rice, beans and toilet rolls.

Why toilet rolls? I suppose in this digital age there are less newspapers available to be cut into squares and placed on a hook in the loo. As children visiting an appallingly pious aunt – who was as tight as a duck’s arse, watertight – we used to be intrigued by the newspapers spread on the floor by her cleaner after mopping same – excerpts from ‘The News of the World’ – a scandal rag whose reporters always ‘made an excuse and left’ when in tight moral corners. Even the aunt did not use Bronco or Izal…disinfected glossy paper rolls which left more liquid on your hands than on their surface, so time in the loo could be well spent trying to match one square of the NOTW with the follow up of the reportage.

As my father – who detested this sister – said, where did the newspaper come from? The cleaner hardly brought it in herself. Furtive equiry at the newsagent revealed that she had it delivered – ‘for the staff’. As if ‘the staff’ would have had time to breath under the supervision of Aunt Ellen, let alone read a newspaper…

As things are quiet on the confirmed cases front in this area I did go out to the feria – the farmers’ market – on Saturday morning. All very well organised with one entry point, then down the ramp where a large lady in an overall squirted soap on your hands and directed you to the basin provided with running water. Another overalled lady then gave you one paper towel to dry your hands before releasing you into the market area. The number of stand holders was down – including the lady from whom I buy tomatoes – no kissing or hugging – and the clients were few.

It appeared that, as usual, I had missed the action. It all went off on the Friday evening.

As this weekend marks the end of the month, people have been paid. Having been paid they want to shop, thus lines of cars blocking the roads as the supermarkets limit access – and a crowd headed for the feria.

The local news service is usually at the feria, to promote it, but this time they produced film of people pressing to enter, and the aisles, if not crowded, at least somewhat busy with people not keeping a distance. The commentary criticised the organisers of the feria, emphasising the risk of contamination and the clip went out that evening.

The response was immediate. Someone associated with the feria announced that the maker of the film should be lynched for endangering the livelihoods of the stall holders, with which there was much agreement, among remarks that the news service was, as usual, trying to kick up a fuss to attract viewers.

The frontman for the news service – someone whom I find bombastic, to say the least – claimed that his work was essential and unbiased and that he would take those who proposed to lynch him to court.

He will be out of luck there….the courts are shut for all non urgent matters. I expect that his case may be put back until manana…and manana…and manana…

I find it interesting, however, that the film clip appears to have been removed, to be replaced by still pictures of the feria with the headline ‘The feria cares about your safety’…

As he cares about his, I suspect.

There has been a positive angle to the campaign to limit the spread of the virus…a curfew on use of the roads at night – 8.00 pm to 5.00 am on the weekends and 10.00pm to 5.00 am on weeknights. If you are not travelling to and fro your place of work, then you are not to be on the road. People in the centre are rejoicing, because the gangs of youths on unsilenced motorbikes no longer strut their stuff or, should they do so, a call brings the police down on them very rapidly. The silence in the evenings is most appreciated, it seems.

On Saturday night the dogs alerted me to traffic on the road…it sounded like three unsilenced motorbikes followed by a jallopy, to judge by the engine sounds, all going like the clappers up the steep hill to town. Collecting the dogs from the gate I saw that this assortment was being pursued by the local police dog van, complete with flashing lights, barking from within and, as the driver waved in passing, the siren. I think they were having fun.

This curfew, and the closure of the parks, is felt to be very unfair on the drug dealers….they’ll probably be asking for a rescue package shortly.

Any type of ‘flu is potentially fatal for Leo, so, over the years, with every ‘flu epidemic, we have become accustomed to shutting ourelves away. When in France I used to put a notice on the gate asking people to call on the telephone rather than entering if we were not expecting them, and this worked well.

I was telling a friend here that I must do the same and he said that I must be joking…one look at our pack of dogs belting to the gate would have anyone in their right mind legging it. So I did not put up a notice.

Yesterday I was washing the dogs. This needs careful preparation if one is to avoid having to hook dogs out from under beds, thus revealing more than I want to know about the fluff levels and have wet dogs dry themselves in our bedding after their ordeal. First close external doors – quietly so as not to alert them. Then close the gates to the swimming pool, as they can escape by running round its wall. Collect the gear on the table on the balcony. Close doors to the bedrooms. Entice dogs onto the balcony with a treat for Scruffy, who will be followed by all the others to ensure they don’t miss out. Close door to the house. Then grab first dog, pin against balustrade with knees and get to work…

I thought that they were kicking up more than usual…and as I cleared down the mess and let them out I saw that they had reason to do so.

Standing in my garage, sheltering from a shower, were two of the local God botherers.

There are notices everywhere telling people to stay at home, not to go visiting and there were these two, bold as brass, having opened the gate and walked all the way up the drive. To make matters worse, they knew that Leo was in poor health and at risk…but still they came.

Keeping them at a distance I asked what they wanted…oh, they had come to enquire about Leo’ s health…all with eyeballs rolling to the sky and the usual pious utterances…and while they were about it, could I give them the money to buy a gas cylinder?

Life in Costa Rica has softened me…when living in France they would have received a barrage of abuse and possibly a whack from a shovel in the posterior resgions. I contented myself with declining to assist them and shepherding them to the gates.

Once on the other side one of the ladies assured me, with a sugary smile, that Costa Rica would be safe.

Why is that, Senora?

The Virgen de los Angeles has flown over the country, giving it her protection.

The Virgen de los Angeles is the patron of Costa Rica…

and she has indeed flown from the national basilica in Cartago to cover the entire country, but not, you will be relieved to hear, under her own steam. The image was carried in a police force plane…it flew over us at about half past six in the morning last week.

The tempation was too severe.

A pity she did not drop you off a gas cylinder when she was passing.

Notices go up tomorrow…but for now – time for a tisue restorer.

I’ve missed Saturnalia Again…

No, not Satyrnalia….sit down at the back there!…..though you might be forgiven for the confusion.

Saturnalia was the ancient Roman festival of the winter solstice when the world was turned upside down…decorum and status forgotten, masters serving their slaves – well, a bit like the officers serving other ranks in the Army, a bit of fun for one day and then back to the status quo.

Faced with feeding, watering and bedding down the menagerie singlehanded on Christmas Day…to be done again on New Year’s Day…it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a Saturnalia when the menagerie could look after me.

Having visions of dogs like those of Beorn who could walk on their hinds and lay tables I dreamt of hens laying an early morning egg, to be soft boiled and served to me on a tray with a tray cloth accompanied by a cup of tea.

Reality intervened, though. I know what would happen if Sophie entered the hen house…much squawking, feathers flying and hens taking to the hills. Even if by some miracle an egg could be obtained it would be appropriated by Bunter and Einstein – who always have a morning egg – as their property so all that I was likely to get would be a leftover bone – probably well chewed – proffered by kindly Plush only to be snatched away by his mother, little Scruffy, to be buried in the pillows and defended against all comers.

So forget Saturnalia…and even Satyrnalia. At least on the domestic scene.

But there is a chance of Saturnalia – the world turned upside down – in post Brexit politics in the United Kingdom, which might well become the Disunited Kingdom should Scotland press for its independence.

The Independence Referendum of 2014, which resulted in a vote for Scotland to remain in the union, was supposed to be a once in a lifetime event…as usual, though, nobody specified whose lifetime.

Then came the 2016 Brexit referendum where the majority of constituencies in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union whereas those in England mainly wanted to leave its clutches.

Thus, argue the Scottish National Party – SNP – who are in a majority in the Scottish Parliament and hold a significant block of seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, regardless of whose lifetime it may be, there has been a dramatic change in the relations between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. which justifies another Independence Referendum, allowing Scotland the possibility of applying to remain in the E.U. as an independent nation.

Given the Tory majority in the U.K. Parliament, this view is unlikely to obtain the necessary votes…the Tories are not called the Conservative and Unionist Party for nothing – even if they have just dumped Northern Ireland into the lap of the E.U. as part of their disgraceful Withdrawal Agreement with the said body. Northern Ireland has cattle…Scotland has oil.

What, then, is to be done?

Invoke the Declaration of Arbroath? That document of 1320 addressed to the pope of the time to ask for his intervention to stop the incursions of the English in their quest for sovereignty. Based on the Celtic traditions of kingship, where the seven mormaers – earls – of the kingdom elected the high king, those signing up to the Declaration stated that should Robert Bruce betray them and submit to English rule they would deny him as king in the name of the freedom which they proclaimed to be that of the kingsom of Scotland.

Rather like Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath has taken on the false glamour of democracy …but it still resounds in Scottish history.

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself”.

However, when Scottish economic power crumbled at the failure of the Darien scheme in the 1690s the powers that then were acceded to the Act of Union of 1707…celebrated by the song, such a parcel of rogues in a nation

Indeed, Scotland might be secure in valour’s station…but valour had no value when weighed against the bribes to the members of the Scottish parliament.

So Scotland became North Britain, part of the United Kingdom – again leaving aside the history of relations with the island of Ireland.

It accepts the reign of Elizabeth II…though no Elizabeth I ever ruled in Scotland and the lady in question uses the title of Queen of Scotland rather then the traditional title of Queen of Scots….but that might have to change with independence.

So, once again… how to proceed?

Armed rebellion? Blue bonnets over the border?

My backside. The only armed rebellion in the U.K. these days comes from drug gangs fighting for possession of the streets.

Set the Wee Free loose on the English? For those not acquainted with this body think a Scottish Presbyterian version of the Spanish Inquisition. It did not work in the Civil War and is unlikely to win hearts and minds now…especially as its face is firmly set against satyrnalia of any sort.

There has to be an answer..a constitutional answer…. to force the U.K. parliament to accede to another Independence Referendum for Scotland.

The current leader of the SNP in the House of Commons is so boring that he can empty the chamber faster than a thirsty Glaswegian can sink a pint of heavy. Success will not come from his portentious utterings.

So the SNP must change tactics.

.During the Brexit votes the SNP members sang or whistled the Ode to Joy…adopted by the E.U. The then deputy speaker was not too chuffed.

This can be the new weapon of the SNP…but one that reflects the Scots heritage.

Forget reasoned argument…that has never worked in the House of Commons.

Go for the jugular!

Give them Scotland’s finest!

Jimmy Shand and his Band….

And if that is not enough then unleash the nuclear option…..

Donald Where’s Your Troosers…

Forget the claymores charging out of the mist at Prestonpans…their day is over…but between them Jimmy Shand and Andy Stewart can bring victory home to Scotland…

If the SNP follow my advice we’ll have independence before we know it!

I would like to thank you for your company this past year and wish you all the best for the year to come.

Lang may your collective lums reek!

Here it comes again….

Christmas is coming

The geese are getting fat

Please to put a penny

In the old man’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny

A halfpenny will do

If you haven’t got a halfpenny

God bless you.

So here comes Christmas. Those with the cash will be splashing out for all the bling that the media can push at them – the clothes, the presents, the food and drink, the parties. Those who don’t have the cash but can get credit will be doing the same..refrigerators groaning under the strain of hoarding the items held essential to the season.

Those who have neither cash nor credit will be making do…the lucky ones helped by their families, the unlucky well in need of the the blessing of God just to get through.

I was in San Jose on Friday…the pavements have been cleared of the huge inflatable santas and the wickerwork reindeer which were, for all the years I have been here, a hazard to navigation, but in their absence the vast tide of shoppers now surges unhindered. All very well if you are coming in on that tide – next to fatal if not.

Trying to go down to the cheapo cheapo off licence downhill from the Mercado Borbon, where items for sale seem none the worse for their fall from the back of lorries, I made no headway whatsoever against the swarm of large ladies bearing shopping bags, followed by meek menfolk carrying sacks on their shoulders.

Women rule in Costa Rica.

I was reeled in by the tiny gentleman with a tomato stand by one of the entrances to the market and plonked down on his stool to recover my breath.

He summoned one of the market porters…

‘Take this lady down to the off licence…slowly now, she can’t walk very well. And bring her back!’

His solution to breaching the tidal wave was to take me by the arm and step out into the road, waving his arm to slow down passing traffic. It still amazes me how good humoured Costa Rican drivers are…try that in London and hope you have prepaid your funeral.

I made my purchases, was escorted back up the hill…still in the road despite going with the tide…and was deposited in the car park. Obviously I tipped him…but it was clear that he did not do it in hope of recompense. Helping old people is still regarded as normal here – at least as far as middle aged people are concerned. Younger ones are beginning to become less aware.

Christmas here is as commercial as in Europe…..and the tradition of the creche in each house and the visits among neighbours to pray together in the days before the 25th is dying out. State institutions still put up a creche in their premises, but this is increasingly cut off from the roots of the practice so will eventually become a hollow acknowledgement of tradition.

But Christmas is not just a commercial feast…it celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace as heralded by the prophet Isaiah and, nomatter what our beliefs, that peace refers to a truce among nations, devoutly to be hoped for…but fearing the worst given the U.S. coat trailing against China and Russia in recent months.

At midnight on the 24th we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace…and hope and strive that we can force our national leaders to respect the call to beat swords into ploughshares.

Atmidnight inthe 24thin gthe meantime

In the meantime, let us, as in Alcis and Galatea, be happy for the moment, nomatter what might befall.

When men had hair….and balls.

So why did I have to wipe my eyes on learning that Bob Willis had died?

Bob Willis, you ask? Who he?

I know that most, if not all of you, know nothing of and care less for cricket.. a game, at its best, of physical chess, of courage, of grace, of power… a game I have loved since my grandfather took me to The Oval as a child.

Bob Willis was a fast bowler…working mostly unsupported in his era. Most fast bowlers hunt in pairs…he rarely had a worthwhile partner. He was not built for fast bowling…a beanpole of a man with no observable muscle. He had an eccentric action to deliver the ball – described as a goose attempting take off – and knees that gave him continual pain, but between the years 1971 to 1984 he steamed in for his country…six foot six when height was rare among English cricketers the ball was eight feet above the ground when he delivered it, with malice aforethought, to destroy the batsman.

He wasn’t a ‘company man’. As a player and even more so as a broadcaster he cast a cold eye on the situation and told it as he saw it…welcome or not.

Tour South Africa under apartheid? No.

Ostracise those who did? Yes.

Proud to represent his country? Yes.

Gloss over the failings of those who did not pull their weight in the team? No.

His era has gone….cricket is now in the hands of an England and Wales Cricket Board who are running the traditional game into the ground in favour of a hit and giggle formula they can patent and sell abroad.

No more broadcasters like Willis…now they are ‘stakeholders’, pushing the ECB policies to keep their access – and their jobs.

Now he would not get near a Test team. The vast and expensive structures set up to mould future Test players stifle any individuality – have ruined several promising bowlers – and would not have entertained Willis for a moment…as much for his action as his attitude in an era when cricketers too are ‘stakeholders’ and toe the party line.

When you don’t, you get dropped and those players who supported you get dropped with you.

The lack of success of these structures is something to be glossed over, needless to say.

Did I know him? No.

So why was I wiping my eyes?

Every reason.

He was his own man and I don’t see too many of them around these days. Too many ‘stakeholders’…too many bullshitters…..too many observing whatever flavour of political correctness is tops this month…too many mental eunuchs.

I look at the General Election going on in the U.K. with the barefaced lying and blatant media bias and wish for a political commenttor like Willis…facts, not spin….honesty, not deception,…. intelligence, not received message.

Rest in peace, Mr. Willis…the society we knew lies in the grave with you.