Robert Burns, poet of the human condition, whose life and works are celebrated tonight by Scots all over the world.
A man of his times, whose message is timeless.
A Scot, who speaks still to the world.
From the sheer fun of ‘ The De’il’s Away Wi’ The Exciseman’, written for a gathering of his fellow customes officers,
to the lyricism of ‘Flow Gently Sweet Afton’
his song of independence , ‘Scots Wa Hae’ – which, in faster time would still make a better anthem than that blasted dirge ‘Flower of Scotland’. No wonder we lose everything…..
and his song of brotherhood ‘ A Man’s a Man for A’ That’ as sung at the opening of the Scottish Parliament…and those bastards should be ashamed of themselves all these years on at their betrayal of their country…yet another parcel of rogues in a nation.
With typical Scots pawky humour that was the tune played to summon defaulters – military miscreants – to their punishment in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment.
He has inspired many over the centuries…..
Abraham Lincoln, who was given his poems as a young man…’From Shakespeare I learnt the sonnets, from the Bible, the scriptures, but it was from that man that I learnt humanity.’
Maya Angelou, who was given his poems as a child …..’He was the first white man I read who seemed to understand that a human being is a human being, that we are more alike than unlike”.
And when we link arms for Auld Lang Syne, whether it be with the lass from ‘Coming Through the Rye’ or Holy Willie we live out his dream, that whomsoever we might be we are capable of a belief in the goodness of each other and our collective ability to make a better world.
British soldiers of the Great War had a number of songs, from sentimental to downright crude, and one of them ran as follows ‘Wash me in the water where you wash the colonel’s daughter And I will be whiter than the whitewash on the wall.’ There is a version of this on Youtube…part of ‘Oh What a Lovely War ….if you don’t know the tune.
There must be a lot of that bathwater sloshing about at the moment as the most surprising people are not only rivalling the whitewash on the wall but surpassing it in brilliance.
To start locally, the police have cracked a loan shark ring, arrresting four people who are suspected of extortion, kidnapping, threats and violence in the course of their activities. Cars, houses and property have been made over by those unable to repay their debts. While pursuing their enquiries, the police have raided the offices of some local lawyers – what a surprise! – and confiscated files, computers and vehicles. One imagines that these lawyers made the necessary legal transfers of property from debtors to lenders….one would not like to imagine any further involvement, after all.
I know one of the lawyers, a charming man who was involved – on the other side -in the water wars.
I know of one of the others, who managed to charge The Neighbour over eight million colones – some nine thousand pounds sterling – to obtain a concession to use water from the spring on the mountain. Having read his application I am of the view that he could have invented all the lies it contained on his own without legal assistance so can only imagine that the lawyer concerned has some special talent known only to the cognoscenti.
I don’t know the third – not surprisingly when the town, as all small towns in Costa Rica, positively pullulates with lawyers, outnumbering even the dentists.
However, all three have access to the colonel’s daughter’s bathwater and will, no doubt, emerge from their ordeal sparkling clean.
On the national level, top officials at the national tourist board have been selling state land to foreign investors to build hotels….land destined to provide farmland for poor families…despite orders from the President’s office to do nothing of the sort….while at the National Assembly deputies have been busy having the police chase off medical students who want to help out in hard pressed hospitals while meeting with top level drug traffickers in the building itself.
Slosh the bathwater! It will all wash off…
You will all have examples…but let me take Britain.
Here is a man who does not have access to the bathwater…..because he has not done that with which he was charged. Alex Salmond, once First Minister of Scotland, was charged with a number of sexual offences and found not guilty of all but one, where a verdict of not proven was brought in, by a mainly female jury. He might be NSIT – not safe in taxis – but he is not guilty as charged. Notwithstanding this, the current First Minister continually refers to the women involved – one at least of whom has clearly perjured herself – as ‘victims’, The press, obedient as ever to a bung from the Scottish government, echoes her stance. No bathwater for Alex.
None either for the man who recorded the conduct of the trial on his blog, clearly stating the defence case, Craig Murray. The mainstream press – well bunged – concentrated on the case for the prosecution.He has been charged with contempt of court as, despite not naming the women the court – three judges sitting without a jury – found that it might be possible to work out their identities from the content of his blog. He faces imprisonment and has been obliged to remove that part of his blog which dealt with Salmond’s defence. No bathwater for Craig.
However, it is lapping the gills of the British minister who swore that, during the Covid crisis when hospitals were ordered to clear out all who could be cleared out to release staff and beds, no one was sent to a care home before being tested for the bug. He lied, he is shown to have lied, and yet the water level is still high. It dropped a little when he was found to have shares in his sister’s firm which was one of the many totally inexperienced operations to have obtained contracts for protective clothing, but not enough to uncover his unmentionables.
Liars, cheats and thieves in high places, all washed gleaming bright.
We need to empty the bath…to pull the plug, but as the old mouse pointed out in Aesop’s fable of the Mice in Council, it is one thing to propose…quite another to execute.
Archibald ‘Bell the Cat’ Douglas, Earl of Angus had a solution. He seized the then king’s favourites and hanged them from a bridge.
But he was the Earl of Angus and a power in the land. We are ordinary, powerless people, so what do we do?
Vote them out?
Fat chance. While you have a party political system you have these obscenities wished upon you as your representatives to serve interests which are none of your own.
Protest in the streets?
They put up two fingers and ignore you.
Denounce them in the press?
Forget it….the press is always in league with the politicians.
Instead, remember the IRA. Atrocities committed against members of the public – whether by the IRA or by MI5 – did nothing to bring about peace in Northern Ireland. Even a bazooka launched on Downing Street had no effect – even though it was delightful to see ministers for once in the line of fire. But once they attacked the City of London, that capital of money laundering, peace talks became positive and urgent.
Violence will be repressed…but hackers could bring the system which supports the well washed to its knees. Then we all need to protect the hackers. As the people of Glasgow protected asylum seekers whom they saw as their own.
Totally fed up with the basket case to which the corrupt leadership of the Scottish National Party has reduced my country…resigned to not seeing independence in my lifetime…appalled by the whole pack and boiling of them, I thank my lucky stars we live in Costa Rica, mismanaged though it is. That purchase on a whim, all those years ago, has turned out to have been a good call, despite walking into a local water war at the start of it all.
Mark you, the Costa Rica in which we live is not that of the tourist posters, specialising as they do in lunatics in helmets and water wings rafting down fast flowing rivers, other lunatics in helmets screaming down zip lines to the horror of the local wildlife, and thin women in bikinis prancing in the ocean. None of that round here, thank goodness.
We have a National Park…..the Cangrega….
Closed, needless to say, thanks to the bug, but a super place to visit if keen on nature in general and hiking in particular, but as it is off the beaten tourist track it does not attract many visitors even when open.
That might change as it is approachable by the old main road from the capital to the coast, deserted for years in favour of the laughingly named motorway – two lanes most of the way – which replaced it, but this year there has been a publicity campaign, pointing out the tedium of the endless jams on the motorway compared with the pleasures of running through the countryside and enjoying the little cafes and wayside stalls which mark its path. Judgng by the volume of traffic in town on the weekends, it seems to be working and a friend with a cafe on the route is delighted with the uptick in custom.
This is the view that comes free with the meal…..
This is the working Costa Rica, not the tourist traps of the coast, where family farms were the backbone of the country’s economy long before United Fruit started its plantations. While ox carts hauled coffee beans over tracks that existed before the arrival of the Conquistadors to reach the Pacific coast whence they were shipped to Europe, farmers produced for the local market and this area was famed for its beans – that staple of the Central American diet.
The farmers started to exploit the lands between the capital and the coast in the early nineteenth century, and as the population grew there was felt to be a need to supply its spiritual welfare. The Roman Catholic Church, under a couple of energetic archbishops, began evangelising the rural areas, providing priests and building chapels, a process which continued into the early years of the twentieth century.
It was a community effort. Someone would donate the land, others materials or means of transport, others would give their own time to work on the project.
Given the country’s links with England, through the coffee trade and through the cultural influence of the then British empire, many churches were buit in what is known as the Victorian style….adapted to the materials and skills of the builders…and there is a cluster of these churches in this area, well worth a side trip when heading for a beach holiday, or a day trip from the capital – take a picnic and enjoy a part of old Costa Rica.
Starting from the busy town of Cuidad Colon in moments you are out into the country, wending your way to El Rodeo
Still maintained and in good order.
On to Picagres with its tower…
And Piedras Negras…
Jaris….supplanted by a modern church….and in need of TLC when I last looked…
There a a couple of other churches in that style, but more difficult to fit into a round trip…Corralar
I had to discover these places for myself…the tourist guides are not interested in these monuments to faith and solidarity out on the old gravel roads….but then, the tourist guides assume that Costa Rica has no culture save that of hedonism on one hand and much trumpeted ecologism on the other, with a passing – obligatory – bow to indigenous customs and handicrafts.
A friend who is a talented artist cannot fnd a gallery to show his work because he is not
B a recovered drug addict living in the streets
C an abused child or
D has no art world contacts
because people buy the story, not the art.
Just as people buy the idea of ‘green’ Costa Rica, the false animal refuges, the ‘spiritual’ scams of the exploitative hippies and the ‘pura vida’ of the tourist traps.
So why did we buy ‘on a whim’? Because we had the good fortune to have stayed with a family who loved their country, loathed the tourist industry and let us loose to explore.
But that resource is not open, in general. People come on tours…see the sights…swallow the publicity and see what they expect to see, as in all countries.
So, you can come to Costa Rica…no vaccines, no tests, just an insurance in case you have health problems…but when you are there, or in any other country you visit, don’t rely on the tourist professionals…ask local people what to visit and you will get some great surprises.
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?
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.