Saturday, 27 September 2014

Funny bone

Recently I finally managed to have dinner with two old friends who I'll call Mary-Kate and Ashley to spare their blushes. We've been trying to catch up for absolutely ages and we finally managed to get a time and date nailed down. Even this didn't go well as the week before Ashley and I had both turned up to find out the deranged Mary-Kate had had a brain burp and meant the following week!

Unfortunately, for me as my knackered knee saga continues I became the reluctant topic of conversation. Both friends used to be orthopaedic theatre nurses and they were 'keen to explore' my reticence at allowing anyone near any of my joints with a Black and Decker. Although I am beginning to knock on a bit, at my age it would still be classed as a 'young knee replacement'. Mary-Kate revealed to my astonishment that she'd had a conversation with an orthopaedic surgeon friend about my knee with no names mentioned and apparently it is not a disaster and I "should get a good 15yrs out of a replacement"! I knew she'd kept my confidentiality and was just info gathering on my behalf so I wasn't upset as they were both trying to make sure I got the best of care. However, the pair of them were like a dog with a bone...or more correctly a juicy knee joint! It took me ages to divert them and neither the starter or getting them on to the referendum gave me much respite before they got back to my knee.

I am peculiarly squeamish about my own bones and joints and this even extends to my dining habits. When the main course arrived I thought hallelujah as we could concentrate on the food rather than my knee. However, I realised too late that the chicken supreme I'd chosen comes with a leg bone sticking out! I couldn't help myself exclaiming "Oh, no!" as I was horror struck that I hadn't realised how chicken supreme comes. When I explained it was the leg sticking up and not the meal itself that had distressed me the pair of them fell about laughing. Thankfully, I was able to annex a chunk of my chicken and the bone went with it as the shame of having to have my dinner carved by an orthopaedic theatre nurse would have been just too great.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Scottish Referendum Reflections

Thank you to everyone who commented on my previous Referendum posts. Whether you were pro, anti or just generally supportive I have loved having your thoughts on this moment in my country's history.

I'd planned to post on Friday evening but, as often happens life got in the way. My Mother became suddenly very ill that morning and she became my priority. She required admission to hospital but thankfully she has improved even though we only have a presumptive diagnosis. She is still not entirely 'right' but I am just so grateful she is better than she was as the situation was looking grim.

Anyway, to wind up my posts on the Referendum here are my thoughts and reflections on the result. On Thursday night I stayed up until the first result came in. When Clackmannanshire returned a No majority I went to bed with a feeling of foreboding and was not entirely surprised at the overall result. Predominantly, I just felt an overwhelming sadness at an opportunity lost and a slight touch of relief that the necessary upheaval to effect that change would not be happening. I was also sad to see Alex Salmond resigning as I was beginning to develop a grudging respect for his political astuteness and skills. Though this may simply be him manoeuvring Nicola Sturgeon into place.

Two days on I still feel slightly saddened by the result but given how close it actually came in the end I believe there will be a resurgence of interest. I am amazed that Glasgow, which is a staunch generations' old Labour heartland and proportionally the largest council, achieved a Yes majority. I think enthusiasm for independence will return and that this has been a staging post towards Scotland becoming an Independent nation. SNP probably lost predominantly on the financial uncertainty and I would imagine the next time if this aspect is nailed down then the outcome may be different.

I completely reject the notion that 'healing' needs to occur between the two sides of the debate and between Scotland and the rest of the UK. I have not had a cross word with anyone online or in real life during this whole time. This is what democracy is, the answer was No, and we move forward on that basis. If you are grown up enough to vote then you make your peace with it and move on. I was saddened to see that the warm and fuzzy geniality in George Square on the eve of the Referendum was replaced after the result by vile, neo-Nazi, sectarian characters spreading their own brand of hatred and pack mentality. These looked to be the kind of amoral nutters who exploit any opportunity for foaming at the mouth mob based hatred irrespective of the 'cause'.

I found it quite strange that older voters were more heavily balanced towards No despite having probably benefitted most from the health and social care reforms enacted by the devolved Scottish government so far. I am acutely aware of this as I don't know how I would have coped to fund and manage my mother's continuingly complex care needs since 2006 had I lived elsewhere in the UK. Perhaps older voters felt more aligned to the idea of the union from past associations, wars and industries or just less inclined towards change. This might be why younger voters were skewed towards independence.

So, having had a No majority we now proceed towards the Unionist utopia of maximal devolution, or devo-max. This apparently promises greater powers for the devolved Parliament over taxation and decision-making for issues impacting Scotland. One of the most persuasive drives towards a further referendum might result from how well the Westminster government delivers on their alleged promises of devo-max, or not. I am cynical that three party leaders who clearly loathe and distrust each other can deliver, but we'll see.

The Prime Minister has opened the floodgates by suggesting that far from Scotland being the prodigal child he is widening the scope to ensure all parts of the UK will be given devolved powers. I agree entirely that this is right but it does make me laugh; instead of upholding the Union as something cohesive and homogenous he's proposing dividing up the very union he was advocating....??!

So, far from being the divisive nationalists portrayed as shunning their kindred UK brethren, Scotland has actually shone a light on the political inequalities of the dislocated Union and created a vehicle for improvement for all the four countries of the UK. Any chance the political parties will acknowledge this, or is it just easier to blacken the name of the upstart haggis bashers.....? (answers on a postcard or sealed down envelope on this one...!).

It has been fascinating for me to be involved in this Referendum, even if getting to a final decision was a tortured journey. I have seen myself move from a careless No to a thoughtful Yes who felt that Independence was, and is, something worth having. Maslow's Hierarchy places Esteem and Self-Actualisation at the top of the pyramid of growth in humans yet we settled for a Sense of Belonging. I hope that this 'sense of belonging' proves to be for the greater good of the nations of the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Voting Day

Well, I did indeed question myself and my motivation to the very last moment, but the deed is done. Glasgow is one of the last to report their results and, as the largest proportional area, this might be pivotal.
 My journey back to work took me a different route today and I have been utterly struck by how sombre and determined everyone looked. This is George Square in Glasgow which is quite strikingly different to last night's gathering.
There may have been lots of banter and noise in the run up to it but it looks like the decision is not being taken lightly which is reassuring. (Excuse the reflection from my dashboard)
I am anxious and uncomfortable about the result and, in all truth, I genuinely don't know which decision I hope prevails. The alarm clock is set for very early tomorrow to see what the dawn brings.

Eve of the Referendum

Tomorrow dawns the day of reckoning for me. It is a huge decision, and although I am only a tiny part of it, I will be putting my mark towards my country's future tomorrow morning.
I am leaning towards a yes but what a huge leap into the unknown this will be. The alternative is no less scary as a no vote would allow the Westminster government to put away their pretence of devo-max and trample Scotland for daring to oppose them. Both outcomes will be divisive. A yes result will mean Scotland stands alone and a no result will mean a justifiable outrage from the other nations of the Union who must stand by and watch Scotland potentially being gifted extra powers.  
I'd heard there was a gathering in George Square in front of the City Chambers so decided to go and have a look on my way home from work as I haven't joined in any public events with either side. That this one was a Yes event didn't sway me as there was no more definitive evidence to be considered.
It took me nearly an hour to get round the square as the traffic was all but parked, hence the lighting differences in the photos as it got dark.
Big clouds gathering over the City Chambers which I didn't notice till I looked at this pic 
No, I do not know what possessed this man to drive round with two planks sticking out of his windows with flags......!
The atmosphere was very benign and congenial and I had lots of mini conversations with people passing by as everyone was so chatty. The funniest were two African chaps who were clearly pals but smilingly opposite in their views.  
And yes, I did take one of this chap's booklets, as it would have been rude to refuse. I mean, who refuses a nice mannie in a kilt.....?

I've heard rumours of people who claim they've been 'abused' for holding mainly No voter views but this chap with the fabby bike and the no flags and stickers was a being treated like a star.
 He was very friendly and happy to pose with a whole succession of people sporting yes badges and items. The black Yes shopping trolley near the front of the bike is one of the odder items I've seen.
There was bagpipe playing, speeches and spontaneous singing. I joined in the start of Flower of Scotland but felt really choked and emotional, which I hadn't expected. The enormity of this decision and what it will mean for all of us just seemed to get so very real now that it has finally arrived.
This is the lion in front the of the City Chambers which is a challenge for every Glasgow child who aspires to be big enough to clamber up onto it with a sense of absolute achievement. I think it is part of the Cenotaph so probably very disrespectful but nonetheless one of mine and many others' childhood  memories. We are kind of known for 'embracing' our statuary, or sticking a traffic cone on their head, as the Duke of Wellington in Royal Exchange Square knows all too well!
The City Chambers is a very lovely looking building, especially in the twilight
No matter what the result of the referendum is on Friday, or how I vote, change will be inevitable.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Referendum Thoughts 4

Fear not, we're nearing the end of my reflection posts on the Referendum next week.

A week further on and no further forward essentially. It is odd that the No campaign, with all their attributes as the known quantity, seem to have nothing concrete to offer or to be showcasing the benefits. It should have been easy for them to persuade voters towards a safe, comfortable union. Used properly they could have batted the upstart Alex Salmond off like an irritating midge. However, something went very wrong; their scaremongering went on too long and they badly mis-judged their understanding of, and connection with, Scottish voters.

This week's unseemly scramble north has smacked of panic. Their smoke and mirrors offer of a devo-max 'process' to identify some crumbs to sweep Scotland's way with a timetable of decisions, rather than actual powers, on notable dates on the Scottish calendar was nothing short of disgraceful. If the campaign really doesn't know how to engage Scottish voters without offending them then they've lost the plot. Pulling out the tartan and shortbread only works if you are actually Scottish and not just using it to try to appeal to the haggis-bashers!

What I find strangest is the lack of cohesion between the Westminster political parties. Each of them has made a great play of telling us simpletons to remember it is "not about a particular political party", "its not like a general election" and even Dave in his emotional speech told us not to use the vote to "give the 'effing' Tories a kicking". Yet, each of the political parties has campaigned entirely separately, in their own traditional party playgrounds and advanced their own political party's ethos. For a campaign aimed at demonstrating how the union is Better Together they might have clocked the fact that they should have been presenting a UNIFIED front. A fragmented unionist campaign doesn't really walk the talk!

I am worried by the financial implications and uncertainty of this vote. The panic from the no campaign seems genuine and I can't decide if it is as a result of suddenly realising they've misjudged the situation or whether an Independent Scotland is going to impact the UK financial stability far more than is being disclosed.

I am deeply suspicious of the banks and retail giants wading in with statements which appear to indicate they will either pack up and go south, or enact massive price hikes, as Scotland is really just an expensive loss leader for them. My suspicion centres on the rather unhealthy relationship between 'captains of industry' and their government chums so I imagine some puppetry going on here and some nice wee knighthoods being dangled. Although the shares market is demonstrating the effects of the uncertainty it seems only to be UK companies who are narcissistically lobbing their toys out of the pram and identifying themselves as only trading in Scotland under sufferance and subsidy. So can I really believe all businesses will pack up and leave during a recession when they are already established, have their supply chain in place and the change will be a transitional one?

It is more difficult to criticise the Yes campaign over their conduct this week. This doesn't mean they've made a good case, instead they've astutely let the No campaign hang themselves. Compared to the chaotic union campaign they are presenting themselves as a steady and consistent leadership; Wee Eck and Nicola have complementary skill sets and are coming across as a unified team. I've still no idea if this pair can deliver a prosperous and effective Independent Scotland as they really will be 'first time parents' of a new nation, and that is not ideal. However, compared to the fragmented union campaign which Nigel Farage has now joined, I need to question whether the status quo is really that attractive. The quality of incisive newspaper reporting is also very poor and they really are scraping the bottom of the barrel with non-stories alleging as both are childless they can't understand family values and Alex Salmond is only doing this because an English girlfriend once dumped him.

Where am I now? Still on the fence and Yes-ward leaning, but this is no certainty. My search for facts and evidence has been nigh on impossible and sadly the decision is being made on a balance of probabilities rather than on empirics. I feel rather lied to and manipulated by both sides and remain equally disparaging about the veracity of each of the sides offerings. As I suspected, my eventual decision will have to be very close to the wire.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Driving the Referendum

Given that all the Better Together campaigners have pulled on their Saltire socks and tartan knickers and headed north. How much fun would it be if David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband hailed a cab together when they alighted at Central Station and got into this one....
...anyone want to hazard a guess which way this chap might be voting?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Surf and Turf

I don't like beef but I did wonder if you can get Mad Cow disease from a tempura prawn that looks like its bovine relative....?
As these prawns were the nicest I've had in ages at the Jam Jar in Bridge of Allan I decided to stop questioning and keep scoffing!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Expletives simmit

Post number two today as an alternative for those bored by referendum talk.

I am really chuffed with this solution to the multiple remote controls and 'essentials' cluttering up my side table. As you know I don't usually boast about my makes as they are never perfect and the omnipresent 'flaw' always seems magnified to me so, as I am already bigging up this item, you can sense a 'but....' coming up.
I made this to my own spec and like all my novice sewing projects it took nearly a whole day and then extra time the next day to refine it! Initially it had five long spaces at the top and five small pockets at the bottom but aside from the two big remotes the long pockets were too deep. So I sewed off the middle of the three long ones to make them shorter and added an extra row at the top for little nick-nacks.
It was only when I was holding it up to check for flaws or stray threads, and to decide if it would do the job, that I realised it looked rather like an explosives vest which was rather dismaying. So I've christened it my expletives simmit* as it stops me saying bad words when I can't find the right remote, glasses or nail file.
I also made myself a hankie box to try to make it look like an intentional set rather than just a stray little simmit with an unfortunate look-a-like.

*Simmit (or Semmit) - is a vest. It can be any kind of vest from the snow white one on the tanned bod of the Diet Coke hunk to the manky string effort sported by Rab C Nesbitt.

Referendum Thoughts 3

There will be a second post today just in case the whole voting caper is boring you - don't worry, if I wasn't required to vote, I'd be ignoring it too.

This week sees me leaning over the fence towards the Independence campaign. Oddly, not because I actually feel strongly about voting yes but because I am completely turned off by the bampottery* of the pro-unionist campaigners. I am genuinely struck by the notion that their campaign is actually aimed at supporting the yes campaign in a subversive manner. It also beggars belief that David Cameron is currently up here, not to underline the critical stage of proceedings, but to join the Queen on her annual hoolie at the Highland Games. Fiddle, burn, Rome.....? We know we mean the world to you Dave!

The No campaign's main tactic has been the promulgation of fear, posing unanswerable questions and suggesting nightmare scenarios of the irretrievable collapse of society. And it worked, in the early stages, at least. Now, as the arguments, alternative options and common sense become more sophisticated and the horizons open, their scaremongering has left them looking vexatious with no second line of argumentation.

I feel their campaign resembles domestic abuse where an unhappy spouse, who wants to leave, is constantly berated with their alleged inadequacies and inability to go it alone without the partner. The key here is that Scotland has a sense of being belittled as part of the Union which is why the Independence referendum has arisen in the first place. "Stay with us, we'll treat you better but we wont tell you how till you've rejected Independence" might be a genuine offer but its a really big gamble.

Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, almost always plumps for Labour and, no matter how corrupt or poorly a Labour administration does, they get voted straight back in! However, Ed Milliband's recent visit cannot have failed to annoy even their most dedicated adherent. Crowning it off with 'we'll seal off the border if you don't comply' made me wonder if he was authorised to commit the necessary billions needed to that project. The odour of fear in their campaign is getting very strong. I can't decide if it relates to us both becoming vulnerable if we split or from their sudden realisation that there is something momentous to lose if we take our own path.

By default all this bolster's the Yes campaign to my mind. It makes their vision of a potential brave new future through a fresh, modern Scandi-style government more tantalising. Yesterday, was also an historic day for me; two Independence campaigners came to my door to ask my opinion. This is the first time since I was a child that I've seen a particular side/party bother to engage with individual voters. They didn't alter my view (undecided) and went away with a flea in their ears over their own campaign inadequacies but I was impressed that they were at least game enough to pitch up.

The next ten days should get interesting as it is alleged there is an air of panic in the No campaign and all trains North are booked solid. Let's see if they have a case to put forward?

*Bampottery- absolutely no idea if this is a real word but its meaning is clear and has definite resonance, for me anyway, in relation to political madness.