Saturday, 16 December 2017

Siberian Saturday


Another Christmas Saturday, another event in the town.
Shivering while playing Christmas music concerning snow and reindeer will not warm up the band.  I hope they have hot toddies at their sides as their fingers must be frozen. The fellow at the back has been somewhat excited by the songs however! 


The audience could not restrain their enthusiasm as you can see, the big man in red emerging from his grotto to listen to the band.  Possibly he wishes to avoid being inside alone with kids in these days of lawyers adverts and tabloid journalists!  Sadly dealing with kids on one level has not changed but on another PC attitudes and neurotic mums make it impossible to be alone with a child.
Like me many men will not talk to kids who talk to us innocently, however if one required help I, like most, would step in, whether others thought this right would have to wait for later.


The market swarmed as it did last week, grumbling people, cold stallholders, far too few stalls.  A very good opportunity to sell the town has fallen flat with poor planning and lack of experience.  Mind you I went to two of the usual stalls and obtained what I required.  I avoided the newer trendy ones as it was home made stuff, jewellery and the like, nice in itself but not for me.  
One Saturday to come, Christmas almost Eve, must do better. 


Note the cheery smiles...


My shopping ended at the sweet stall I usually ignore.  These cheap delightful chocolates in a presentation plastic jar will do the job.  It would have been better to find other items more appropriate but they don't exist in this little town, and I was tired and cold!



Thursday, 14 December 2017

Thursday, Still Shopping


The sun was shining through the chill of the day as I trawled through all the charity shops looking for gifts for the girls at work.  I got one, four to go!  This  buying cheap stuff shopping is hard work yet not as hard as dealing with women who walk through you, push prams into you and shop girls who chat incessantly at you while you browse books!  I am in a charity shop lassie, I don't need heavy sales chat while browsing the 176 books you have littering the shelving.  I think she must have been trained at W.H.Smiths, that store is regularly considered the worst in the High Street year after year yet as it makes vast profits, Smiths have all the airport newsagent stores, the directors care not that the shop is a mess.  A messy charity shop is better than a well presented one not just because the latter raise their prices suitably.  When I played football in the days of long ago I was less worn out than when I trudged through the masses today, what is it about the 'season of goodwill' that turns shoppers into growling ruffians?

  
Next week I will have to rise early to visit Tesco and avoid those buying sufficient supplies to feed a battalion of Royal Highland Fusiliers for a week rather than just feed the family.  As soon as Boxing Day is over, and some on Boxing Day itself, the customers will be back for more overpriced goodies they do not need.  I might buy what I need only and enjoy that.


 I might avoid Sainsburys myself this year, they do not look as if they are up for it this year....


Mind you this lot are not doing to well either!  Prices are cheaper mind.


The queues outside the shops which have begun the sales early can be wearying, this lot have been waiting for some time now and still the queue does not get less.  Possibly time to shop online girls?


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Gifts, Postmen


I thought Christmas was over.
I had obtained all I needed but then I must get something for the girls at work, something cheap appropriate.  However if I buy them expensive (reduced) chocolates we find one doesn't eat them, if I buy wine (cheap) two don't drink) if I buy flowers their partners get anxious (I thought about packets of seed and let them grow them themselves) so it is getting difficult.
There is also a lack of shops.
The best place to look for appropriate items would be in the museum shop!  We have the best selection of such goods in town, though the opposition is weak.  However that would not do.
I may have to travel tomorrow into one of the big towns, full of people, to search for odd items that fit each one.  Good grief I thought I had finished this ages ago!
Life is not fair!


This man visited me today with three big boxes.
This makes a change as he usually just put a card through the door.  He has never liked me since I left because of my knees.  After that the postman's work changed for the worse and he, who rarely smiled, smiled less as he saw me lazing about while he had lost his easy job and had a hard one for a change.  In fact I would rather have worked on but my knees refused, he works on, trapped by women and children, while I am at ease, in his view.  The sad thing was while some had a lot to do this postie had an easy time, the changes resulting from new management meant he lost his favoured status and was treated like the rest of us.  He and one or two others have not yet got over this.
Hee hee!




Monday, 11 December 2017

Snow Still



The fearsome snow that caused panic in all media and led to vocal attacks on gritter lorry men might be coming to an end.  As always the terror lasted a day or two and by tomorrow most snow will have evaporated, all will be forgotten by Friday.
Certainly it snowed again today, again this caused closed schools and shopping centres.  I informed the facebook lot that the local Freeport was open and when I got there desperate to see one specific shop found that today's snowfall, which had ceased by the time I arrived, had led to the closure of Freeport!  I was miffed!  This meant a trudge around the shops I trudged around on Saturday and there was nothing I wished for there.  This town has all the basics but nothing fancy apart from what the museum sells, and as I was buying for someone at the museum I could not use that.  Knackered and disappointed am I.
Tomorrow we will freeze, it will be minus 2 tonight, much colder up north, and I must trudge through sludge again tomorrow for the museum.  If the boiler fails we will be in big trouble.


It is becomng common these days for people, mostly women, to fill the media with pictures of themselves, 'selfies,' showing off their scars and boasting how this will not affect their 'confidence.' (Why are women and footballers the only ones with problems of 'confidence?')  Why are these women shoving their sickness down our throats?  Why are these self publicists allowed house room? Local and national papers appear full of people suffering a sickness, leg break, scar or whatever and demanding we pay them attention, why?
I sent many years in the NHS and have been treated several times as a patient and found no-one then interested in running to the media nor did I wish to do so myself.  Why then are these folks so often filling the pages?  Are their medical problems news?  Give it  a rest folks.


   

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Snow and the World Ceases to Turn.


For a week now they have been threatening snow, this usually ends with a smattering of flakes similar to the other day, however this morning we awoke to a white landscape with large snowflakes happily floating down hour after hour.  
Naturally being Sunday many people remained indoors, I was one of them, but some have to be out and about and a few cars slowly slugged their way along the streets.  Before the snow began cold rain had fallen and the gritter lorries work was being washed away.  This meant the snow lay thus giving the moaning minnies an excuse to grumble that there were no gritter lorries on the roads.  
Any excuse for a moan and usually with no idea of how to operate a gritter service.  
Of course I don't have a car and don't need to go out.  


Having decided to remain closeted beside the heater I ventured to open the window sufficiently to photograph the effect of the snow on bare tree branches.  Apart from flurries in my face I took a few shots and returned about an hour later for more as the snow had thickened considerably in that time before beginning to thin out. 


Thick snow meant many were indoors however the tailwaggers of this world were not inclined to sit by the fire like a cat would, the park was full of people being pulled along by dogs of various sizes, tails wagging, the dogs not the people, while they chased across the park delighting in the new experience and meeting their mates doing the same thing.  Most dogs here appear to get on well. The owners, wrapped up like Nanook of the North,' followed obediently discussing hot Bovril and firesides. 


Also to be seen were several children who had not experienced such an event before.  It might be seven years since the last deep snow fall, I don't recall too much last year, and sleighs pulled by dad were enjoyed by many, but less so by dad who will now be grumbling about his bad back.   


After a while it calmed down so I opened the wee window for air and returned to my important lazing around on the laptop and after a while i heard a clattering noise.  At the window hang the bird feeders and a Robin had foolishly come through the small gap, deliberately small to stop this happening.  I think he might be youngish and not experienced enough to avoid such things but there he was above the, closed, big window.  


I tried gently to persuade him to venture towards the wee window but he remained determined to aim for the big one.  This is not easy to open or close and I wished him to follow orders, he would not.  Up on the curtains, on the wall, on books, papers and even when tired for a moment on my finger the scared and tired wee lad was constantly aiming for the high points and refusing to duck low and head for the wee window.  Several times he could see it, and by this time I drew the curtains on the big window to stop him, but he could not comprehend that was the way out.  Eventually I managed to get him trapped near the right window and forced him on to the windowsill.  His escape was clear, the window was open wide, the air was cold and what to do now?  He sat on the bar holding the window open and considered his options.  Possibly he realised it was warmer inside?
He flew off, glad to escape and with adrenalin pumping.
A wise woman claims he sat on the bar rather than fly off because he was male, could this be true?   

  

As always with a couple of inches of snow the roads are blocked, daft people crash cars, trains cease, runways are closed and the minnies moan about it in the usual fashion.  A similar but weaker day will follow tomorrow I hear, a working day and many will find the roads slippy early on.  I have food, heating, a laptop and the door firmly closed to notions of walking in snow.   


I feel sorry for the birds in this weather and rather wished Robin had settled down until it was clear to fly again, he would have been well fed.  However many birds sat through the storm, the starlings were constantly at the feeders today showing that few other options were open for them.  You can just make out a wood pigeon sitting towards the top of this picture facing to the east into the snow as it falls.  No hiding for the birds in this weather.


Soon of course it will be slush, then wet, floods here and there and more reason to grumble.
How often we faced this in Edinburgh?  Yet today there was frost up there and no snow whatsoever!  It is a disgrace that we get their snow, it belongs to them up north.  I watched the game at Airdrie on BBC ALBA and by six in the evening as the game finished the BBC weather claimed the temperature was minus four!  Colder than Moscow as the tabloids like to boast.  It is merely zero here now.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Slaving Away Saturday


Saturday ought to be one of my many days of rest and instead I have twice wandered slowly around the town searching for things and also spent time in the museum.  I wandered in there out of habit and found the lass once again on her own.  This is not a good situation and I hung about for a while as I was in no hurry and enjoyed the chat.  I heard about the reasons for the failure of the Christmas lights, the chap responsible left the job and no-one bothered to replace him.  This meant nobody headed up an organised Christmas, no money, no working together and no efficient result.  A wasted opportunity to put the town on the map.


This however was not the only turkey in town.  This guy and his mate spent much time showing off to the kids and indeed frightening them by his cry.  "Gobble Gobble" sound OK on tv or in cartoons but when a bird yells it in your face many kids ran for their lives.  I followed them!  


The 'little donkey' was not that keen to meet folks, he spent much time with his head stuffed in his feed.  Reindeer last week, donkeys, turkeys and sheep this week, I suspect the animal lovers who grumbled about having them in the town are at this moment writing to the local paper demanding these beats are put out into the fields.  Actually by this time they probably are, or tucked up nicely for the night.


The whole point of having such attractions is to bring folks into the town centre, this however is harmed by a lack of political control.  The council will not reduce the rates, small shops canny survive and we now have many very good charity shops but wandering about the town today I realised how little is on offer beyond the basics.  Sure some big shops have premises but most are loss leaders and many have closed, that leaves two big supermarkets and many disgruntled shoppers.   Big towns 15 miles away benefit.

   
I was much tempted to visit the 'Bull' as I passed but not only was it crowded my knees indicated home was preferred.  The 'Bull' has stood there at least since 1769 when it was 'licensed' as an Inn but I expect it operated as an Inn before that.  The shape of the building makes me wonder if it was originally a house at the edge of town, possibly a farmhouse, the 'Nags Head' standing me as I took the picture certainly was a farmhouse.  Much changed over the years and extended into the one time Saddlers next door it is one of the towns most 'popular' pubs.  Few pubs are not popular and at least this one has not been closed down by police request as one or two others have been.  
Until the 1960's the pub was popular with farmers and their men who came in on Wednesday and Saturday for the market.  Cows were still seen here in the 60's and in times past small stockholds would operate outside the pubs, sheep or pigs held therein.   A lovely aroma for the townsfolk.



Thursday, 7 December 2017

Storm


A touch of rain today.
This comes from one of those winter storms that now possess daft names, Caroline this one, offering, they say, 90 miles an hour winds.  This excites the tabloids who offer panic laden headlines with wind damaging buildings and blowing people hundred of miles away from home.  Hmmm it was windy, around 20 mph this morning, and severely wet for the postman who left a note as I didn't hear him.  I suspect he was being drenched and could not wait, I don't blame him, horrible day to be doing that job.
Tomorrow it will improve to snow, blocked roads, crashing cars and halted railways, at least according to the tabloids.  It might get cold here.
So who suggested this absurd idea of naming storms?  These things have ripped up the coastline happily for hundreds of years without personal names so why name them now?  Following the US I suppose and pandering to some daftie who requires to name a storm so they realise winter is upon us?  Bah!


However truly sad news comes from the US where Jerry informs us his wife of many years has passed on after an illness lasting some time.   Naturally he is distraught although as she has suffered much in recent years there is an element of peace at last for her.  It came quite quickly at the end so she did not linger but now Jerry has the worst of the deal.  She has passed into her Lords hands and is safe there Jerry remains longing to be with them both.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Book


It gives me a strange satisfaction to find that I have finished another book that sits on the pile in front of me.  That pile anyway is one less the other piles of books still to be read have not gone down much.  
I have always liked Henry Canova Vollam Morton in spite of his rather bullish nature.  I suspect that is a requirement in journalism and he got off to a good start not only by being the son of an editor but by announcing the scoop of Tutankhamen's tomb being opened before the 'Times' man who had the rights could do so.  He then became famous for his travel books, around London then England, Scotland and elsewhere.  In the 30's he travelled through the Holy Land, a much easier enterprise then than now as the British Mandate allowed travel across borders in a manner impossible today.  Having discovered books about Jesus and Paul sold well he then decided on a further expedition in the late 30's. 

'While I was travelling in the Holy Land...the desire grew on me to make a Christian pilgrimage from the Euphrates to the Nile, and into Sinai, and to tell the story of the Christian life of the Near East,'

It had nothing to do with making money, honest guv. 
I looked forward to this book as I love the ancient lands, especially those usually ignored in the far south of what is today Iraq, the ancient land of 'Sumer,' often classed as 'Babylonia.'   It was a book I wished to read years ago.


Landing at Alexandretta in French controlled Lebanon Morton travels to Aleppo the town today thrashed by civil war intending to visit once popular pilgrimage sites including the pillar upon which sat one Simon Stylites Simon early chose a severe form of asceticism which saw him barred from monastic life and he ended up sitting high up on his pillar apart from the world, continuing his austere life but constantly queried by people wishing answers to problems.  He remained there for 37 years.  I must say while many followed him or ventured into monastic or hermit style life I see no biblical reason for this and wonder about those who chose this life.  Morton appears fascinated by them and as he travels follows his normal routine of discovering historical connections with each place, some of these are intriguing and others just worrying!


Continuing to Palmyra an ancient city made famous by ISIS destroying it Morton came upon a bus! 
Intrepid travellers who hitch a lift from a sheik (or claim to - he is a somewhat romantic writer) then discover a bus that just happens to have stopped to pick up passengers in Palmyra are doing very well I say. 
The Nairn Transport Company began in 1923 when a couple of New Zealanders who had served there during the war began a car service between Haifa and Beirut.  By the late thirties they were driving cars and then buses across the desert roads from Baghdad to Damascus.  The French and British authorities were delighted as many personnel were thus able to travel the vast distances in some degree of comfort, camels can be a bit slow.  
Half way across they stopped at Rutba Fort and eat an English dinner in an impeccable English dining room in the middle of the desert, this brought out the xenophobia in Morton!  The Empire had some advantages.
In Baghdad Morton again waxes lyrical about English influence on Iraq especially when he notices an 'English' bookshop.  What sort of 'English' bookshop would have the name 'MacKenzie' above the door escapes me.  It does appear British influence was stronger in Iraq that French influence in Syria, at least according to our author.
In Baghdad he watches from the window, lights out, of the Shia flagellantes as they pass by late at night.  The house belongs to Chaldean Christians, a type almost unknown now after years of needless war.  Morton is fascinated by the intricacies of these worshippers marching by slowly and as he does elsewhere goes into details we often see on our TV, if the news can show many dead alongside.

 
From his hotel our hero takes a taxi to Babylon passing the noticeable railway station 'Babylon Halt.' 
Clambering over the then dusty mounds he appraises the mud brick remains and reminds the reader of the biblical history found in Jeremiah where in 586 BC the people of Judah were taken to Babylon.  The fact that Jews have been found in this are up to recent times speaks much of their ability to live alongside other faiths.  Since the Great War however Jews, and most Christians have fled this apart of the world leaving a huge Moslem space almost devoid of any other.  British, French and now US policy has done this and with Trump topping it off today by recognising Jerusalem as capital of Israel another step down may have occurred.  Jerusalem will never be like Babylon however it will suffer more warfare and terrorism, possibly sooner rather than later.   
This to me is the most interesting part of Morton's book.  Babylon then Ur of the Chaldees, again mud bricks and knowledgeable guides, mostly educated when assisting archaeologists in times past, and fascinating history all combined to make me wish to travel there today.  The ease Morton travelled in his day compared to now appeals but I suggest tourism might be possible but costly.

 
For me the book descends into a rather boring read once Morton arrives in Egypt.  While there are some interesting episodes, such as taking a ferry which turns out to be a sinking small boat that slowly struggles to get anywhere, for the most part his many, oh so many descriptions of Coptic Churches, monasteries and their monks and the tales of so called 'saints' from the distant past did not dwell well with me.
The flamboyant Coptic ceremonies may well go back into the distant past, well until about the 400's and hermits and monks may well consider they are seeking salvation by their lifestyles but to me there was a sad outlook for them at that time.  I am not convinced God calls people to live like this, I am not one for fancy outfits or bejewelled clergy and I have no need to live on the hard black bread these monks lived on, the Coptic clergy appeared better fed.  
His visit to Mount Sinai was interesting and the monk with him also and the questions as to whether this is the mount or not is intriguing.  However we do not know for sure and if we did we would worship the mountain not the God!  This was a problem in the middle East in many places, saints are worshipped not the risen Christ.


At least in Rome our man found plenty of interest down in the five hundred miles of catacombs that lie there.  It is possible many famous early Christians mentioned in the letters of Paul may lie there, though it is not possible to be sure.  Certainly the history, the need to hide for the authorities (a bit like it is becoming today) and the sheer adventure of wandering in the near dark at that time through such places was enlivening the book.
Less so his adoration of the pope in all his splendour canonising saints.  The description reveals a side to Morton his womanising nature would find surprising.  Possibly it was ceremony he liked and the connection to history, that connection to history cannot be but joy to the bright mind, however while he knew his scripture we wonder how well he obeyed it no matter how many times he gets VIP seats in the Vatican.

The history from a man in the 1930's is always worth a look.  His fascination for ceremony much less so as is his fawning over 'saints' from the past.  Anyone who becomes a Christian becomes a 'saint' it merely indicates they are 'set apart for God' and not someone with a record of miracles once he is dead!  Morton's history is interesting, his writing style also.  Beginning with the transport and description of the area his book, divided into chapters within chapters, then visits something, description follows and the last small chapter describes the end of day or plan for moving on.
It is easy to understand how his columns in the London press became popular, it is easy to understand why his books still sell today, it is less easy to understand his thinking.  After writing a book on South Africa he moved there with his second wife and his diaries reveal the somewhat fascist ideas he held, his womanising and the flaws in his character.  What however I dwell on is the books he left these describe his world very well a world that no longer exists but is so close to us still today.
 


Monday, 4 December 2017

Satire...


It is almost Christmas and in spite of everything Trump is still in charge.
Near war with North Korea, loss of a senior director every week, at war with FBI because they know about him, friendship with Putin, tweets to upset someone daily indeed hourly and playing golf rather than work.
It is even more surprising no one has tried to shoot him yet in gun rich, shoot first America.  Surely some nutter with a telescopic sight would have tried by now?  Maybe they know he will inwardly collapse soon enough.


Of course my Christmas card list is complete  it is just that I found the need to buy four more cards today as someone appeared who was not there yesterday.  I must be finished now, some have begun to arrive at the destinations thereby inflicting guilt on those who have not yet begun to start their Xmas list.
Good O!


Saturday, 2 December 2017

Christmas Market


Having spent time yesterday sorting the gift and Christmas cards I was somewhat irritated to discover another niece hiding in the hills.  This meant I had once again to trudge needlessly into Tesco earlyish this morning, passing the few brave souls setting out their stalls for the Christmas Saturday sales, and rush round Tesco accidentally spending another £10 on things forgotten or just wanted this morning.  On the way I posted three more cards and have now half completed the job that I usually have completed by the 1st of December to everyone's annoyance.   Then I discovered I need some more cards as the ones I have will not do for the folks awaiting.


My neighbours surviving flowers, three at least, are holding up well considering it is December and she has spent more on the bottle than on them this year.  Only once did the ambulance call this year...


After breakfast I sauntered round the town looking at the completed stalls and in the town centre I found this Pixi (?) blowing up balloons and twisting them into shapes for the kids.  One of life's simple yet easily destroyed pleasures that has delighted kids since balloons were invented.  The rubber balloon was invented it appears in 1824 by Michael Faraday when experimenting with hydrogen gas however a man named Thomas Hancock developed what we now know as balloons.  
In days of yore pigs bladders and cat intestines were used to make a balloon of sorts, good luck to you I say!

 
Food for the hungry (I didn't note the prices but a later stall was selling pies at £4 each!


A pub in the high Street!  We don't have many of them do we...


I saw a sign saying "£6 a Tankard" and wondering what they meant by 'Tankard' I wandered on.


Down the far end someone was singing "It'll be lonely this Christmas" and listening to him I knew why.  He was someone famous using the Elvis song to get a Christmas pension, he will succeed but not near me.


Naturally with so many kids out for the great Christmas switch on (apart from the High Street there is a technical problem) someone would be on hand to offer them a delight for a small sum of gold.  There were many wandering around holding bright shaped things that Gran and Granddad (mostly granddad) had paid for.  I never got one.


Nowhere near as many stall as last year, clearly some did not pay well, but one or two kids things still arrived.  


On the main stage something from 'Heart FM' was singing very loudly and in a very high voice "What about Looove, What about Loooooeeeoove" over and over again.  On her fortieth repetition, I did not notice any verses in between, it crossed my mind of an explanation as to why she was not receiving the 'Loooove' she desired.  As she finished many in the audience applauded.  I remain unclear whether this was because of the singing or because she ceased singing.  'Heart FM Essex' is not a station I listen to as I have a musical ear and I do not wish it damaged.
Such events fill a gap in small towns and please the few decent shops that remain.  I wandered of to buy a few more cards and then into Sainsburys for the chips I forgot this morning and left them to it. 
I expect similar stalls next week will be out and possibly with Christmas lights up everywhere, but I probably will not notice...