Monday, December 18, 2006

Truly uplifting

I had an experience today which pointed up how lacking in common sense and what used to be called " bottom" the politicians who now run the madhouse are.
I met with a lady called May Nicholson. May runs the Preshal Trust in a seriously deprived area of Glasgow called Govan. It wasn't so deprived until the ships started being built in the far east and the 60's Labour Council in Glasgow knocked most of it down in anticipation of "regeneration". Fortunately, they never got around to it, and only now are things happening - mostly from private investment. Govan has more "A" grade listed buildings than anywhere else in Britain. But the population has dropped from about 80,000 to less than 6,000.
May is about 60, but for the first 30 years of her life she was an alcoholic and drug addict. For the last 30 she has tried to help the sub-normal and deprived to lead a useful life. She has an unshakeable belief that the Lord will provide, and she has never been proved wrong yet.
And what are the things she attempts to give people?
Dignity. A sense of worth.A clean environment. And education.
To do this, everyone who comes to her has a job, even if its sweeping the floor. They get a certificate for doing a good job, and she doesn't hand those out lightly. She makes sure that they get praise for a job well done, but a badly done job will lead to a dressing down - mild but truthful, and about the job not the " You're a waste of space" type. She makes sure where they live is properly looked after, and she makes sure there are mentors and neighbours to help with that. She makes sure they get a sense of achievement, that they as a person are worth it. They learn and expand their knowledge whilst in her care. To describe her as a dynamo is completely to mislead. She is a frail, soft-spoken rock, who gave me a hug and blessed me before I left.
She works in a rotting shed, which her people are doing up.
But she leads, and gets things done, and literally hundreds of people bless the day they met her.
My point in all this is the Blair/Brownite belief that if you throw billions at something, somehow it will get better. It won't. Like any school, what counts is the headmaster and teachers. In the hospitals, it's not the admin people, it's the charismatic doctor or surgeon who inspires and uplifts his staff, it's the good copper that works away and again, gets things done.It's the person in a job who tells the truth and shames the Devil.
There's an old adage " Cometh the hour, cometh the man"
In 1997, I have to say I thought it might be.
The only man coming now is Yates.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Run for Cover

No, not what we need to do since the Attorney General effectively said he could do anything he liked under cover of the "National Interest", but the title of a rather good "B" movie starring James Cagney, made, I think in 1954.
It is a tale of cowboys and a few Indians, but mostly it is about people's speed to judge, their herd mentality, jealousy and redemption. Pretty average cowboy stuff. You will, however, be pleased to hear Cagney wears a white hat, the baddies all have black hats, and the townsfolk various shades of grey.
But the thing that struck me was some of the dialogue, which, I daresay, reflected the thinking of the time, and, in view of my age, probably my pre-programmed view of life.
The best example was when the deputy sherrif, to whom Cagney had shown nothing but kindness and a wish to toughen him up, turned out to have been in league with the baddies all along..
" Don't blame it on yer larning - if it hadn't been that it would have been somethin' else!" In effect, you went rotten because you ARE rotten.
I don't subscribe to that view. I have unbounded faith in education, education, education ( remember that?) but that education does NOT only come from school. It comes from parents and grandparents as well, something that has almost been forgotten until IDS spelled it out again recently.
In Glasgow - and I'm sure in other places - there are some families that are 5 generations into not having worked. We -you - other taxpayers - have supported them for more than 40 years to a greater or lesser extent. Anyone on benefit, also doing the odd night behind a bar, or a little labouring, would be entirely mad to start work to earn an extra £25 per week, and having to work for it too. And don't forget the peer and family pressure. I actually once heard a mother tell her daughter, who had come to work for us in defiance of her situation, that she was insane. The mother had come to our office, pulled the 16 year old out, and shouted at her for 20 minutes in the street.
Now I know Mr. Brown likes to control everything, and his policy of increasing the public sector, the sector on benefit etc etc is merely a sophisticated form of gerrymandering, but we are perilously close to the end. Even in France, after a certain ( lengthy) period, you don't get benefit any more.
We have to reinstate policies that bring an end to dependency. Without this, the British people will never get up off their knees. It is only the influx of Poles and others that are keeping things going. And still we have slipped from fourth best productivity to 25th.If they all decide to go home we are well and truly screwed.
By the way, the deputy sherrif saved Cagney from being shot, and so redeemed himself, shot by Cagney in the process. Quote from Cagney " Ya drew! Ya drew! an' I thought ya was drawin' on me!"

State of the Nation

I watched Andrew Marr this morning when that smarmy bastard Prescott dribbled all over the place.
I read the MoS on the leaked docuement. I read Iain Dale, Dizzy, etc etc.
For possibly the first time in it's existence, this shambles ( their word) of a Government has actually told the truth.
It's crap.
I was never more sure of this than on Friday night when we were at a dinner party, two of the guests being redder than red Labourites.A naughty friend of mind wound them both up by suggesting that Pinochet was a pretty straight kind of a guy. Unfortuantely, neither of them were clever enough, and launched into furious attack, only to be shot down with the reminder that it was what Bliar had said about himself. Of course, straight kind of guy is EXACTLY what Pinochet was. He had principles ( you may not like them, but he stuck by them. There was no spin, it was all straight out) Whilst speechless, my friend continued with suggesting that what had been done in the name of the British people, particularly in Iraq, was anti-democratic and the people certainly did NOT vote for their pensions to be ruined, the NHS to deteriorate even as billions were shovelled at it, and certainly NOT for the troops in Afghanistan to have to borrow ammunition as that provided by the MOD was useless. And why NuTrident?
Both the Labourites were squirming as all this was being said, until one of them blurted out -" well, at least the country is in safe hands with Gordon Brown" -which raised a huge guffaw all round the table - .."and at least he's honest!"
I need hardly say more. If there really are people who are this deluded, the Tories will have no problem.
Like I keep saying, majority of more than 40, LibDems down below 40.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I've just been to Prestwick Rotary Club Christmas Lunch. I hasten to add I was there in my capacity as a raiser of funds for the Gurkha Welfare Trust. As a result, I was collecting a very welcome £500, which is already winging it's way to our esteemed Treasurer.
What I had not realised was that the Rotary movement ( in the UK anyway) is almost entirely devoted to charity and good works. Although a large proportion of their work is local, they have tremendous outreach and training programmes worldwide.
I was enormously impressed with these particular people, largely retired, who now donated at least two days a week of their time to good works. I was forcibly struck by their complete lack of faith in either local, regional (= Scottish) or national government to deliver even minimum incremental improvements within communities. The message was loud and clear: if you want to get something down for a local community, do it yourselves.
One particular ( recent) project in the area was mentioned, whereby the local authority had undertaken a survey ( = consultants) had then produced a draft plan ( = more consultants) had then debated the issue ( = first direct involvement of local authority) and had concluded it was not worth while. I was quoted a cost of £35,000 to reach this stage. It was for a local drop-in club. The total cost was put at £500,000 capital cost and running it £150,000 pa.
There are 28 members of Prestwick Rotary. One of their number, incensed by a) the cost and b) the non- appearance of the centre, got his fellow members together. Over a ten day period, they a) sourced a suitable building b) put in a firm offer at £50,000 c) completed the purchase with a bank loan on the say-so of another member, and d) had a sign up asking for volunteers.
I hardly need to tell you the rest of the story. They got enough volunteers to do works required to bring it up to standard and staff the centre for the first year. During that period the centre made a profit and has already repaid some of the loan, and the rest has been repaid from their own fundraising.
And lots of children,young and old people use the centre every day.
So much for being not worth while.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


No this is not the famous Graham Greene story, it is Glasgow for every day of the last 6 weeks.
Which means we have been unable to finish outside works on a building due for completion this Friday.
Which means we can't get the occupation certificate now before about January 9th 2007.
Which means the tenants can't take occupation on January 3rd.
Which means they will have to postpone their move.
Which is a mess for all concerned.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Don't get ill in February and March 2007

I've just been reading about the new rules regarding overspending Hospital Trusts. Suppose you spent £105m last year and " earned" ( what a joke that is) £100m. So you have a £5m deficit. THIS year, your budget earnings of £100m have to a) pay for everything b) pay back the extra £5m and c) make a profit of £5m ie your actual spend can only be £90m. In effect, and allowing for inflation, that is near enought a 20% cut.
So, finally, Mr. Brown's chickens are coming home to roost. The cumulative deficit will be £1.6b this year.There is no money. The coffers are empty - sorry that's wrong, the coffers have an ADDITIONAL hole of £100b over the last 5 years. And it's growing at £35b or more per year.
And just so we have it clear, this is because of targets and meddling.
I always like the example of feeding London. Nobody plans it. Nobody directs it. Yet Londoners get food and drink and people profit from it. Let Tesco run the NHS.

You'll be a man

I know it's almost certain that being a man nowadays is a) superfluous and b) certainly sexist and c) probably illegal unless you are gay, but I was most taken with some words about the son of an immigrant and a madwoman. He rose to great wealth several times, and ultimately lost it all. He despised most of his family, except one, who managed to start just a little bit up the ladder rather than beneath it.
People mostly hated him, and talked about him behind his back, but as long as he had money they took and took and took from him. He was perhaps the best true friend anyone could have, but that friendship was very sparingly given.
It takes madness in the blood to get things done. That's one of the reasons everything now is such a mess, and sooo drawn out. Noone dares have the madness. Paper shuffling to cover your backside has taken the place of forward movement. Hence the Czars and reports as produced by Nulabour. It's why the schools, hospitals, police and anything else you care to mention are not actually improving.
He is described as being " a man". It's a very old fashioned concept, but one that bears reviving. There are very few. There are lots of hard men ( John Reid's tough guy stance springs to mind) but I would never grace him with the epithet of being " a man". The French have " un homme serieux" and the Germans " ein mensch".
If you are a man, you do your uttermost for those around you - friends, family, work colleagues, people who are affected by your behaviour.
You do NOT - as we now have - people who hide behind weasel words and abrogate and deny responsibility. You carry it as a permanent burden that you overcome.
So who is this man? His name is Eugene Malou. He was a man.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lord James Douglas Hamilton

Last night I was taken along to Glasgow Southside Conservative association - basically Teddy Taylor's old seat - for a talk by Lord James. It was a fascinating and interesting tale, to do with his father and the arrival of Rudoph Hess in Scotland during the war. There was also wine and food, and a prize draw, and a thoroughly good eveing was had by the ( approx) twenty or so people who attended.The most interesting part of the evening was the part where we were told about Albrecht Haushoffer, who was Germany's greatest expert of Britain and it's Commonwealth. He had written a report in 1938, prior to Munich, stating categorically that Britain would fight if Germany drove East. Hess and Hitler dismissed it. He also warned - as did Hess in Mein Kampf ( that sounds strange as Hitler wrote it, but Hess actually edited and redrafted it) - that Germany should only attack East once the back door was secured by Britain.
Interestingly enough, I have been reading a book about the rise and downfall of Prussia ( officially disbanded in 1947). The main preoccupation of successive monarchs was to avoid such a two front war.The problem was always going to be that if a stupid king DID start a war on two fronts, then potentially it spelt the end. More importantly, even after the Landestag and Bundesrat reforms around the time of the unification of Germany, the control of the Army was NEVER removed from the king and put under the Parliament. This meant that Wee Willie could declare and wage war without there being anyone to gainsay him. The same thing still applied after WWI - the Head of State was still in control of the Army. Although it is unlikely that being under Parliament's sway would have had any effect before either World War, it just might have done before WWI.
As they used to say to me at school - " Compare and contrast" with the position in the UK today, where Bliar has effectively taken us to war and subsequently had the debate in Parliament. And compare it to Mrs. T who, I believe, did not actually declare war on Argentina until Parliament approved it.
I have wandered far from the point I actually wanted to make. That was, that on a cold Friday night, a senior Tory politician was prepared to turn out for 20 odd people, and be the soul of charm and wit. Unlike most now in politics, he bahaved in a selfless way.
It made me proud to have been there.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I just received the annual email from an old friend, Willie Kinnaird, who moved to Africa with his wife and children over 20 years ago. He undertakes missionary work as well as work for the Wycliffe Bible Translation people. He is probably the person I know who is closest to being a Saint.
Apart from the usual remarks about the children, his wife and the goings-on in the village, he had a small section on Ouldeme proverbs.
The three I particularly liked are
1) The left hand washes the porridge hand ( ie right hand)
He translates this as " We should help each other"
2) Sweet in the mouth, bitter in the stomache. Translation " Things are not always what they seem"
3) The hyena says: I would not want to eat a woman's head.
Translation: There's nothing in there.
I don't agree with this but I rather like the fact that they have a proverb stating it. No feminists there then.

Uncle Willie died

Yes, he finally did. Aged 93, he is the last of my father's siblings to go.
They have all done pretty well. The eldest, Jackie, died in a car crash when in his twenties, but all the others, with two notable exceptions, managed 85 plus, and 90 plus for 3 of them.
There were 9 originally, all born before 1913, with three before 1900.
None of them was ever teatotal, or a non smoker. The two that died early ( still 60ish) was entirely down to the excessive use of alcohol and cigarettes. One in particular had a fondness for meths when she couldn't get anything else.
They were an extremely close family, who hardly saw the need for other people ( after all including the wives and children we made up a huge number. They were huge fun ( Scottish and alcohol is a powerful mixture) and I miss them all.
But ( apart from my own father) especially Uncle Willie. He was a divorcee and then remarried, but in my youngest days he was always around. He had an impish sense of humour and a magical way with constructing things with his hands. When my parents were abroad, and I was in scholl, it was always Uncle Willie who took me out.
There are two things that stick in my memory. Whenever any kind person would give me a sixpence ( 2.5p in today's money) Uncle Willie was always there to suggest I give it to him and he would give me 3%. I wish I had. I unfortunately spent them on sweets or caps for my toy pistol.
The other is that one day he bought two balsa kits for model aeroplanes, the one's with the rubber bands inside.
Uncle Willie made the most beautiful thing, correct to the last drop of glue and dope to tighten the paper covering. Truly a thing of inordinate precision and correctness.
I misread the plans and built it with double everything, so it weighed twice as much, looked it, and had the grace of a 20 storey office block.
He and I went to the local hill and released our aircraft simultaneously. His performed the most exquisite flight for about 10 feet then then did a Stuka dive into the ground. Both wings broke off, and the front moved towards the tail by about 3 inches.
Mine on the other hand flew on - and on - and on for about a quarter of a mile and then, when the rubber band gave up, glided perfectly to earth in an immitation of a real aircraft.
We stood at the top of the hill looking down at his wreckage.
" Let that be a lesson to you"
" What?"
" Don't read the instructions first."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tory diehards

And my goodness me, they certainly are dying hard.
The Telegraph had an article today, clearly handed out by Liam Fox, stating that the Shadow Cabinet wanted to ditch all the touchy feely stuff, Francis Maud was too soft, blah blah blah.
Guido had it right when he said these people are insane - they constitute a tiny minority of UK voters and pandering to them would simply hand Brown ( for it will be he) the next election.
What do they want -9% ahead and they are complaining?
The two MUCH more important points are contra-indications.
The first is, once Bliar became Leader of the Opposition, there was no dissent in the ranks. He had his party well in hand ( they had lost 4 after all) and maybe to shut these idiots up WILL take a fourth defeat.
More importantly, Political Betting has an interesting point about how Lib Dems will vote at the next election.
Yes, I know lots of people went from Tory to NuLabour, but just as many went from Tory to LibDem. Those that went to LibDem went because they saw the Tories of 1997 as discredited and out of touch with New Britain. Those that went to NuLabour, went because, er, they saw the Tories of 1997 etc etc. But BOTH lots moved left, and because a) Tony Bliar seemed a pretty straightforward kind of a guy ( good grief ,did he actually say that?) and b) because they wanted the Tories out.
Both those strands have now played out. If anything, the exact opposite swing is happening. There are lots of people who will vote for anyone ( including the BNP) so as the get rid of the people who have betrayed them. Interesting sidelight - Labour always talks of being betrayed by their leaders. Haven't noticed it in the Tories ranks, they tend to betray each other.
And lots of erstwhile Tories, who voted tactically in Tory seats to NOT get a Tory, will vote the other way this time.
It's some years off, but I would bet 1) the Tories will have an overall majority 2) it will be a lot bigger than everyone thinks and 3) the LibDems will be back down, well below 40 seats.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Joy... in pretty short supply in lots of places. Iraq springs to mind.
But here in Glasgow, the word on most people's lips is " buzzing" . For whatever reason, Glasgow is once more a seriously good place to be. It has been growing in intensity over the last six months or so, until now, there is a palpable smile on the face of people wandering about the city.
I don't know if it's the prospect of Christmas ( unlikely in view of the familial disasters that usually take place), but in my own case, it's because of a building we are working on at the moment.
The last four weeks have been involved in pulling OUT rotten wood, plaster and junk. In many ways, it is the most expensive part of any project. No value is being added, and the problems are being exposed. Is the budget for rot enough? Have we got a big enough contingency for that dodgy wall?
And then suddenly, stuff starts to get put back. The downstairs joists go back - all beautifully treated, tarred and wrapped in plastic to prevent any future rot or water attacks. Hardwood goes onto them and you can walk around again - no more " Watch yer feet."
At the same time, the real proportions of the building can be seen. There's an arch there, a lovely steepled roof here. There IS going to be enough daylight in that dark corner. Vistas open up. Value starts being added.It IS going to make a profit.Even the architect -quote " what a dreadful mess." - takes a different line - " You've got a wee gem of a building here!"
But to the man in the street, perhaps the most amazing and wonderful thing is that both Celtic and Rangers will be playing football in Europe after New Year.That hasn't happened for a long time.It definitely merits a degree of personal wellbeing and joy.