Sunday, April 29, 2007

Still here

It's another beautiful day and we are going to look at some sites and visit Tirgu Mures ( pronounced Togarmoresh) about 50 kms from where I am in Sighisoara.
One of the things I forgot to tell you about the Mayor of Mosna is that he is of an age when glasses are required. Unfortunately, so do most of the people around him, but for one reason or another they never seem to have their own glasses on them. When I asked him why this was, and why he was always lending them his own, his response summed him up perfectly. " Ah" he said." If you wear the Mayor's glasses, you can always see everything."
If only our own political leaders would adopt the same attitude. The "Law of unintended consequences" has been flogged to death since NuLabour came to power.
The other thing that happened yesterday that was delightful was a somewhat spiritual experience.
As we sat talking about the honey, a small breeze got up and stirred the cherry and apple blossom on the trees near us. The next thing was we were enveloped in a clouds of gently falling blossom, and soon looked rather like those artic explorers covered in snowflakes in a blizzard. Mr. Honeyman laughed as we looked at each other wide-eyed. " Ha! The enterprise is blessed!"
I do hope so.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Mayor of Mosna

In case you hadn't guessed, I'm in the land of buffalo milk and honey again ( Romania) .I spent most of yesterday with the Mayor of Mosna ( Roba Eugen by name) and his advisor Vassily.We drank about 4 ltrs of wine. BUT by the end of it we had sorted out what we were looking for.
The Mayor is a most interesting man. He is forward looking with a fine twinkle in his eye. He is, in a certain sense, dragging his town into the 21st century, kicking and screaming. But drag it he will and to it's enormous benefit. Mosna has one of the finest Saxon churches in the world. Prince Charles visited it when he was here. Together with Biertan, which is better known, and Malancrav, which is a Hungarian Church, these three make up a heritage which is irreplaceable. Even Sibiu, this year's European City of Culture, does not boast as beautiful a structure.
What else have I been doing? Today was Honey Man day. My driver and translator got stung. Mrs. Honey Man laughed, pulled the sting out and told him to behave himself - his jumping about was annoying the bees.
The honey is utterly delicious. It is 100% organic, as certified both by the Romanian Ministry of Ecological Endeavour, and the same Swiss body, which is the No.1 in Europe. He specialises in acacia and sunflower, as well as PolyFlora. How much does he get for it? Last year most of it was sold for 1 Euro per kilo. Compare that with your supermarket price which is about 25 Euros per kilogramme. Makes the milk people look lucky. We sat in the sun, drank coffee and ate their home made cakes, from their own organic flower, honey and walnuts.
And on the way back, we spotted a perfect industrial building in a perfect location.
What more could one ask?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pollokshields Ward Hustings

We have 9 candidates. Only 3 will get elected . On tonight's performance the three who deserve to get it are Solidarity, the SSP and an Independant. The incumbent Labour Councillor had no answer to the chanting about the war - only that Glasgow Council had held a vote against it. The SNP candidate was appalling. One other Independant was very much unaligned and would seem to wish to do much for the community. I will pass over the LibDem, the Tory and the Green.
Two issues dominated. The first was, naturally, the war - or wars. We have a high percentage of Asians in our ward - remember Mohammed Sarwar represented it.
The second was the Deck Flats. I have no idea where or what these are, which I suppose is my failure. They are Council flats, part of our leafy ward which has more millionaires in it that any other part of Scotland, and, in fact, has a street with the highest number of millionaires in the UK in it. They are damp, rat infested nightmares. The Glasgow Labour council ( 50% vote, 71 out of 79 Councillors) has promised for more than 20 years to do something about them. It hasn't. There was much talk of money wasted by the Council through lack of proper consultation with the people who live in the Ward, and by free junkets to far away places. And on the war. Money that could have been spent on these excretions.
In our ward, no Labour Councillor will ever be elected again.

Describe yourself in 5 words

Prague Tory is asking the above.
I did a quick poll round the office.
Ignoring the more colourful suggestions,the top four so-called executives came up with:
Organised,friendly,normal, silly - erm I give up ( female)
I Don't know - erm, erm ( female)( giggle)
Passionate,caring,ambitious,football,music ( Mr.IT Geek)
Witty ( enormous hilarity all round) (What? What? I AM witty!) Confident, Sexy,Kind,Honest. ( male PA)
Me? The only thingI could think of was from Peter Seller's record ( The Best of Sellers), describing Balham, Gateway to the South -Broad Bosomed, Bold, Becalmed, Benign.
I rather liked it.
It goes on - Stands Balham, four square on the Northern Line. Matched by no marvel 'cept in Eastern Scene, a Rose Red city, half of Golder's Green.
Truly silly but rather nice.

Monday, April 23, 2007

St.George's day

Every other blog appears to be mentioning him. He is, of course, not English, but that surely is a good thing when you consider our multicultural society.
When I was on the Horns of Hitin ( crusader's effective final defeat by Saladin) last year, it was entirely clear to me that the usual battle deployment for that age ( sit on top of hill and let them come to you) was useless in the baking sun of the desert. Especially as there was no water on the Horns. So a new strategy and adapted tactics should have been used. Unfortunately, the then King of Jerusalem was an idiot as well as being disloyal to all and sundry. He broke treaties for his greater glory, only to find things going against him.
Sounds a bit like our present rulers, really.

The Scottish Election

Just a side light on this. On Saturday night I was in Helensburgh and went into Dino's for some of their excellent ice cream. The wee chap behind the counter ( much to my astonishment) said " Now don't you go voting for that SNP lot, we need to keep Scotland strong." The man behind me leapt forward, gripping the counter " Nonsense! The SNP will do away with armies and Trident and we will be much stronger " ( couldn't quite see that myself, but let it pass).
Suffice to say that everybody else in the shop joined in, so I collected the ice cream and nipped out.
What it does show is that people are actually engaging in a debate of sorts. I don't ever remember that happening before. I know some hustings up here have had more than 200 people attending for no other reason than that the people there wanted to express their opinions. That has to be a very healthy situation.
People may have decided they dislike politicians and don't trust them, so they intend to make sure their own voices are heard.
That has to be seriously good news.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bliar and what he believes in

Well, it should be abundantly clear that in fact he does not believe in anything. In particular his suborning of the Civil Service stands out as a particularly appalling sunterfuge. The one thing that everyone in the UK used to believe in ( not the Police, British Justice or the Royal Family) was the Civil Service. They were defined by the fact they were non-partisan. Bliar has destroyed that perception and probably the fact of it too.
But I digress.
Bliar's true disgrace ( apart from the fact he is so slimiliy greasy as to escape prosecution over the cash for peerages - no notes, no emails, all hearsay) is his breathtaking ability to make statements and believe that people willl accept them. That is his one and only true belief.
This was high-lighted the other day when in a speech he refered to David Cameron as unprincipled.
I don't know Mr. Cameron personally, but I'm pretty sure he holds certain principles extremely dear. Bliar, of course, can't believe that anyone would. From the " I think the British people know I'm a pretty straight kind-of-a-guy" to the dodgy Iraq dossier, Bliar has bent and twisted eveything within his reach to achieve what he wanted. Most of the time, of course, things have then changed back again fairly rapidly when, as ever, things didn't work. All the NHS reorganisations have now been reversed, and we are effectively back to 1997. All the Police, Council,School whatever, are back where we started. The big problem, of course, is where he has NOT been able to reverse. The Americans for sure have kept him up to the mark in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Devolution in Scotland and Wales have come back to bite him mightily in his backside.
So here's Blair's legacy.
Absolutely nothing except anguish & decline.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Betting on Scotland

Political Betting has an article today about how close the Scottish Parliamentary election might be - not least beacause 4 years ago, at what was arguably the nadir for the Tory party in Scotland and nationwide, they scored about 16% overall, as against a present poll of 13%. People in Scotland are loathe to admit they will vote Tory. Given the present position in the UK, I wouldn't mind betting that the vote is up on 4 years ago.
It could mean that the SNP will not make it to the winning line.
Whatever happens, it is going to be a damn close run thing as Wellington had it. In our constituency, Gordon Jackson ( Lab) looks to be no certainty, but his work in the community should see him through - and I think the same will apply to lots of the Labour MSPs. " Vote for me but hold your nose".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Teula (2)

Well I was wrong about her. She was born in 1932 so she is actually 75.
She sang all the hits and one or two others. She looked great. She sang perfectly - she sounded no different than when she was 30. David Gest was in the audience and had arranged a special dinner for her afterwards at Maurice Taylor's Holiday Inn opposite the Royal Concert Hall.. Mr. Radio Executive is interviewing her tomorrow on Radio Scotland.
It was all just magic.
Apart from two random women - one immediately behind us who was possibly the worst singer ever - and another at the front in a white outfit who turned out to be Alan Rough's either wife or girlfriend. She had to be forcibly detached from Liza's husband.
As we were walking out we happened to mention her, and the couple behind us said " She is a pure nutter. We ran in to her in Monaco, and she is a complete bampot. She must be stalking us"
Anyway, apart from us, there was a fair sampling of friends and acquaintances, none of whom had told us they were going, clearly feeling somewhat sheepish about it all. Mr. Upmarket Scrap Metal Dealer was there on his own, clearly pretending to be someone else. Lots of other kennt faces graced the chamber and concentrated on Petula's singing.
At the end, everyone - everyone - stood up and applauded.
I have never been at a concert before where that happend.Mr.Radio Executive agreed with me and he has been to many more than I have.
Just goes to show what a real star can do.

Class - and have you got it?

There was much indignity in various of today's papers about Kate Middleton's Mum chewing gum at the Sovereign's parade - and that this was the reason Wills dumped her.
I doubt it was only that, but it does rather point to a lack of manners on the part of Mrs. Middleton.
The older I get the more clear it is to me that class is by no means dead in this country - or anywhere else come to that. Even Switzerland, that most egalitarian of countries, has it's high society. You wouldn't know it of course, they are much too discreet.
Strangely, people think of Polo and champagne as being "Class". It may be, but it is certainly not top class. That requires discretion and manners, politeness and deference, rectitude and loyalty. Much better to be Mr. Smith who has farmed his 500 acres for 20 generations than Lord Bootle of BumTrinket the first - and Mr. Smith would naturally defer politely, no matter how badly behaved Bootle was. What is quite clear is that the drunks on a Friday night in town centres have no class.
David Cameron's latest Party Political Broadcast has all the marks of class. He is engaging, polite, listens attentively, doesn't interupt, makes the person he is talking to at ease, and is never condescending. That's what you get with a good ( expensive) education.
So maybe class is real education. That wouldn't be mothers and fathers teaching their children how to behave by any mischance, would it? No no, that's far too simplistic in our sophisticated world.
Many years ago I was told that there was only one way to tell a true Gentleman. Find out if he used a butter knife even when alone.
And he almost certainly didn't chew gum even in private.

Petula Clark

I'm due to see Ms. Clark at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall tonight. I have no idea how old she is, but when I was a very small boy I think she was 16 or 17, so that would make her 70 now.
The last time she was in the Lear vicinity was 20 years ago when she was Maria in the Sound of Music. I cannot tell you how often the video with Julie Andrews has been watched but it is definitely more than 100, and the singalong, and the play ( going again in May).
Anyway, she is doing a UK tour as part of what I assume is a sort of world tour. By the time we see her tonight, she will have already done Inverness and Aberdeen on the previous two nights.
Mr & Mrs Radio Executive are taking us ( they took us to Tony Hatch a while ago and various other concerts like the Monkees 30th. anniversary tour), so you can see what a sad bunch we are. One of the other things you don't know about me is that I was at the Monkees first gig ever in the UK at Wembley.
Then on Saturday we are going to see Tutti Fruitti, by which time Petula will have done four more concerts. Not bad for a 70 year old.
So my question today is really - what is the greatest gig you were ever at? It can be classical , opera, or rapper, but it has to be the one you enjoyed the most.
Mine? Probably Sacha Distel about 25 years ago. He held the audience in his palm, and the whole place loved him.

Monday, April 16, 2007

" Sigh"

It's a beautiful day and I have been driving around looking at odd properties - I do this from time to time to see if therer is anything worth buying.
The short answer is that there is not. Small shop in tertiary pitch - offers over £85,000. My idea was in the £30's.
Small shed ( 500 sq.ft) offers over £65,000
2 acre site - contaminated land - offers over £500,000.
I won't go on but you get the picture.
I was shocked this morning to discover that one of our lawyers had resigned from the parnership. I was only away a few days.He is 50. He may be retired.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Scottish Elections

I've just met a friend in the park who is a senior MSP of the Labourite persuasion. The fact he owns a couple of million pounds worth of properties is not, in his eyes, a disqualification for being Labour.
He says that the truth for May 3rd is that something like 50% more people are undecided than last time. Many will still vote Labour under protest. Many will abstain. But many more will not vote SNP because that is not what they believe in. If anything, Labour's supporters are the most principled ( LibDems will do anything, Scottish Tories still need to sort themselves out, SNP only has a relatively small number of REAL separatists) and hence will not go to SNP.Tommy Sheridan's double incarnation will almost certainly cancel itself out.
This particular MSP is an extremely hard working member of his tribe, and does lots of good things for the community. It should see him through.
So my view of little change after May 3rd looks not too far from the eventual results.
At this stage.
It could all change if something goes seriously wrong in Westminster.
Down south, I expect a major defeat for Labour, however they care to dress it up, which just may make Gordon Brown's future less secure.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Carry on.

Whilst cooking the supper tonight ( pasta with a strange array of left-overs) I happened to watch various bits of "Carry on up the Khyber".
I know it's sexist, homophobe, non-pc in every way, but it does tell a deeper truth.
In case you don't know, the story revolves around the 1st Foot and Mouth, known as the Devils in Skirts. Their fighting prowess is predicated on the fact they wear no undergarments, and the Burpas ( clearly Afghan warriors) are cowed by this until a photograph emerges showing the troops wearing woollen knickers. The attack on the Residency of Sir Ruff Diamond ( Sid James) is only halted when the troops are lined up, made to show that they do NOT wear such things, and the tinted people run away ( Quote from Kenneth Williams " Stop! Stop! There's nothing to be afraid of ! ( pause) .. OOh I dunno though")
But what is the deeper truth?
Captain Keen ( Roy Castle) plays a deadpan straight as a die upstanding stiff upper lip officer, calm under every onslaught. His sergeant (Terry Scott) is the archetypal bullying tough but fair martinet. His best line is " You've only got one thing to be afraid of, and that's ME! And I'm right behind ya!"
Peter Butterworth's final line " They're all barking mad you know" sums it up perfectly.
Although the film even at the time was poking fun at what was perceived as our out of touch Services, in fact it actually showed how good we used to be.
I have no intention of embarking on hand-wringing about the recent pathetic episode in the Gulf.
I do know there are millions who regard our present impotence with disdain and disgust. That's what you get when there is no political will, and no strategy laid down.
I would take you back to when the Embassy in Djakarta was stormed by rioters in the '60s. They were met not by a hail of bullets.
There were met by a lone piper - the Ambassador, Gilchrist by name, who dared them to capture or shoot him - or anyone else for that matter..
He played until every one of the invaders left.Then he packed up his pipes and attended an official dinner.

James Bond is 95

How do I know this?
Well, in fact, Ian Fleming's character was already in his twenties in 1934.
Agatha Christie's main character in one of her short stories of that year was James Bond. And he did overpower a rotter and save the girl.
For himself.
Anagram of the day:
Bedroom chats = Hors de combat

Back to the sound of furious debate - not.

Winchester Whisperer very kindly asked when I was due back and the answer is I now am. The furious debate referred to above is the so-called campaigns for the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, which all parties seem to be having some difficulty with. The main debate is between the pollsters. Who will be right? Or nearly right. Political Betting is making great play of the fact that The Herald's recent poll was conducted by SOMEBODY WHO ISN'T A MEMBER OF THE BRITISH POLLING ASSOCIATION!
I don't really care what they all say. Eventually, it will almost certainly be the same coalition doing the same things. The best result would be a complete stalemate, which would mean nothing happened for 4 years. That would be excellent.
Over my enforced time out of touch - even family members ( well aware we were in Tiabaig) kept leaving messages say " Where are you?" -there were also 57 emails from various people saying " Why haven't you replied to my email?" That's because there was a whole 27 hours when I didn't do the 100 mile round trip to Gairloch to answer them. Sigh.
Couple of nice things.I saw a rerun of an " 'Allo 'Allo" which had the inestimable line from the Communist Leader. " Ah Rene, I 'ave to go ( to the Communist convention). Ze ballots 'ave been rigged, zer moderates are in preeson. Ze democratic process must take eet's course." Sounds a bit like what we have here.
Lots of hairy highland cattle by the roads. Only ... apparently there is a grant for keeping such cows by the road, as it's what the tourists expect in Scotland.
During the course of a deep debate about present mores, my friend ,Mr. Headmaster Sir, stated that there was a difference between offical websites and those set up by individuals. Whilst the latter would be prejudiced, distorted and self- serving, the official - especially Government - websites would be less likely to be true.
Referring to a mutual friend ( very into somewhat strange foods and macro-biotic bollocks )" She's got time to be on the loo when the rest of us are quite busy"
Finally, whilst in Shieldaig ( excellent pub and grub) we took our exceptionally intelligent Cavalier for a walk along the front. There were some bikers getting ready to roar off into the distance. Except one of them had left his green helmet on the grass. And, yes, you've already guessed it.
He peed on it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's grim oop t'North

Actually that's a complete lie, because I am in North West Scotland, and therefore I have no idea what it is like oop t'North, which is, I suppose, somewhere round Carlisle.
Ok it's a beautiful place - when you can see it through the mist and rain. In fact, where we are staying has been shown to us best in the ( pretty awful) film Loch Ness, with Ted Danson, and Joely Richardson being forced to speak in that peculiar accent that American film producers think is Scottish. The name of the place is Diabaig (pronounced Die Bayg ) which is where the film of Loch Ness was shot. Weird but true. Clearly Loch Ness was not quaint enough. The house we are staying in was not built when the film was shot, so there is a hole in the row of houses. They have also re-roofed the shed on the harbour wall - presumably with the profits from the film. And why anyone as fragrant as Joely Richardson could possibly fancy a wally like Ted Danson is beyond me. The best actors were actually the Sea Monsters, as made by Jim Henson et al, and the little girl, Isabel, who does not appear to have progressed anywhere. Probably because she actually is Scottish, and clearly unsuitable for a film about Scotland.In the film she has the " sight" as passed to her from her Grandmother.So actually she knew how it was all going to pan out in the first place without all the intervening bits. I've always thought having the sight was a bit of a blow - when you know how it all ends, what's the point?
The other film we have watched ( you probably get the drift now about how interesting it is up here) was " Leon" with the inestimable Jean Renoir and ( to my astonishment as I didn't click when I saw the film originally) Natalie Portman as the 12 year old girl. It is a really good film with good performances all round, even from Gary Oldman, of whom I have never been fond, but he has the dangerous awfulness required of the part.
I was paid possibly the greatest compliment of my life by the 17 year old Daughter of the House after the film was over.
" Thank you for making me watch it. It was great"
Surely there is hope for me yet.
Unless she was being sarcastic.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Great Dictator

I had forgotten how good this film was until I saw it once more the other day.
Sample: A Nazi picks up Charlie Chaplin, playing a small Jew. He glares at him, and then enlightenment dawns.
" YOU!" he says." You saved my life in the trenches. And I always thought you were an Aryan."
" Vegetarian," says CC.

The resurection of Tapestry Talks

It's Easter. He has come back from the dead. Hallelujah!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Blue Loo

I was in Edinburgh Sherif Court yesterday - I hasten to add because of my involvement with the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
I went to the loo to discover that it is bathed in a most nauseous blue light. The ceiling had had initials burned into it by lighters, and anti-pig remarks. When I came out I asked the Sherrif I was seeing why the blue light.
" It stops them shooting up in there," he said." They can't find their veins"
He also told me that, this morning, he was going to have to deal with a total of 49 custodial sentences, and decide the length of time each person should serve. As he says, he only sees the charge, the plea entered and hence whether the accused plead guilty or was found guilty by trial. So he has no real idea of the circumstances ( pace background reports) and is largely fishing in the dark.He also says that because of the paperwork and general hassle involved, the Police ( in Lothians anyway) would appear to be concentrating on minor offences they can prove, and anything a bit more difficult gets shunted around, and hence badly dealt with.
A case in point was a murder. Circumstantial evidence included the murder weapon, victim's blood on the accused's clothes, a witness who overheard an exchange of words ( " It's yer birthday" " Yeah" " Here's yer present then, ya bass!" BANG!) The accused had an alibi. The Police hardly bothered to interview the people who the accused named as they said they would lie for him anyway. One day before the trial, the Procurator Fiscal gave the papers to the QC who would prosecute. Needless to say he had no time to do any checking ( remember Rumpole?) and ploughed on through two weeks of contradictory statements, bungled interviews and having to deal with three different lots of policemen who had been involved with the case.
At the end of it, the Judge simply had to direct the jury to acquit.
He has absolutely no doubt as to the accused's guilt.

East German Stasi Joke

Honecker opens his curtains in the morning and sees the Sun.
" Good Morning Mr.Sun," says Erich
" Good Morning ,dear Erich, dear Leader," says the Sun.
At lunchtime, Honecker looks out of his office window and says " Good Day Mr.Sun"
"Good Day, Great Leader" says the Sun.
So when he goes to bed, Honecker opens the curtains to darkness and says " Good Night Mr.Sun".
No Reply. So Honecker says it louder " GOOD NIGHT MR.SUN!"
" Sod off," says the Sun, " I'm in the West now"
It earned the teller the Stasi equivalent of Siberia.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Lives of Others

Another film worth seeing. Really good film about the Stasi, with the chap who played the main German officer in Black Book. See it. It will make your blood run cold.


The Herald Diary had a small piece today.
Fourteen men and one woman were captured " in the wrong place" by the Iranians. Many people have suggested only one guess is required to know who was reading the map.
Now I for one would not necessarily agree with this. Mrs. Lear has a very much better sense of direction than I do. What you have to remember is the extraordinary fact that more maps are sold in Scotland annually than in the rest of the UK put together - and men in Scotland, when asked what they would really really like in the way of a book appear to opt 75% of the time for a new Road Atlas.
So no more jokes about women drivers, map readers, mechanics, soldiers etc etc. They are as liable to screw up as we men are.
Especially if they are blondes. No no, not true, I just couldn't resist it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Nuns on a Train

Part of the joy of doing the Romania thing is the 4 and a bit hour rail journey to and from Sighisoara from Bucharest. Apart from the good meals, I can usually read papers for various meetings, or even discuss things with a travelling companion.
Sunday was different. I had a member of the Mihai Eminescu Trust with me as far as Brasov. She was picking up a BBC film crew who were doing something for Country File. I will let you know when it's on. Anyway, we had a good discussion that dealt with a lot of detail. When she got off, three elderly nuns came into the compartment for the rest of the journey.
They settled down in their seats, took out their psalters, and sang a short hymn - beautifully. At the end of it they smiled and nodded to each other, and I gave them a little clap. They acknowledged it graciously.Then they read silently. Their faces were serene and content. They exchanged a few words from time to time, faces unmarked with our daily stress. It occurred to me that these elderly ladies were completely happy with their lot - something very few of us could say.
As we neared Bucharest ( bang on time) one of them took out a mobile phone and clearly called whoever it was that was supposed to be collecting them. When they got off the train, they were met by a gaggle of similarly placid and serene nuns, who welcomed them back as if they had been gone for months. They turned and beamed at me. I smiled, bowed and waved.
The three nuns raised their hands, and blessed me.

Romanians are very generous...

I have a line I use which works wonders when people are trying to steamroller you.
" We Scots are very generous - but we are also very careful"
I used this on Saturday at a meeting and, once translated, there was a small silence. The local Mayor then spoke. Translated he said:
" We Romanians are very generous - but then we regret it"