Sunday, December 27, 2009

Not so hot

"Now, undeniably, there is climate change. But we call it spring, summer, fall and winter. As for global warming and cooling, that has been going on for millennia. Not so long ago, we exited what is known as the “little ice age.” Over the 20th century, the official rise in global temperature was seven-tenths of one degree Celsius. "
Patrick J. Buchanan on

Going to get better?

I know my reader is not keen on any political stuff here, but there is suddenly a different feeling running through the country.
I have no idea when it started, but there is beginning to be a "fizz" of expectation and hope which has been sadly lacking for a long time.
I agree it may just be the hopes for a New Year - but there was no such feeling this time last year.
I'm not even sure it is the prospect of a Tory Government - it may simply be the near certainty of Gordon Brown NOT being around.
But a buzz and an excitement there is, and it is starting to make a difference to people's planning and forward thinking.
It may be that the recession has finally run it's course, and the next quarter will at worst be flat or perhaps marginally ahead.
Or it may be the growing expectation, fostered by all the interested parties, that house prices will be higher in 2012 than they are now ( not too difficult in my view, even if there is a further dip)
Or it may simply be that people can only last so long feeling fed up and depressed and eventually they will break out and make themselves a new life.
I had an interesting conversation over the Festive Season with a man whose son has been swithering between two women - one he is living with and one who he lives with intermittently. Both sides appeared to know all about the other.
Some sort of final decision seems to have been reached and he is now much happier - but it's taken him more than a year to get there, and lots of unhappiness as far as he is concerned.
But hey - that's life. Bad things happen to good people - and vice versa.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Well we had a really good Christmas with fillet of beef rather than turkey which everyone agreed was a much better idea. Although there was Christmas Pudding ( and though I say it myself the flaming brandy , driving away the devils and evil spirits,was a triumph) the chocolate pud was most appreciated.
The dog got a whole stocking for himself including chews and doggy choc drops, but also a chocolate flavoured rope which he has taken to his bed for safe keeping.
We are still pretty tied up with snow, but the temperature is slowly rising having got as low as minus 8 and enabling me to walk across the park pond to the island in the middle. If I can do it so can the foxes, and Hessilhead had removed most of the ducks and the swans.
Being a film person, Christmas and New Year is always a good time for me as the TV has many good films with several "network premieres" on the go.
I had seen it before but I watched 'The Apostle" this morning and was struck again by the extraordinary performance Bob Duvall gave. Unsurprisingly, he was nominated for Best Actor,but amazingly (meaning there was an even better performance) didn't win. And why? Because Jack Nicholson gave a performace in " As Good as it Gets" which has probably never been bettered.
The final scenes, when Duvall is about to be arrested, are so powerful and spine-tingling that I would defy anyone not to be moved.
There is one part when Duvall picks up a baby, and shows the congregation its tiny hand.
"See this baby's hand? What father would drive a nail right here through it and then NAIL both hands and FEET to a board until his child died.? Would any father have love enough for the world to do that?I couldn't I don't have enough love.
But God.. God he had enough love. Hallelujah!"
And he did.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Very Happy Day..

Middle Ms. Lear is getting married today.
She always said she would never marry, but I guess things change. Youngest Ms.Lear, when told, immediately asked if it was just a tax dodge. Eldest Ms. Lear, known for her straight-talking, opined it was a jolly good idea to keep it secret as it would prevent lots of dreadful people turning up.
It has been a huge secret as she and her young man ( known in the family as Rock God) are decidedly anti "fuss" of any sort, and there will be a total of 10 people at the wedding.
This includes Mrs. Lear and myself, our new in laws, a bridesmaid, a best man and the minister and his wife who just happens to be my future son-in-law's uncle.
The ceremony is taking place at No1.Devonshire Gardens, where they had their first date several years ago,with dinner afterwards.
Almost the best part is it is costing me nothing as all blandishments have been refused. As they are buying a house, I suspect the cost will actually be enormous...
The other slightly wonderful thing is we are all going to Ireland for New Year to stay with the Earl of Kilkenny. You may recall no such person exists, but if he did, he would certainly be like my friend Jimmy, who was christened as the Earl by me more than 40 years ago.
So I am going on my daughter's honeymoon.
I can't think of a nicer compliment.
I should have said the reason we are all going to Ireland is because the Rock God has been given tickets to see one of his bands in Kilkenny.
It's Sharon Shannon's Big Band Tour.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A cautionary tale...

Things have been pretty busy for the last week. I have been on two secret missions ( well, not that secret) and spent a lot of time in a bunker starting at two computer screens- and sometimes three.
But all in all its been quite amusing in its own way - and I've picked up a few more spare rail tickets en route.
Now it's Christmas and a time of good will to all men and women.
So I will share the following with you.
A smelly dirty old lady tramp stopped a sort of yummy mummy and asked for some money to buy food.
"Ha! "says the Yummy. " I bet you would just take the cash and buy drink!"
" Never,"says the tramp. " I stopped drinking 20 years ago. It was killing me."
" Well in that case you would probably buy cigarettes."
"Not at all. I stopped more than 10 years ago"
" Well, I suppose you might buy some new clothes."
" What do I want new clothes for? I stopped going into shops years ago."
"Right" says the Yummy. " I can see you need food, so I want you to come to my house for dinner tonight.""
"Are you mad? What will your husband think, you bringing home a smelly old tramp?"
" I want him to see what happens to a woman who stops drinking smoking and shopping..."

Monday, December 07, 2009

If only...

I don't know if the Royal Bank of Scotland is advertising as heavily down south as it is up here in Scotland, but everywhere you look there are billboards, newspaper ads, TV ads, the lot, telling us how good RBS is at looking after its customers.
The ad I particularly like ( which comes in various sizes) is of a vet " who has been an RBS customer since age 6" with a tag line that says " we are open on Saturdays because your hands are full during the week"
Now being a vet, his hand could be up the backside of a cow, but no - just fitting in the palm of his hand is the sweetest little cocker spaniel puppy you have ever seen.
I'm sure you get lots of questionnaires to fill in, all trying to get your " feelings" towards various companies, but this is the first ad I've ever seen for a bank that made me a) smile b) go "awwww" and c) not want to shoot the lot of them.
So I suppose that's progress of a sort.
Their other ad, which had the directly opposite effect - i.e. a) I growled b) ground my teeth and c) wanted to shoot the lot of them - is the one with the school children all in white shirts looking happy.
The words are " RBS has taught over 400,000 children how to manage their finances through their xyz programme."
If only RBS had taught it's top 4 how to manage their finances we might not all be up a certain creek.
Without the proverbial.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

"Garden fails assessment" - shock horror!

I'm sure, dear reader, you are aware of Mrs. Lear's search for a new vocation and her herculean efforts at the Scottish Agricultural College at Auchencruive near Ayr.
Having magnificently come second in her first year to a horrible swot, she is approaching the end of the first term of her second year in fine shape - if a trifle over concerned by the assessments and course papers that she has to produce pretty much on a weekly basis.
This hasn't stopped her sleeping well, though, and perchance to dream.
You will probably also be aware we had some serious storms and winds over the last couple of weeks, so much so that the wooden fence between Castle Lear and our next door neighbour blew down. Mrs. L, eco-countryside warrior that she now is, cut the fence in half ( it's all that tree chopping down you know), and used it sideways to stop the dog escaping into the next garden.
This is a perfect solution until such time as the new fence bits arrive.
Of course, it does mean it's one more thing that her brain has mixed in with her course.
So it wasn't entirely a surprise when she informed me the other morning at breakfast that she was very upset that the garden had failed it's assessment.
As she hadn't drunk her coffee by that time, I put the remark down to mere un-wakefulness, as opposed to idiocy or Alzheimer's, but she went on.
" Yes, " she said, " It's too bad! They failed it because the fence had blown down and hasn't been replaced."
" Who failed it?"
" The Agricultural College"
" Do you mean they check up on your garden, to see if you are a fit and proper person?"
There was a slight pause as she sipped the coffee.
" Er I think I've got a bit confused. I must have dreamt it. They failed the entire class yesterday as none of us could understand the questions"
So that's all right then.
The Garden retains it's 100% pass rate.

Friday, December 04, 2009

OAP Viking Strippers?

I was walking along the road this afternoon when I was stopped in my tracks by the contents of a car.
It held 3 zimmer frames - but also three Viking helmets, complete with horns and fur.
I can only assume it is the OAP stripper brigade at work...

US Treasury Profits...

Little snippet on the wires - the USTreasury's TARP programme is already getting back the cash it lent various banks ( in full) and they have embarked on selling the warrants they received from the likes of JPMorgan, Capital One, CITI and so on. They have so far made a profit of about $3 billion from this, and, of course, earned 11% or so on the moeny they lent.
And they aren't stuck with any of the toxic loans - they remain firmly with the US Banks.
Compare this to our own situation, where the Treasury has had no money back, hasn't made a profit ( in theory there might be SOME but those dang prices keep going up and down), and has had to shoulder about £850MILLION of toxis debt and dodgey loans.
Don't quite see that as saving the world....

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Romania's very own John Prescott ( sort of..)

The last two days have been spent tramping all over the hills, and making sure all our plans are actually happening. The last job today was to go to look at an orchard as far away from Mosna as it is possible to be without being in the next Mayor's jurisdiction.
There are about 19 owners in total, and ( because we have to buy ALL a seller's land so they can get the extra pension from the government) we already own 2 bits of it. Some of the orchard was completely derelict and other parts were well maintained, and the access is mostly overgrown to keep the uninitiated out. Many of the trees still had apples that noone had bothered to collect, but many more of them were dead with huge balls of mistletoe having strangled them to death. I can feel an EU project coming on...
As we made our way back we saw the Mayor's car at the Forrest Man's house, and dropped in to say hello. The TV was on and there was huge excitement. It was a news programme, and they were about to show the film of Basescu hitting a small boy at a 2004 rally. We all watched fascinated as he punched the boy in the face. It has apparently been shown endlessly, which is understandable. The difference with our own JP ( as Tony Blair said at the time, Hey, that's John) is that the boy had only asked for his autograph.
The report went on to say that the boy, now older and living in Italy, had gone into hiding as he had had threatening calls - including death threats. Basescu at first denied it happened, then said it was a doctored video, and his latest is that he doesn't remember the incident. As Alin would say, we shall see.
As an aside, Basescu was a ship's captain, and was recently asked what he would do if he lost the election. When he replied that he would probably return to being a ship's captain, he was gently reminded that as Minister of Transport, he had completely sold off the Romanian Merchant fleet. This was very much akin to our own Gordon Brown's brilliant decision to dispose of most our gold.
We ended up having meatball tarragon soup and sarmale with them, whilst the TV endlessly debated the pros and cons of the incident. In the UK nowadays I suspect such an incident would immediately lead to prosecution and imprisonment, but this is Romania. As many people will now NOT vote for him as those who were not going to vote for him WILL.
We will see.
I just heard a weather report on the BBC. Aparently there is flooding in Puddletown....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Back to work

With my friend having left, it is back to the grindstone today with a vengeance.
Having had the long drive to and from Cluj last night we filled up with petrol. There, in the hut that serves as an office, amidst the various maps and papers, was the very latest monthly from JAMIE OLIVER - in Romanian, teaching them how to cook. I can't help but think his recipes don't start with.. " Take a pig..." or " take 20 litres of neat alcohol." I daresay someone must be buying it.
The second round of the Presidential elections takes place on 6th December. Today, in an effort to dislodge Basescu, the Liberal party ( nominally his supporters ) the PSD, the PC, the "Transylvania for Hungarians" party and the " Kill all Hungarians" party formed a pact which, with a bit of luck, might get rid of him and deliver Geoana. There has been skullduggery at work. A large Geoana poster, set in 5 cm thick metal posts and in concrete was rammed and destroyed by a politically motivated vehicle from downtown Medias. At least that is the story. I suspect it may have been a drunk.
They do go a bit further than we do. In the petrol station you can get Geoana adverts which are actually the smelly things you hang in your car to make it smell nice.
I was particularly delighted to see the corn mill at work today. This dates back ( in part) to the early 1800s, and still takes in the corn cobs from the locals, grinds the corn and gives it back for a fee in time-honoured fashion. Here, the fee is usually a percentage of the amount milled. There was a most picturesque queue of worthy sons and daughters of the soil, along with their carts and horses, waiting to have their corn dealt with. It is mostly made into polenta, and is also mixed with wheat flour to make the bread go further.
Our first call was to Mosna Town Hall. We had asked Vasily, the map supremo, to extract names and addresses against field numbers.
There was no sign of him. One of the ladies told us that he had worked all night, fortified by copious draughts of tuica, and had had to be carried home at 7am when everyone came to work. The Mayor had granted him official leave to stay there until Monday...
Armed with our list ( the first names were clear and legible, the later ones very squiggly and a bit unsteady) we set off to check the fields themselves against the maps.
Always when we do this we are followed by a gaggle of old men and women, all of whom know every blade of grass and who it belongs to - except none of it corresponds with the maps or the property titles. It was a glorious day once more and we walked a total of about 12 kms checking and cross checking - the property titles also tell you who is to the North, South, East and West, so it is easy enough to check correctly, just time consuming. In the distance we could see Toaderico ploughing some of our fields. It was a treat to see a small patchwork of presently unused land being transferred into one large piece that will hopefully be productive. I had had some deep holes dug at various points in an area we are interested in, and we checked how they were coming on. All were more than 2 meters deep, and all still showing deep black earth even at the bottom. I told the diggers to stop - the land is more than good.
On our way back we came across the Mayor supervising the re-erection of the giant Geoana poster, and told him of our discoveries. His face broke into a broad grin.
"Ah, da. Forte Bine - terren fromose."
The land is good.

Elysian Interlude

I've had a friend out here for the last few days. As ever, he has been bowled over by the place ( to be fair the weather has been superb and Transylvania is showing herself at her very best).
He has tagged along with everything we have been doing but we have curtailed the days so that we have not started before 9 and lunch has been by 6 each day with free time from 8. I'm sure he thinks this is too long for comfort but is only about 70% of what we normally do.
He likens the culture to that of Ireland in the 50's and early 60's, or Portugal until more recently, with a very agrarian rural economy. In the villages the number of cars is minimal, and the locals produce all they need to live.
Of course, he has had to drink the tuica ( which he quite liked) and eat some things which at home he would never consider, but even these he was quite taken with. We tramped some fields to show him things and his superior brain produced some good thoughts which we will mull over and possibly incorporate into what we are doing.
We had paparnash every night - the sweet cheese doughnuts with jam and sour cream that are so tasty. As we ate in a different place every night, we had four different manufactures, and the decision was handed down that the best are now at the Binderbubi.
The highlight of the visit was our "lunch" at the Pension Liana in Nemsa ( Elena's) when we had kid stew. I had been told it was going to be a special surprise but I had no idea I would be providing the ingredients....
Incidentally, there is now a flight from Stansted to Sibiu, which is only just over an hour from Sighisoara. This is operated by Blue Air, and is thoroughly to be recommended. Not only do you get to choose your seat, at the moment you don't even have to pay for luggage.
And they have a frequent flyer discount programme too...
Apparently, despite eating one goat , we still have 62. The only conclusion I can come to is that it is something to do with people paying us rent late, but I am assured that everyone is up to date and we are not, nor have we been , owed any goats.
Perhaps they are just coming in to get out of the sun....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Walking the fields

Being out in the fields in the sunshine is one of the reasons I come to Romania, and yesterday was one of those days when we had to walk the fields in company and have fields pointed out to us and discuss what needed to be done to them. It was the most perfect day and I am now boasting a winter tan.

The day stared with Toaderico insisting we had some mulled wine against the cold ( it was about 17c in the sunshine) followed up with a ride to the further reaches of the empire sitting, emperor like, on a plank across the trailer.

Toaderico used to work in Germany but as he says he hated it. He made pots of money but was so so miserable he had to drink it all. Now he is back in the village of his birth ( Alma Vii) and happy as one of his pigs in the mud bath he calls his back yard.

We set off in search of a fabled lake, which Toaderico assured us he had used to visit when he was a child. We found it all right, but unfortunately the end had been dynamited to get the fish out by some shepherds years ago. Potentially it's a lovely spot, but, frankly,there is little of merit in rebuilding the end, because it is too far away from anything to enable a profit to be turned. But the ride on the tractor was huge fun, enlivened by Toaderico's 4-speaker mp3 player blasting out Romanian music. I would estimate it is at least 20 years old.

The walking started thereafter, and five hours later we got back to the tractor. The land we surveyed was more than good, and Toaderico's instructions in terms of ploughing, treating weeds and generally making ready for planting were all costed and agreed.

Nothing would do, of course, but that we should go to his mother's house for a drink and lunch ( by now it was 4:30 - bit early but still) where we fed the pigs and chickens with corn ( I'm almost sure it's mine but who knows) and ate a delicious dish which I could only describe as scrambled eggs with cheese and really thick very well cooked bacon. The only drawback was the two glasses of tuica I had to consume before I could get to the food. But the business was done and that was the major point.

In the meantime a herd of locusts had descended on the car, with people waving property titles at us and demanding we consider their land, particularly as it was especially good and productive, unlike their neighbour's which was rubbish. We have had to institute a policy that we pay the identical price everywhere, as otherwise it would be a spiral and create great ill will. As it is, people either accept or reject the price is it suits them, and we then have to do the hard work of registrating it ( as Alin would say ) and transferring title. In the event none of them wanted to accept the prices, but I have no doubt they will in time.

The day ended with dinner at the BinderBubi for 6 which worked out at GBP7 per head. Considering the wine, three courses, coffee and beers I though this more than cheap...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Very clever goats

Meanwhile, back in Romania, they have a Presidential election this coming Sunday.
If it was down to the number of posters, Mircea Geoana would win by a mile. But Alin assures me the present incumbent ( Basescu) will be the winner.
" You see, Mr. King, it's like this. If you are Coca Cola, you don't doing much advertising. But if you are Sighisoara Cola, then you must doing much advertising just to get little business."
I'm not 100% sure his argument is valid, but all the other candidates names end in "escu" .There are cases of mothers forcing their daughters into marriages with men just because their name ended in "escu". For some reason you are regarded as an important person. In fact, I was recently introduced as "Learescu" just to make the point...
The weather here is beautiful and warm - 17C today and the most brilliant blue sky. There is the odd wisp of smoke as the gloaming sets in, rising straight up, which is very picturesque.
This is the time of year when the ploughing has to be done so we spent most of today checking that the people doing it were in the right places. It's surprising how often our next door neighbours get their fields ploughed for free...
We went to the Mayor for a cup of coffee and ended up having special sausages made from goat and pig. I was slightly suspicious so we went to check on our goats to make sure it was only the sheep that the teethy wolves were eating. It looks as though the teethy wolves have been adding goats rather than subtracting them, as instead of 58 we now have 62 ( as far as I can calculate the absolute absolute maximum should be 56 and that's stretching it a bit), and all, I am assured, are pregnant. I find this a little hard to believe as it's only now that the billys are let lose on them, but we shall see, as Alin would say. We needed to build an additional shelter to house the new lot of kids, and this has been a major undertaking, with advice from everyone in the village as to exactly where it should be built.Also which way round. And how big, long, wide, high and of what. And what the party should be like when it is finished.
Whilst all this was going on the goat man , Dan and his two helpers had been quietly working away, and I was astonished to see a whole new building within 50 feet of the old one when I arrived there today.
I asked how much it had cost.
" Nothing," said Dan. Being Romania, this had not surprised me as much as it ought to have done.
It transpired the uprights and roof trusses had been donated by the forest man, in exchange for a goat and a pig. The roof was old metal sheets salvaged from cutting up a redundant water tank. The sides had been built using reclaimed block and bricks from various building sites round about. And of course the cement, sand nails etc. had simply appeared..
Now bearing in mind we don't actually have any pigs ( we ate ours this time last year), and it would mean we should only have 55 goats, and however you care to look at it most of the stuff was - how shall I put this delicately - stolen - I was a bit worried about the whole thing.
Dan assured me it was fine. Everyone who "donated" had been compensated. How? He had given them baby goats...and some sheep.
So my goat man steals sheep from my shepherd.
And the goats appear to have some form of alien reproduction as when we counted up the number of people who had been compensated, I reckon the most I should have is 48......
You may be wondering about the pig as officially we don't have any. I'm reliably informed it had wandered into the goat pen and was then passed on to a third party...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some have greatness thrust upon them...

The news reported in the Herald today that Tilda Swinton intends to use the old Nairn cinema house for a festival comes as no surprise. It's been used a few times before and Ms Swinton ( who has some quite interesting domestic arrangements) has been dragging a mobile cinema round in the general vicinity all this past summer.

The report brought in that Charlie Chaplin used to take his holidays in Nairn and I was reminded of one summer when my uncle - long deceased - was staying in the same hotel with Charlie and Oona there at the same time.

I may say Charlie in his day had some interesting domestic arrangements too, and he lived very close to my parents near Vevey on the Lake of Geneva. After his death the Swiss authorities were scandalised that "terrorists" threatened to dig up his body for ransome. In true Chaplinesque style( he was famously stingy) his family made it abundantly clear the terrorists were welcome to keep him- which scandalised the Swiss even more.

But back to Nairn. My uncle saw his entire world through the bottom of a whisky glass, and had all sorts of ways to make you think he didn't drink. In a hotel he would be forever nipping back to get a handkerchief, whilst diverting to the bar for a triple. He only ever ordered a tomato juice in company ( I didn't count) and made the most enormous kerfuffle about Worcester sauce, celery salt and all sorts to divert attention.

So he and I were sitting in the bar, he with his tomato juice, me with my coke when in walked Charlie and Oona. As they sat down an ice bucket and bottle of champagne were brought.

" I think I know him," said my uncle.
" Yes it's Charlie Chaplin and his wife Oona"

"No, its not him - it's a chap I used to know in Edinburgh."

" I promise you it's Charlie Chaplin."

"No,no, I'll just go and speak to him - I'm sure he'll remember me."

Sighing, I got to my feet as he staggered across, sure I would need to rescue a tricky situation. One of the reasons Chaplin went to Nairn was because everyone left him alone.

By this time my uncle had started the "I'm sure I know you" routine, and Charlie, being most gracious, wasn't telling him to go away. Oona looked less happy.

By now my uncle was convinced it was his old mate Douglas from Portobello and kept saying he must remember such and such, as Charlie smilingly shook his head.

He eventually pointed at me.

" I know him. His parents live near me in Switzerland." Uncle pretty much ignored that, called the waiter over and ordered another bottle of champagne.

I finally managed to drag him away, and Charlie and Oona went in to dinner.

" Extraordinary," said my uncle. "Imagine wee Dougie going to live in Switzerland."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Gay Black Bishop in Mercy Sex Dash for Duckling!

Actually, no, but I'm told editors of newspapers would give both their arms to be able to use that headline.
It has everything, it's just not entirely true in my case. You would have to leave out Gay,black,bishop,Sex, and you would get the correct headline.
Whilst walking the dog in the park today, beside the pond he snuffled what I took to be a stripey leaf, but which then moved.
It was a duckling. Apparently some misguided lady duck had had seven and this was the only one left, abandoned,cold and wet.
Scooping it up, I popped it into my glove to keep warm, then headed down to Hessilhead where I had called ahead and they had put on an incubator.
We are all keeping our fingers crossed for Ducky.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dashing through the snow *

I'm always against stereotyping, and I think it is particularly unfair that Rock bands and their followers are thought of as drunken, drug laden wasters.
So with some trepidation I offer the following salutary tale.
A new boxed set of a particularly good band ( Snow Patrol, as you ask) goes on sale in a couple of days, and the emails all went out to the Eskimos ( I know, I know) telling them to get in early and buy it.
One particular chap opened the email, then closed it and went on with what he was doing.
10 minutes later he got an email saying his order had been processed and he would be ONE OF THE VERY FIRST to get the new album.
Now this young man was quite sure he had not clicked on buy or put his credit card into the system, and enquired of the Administrator how this could have happened.
The record label's customer service department called him up to explain he had put the order in a couple of months ago.
The administrator then received a somewhat sheepish email, apologising.
As it said: " I was so drunk I can't remember ordering it."
I think they should have a new motto: Snow Patrol - so good you'll never remember.
* I know that has some other potential connotations....

The best days of our lives..

This post in the Speccie referring to compulsory sex education for 15 year olds, reminded me of my own introduction to S-E-X.
When I went to School ( no, not Eton, the one Lord Peter Wimsey referred to as a Railway Junction) there was what was called the " New Boys Course".
This consisted of an induction course, which included where everything was ( stinks lab, swimming pool, where all the Houses were) but also included three half hour lessons on " Human Beings".
Of course, the boys who had already done the course puffed it up outrageously -" Yeah it's SEX!!!". So obviously we were all agog (we 13 year old rampaging hormonal spotted oiks) to get to them. There was never a cry off. In fact, one boy had missed the LAST lecture the year before and he was COMPELLED to attend the third and final talk in his second term.
Being schoolboys, there was of course an Omerta about what was actually said. Torture would never have opened our mouths.
We all trooped in for the first lecture. It was given by the biology master, whose name was Potty Falk. He started off staring above our heads in his dry voice, and began on plants. Then fish - and the lesson finished.
The second one began in the same way, with a brief resume of what had gone before - and went on to frogs.
And then the lesson ended.
The third and final lecture began with a complete resume of the first two lessons, with Potty being even more ethereal and starey into space. The boy who had missed the previous term's final fling was in the front row, riveted to every word.
Potty began to talk about rabbits. I particularly remember the bit about the female rabbit's scut ( tail) flattening up her back when the buck mounted her. Potty drew diagram's on the board. The clock ticked. Potty drew a picture of a doe's reproductive system.
The clock ticked. He drew a picture of the buck's reproductive system.
The clock ticked as the silence was absolute.
And then the bell rang for the end of the lesson.
And Potty looked at the clock and said:
" And it's pretty much the same for human beings"
Can't say I've ever tried it on a rabbit....

Jonah Too

I see GB put the hex on Everton, Fulham and Celtic last night....

This night that I lay down to sleep....*

Mortality, it is said, creeps up on you.
The call yesterday telling me that a dear and longstanding friend of mine had prostate cancer - and not in any benign way either - came as a rude shock, driving thoughts of my being still 18 out of my head.
Perhaps I'm 30 now.
My friend is having injections and will then undergo 7 weeks of radio therapy, 5 days a week. I'm afraid I slightly thought of Simon Gray, who decided not to have anything done, continued smoking manfully and lasted quite a number of years, despite having virtually killed himself off years before with alcohol.
The fact we are all living longer is, of course, partly to blame for the illnesses we oldies suffer. Never forget when Bismark first promulgated pensions for the elderly workers of the Prussian Railway system, he set it at 65, when the average mortality age was less than 60. It's also worth remembering that people worked ALL their lives in days gone by, and it's only relatively recently that we have had a period of ( s0-called) leisure as the shades draw in. I am, however, assured by friends in that position that they have never been busier.
I'm afraid I don't see myself as ever retiring, keeping at least some business activity going to keep an interest, but then, you never know - I might win the lottery tonight.
But back to my friend. I teased him that his present predicament was becuase he had had too many women in his life.
" Oh no," he said," It's clearly because I've had too few...."

*"... I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take"

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mine and Thine

The re-emergence of trainspotters is to be applauded. I have noticed many hanging about on several stations, notably Carlisle and Preston. Perhaps it is a preferred North pastime - along with ferrets and pigeons. Stations are, I'm assured, one of the good places for bats.
Mrs. Lear has really taken to bats, and appropriately enough went to a bat conference on 31st October. This, I may say, had 119 delegate branches attending from all over Scotland, so I won't hear any scoffing, if you don't mind. I can't help but think of Jeremy Lloyd's Captain Beaky who had a friend, amongst others, who was known as Batty Bat ( "The bravest animals in the land Are Captain Beaky and his band.That's Timid Toad. Reckless Rat. Artful Owl and Batty Bat.March through the woodland Singing songs That tell how they have righted wrongs." Love it). We need stuff like that to cheer us up in these dark days.
I noted the other day that some august body had worked out that the banks were lending £215 billion a year less than the sum required to finance the economy. So it's no surprise it is still contracting. That £215 billion deficit will have to be eliminated before we return to stability and a stuttering growth. Mind you, if the Government had simply handed all the money they have given to the banks to the likes of us there would be no problem.As Keynes once remarked ( I think) the best way to restore an economy is to pay people to dig holes, fill them with bank notes, then get people to dig them up. In a sense, this is what Quantitative Easing is all about.
Although this time round the mistake was made to give the resulting money to the banks who promptly bought Government debt ( as they were pretty much forced to do by the stupid new rules which brought about this debacle in the first place.)
The Romanian's have what I would describe as a robust attitude to the present problems. They've never had a period of what I would call " You've never had it so good" so things are just a bit worse, rather than a LOT worse, and they were only a bit better so the difference is quite small.
They also have a different morality to things - if it's not nailed down, I can take it. And even if it is nailed down, maybe I can take it anyway.
When I was last there we drove along a road that a year ago had been a dirt track, but which now was tarmacked. As we got further from the main road, the surface was more and more broken up, until eventually there were only a few scattered complete patches.
On our way back we passed a horse drawn cart loaded with slabs of "reclaimed" tarmac. Clearly this valuable resource was being recycled, as everything is in Romania....

Friday, October 30, 2009


I'm surprised Guido hasn't trumpeted this from the heavens, but it appears that Tony Blair, at one time a shoo-in for EU President, appears to be no longer anything vaguely of a certainty.
In fact he looks like a dead duck.
Could that be to do with "Jonah" Brown endorsing him..???

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'll Be Back...

Alex Massie in the Speccie has a lovely letter from Arnie ( Governator of California)
On a family blog like this I couldn't possible put it up here, but if you click here, you will be able to see his very pointed point....

Irritable Bankers

I had a lovely conversation this morning with a lawyer,who relates the following tale:
" A couple of weeks ago I took out a banker for what turned out to be quite an expensive lunch.
Yesterday he phoned looking for some deeds from a client and was truly irritable .
I told him I thought his irritability was completely inappropriate as it was a first request ( as in it wasn't as if I had delayed sending him anything).
He apologised, and said it was because all bankers were irritable at the moment.
My assumption is they go to bed irritable, get up irritable, and nothing happens in their dreams to make them less irritable ( which tells you a lot about what Bankers dream about).
Perhaps if we all stopped slagging them off and trying to stop their bonuses they would be less irritable.
But I doubt it."


The recently beautifully married Winchester Whisperer has a lovely Eastern tale today which only goes to reinforce my view that it is the flaw that makes the genius, or inspires the leap of imagination. There was a wonderful sci-fi book I read years ago about an enclosed city that every 20 years or so produced one flawed person. Over the eon's that sporadic being had not managed to get people out into the world. Of course, there would be no story unless the one in it actually did get people out and about.
Which he did.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Profound contemplation

Take a look at this...
Middle Ms. Lear is in London and saw this.
I think she is implying that this is what I do in Romania.
I shall, in any event HAVE to go to see it....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Money,sex and finger-pointing

I've had a pleasant couple of days, if somewhat motorway centric, driving to Salisbury for a Gurkha Welfare Trust meeting.
I went with our new (Scottish Branch) Treasurer, who proved a delightful companion, and we managed to talk nearly the whole way there and back.
We were asked to put our expenses in in order to get a cheque before leaving, which we duly did.
As we had only had a couple of sandwiches and 2 coffees on the way down, it was deemed appropriate that we should receive simply double this paltry figure for sustenance.
I had intended to take our Treasurer to a London lap dancing club, eat at Mr. Chows and stay at the Ritz, but sadly it was not to be. Perhaps if our Chairman had been with us...
So with GBP 11.60 in hand, we got as far as Tebay before stopping.
Now you probably know that even the most unappetising plate in such places is GBP10, so the Treasurer - excellent chap that he is - said as I was the driver, he would have a packet of crisps.
But a solution was found - two bowls of soup, rolls and butter, juice and a yogurt came to GBP 10.56, leaving GBP 1.04.
The Treasurer, true to his excellent accountant's honesty, suggested we should send back this sum.
I, true to my spendthrift tendencies, bought a packet of crisps and blew the budget.
We had used the Tom Tom and ended up doing about 40 miles over some rather nice country roads.
When we were discussing this with one of the girls in Salisbury, she brought up the business of map reading. In descending order, the best map readers are supposed to be heterosexual males, followed by lesbians, gay men and heterosexual females bringing up the rear.
I know its incredibly non-pc, but we discussed why gay men should be worse than gay women, or straight men.
"Ah" said our hostess "They have difficulty keeping their hands pointing in the right direction."
So there you have it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Romanian Goats

Those of you who follow me in Romania may be wondering how the goats are doing.
Very roughly, we now have so many goats and so many due to produce babies that they are taking over the village.
What happened in the past was that people bred goats, sold some, ate some and then bred some more. No one has ever NOT got rid of any and kept breeding.
You might find it extraordinary but we spent a couple of hours discussing this particular problem, which is a problem not only for the people ( yes we now have 3) looking after them, but for the very terrain they inhabit.
Suffice to say we agreed to keep the maximum number at 100 and to sell ( or eat) whatever number more we had. We will also have to buy some more land to keep feeding them - fortunately this won't be a problem.
On the subject of crops, trefoil would appear to yield 4 cuts a year and each hectare is worth about £500. This will feed about 8 goats for the full year - so input = about £60pa.
Cost of looking after them is about £30 pa ( total costs divided by total numbers) so lets just say the all-in cost is £100 pa.
There is, of course, the by-product - the dung which gets spread everywhere, but ignoring that, we would expect to sell each goat for about £300. This may sound a lot, but these are special goats - and it's only for the Billies.
So lets just say the 100 goats produce 100 babies, and 50% are boys. Our total costs will be £10,000 and our income £15,000 - with an extra 50 female goats thrown in to replace any that die.
Or start a new herd somewhere...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Head for them thar hills!

One of the dangers of being in Romania is that you continue to think like a Brit and/or a townie. So I would fully expect some idiot to come out of a side road at full speed and attempt to despatch me whence I came.
What I didn't expect was a cow to try the same thing.
It was the lone stampede. I suspect it had got away from the herd and was going hell for leather for the hills - except it had to get across the road in front of us first.
I'm glad to say Alin was not on two mobile phones at that precise moment and was able to steer round the cow - thus blocking the pursuing posse.
Last seen the cow was half way up the nearest hill.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

East meets West

Various Ms. Lears have forwarded me this suggesting that this is - at last - a suitable job for me.
I was reminded of Middle Ms Lear coming to visit my office in the East End of Glasgow some years ago, parking outside the building.
When she came in, she told me that some children had come up to her and offered her a glass of water, which she found very strange.
It is impossible to render in writing what was actually said, but the translation was that famous phrase :" Do you want me to look after your car for you?"
The correct response - in the old days - was to hand over 50p and clip the lead urchin round the head. This is now regarded as a bit tooo lese majeste.
A denizen of the West end had come across town some time ago, and was approached with the same question.
"No thank you" he said "I have a Rotweiler in the car"
Lead urchin digs pal in ribs." See they Rotweilers - Ah never new they cud put fires out....."
He paid.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Corn, Cabbage, Goats and the Post

Life in Romania is never dull, but what it is, is extremely busy. This being the time of year when the crops are "got in" I have been busy selling corn.
Actually, I haven't. I've been discussing the politics, economics and spiritual dimensions of selling corn - with a broad-brush occasional mention of the price, which would appear to be very good.
There is a move NOT to sell the corn but to hoard it and sell for more later, but as this is our first year we probably ought to just sell and work out how it has done, which at least would give us a benchmark for future years.
Various odd bits of land have been discussed and the goats are being readied to be mated and then produce more goats, which should mean that next year we can sell some.
The sheep exist - somewhere. I just can't get them to stand still long enough to know whether I have lots - or not. Noone seems too bothered either way.
Overall, though, I would say things have turned out pretty well this year and now the weather has turned sharply colder ( there was a flurry of snow today) people will be much more ready to discuss selling land.
This is the weekend of the cabbage festival, which is being led by one of the most famous priest/singers in Romania. People will be flocking to hear him from tens of miles away, all coming to Mosna, and the police have already put in place road blocks to direct incomers to suitable parking places. We locals have pre-ordained specific parking spots. The Senators and Deputies, nearest, then the other Mayors, then Councillors and so on. Our spot is immediately behind the stand,beside our Mayor and in front of the rest, and I have to eat the first plate of new season's cabbage salad, and say "Pofta Buna!" roughly translated as "eat well".
There is, of course, to be a celebratory lunch which I am looking forward to, except for the fact that our accountant ( who works FOR the Tax Office) has intimated she would like to visit the Festival. She will have to come to the lunch as well.
I've been intrigued with the potential postal strike in the UK. Anything more sure to kill off the Post Office in anything like it's existing form would be hard to imagine, but hey, maybe we'll all be better off.
Romania has a different attitude to this.
I noticed a very smart new yellow box outside a paper shop the other day, but was astonished to see it had disappeared by the time 9pm came round.
Fascinated, I discovered it had returned the next morning, and nothing would do but I should ask about it.
Very sensibly, instead of having expensive buildings, post boxes and the like, Romania now has a system of post boxes which are issued to suitable shops to put in the street. They do have to be chained down ( everything here is) and taken in at night to avoid damage or vandalism, but the expansion in the mail services has been astronomic.
Maybe our own PO should try increasing collections and deliveries rather than cutting them down in order to raise the throughput.
But then, increasing business is not something we Brits regard as quite the done thing nowadays.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Toodle Pip!

Just about to set off to Romania via Valencia. This new route should be an interesting experience as I have two overnights in airports.
Mind you a plate or two of tapas en route will go down a treat.
As one of the Ms. Lears opined:
"Between the worn out shoes and the quote below - is Dad in fact not in Romania, but moonlighting as Shadow Business Secretary??
"I only get overweight on good quality food. And I always avoid unnecessary exercise." - Ken Clarke in conversation with Andrew Rawnsley"
See previous post for refutation.

First Quarter results

The first three months of the Official Walking regime are over.
I'm about 7 kgs lighter.
My Buddha like tummy has shrunk a little.
And I spend a lot of time hanging around bus-stops.
All in all I would have to say it's been quite a success. The Ms Lears are astonished that I have kept it up, but then, no one ever takes my determination about things seriously - it's the affable exterior. If I may say so, a bit like David Cameron.
The Doc wanted me to do a 24hr. Blood Pressure monitor, so I turned up at the hospital at the appointed hour. Promptly called through, the nurse started rigging me up for an ECG.
" Er, am I having an ECG as well?" I asked.
"It's just an ECG."
" No, I'm in for a BP 24hr test"
"No, you're here for an ECG."
" No, its the BP test."
Very belligerent, hands on hips. " Do you want to make me go and check"
" Yes" - and off she stamped.
Of course, she never reappeared, but another nurse did with the right equipment.
" Sorry about that - couldn't read the instructions properly " ( didn't read them at all, as they were typed)
So I was fitted with an arm band and monitor - which didn't work.
And another - which didn't work.
And then a third one, that was so big it would have easily done an elephant - and kept falling off .
Finally, the fourth one fitted and worked, and off I toddled.
If you have ever had to have this done, you will know how appallingly inconvenient it is. Every time it went off I was in the middle of something and had to stop. Then it went off about every 20 minutes. If I didn't have high BP before I certainly had it with the machinery.
Strangely, it didn't bother me too much overnight, and I dropped it back the next morning.
There was also a form that needed to be completed saying what I was doing during the day - as in 10:45 driving. 11:15 walking, 12:45 cooking ( it went off twice whilst I was in the middle of making two lots of soup),1:15 eating, 8:30 TV.
The ones that would have confused them from me were 9:00 pm computer 9:30 Chess - I'm looking forward to see what they make of it all.
The other problem is that I have White-Coat Syndrome, which I would expect carried over into the monitoring environment, so if you hear I have dropped dead from a heart attack it will be because they have made me have another test ( I intend to refuse if they want one)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Weather forecast

I think it's because I'm now officially aged but I keep telescoping things in my head. So something that happened 10 years ago seems like last year and so on.
As a result, two events far apart now bring forth expletives and curses about how such and such is always happening.
I'm fairly sure about the following:
Lots of weather girls have first names that sound like "Gale" - especially on the BBC, and especially the Scottish ones- see here and also here and even here..
It could, of course, be a comment on the weather up here which, certainly at this time of year, is frequently " Gales and heavy showers"

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Michael Jackson - Alive?

Glasgow has just hosted the MOBO awards, and the Herald has on its front page a picture of La Toya Jackson, looking v. nice on the red carpet.For some reason it isn't on the web.
Now I seem to remember a while ago someone did a thing saying Jacko and La Toya had never been seen together, anywhere, ever. It may just have been a spoof, but looking at her today.....

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Labour achievements

You may not believe this but I have been really busy for the last week, both in London and in Romania. Hence the lack of posts, and too much to tell, much of it of no interest to readers.
I did catch this mornings news on as I like to know what has been happening whilst I am away, so that I do not appear entirely ignorant when I return.
Even the Beeb is talking of a fin-de-siecle feeling in the Labour conference, and I spotted the following information in one of the papers:
Spending on the NHS has doubled since Labour came to power. Yet the number of beds run per administrator has dropped from 12 to just 5. And nurses? They now look after 10 beds as opposed to 6. Real progress there then.
Similarly, the education budget has doubled. We have slipped to 16th in the OECD table of reading 'riting and 'rithmetic - from 4th.
Oh, and we have the highest percentage of year 1 drop outs at University of any country in the world.
What achievements!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Choir

I was walking along the road today and my ears were assailed by hymn singing.
On investigating, it was coming from the Crosshill Evangelical Church, which is a building beside the Bank.
The singing was excellent, and as I had a bit of spare time, I wandered in to see what they were up to.
There were about 20 people there with a conductor and organist ( I suppose strictly it was a harmonium), and they were clearly enjoying themselves, and, as Old King Lear would have said, giving it laldy.
It turns out there is a competition for the choirs of Evangelical Churches, and they were practising.
And filling the streets of No Mean City with praise and cheerfulness.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

At the wedding ( Part 94)

Away in Yorkshire yesterday for the wedding of a relative, which took place in a church in Hull called Saint Charles Borromeo. I thought I was pretty good on Catholic Saints, but had never heard of him, so I have subsequently undertaken a little research.
However, at the wedding, I enquired of many of the people I spoke to who he was, and was met with complete ignorance. I eventually approached the Abbot who had taken the wedding service, and was told a little about him.
I said that he didn't seem to have accomplished a miracle, something which in his time would have been required.
" Ah, well, " said the Abbot," I would say he was a miracle of administration."
As ever more rubbish comes through the letter box, I can empathise with that.
What I wanted to tell you about was a tale told which pleased me no end.
A young(ish) officer was recently appointed adjutant to a rather fine regiment, and the first morning, his phone rang.
At the other end of the line was a very officious sounding lady who said that such and such a form hadn't been received, and really it was too bad, etc etc.
The Adj apologised and said that he had only arrived that morning, wasn't quite up to speed, but he would definitely sort it out asap.
The lady continued to harangue him, casting various nasturtiums about his abilities and remarking she was always getting that kind of B******t from jumped up penpushers, until eventually the Adj butted in.
" Look, I've just got here, I've just become a father, he's only 8 weeks old and I'm finding it really difficult!"
The voice softened somewhat, and started to sympathise.
" So what's his name? How heavy was he?"
" Oh he was very light, only about 2 lbs."
" Ah I can see you would be worried ( the voice was almost loving by now) - and what is his name?"
" Magic"
" Yes, I'm sure he is," said the lady even more solicitously, if that were possible. " But what's his name?"
" His name is Magic. " There was a silence.
" Are you going to baptise him with that name?"
" Well, I don't think the Church baptises Black Labradors....."
The outcome is they are now married and jointly looking after Black Magic..

Plus ca change...

" I am extremely anti-Labour. They are so far apart from fairies and owls and bluebells and Americans, and all the things that I like.
If they agree with me I know they are pretending - in fact I believe everything is pretence to them."
This was written in 1924, and could equally be true today, and, I would venture, equally true of the majority of this country's views at the moment.
Of course, the person writing these words was rather special.
It was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, quoted in Shawcross's new book.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I can hardly bring myself to say his name, but Gordon Brown has displayed once again his complete cynical disregard for anything but small-minded party attitudes.
This blog on the Speccie Coffee House underlines precisely why NuLiebore has been an utter failure.
Rather than taking a line he actually believes in ( which at least would have the merit of being proncipled) he vacillates in the wind to try to score points, and provide himself and his appalling crew of never-having-made-a-penny misfits ( unless you count taking it from us) with "cover" for his next pronouncement.
The one piece of good news is my computer - busy dying - can be replaced and have everything transferred for GBP 80.
The new one only has 60 times the capacity - 4 years on
Mrs. Lear enquired yesterday why the boffins hadn't just made the chips more powerful to start with, rather than making then better, faster, bigger all the time, and cheaper.
I decided it was too complicated to explain.

Gold-plated pensions

I can hardly credit it, but I have checked and the following is absolutely true.
In year 2002/3, the cost of public employee pensions in Scotland was £211 million.
For next tear ( 2010/11) John Swinney's budget has a figure of £2,500 million.
In other words, within an 8 year period, the cost of pensions to the Scottish Government has risen more than 11 fold.
I can only assume that the UK Government figures are not entirely unadjacent to these - Scotland after all is about 10% of the UK, in terms of population, even though we have more public service employees than the UK average.
I can't help but think there will come a point where the people who are working ( whose taxes actually pay these staggering sums) won't be able to pay their taxes, and more importantly won't be prepared to pay them either.
Of course, when Bottler Brown ( remember that?) repeatedly says he borrows to invest, what he actually means is he borrows to bribe people to vote for him. Unfortunately for him, this option has now ended.
The one interesting thing is, there are definitely now some projects which I would invest in. There's no takers for the space, the banks won't give any money to undertake them - but all that means that maybe - just maybe - there's a bargain out there for those with some cash and a lot of balls.
You need to want to do it, and you need to be young enough to be bothered.
That lets me out then.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Unnecessary but difficult.

I do rather like Brown's assertion that he will cut unnecessary programmes. I would have assumed if something was unnecessary it would never get started. Of course,being this government, it needs to pretend the unemployment figures are real, so uses its patronage to fund unnecessary programmes for people with non-jobs.
More importantly, I've just filled in a questionnaire which purports to assess whether I am suitable for a particular survey - a survey about a survey.
One of the questions was along the lines of " Do you worry about...?" and a long list of things that it had never occurred to me to even think about let alone worry over.
I liked the question: " Using difficult words?"
Do I worry about using difficult words? I don't think so. But on the other hand, what's a difficult word? Would that be three or more syllables? On that basis I've used several in the last few sentences. Or four? I've used a couple. Or maybe, in this day and age, the really difficult words are not classified by length, but rather by meaning.
I can think of restraint, responsibility, leadership, cuts.
Now there's a few really difficult words to deal with.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My way of life is fallen into the sere...*

As I edge slowly closer to the day when all the tax I've paid over the years starts to get paid back to me ( that's the OAP pension by the way - and is itself taxed) I am beginning to realise that I have lived my entire life without realising quite how pernicious and intrusive this Government is.
It all kicked off when I claimed my winter fuel allowance.
Then my bus pass.
That triggered visits from council officials, entailed visits to doctors, tests on my perfectly healthy body ( its like the police - trap unsuspecting illegal parkers and let the thieves and drug dealers go free) - and forms.
I have now lost count of how many forms I have had to fill in, just to make sure the Government doesn't strike me off it's list of future dependants.
The idea is quite simple. They send a form, and at the bottom it says ( in small letters, natch) words to the effect of " If you don't send this back timeously ( is that 14 days? 7 days? A month?) you will lose your entitlement to xyz until you fill in another form asking for us to be very kind and send you a new form like this one again - oh, and its not back-dated."
I've just had to fill in a form to confirm my tax code.
Now bear in mind it's not me who sets the code - the Government sends out a form every now and then which has the code on it. I effectively have little or no input, and the code is the one applied to my tax affairs until they change it.
Even so, the form stipulates that I need to tell them what my tax code is and failure to do so blah blah blah.
It also has my tax reference and NI number on it, and my date of birth, all of which I have to write in as well.
I have no idea - apart from the Government employing bodies to send the forms out, and presumably check them before filing them away.
But I'm absolutely sure I'm not going to lose one penny of what I'm entitled to.
I have to go now as the post has arrived - with yet another form to confirm I'm still alive and they do have to pay the winter fuel allowance...
*... into the yellow leaf ( Macbeth)
At least it gives me something to do whilst waiting for the "upturn" we are assured is... er well er....well, the upturn.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Norman Conquest of the Scots

We were down in Ayrshire today. a place that is a bit like the Bermuda Triangle. If you go to live there you never see anyone from anywhere in Scotland ever again - unless they come to Ayrshire.
We had lunch at the Failford Inn which makes it's own beer, and exceptionally fine meat burgers ( NB that's a proper unformed beef burger) They do other things too, and being a nice day we were able to sit out. They have a huge midge eating machine, which is not longer necessary at this time of year, though something for the wasps would have been good. Everyone was bothered with them except myself. In fact insects generally don't bother me, and I put this down to having been stung so often as a child that they think I'm one of them now.
The talk was general, but my friend, the Retired Civil Engineer, was of the opinion that the Normans only came as far as Ayrshire as they came north, presumably along the coast ( that's the way most journeys used to be undertaken), found Ayrshire pretty OK and stayed there. They didn't bother going much further - cold and miserable, don't you know. Symington for example would appear to be from the Norman for Simon, and Robert The Bruce was a Norman.
The story is told that Robert's mother - Marjorie of Carrick - was in her castle someplace in Ayrshire, of Norman construction, standing on the battlements, and a group of knights and their retinues passed by.
One of the knights was especially good looking, strong, big and rode a magnificent charger.
Calling her own men at arms, she instructed them to capture this paragon, and bring him to her.
There was quite a barney, and after it, the other knights were driven off, and the Beauty was hustled into the castle.
Robert II - for it was he - was visited every day by Marjorie, who merely asked him one question - " Will you marry me?"
He refused each day for a fortnight, and on the fifteenth day agreed to marry her.
Robert III ( Robert the Bruce) was not a particularly good man, and known for pragmatic political maneuvering - but then at the time so was everyone else. But they were Normans, not Scottish as we think of them.
The thought does occur to me though - was Marjorie very ugly, or was Robert II just playing hard to get?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Graffiti as art/poetry/whatever

There is a "thing" going on which seems to be suggesting that Grafitti is art.
Some of it certainly is, but some of it is intrusive rubbish.
So I was pleased to notice on the pavement as I walked along this morning two pieces of ... whatever.
Both were quite small, all yellow,and in each case the signature was a picture of a howling wolf.
The first said:
" The lone wolf returns
to the wilderness
to allow his broken heart
to mend"
The second one said:
"Hey Miss!
Come to the pub.
I'll buy you a drink"
Seems to me his heart mended quite quickly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


In case you haven't heard the delicious Winchester Whisperer is off getting married and won't be around until 1st October. I'm not sure if she is combining a honeymoon with a business trip, or just being lazy, but I wish her enormous happiness and a long life.
However, it is noted from her blog that a ( soon to be) relative killed off her pet spider ( Solomon) which is not only bad luck but also allows flies and other beasties to flourish. Perhaps Minniebeastie ( better known as minniebeaniste) has been able to flourish because of a dead spider.
Actually, a minniebeastie is a baby Haggis when it is rushing around the highlands growing up....
Anyway, we have a spider that lives in our guest bathroom, which we have to clear away when guests come. He/she always comes back, and in fact is getting bolder. Known as Spidey ( v. original), it has just made its way to the radiator under my desk and is warming itself.
I regard this as a good omen.
Hopefully, it won't turn into Shelob.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wa's like us *

Today is the make or break day in in Scotlands Football World Cup campaign. They are playing Holland at home at Hampden, and as usual the newspapers and pundits are all saying WE WILL WIN!
However, on past ( and probably future) performance, I think it extremely unlikely that they will. Scotland's Footballing Heroes invariably have feet of clay, and they are playing a Dutch side which is one of the best for some time. Allied to that is that Holland have won every game and are on 21 points, with Scotland in second place on just 10.
What is rather nice are all the Tartan Army Lads and Lasses wandering around in their blue Scottish Football Tartan ( as distinct from anything vaguely resembling a real tartan), and the Dutch in their orange outfits. In this city of sectarian football divide, at least 50% of the population are probably having a collective fit.
But even if they lose ( which I think is almost a foregone conclusion), provided Norway and Macedonia draw, Scotland will go through. If that were the case, I can guarantee that some papers tomorrow will be saying that the World Cup is within our grasp. Scottish people are nothing if not carried away by passion and emotion.
You may have noticed my mentioning the odd single shoe which crops up all over the place.
Well, I thinnk passion and emotion clearly overtook two people in a bus shelter the other day.
There was not one, but 4 shoes. Two pairs. One womens's, one man's. Women's very definitely killer heels.
I hope they enjoyed themselves.
It does make one wonder what happened to prevent them putting them back on.
Or even why they took them off in the first place....
* Who is like us? or What are we like?
PS: Scotland lost 1-0. Ah well, that's it over for another 4 years..
PPS:... except of course we will win the European Championship in 2 years time..

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Just Giving

I just found out about Just giving.
I've set up an account for the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
Go online at and look for the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

September 2008

As I sit here in the pouring rain ( well, it's ouside actually) I had a thought about this time last year.
I looked back at my blog posts then, and it is clear in retrospect we were very very close to financial Armageddon. The Lehman collapse was clearly the catalyst, but from re-reading what I wrote then, nearly every financial institution worldwide was on the brink and only escaped because after Lehman, the Central Banks and Governments simply handed out as much money as was necessary to keep things going.
So where are we now?
Well, another two of our tenants just upped and walked away today. We've been nursing them for some months, but even that hasn't helped. The length of time this is going on is what is killing - not the severity, the continuing daily struggle to stay afloat. You can only tread water for just so long. This time last year we were 100% let. As of now we are down to just over under 29% empty.
I always judge how things are by how many people are asking for a bit of space.
I've had just one in the last 3 months.
Even this lying government says it won't start improving until after Christmas.
And this time last year I predicted it would be Spring 2010 before we had finally, finally reached bottom and started to improve...

Monday, September 07, 2009

Poetry? Inspiration? Or what?

Scrawled on a wall:
"The clock chimes the end of night
I raise my eyes
And see
The mountain top I aspire to."

Bribe the electorate!

I know you all hate it when I talk about politics, but something happened today which made me stop and think for a few minutes.
I went to buy a train ticket ( within Scotland) and proffered my senior citizen railcard. The booking clerk ( God, that ages me doesn't it?) flung a pamphlet at me.
" £13 return"
" Er what's the pamphlet for?"
" Well you're over 55, so you can travel anywhere in Scotland, return, for £15 - and as you have a railcard you get an extra £2 off, so, £13."
" And what does joining the over 55 club cost?" I asked suspiciously.
" Nothing - it's free. You just have to mention it when you buy your ticket. And you don't need to book in advance, there's no conditions and you can even book just before getting on the train."
I read the pamphlet and sure enough, it was all as he said. So a ticket I had expected to pay £32.80 for was £13.
Middle Ms. Lear was horrified to hear that her taxes were going to fund my travel bug, and that's what made me think.
Despite the general disgust and revulsion, the distrust and the loathing this government inspires, it is spending gigantic sums of our money bribing the electorate.
They don't have the money of course, but at some point it will have to be paid.
It reminds me of the Bird and Fortune skit before the 1997 election when they were discussing money that was being " given" to the man in the street. It isn't really given of course, the Government merely lends it - then takes it back in taxes.
Fortune, as the interviewer, says, " Of course, the average man will see through this and know its just an electoral bride."
" Absolutely, " says Bird ( as the ubiquitous George Parr)," Of course he's thinking - this is just a cynical bribe. But he's also thinking, as bribes go, it's a bloody good one."
And in a way, that's just what Labour has been doing for the last year - trying desperately to bribe us with our own money, and no pretence they they are trying to do better for the poor.
Which, of course, they have massively and signally failed to do.
They can't even do it properly like the Afghans....

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Braemar et al.

This week has been another rush, but a couple of things have struck me.
Firstly, in London there was a beggar who was sitting there with his earphones on listening to his ipod. I don't know how well he did, but I certainly wouldn't have given him anything.
Then on the tube, a young boy gave up his seat for a lady. That really impressed me, as I hadn't seen that for a long time.
A small girl in the Girl Guides being interviewed about whether or not to have boys in replied, "No, boys are messy and smelly". I have a feeling most wives girlfriends lovers etc probably agree.
So to Braemar for the Gathering on Saturday, in the company of two Gurkhas in full no.2 uniform and the famous hats. We had a marvellous response, which included the Princess Royal, on catching sight of them from her car, waving and smiling and waving again. The rain held off, even though it was cold and windy, and we probably did quite well.
One of the Gurkhas told me that he was the sixth generation of his family that had served in the Gurkhas. His father was one of 6 and his father was one of six as well, and the men had all served, whilst the girls had all married Gurkhas. He was immensely proud of his family record.
Despite the complete let down we as a nation and this government in particular have been to the Gurkhas, their loyalty never wavers.
"Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you".

.. and the boys invited us for a curry as well....

Monday, August 31, 2009


I enjoy watching gentle programmes on the TV that have happy endings and are, as the French would have it, "Amusant" as opposed to comedies.
So I was quite taken with the BBC1 show this evening "Framed", with Trevor Eve.
The line that had me roaring with laughter was when Eve, the Londoner, asks the local butcher in a tiny shop in Wales for "Something Organic".
" No problem there, boy," says the butcher," I've got brains, liver, kidneys, lights and all sorts of organs."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Out of the shadows..

Bleriot crossed the channel in his 'plane 100 years ago. There are exhibits and shows connected with this feat all around France, along with social and cultural addenda.
Although I didn't have time to see very much, I popped into one show for 10 minutes, and was delighted to see that the French had taken the 100 years ago to mean what life was like then, rather than a dull mechanical or photographic record of the flight.
There were wonderful pictures of what I would classify as fast ladies, and some histories of a few of them.
The Grandes Horizontales ( who I suppose were strictly rather before Bleriot) had a code of honour and conduct that we have completely lost. At a time when marriages were not made in heaven so much but rather for dynastic and entrepreneurial reasons, these ladies had a flourishing time.
Of course, a marriage made in heaven may last forever, but its much more likely to remain a fixture for financial and dynastic reasons. We only have to look at the present state of divorce here and in the States to see how things are going on the made in heaven front.
Back then, a lady who took on a man ( remember Colette and Cheri?) was not jealous or possessive. Indeed, she might very well arrange for the man to be passed on to a younger or at least another version of herself, and they would remain good friends.
I've always thought it rather sad that the equivalent ladies in the UK tended to be hidden away in St. John's Wood in discreet little houses, whilst those in Paris were the Belles of the Ball - quite literally.
Bertie did his best to bring them into the limelight, but even he was finally beaten back by the massed ranks of enraged matrons.
And David, of course, lost his throne over it...

French Leave

I've had a fascinating few days since I last wrote, including visiting Carlisle for a Sunday afternoon and evening, and getting to rural France via Beauvais and the French railway and metro system.
The most interesting bit was Paris for the time it takes to have lunch and change trains. In the old days, the 3:15 train from Montparnasse heading south was hard to catch if flying from Glasgow, as one only had about 1hr and 50 minutes for lunch. Not enough to savour it properly. This time, I had a whole 3 hours, but sadly refrained from sampling the wines as I needed my wits about me to get the right train.
At Montparnasse, of course there is the famous black obelisk, which is the tallest building in France. It was built over 30 years ago, and the story goes that the developers just wanted to fill a big hole with a square block. At the time, the market was a bit soggy for offices, so the architects came up with the idea of a landmark building. The only problem was that it broke every rule as to height and density in Paris, and looked dead in the water - until ( I believe) a junior in the architect's office came up with a cunning plan.
" Why not" he said " Buy the two blocks next door which are going cheap." I'm sure he was looked at as if he had two heads ( happens a lot to me), but he continued.." Then average the height over the whole site..."
Brilliant! So that is why there is the massive tower, and alongside it a one and a half storey Galleries Lafayette stretching as far along the road as the tower goes up.
I noticed lots of police in vans, cars, motorbikes and even push-bikes, who finally picked up a chap who was clearly the object of their search. Everyone was very well behaved whilst the boys in white ( mostly) rushed about.
I like the enlightened entertainment policy that pertains on the Metro. Not only do you have to have a licence, you have to have a quality test before they let you on. On Metro line 4,on Tuesday they had clearly got all the saxophonists together, as there was one at every stop, and at one point a whole combo even got on the train, playing not only jazz, but swing, blues and at one point even classical.
On my way back on Sunday, I was delighted to see and talk to two proper pilgrims, complete with staffs and shells who were going to walk to Santiago de Compostella They had just come from the UK to the Gare du Nord, and were considering where to go to start walking. There are two main ways from France, the one via Tours and the other from Vezelay. I suggested the Vezelay one - its prettier in my view. From the Spanish border its pretty indivisible. They were planning to spend about 4 months on the walk, and be at the Christmas service in the Church. They had the light of the Lord in their eyes - and love for each other too.
And so to Beauvais once more. There is an excellent Bistro opposite the station where I now take my evening meal, as the bus for the airport leaves there at 8pm. On the way, there was a lady standing beside a set of traffic lights. The driver pulled in, the lady hopped aboard, kissed the driver and handed him his supper - and none of your sandwich rubbish either. He had a hot meal which I saw him openeing as he had a 30 minute wait for his return journey.
In France, C'est la Vie.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why "Castleton" Dancing Ladies of Braemar?

"Stumbled on your blog quite by accident when I googled Castleton Dancers - as I do from time to time, just to see if we are getting famous! I thought I should explain where the 'Castleton' comes from. Braemar used to be two villages, Castleton the protestant one,-with a castle- and Auchendryne, the Roman Catholic one on the other side of the river. We happen to use the village hall on the Castleton side to hence we are the Castleton Dancers. Next performance is on Tuesday at Birkhall for Prince Charles. Lovely to meet you all last week and hope your fund raising was successful. Marilyn"
So now you know.
Despite John Knox, the Highlands were long a bastion of Catholicism, and, indeed, it's arguable that those Scots supporting both Young and Old Pretenders were largely Catholic, and those supporting the English were Protestant.
That, however, is far too simplistic a description of the '15 and '45, both of which I've always felt were much more about helping oneself to a bigger slice of cake than about religion, blood lines or, of course, principle.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

As She is spoke...

The Herald Diary, always one to keep you amused as one drinks one's first coffee in bed of a morning, referred to somebody as being " East Ham".
Londoners will realise this is one stop short of Barking.
It reminded me of a young man who mentioned that his trousers were Cowdenbeath. When I enquired, I was informed that Cowdenbeath had no ballroom - for the dancing.
And that's true, too

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Start procreating...

Herbert Hoover was quite a wise old bird. One of his sayings was:
" Blessed are the young... for they shall inherit the National Debt".
At the present time, that has a somewhat terrifying ring to it...

It's Curry... again.

I finally got back to Glasgow about 1am this morning to be met by a household that had clearly decided I was a lost cause. Snores emanated from all sleeping bodies ( dog included) but the middle Ms. Lear's cat which is holidaying with us at least said hello before disappearing in what always seems like a puff of smoke.
The end of the walk was great. We had a simply marvellous evening at Finzean House, and the boys were delighted to see some Scottish Country Dancing as performed by the Braemar Lady Dancers of Castleton. I'm not sure what Castleton has to do with it, but they certainly looked very smart in their outfits.
Sunday was definitely a slowish start, but the boys picked up the pace as they neared East Migvie in Glenesk, where exceptional sausage rolls, tea and cake is on offer to the walkers. I get some too. As Angus the Shepherd's son said, " The trouble is, the minute you enter this Glen, time stops, worries cease and nothing is more important than greeting your neighbour." I would recommend it to anyone.
By the time they finished walking on Sunday, the RBL at Banchory had closed its kitchen ( at 8pm) and we had to go to the local Indian Restaurant. As is the case nearly everywhere, it is run by a Bangladeshi. As one of the Gurkhas said, " Sahib, if they put Bangladeshi Restaurant above door, no one will come in!" We had an excellent meal, probably improved by the boys questioning the waiter in his own language about exactly how the food was prepared and cooked.
So it was with a sad heart that I saw them off on Monday morning. They had been excellent company for the week, and were I able to bottle the essence of their leader ( very hunky young British officer) I could make a fortune selling it to young ladies. His take on life was clearly shown when he surveyed the number of dead rabbits on the roads and round about - " Not exactly the master race are they?"
We finished the walk on time in Stonehaven, and were escorted down to the beach by a Police car with lights flashing which impressed the boys no end.They ended up splashing about in the water, the only eventual drawback being the amount of the North Sea which ended on the floor in the Royal British Legion.
We eventually reached Edinburgh about 8pm and the girls had prepared - guess what? Yes, curry and rice.
I'm not sure how well we will do this year. We had quite a number of cheques for £1000 last time, but so far the most we have had is £500. If anyone feels like sending the first £1000 cheque I can arrange a free Gurkha Welfare badge - and a letter of thanks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Curry for dinner....

I apologise for being so dilatory with posts but since Saturday night when I hitched up with the Gurkhas I've hardly had a minute.
We set off early Sunday and were in good time at Spean Bridge to have a practice of the laying of the wreath at the Commando Memorial. It went off well and the Press were, if not out in force, at least well represented.
Monday we were on the boat from Mallaig to Inverie on Knoydart and the boys started walking about 11:05.
By the time I got back to Spean Bridge, did the emails, and fielded some phone calls, its was time to collected them at the extreme end of Loch Arkaig, which has to be one of the worst roads in Britain.
On Tuesday morning I had a call from STV saying they wanted to come to film the wreath laying. When I explained we had done it, they suggested we should do it again.
Never loathe to turn down a chance to lay down in front of the Press, I agreed we would redo it at 9am the next morning.
It went very well and STV used it on their 6pm news. Its also available at STV North. I am slightly miffed they cut my third spear carrier part....
Wednesday night was spent at Corour, the highest station in the UK. The boys of course walked in , but I had to take the train from Tulloch.We had a great reception, and I caught the train back to Tulloch just as the boys disappeared over the horizon in their midge nets.As an aside, I was wearing a purple sweater, and rather than land on my skin, they clearly found the colour reminiscent of the heather ( just coming out) and formed a complete covering on the sweater without bothering me at all.
The train back in the morning is a request stop, and the only information I could get was that you just put your hand out and it stopped, like a bus. It wasn't quite like that but it did stop - eventually.
The train was actually the Caledonian Sleeper to Fort William, from London, and a youngish man got off the train at Tulloch with me.
Walking along the platform to greet him was one of the most dazzling young women I have seen in a long time, not only for her looks, but her attire. She wrapped her arms around the youngish man and kissed him passionately ( On Tulloch platform at 9am - I ask you!) and as I walked past them I heard her whisper.. " I'm not wearing any...." I hurried away. I could have been socks of course.
One of the boys doing the walk was involved with EOD ( bomb disposal) and one of the areas they have been involved in is the East End of London around Stratford. You might know that the 2012 Olympics are supposed to be there. There are so many bombs left over from the Blitz that the Army can't cope ( it has many more important commitments in this regard as you might realise) and the work has now been put to a private contractor. My informant tells me.." I have this wonderful dream that when they light the Olympic Flame, the whole lot - sportspeople, media, politicians - will all go up in one almighty bang."
We stayed last night in Kingussie in a proper hotel, so we were able to have baths instead of showers. One of the local GWT committee had laid on a reception for us, and we collected over £1500. Nairn RBL came all the way down and handed over more than £800, and a local arranged a raffle for a bottle of whisky which raised over £150. There were a party of Germans staying who had to be persuaded that they needed a ticket - and as luck would have it, they won the bottle. Give them their due, they put £10 in the collection tin.
So today I came over the Cockbridge to Tomintoul road that the BBC always says is closed in the winter. It's easy to see why as its high, steep and exposed - except you can get to Tomintoul quite easily from the other end. People always imagine the poor souls shivering in the village waiting for the spring thaw.
I'm now in Ballater which benefits from Balmoral just down the road - though I have to say the weather this year is identical to last - pouring. The boys set off at 6:20 this morning and I don't expect to see them again until nearly 8pm. Last year, the best moments of the whole week was them appearing out of the rain at Linn o' Dee.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed - they will have done 42 miles of heavy duty by the time they get there.
And we'll be having curry again for dinner...
Give online at

Friday, August 07, 2009

Joanna and GWT on TV!

Please note there will be a programme going out regarding Joanna Lumley's recent trip to Nepal this weekend. Alastair Leithead of the BBC has made a 30 minute film based on Joanna Lumley's visit to Nepal . There should be quite a lot on the work of the GWS and GWT. The programme will be on the BBC News Channel (formerly News 24.) On Saturday 8th August at 5.30am and 2.30pm; and on Sunday 9th August at 3.30am, 1030am, 2.30pm and 11.30pm.

Joanna Lumley in Nepal


After a hectic couple of days meeting VIPs and thousands of grateful ex-Gurkha servicemen and their families in Kathmandu, Dharan and Birtamod in East Nepal, Joanna Lumley and her entourage arrived in Pokhara early on 29th July in two chartered aircraft. Pokhara’s small airport was swamped by enthusiastic, and some rowdy well-wishers from GAESO, NESA and ordinary ex-Gurkha servicemen and their families. Airport security couldn’t cope with the crowd and, after some negotiation, it was agreed that GAESO would lead Ms Lumley through the hundreds of supporters and well-wishers present. Twenty minutes or so later, submerged in phul-mallas and khadas, Ms Lumley was rescued by Col Jeremy Ellis, Director Gurkha Welfare Scheme (GWS) and
Deputy Field Director GWS to start her long planned visit to the GWS. Before leaving England, Joanna Lumley had said how much she wanted to see the work of the GWS and a whole day had been set aside in her programme to do just that. She was joined by her husband and son, her ‘Chief of Staff’ and his wife and a large group of national and international radio and TV media. After the banner waving and raucous crowds at
the airport the welcoming party that greeted her at AWC Kaski were rather more organised but no less enthusiastic and pleased to see her! The path leading into AWC Kaski was lined with eager and excited welfare pensioners, service pensioners as well as AWC Kaski and HQ GWS staff, everyone craning their necks to catch a first glimpse of Nepal’s newest Goddess’ arrival. Ms Lumley was greeted first by HE Dr Andrew Hall (the British Ambassador), Lt Col Adrian Griffith (Deputy Field Director GWS), Mrs Hall, Fiona Ellis and Anne Griffith, followed by AWC Kaski staff and the pensioners.

She gracefully accepted khadas from everyone, spending a few moments speaking with each of our welfare pensioners and widows. She was delighted to meet and speak with some Burma veterans from 3/6th Gurkha Rifles, who had served alongside her father during the war.
Reception party at AWC Kaski

After refreshments, Ms Lumley, her team and senior media correspondents were given a comprehensive brief by Field Director GWS on the GWS’s organisation, mission and
objectives as well as its past, present and future programmes. In support of this brief, Director GWS emphasised the benefits for Service Pensioners remaining in Nepal. The tour of AWC Kaski began with the visit to the AWC clinic where in average of 80 patients are seen everyday by the AWC Doctor and his team.
Ms Lumley showed keen interest in the quality of the services provided to ex-Gurkha servicemen and their dependants and was especially pleased to see the well stocked pharmacy and that a gynaecologist was available to support female patients.
Ms Lumley was then shown the site of the GWS’s first Residential Home, under construction for our most vulnerable welfare pensioners. She was briefed on the progress of the project by Capt(Retd) Khembahadur Thapa, Staff Officer Residential Home. She seemed delighted by the new project and looked forward to seeing the first group of residents in the Home.
With the whirlwind tour of AWC Kaski over, Ms Lumley gave an impromptu press conference to the international (BBC, ITN, Sky and others) and Nepalese national media to say how impressed she was with the work of the GWS in its support of ex-Gurkha servicemen and their families. She also said how much she was looking forward to seeing other work being carried out by the GWS in the field.
Her next visit was to Pumdi Bhumdi village where the GWS had completed a major school project for Shree Sukraraj High School in 2002, funded by Trailwalker money. Here again, the students, teachers and members of the local community showered their appreciation with garlands, bouquets and khadas on Ms Lumley. She was surprised to see the ‘Trailwalker’ marble tablet on the wall of the school, so the Deputy Field Director explained the history behind the ‘Trailwalker’ charity event and the work of Queen's Gurkha Signals and Oxfam in Hong Kong to raise money for schools in Nepal. After further filming opportunities for the media Ms Lumley departed for AWC Syangja .Her welcome at AWC Syangja by Maj(Retd) Krishna Gurung BEM, the Area Welfare Officer (AWO) and his team was every bit as warm and enthusiastic as elsewhere. As importantly, many welfare pensioners had walked and bussed for hours in the hope of seeing the "Nepali Cheli" (daughter of Nepal) and Goddess in person.
After the pensioners had made their offerings of flowers and khadas, the AWO gave Ms Lumley a comprehensive brief on the role and work of a busy rural AWC. This was followed by a well deserved and relaxed lunch for the whole travelling party and the accompanying media around the AWC 'chautara'. The BGP Master Chef excelled himself by preparing first class vegetarian ration packs. After lunch, she toured the AWC complex and was thrilled to visit the AWC pig farm and to see newly born piglets – the AWC staff were very surprised that the mother pig did not interfere when Ms lumley handled the piglets!Then it was off to Chaura village to see the RWSP’s newly completed drinking water project there.
Here again, crowds from the local community had gathered for a chance to see and meet the most famous person in the World for Nepal that week. After greetings with garlands and khadas, Ms Lumley and her team were briefed by Capt(Retd) Bhaktabahadur Rai, Project Director of Rural Water and Sanitation Project (RWSP) on the water project.
I think the climb was worth it ! What a lovely reserve tank!After a short uphill walk (with breaks for breath) to the reserve tank and seeing the completed tap stands at individual houses, Ms Lumley spoke of the importance of access to clean, safe drinking water and added that her mind was now filled with ‘water, water and more water’.
Wives of GWS Staff Officers with Joanna LumleyHaving returned Ms Lumley and her party to her hotel at the end of the afternoon to the exact minute in her programme, preparations were well underday at AWC Kaski for an evening function in honour of Ms Lumley and the GWS’s other visitors that day.
The function was attended by HE Dr Andrew Hall, Mrs Hall, Director GWS and Fiona Ellis, Field Director GWS and Anne Griffith, Deputy Field Director GWS and a host of GWS staff and their ladies.
Councillor Peter Caroll with GWS & RWSP staff At the end of a memorable day, Director GWS thanked Ms Lumley and other the other distinguished guests present for giving the GWS the opportunity to explain to them what the field arm of the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) really is about, what it does and the impact it has in Nepal.
He highlighted the importance of the support of the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Development, the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation and, above all, the enormous contribution made by the British public in ensuring the success of the GWS on the ground. He then presented Joanna Lumley with a memento photograph taken earlier in the day during her visit.
In response, Ms Lumley said that she had known something of the work of the GWS in Nepal before before leaving home, but having now seen just a small part of it at first hand she admitted it was far more impressive than she had ever imagined. She ended her short speech by thanking everyone involved and promising to return to Nepal as soon as she was able.
In conclusion, the visit was a great success. The GWS was given an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to Ms Lumley, her team and the media the scope, scale and importance of its individual and community aid work in Nepal. As the day wore on, the real story of the day came out, that the interests of ex-Gurkha servicemen, their dependants and their traditional communities in Nepal are deeply cared for, supported by resources raised by the GWT from small and large, government, non-government and private donors in the UK by a dedicated team of professionals, who continue to deliver an outstanding service, despite the turmoil and uncertainty that plagues the rest of the country.