Printemps ’17

Bon. La beuverie est terminé, et bien que je sois toujours quelque peu faible, je relève. Et parce que j’ai raté à la fois 1er mars, le début du « printemps météorologique » (il faisait encore assez froid ici) et 20ème mars, le début du « printemps astronomique » (la beuverie), il était grand temps que je remplace mes économiseurs d’écran: l’hiver par le printemps. Alors, je viens de le faire.


Sìona fhiadhaich

Cha mhòr nach bidh mi a’ coimhead air iPlayer gu làthaireach an-dràsta, sa chiad àite air prògraman co-cheangailte ri Alba ’s an Rìoghachd, ach cuideachd air prògraman aithriseach gun cheangal riutha. O chionn ghoirid, thachair mi air sreath mu dheidhinn nàdar ann an Sìona, agus bha e gu math intinneach. Dhìochuimhnich mi dè cho eadar-dhealaichte, dè cho allamharach agus a bha an saoghal fad às sin.

Ach dè cho bòidheach ’s inntinneach a tha e, chan eil mi ga ionndrainn. ‘S toil leam ga fhaicinn air an TBh. Ach ‘s e dùthaich dhachaigheil seach allamharach air a tha cianalas orm. Cruth-tìre is craobhan is lusan is ainmhidhean is eòin is bailtean is . . . is daoine Albannach. No co-dhiù Breatannach, no Frangach, no eadhon Lochlannach amsaa . . .


An e an aon chàball?

Am Faoilleach 2010: Tha guth ann (agus tha e coltach nach e a’ chiad ghuth a bharrachd) air càball eadar na h-Eileanan is tìr-mòr: Naidheachdan a’ BhBC 15/1/10:

“Thuirt Comhairle nan Eilean Siar gun dèan e feum dhan eaconamaidh ionadail agus gun cuir e neart ris an argamaid airson càbal-dealain fon mhuir eadar na h-Eileanan is Tìr Mòr airson ceangail ris a’ Ghriod Nàiseanta.”

An t-Sultain 2012: Tha an t-Urras Steòrnabhaigh an dòchas mòr: Naidheachdan a’ BhBC 10/9/12:

“Tha fios againn gu bheil cosgaisean mòra an cois a’ chàbail ach chaidh gealltanas a thoirt dhuinn gum bi sinn air ar ceangal ann an trì bliadhna eile.”

An t-Samhain 2012: Chan eil SSE ann an cabhag ge-tà: Naidheachdan a’ BhBC 8/11/12:

“Chaidh an ceòl air feadh na fidhle an t-seachdain seo chaidh nuair a dh’innis SSE nach biodh cabal mòr dealain eadar na h-Eileanan an Iar agus Tìr Mòr deiseil ann an 2015 mar a bha dùil.”

Amsaa, amsaa . . .

An Gearran 2017: Thuig feadhainn anns na h-eileanan mu dheireadh thall: Naidheachdan a’ BhBC 10/2/17:

“Bu chòir gabhail ris nach bi càball dealain ùr eadar na h-Eileanan an Iar agus Tìr-Mòr agus plana ùr ullachadh mu choinneimh sin, a rèir Urras an Rubha agus Shanndabhaig.”

Ach, gu follaiseach, cha do thuig na h-uile:

“Chaidh an dà chuid Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is Urras Steòrnabhaigh às àicheadh beachd Mhgr MhicSuain.”

A bheil iad a’ bruadar nan dùisg – air no ’s e caochladh chàballan a tha annta?


January ’17 news

The eyes of the world were unsurprisingly mostly directed at the new US president’s first days in office. He began by attacking his predecessor’s health care and climate change achievements. This failed to bring as much publicity as hoped for, so he banned entry to people from certain countries. (That would occupy journalists enough to have little time left to ponder about his following near-U-turns on the issues of NATO, Taiwan and Putin.)

Closer to home, Martin McGuinness resigned as NI deputy first minister to necessitate snap Stormont election; Theresa May realistically admitted UK would leave the common market; and the Supreme Court decided that the referendum result wasn’t binding. Not that it made much difference except perhaps to some lawyers’ wallets.

Sadly but naturally, there were some deaths: Peter Sarstedt, Gorden Kaye and Tam Dalyell.

And the number of pollution zones in Scotland has risen to 38, with Hope Street, despite its name, still topping the list. It was cold comfort to remind oneself that Edinburgh and Glasgow had more green space than any of the other 10 most populated UK cities.


November ’16 news

Quite a lot happened during the 30 days. The bad news first.

The High Court decided triggering Article 50 must be first approved by the Parliament, and different lawyers later figured they could make some dough out of challenging whether leaving the EU means automatically leaving the EEA as well.

Even so, Brexit still has a chance; across the Pond, Trump has become US president, while Republicans still dominate the Congress. Surprisingly, he began by claiming the US would quit the TPP trade deal, which may mean the axe for the TTIP too; let’s hope the presidency won’t likewise mean the axe for the Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm.

One side effect was that the de facto final approval of the Snooper’s Charter went by almost unnoticed by the media.

Also, eight military bases in Scotland, including Fort George, were chosen for closure; CLÌ Gàidhlig did fold at last; T in the Park is to skip 2017; but the saddest day was probably the one on which we learned that Leonard Cohen had died. (This even made me post specifically about that, while the article about Fidel Castro’s death I didn’t even read.)

And of course, the first storm of the winter and the consequent floods came to the South; nevertheless, the North experienced the sunniest November on record. Which brings us to the good news.

Holyrood voted to finally put an end to the tax freeze, at least for the top four bands. Andy Murray became world number one. Kelvin Hall reopened after the first phase of its refurbishment. All three Quensferry Crossing towers are now connected. Beavers were allowed to stay in Scotland.

Across the Pond, marihuana for recreational use was legalised in the 5th and 6th US states (California and Massachusetts); and globally, the Paris climate deal came into force.

Given that Trump may yet do his best to sabotage the Paris deal, several big bad news, a few wee heartwarming ones. Seeing where the world’s heading makes one wonder whether there’s really any reason to envy the younger ones …


October ’16 news

For almost a half of the month I was still boozing and thus offline, but I stopped this in time to learn that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (well deserved, there is no reason why songs’ lyrics should not be perceived as literature) and that Nicola Sturgeon announced the Indyref2 bill (published a week later – it is virtually the same as the first one).

As regards culture, it is also worth mentioning that the Burrell Collection (one of the few really famous Glasgow museums I never found time to visit) closed for a 4-year revamp. As regards politics, it is also worth mentioning that proposals for Westminster constituencies’ boundary changes were published (the Tory government sticking to the idea that there are too many MPs elected by voters and too few Lords chosen by the PM).

Getting a bit more international, the EU-Canada trade deal called CETA was blocked by Wallonia but after some more negotiating signed anyway (I wonder what they promised them). Getting completely international, it was amusing to read that the Icelandic Pirate Party became the joint second in number of seats in the Alþingi (with the Greens, which too tells us how different Icelandic politics is from ours most).

What else? The minimum price saga drags on, while the one of the oil rig grounded on Lewis is over (at least as far as we are concerned), and work to spoil Edinburgh city centre has begun.


Foghar ’16 (gu fadalach)

Leis na seachdainean a chur mi seachad air mhisg, cha tàinig e a-steach orm gun do thòisich am foghar; agus as dèidh sin, bha rudan eile ann air a bha agam ri cnuasachadh. Cha robh e ach an-diugh gun do chuimhnich mi gum bu chòir dhomh na sàbhalaichean-sgrìn atharrachadh bho dhealbhan samhraidh gu dealbhan foghair. Uill, rinn mi sin.


September ’16 news

The only really ‘new’ story was that of the first Church of England bishop’s publicly coming out.

The rest were either developments of old stories, mar an co-dhùnadh gun tèid an clàr-ola bho Leòdhas dhan Tuirc, the first charge in the Volswagen fraud, David Cameron’s resignation as an MP, and the approval of Hinkley Point C; or things which were expected, like the TV licences becoming necessary for legal watching of iPlayer programmes and the publication of Scotland’s legislative programme for the next parliamentary session.

Of course, as I said earlier, since the 15th of the month I’d been on a bender, so I have no idea what was happening during the second half of the month.


August ’16 news

Not a bad month for transport: the ScotRail strikes over guards were finally called off to allow further negotiations; Queen Street station tunnel reopened and so did Glasgow Subway; and the Tay Road Bridge was 50 years old. The exception was the oil rig, travelling from Norway to Turkey, which was blown ashore on a western Lewis beach instead, losing thousands of gallons of diesel and later temporarily moved to a bay on the other side of the island.

Of course, there were the Olympics in Rio, but I’m not into this kind of showbiz, so I’ve only seen Ross Murdoch qualify to semifinals and my namesake create a new British record before ending 5th – yet later with not one but two silver medals from relays (the first with 2 other Scots, or 3 if you count in Renwick). But somehow I admired no less Ieuan Lloyd, whether bottle-fliping or dabbing – and even more than all these Nick Skelton. Winning an equestrian gold aged 58 … can you beat it? (Of course, I couldn’t help noticing that Team GB ended second in the medal table, with 16 Scots getting such a disc or two.)

In other news, bha briseadh-dùil ann mu dheidhinn fo-thiotalan air BBC Alba, on a tha Urras a’ BhBC dhen bheachd nach urrain dhaibh leigeil le luchd-amhairc an roghainn a dhèanamh; Michael Russel was appointed the Scottish government’s Brexit negotiator, although the UK government later indicated they’d only pay lip service to negotiating with Holyrood; Poles overtook Indians as the largest migrant group both in the UK and in Scotland (which slightly surprised me, I thought they’d already done so); and the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation named (on p 10) both ‘my’ Keppochhill and Tommy’s Wyndford among the 5% consistently most deprived areas in Scotland since 2004 (which didn’t; but it is interesting that the allegedly most and least deprived areas in Scotland are only about 7 miles distant).


A mustelid

When I moved to Glasgow I was surprised (amongst many other things) to see so much wildlife I would never expect in a city: foxes, deer, herons, . . . Later there were all those wild rabbits in Dumfries and so on. I’d never seen the like of that here.

However, since I had to return, I saw animals I don’t remember having seen in this town before: a hedgehog, a hare, and the other night, just across the road from me, even some mustelid – an animal I hadn’t met even in Scotland. (I’ve no idea about the species: they say a weasel is weasily recognisable and a stoat is stoataly different, but for all I know it may just as well have been a marten.)

Hard to tell whether they really hadn’t been here before or whether, having begun to smoke outdoors, I’m noticing things I wouldn’t notice earlier.


May ’16 news

Of course, the main news was the elections and the aftermath. Before that, Sir David Attenborough became the latest celebrity nonagerian, and the BBC White Paper was unveiled: mostly it seemed to be about money and encroaching on the broadcaster’s independence, with some specific proposals for Scotland agus moladh airson leantainn le craoladh sa Ghàidhlig.

After the elections, while in London the Queen’s Speech allegedly included fines for companies sending spam emails without first getting consent (could it still be called spam if they did?), the new Scottish government announced that for the next eight years the operation of the Clyde and Hebrides Ferries Network will remain with CalMac, rather than being handed over to Serco. Muirfield, however, lost its right to host another Open after a vote to remain a men-only club. (I’m not sure to which degree the following criticism is due to the unadmitted knowledge that if there was a women-only golf club, men simply wouldn’t give a damn about it.) Shortly after, the Kirk voted to allow ministers in civil gay marriages, although not gay weddings within the Kirk, and the Scottish Parliament obtained its first law-making powers under the 2016 Scotland Act.

Mostly good news, then. Not so across the Atlantic, where Donald Trump in the end won the Republican presidential primaries, and Alberta, Canada had to declare emergency in response to a wildfire which destroyed about a tenth of Fort McMurray and later threatened to come back to claim more. In retrospect this kind of puts the feminists’ (and my) obsession with the Muirfield vote into perspective.


L’été 2016

Je pense qu’il est déjà l’été. Au moins, hier soir (hum … hier matin … ) j’ai dormi sans chaussettes et sans tee-shirt, juste en slip. Donc, ce soir (hum … c’est déjà le matin prochain … ) j’ai changé les économiseurs d’écran sur mon ordinateur portable pour ceux qui montrent l’Écosse dans les étés précédents.


April ’16 news

There were hardly any to speak of, to be honest. It felt as if everybody was just waiting for May’s elections and June’s referendum.

It began with a very important news indeed: on the first day of the month, the new national minimum wage of £7.20 an hour came into effect (although not for Tommy, who’s still under 25). After that . . .

The next day Kezia Dugdale came out as a lesbian, which, considering the already self-proclaimed homosexual Mundell and Davidson and bisexual Harvie and Coburn, makes one wonder when are Sturgeon and Rennie going to jump on the bandwagon. Then nothing for almost three weeks, until the Queen turned 90 (BBC News Scotland stopped short of calling her a Scots queen first and a British queen second, but only just). And after another week the news that the Birnam Oak and Sycamore were so damaged by last December’s storm Desmond that without human aid they probably will be lost. Which only merits a note here as I’d seen them with my own eyes within one of my Dunkeld trips.

Ah well, one mustn’t grumble. The good thing was that I was able to write this post in less than a hour before leaving for a night shift.


March ’16 news

Several things ended in March: For the first time, a professional 9-dan go player was defeated by software. Shortly after the Budget (whose main point, according to media, was the sugar tax), Iain Duncan Smith resigned as the DWP secretary: apparently even he had finally got fed up with the way Mr Osborne mishandles the revenue. The Holyrood Parliament was dissolved before the election: it was the last session for some MSPs, including Alex Salmond, who gave his (possibly) last speech there. On the same day the Longannet Power Station, the last coal-fired one in Scotland, was switched off for good.

And then there were the deaths: George Martin, without whom the Beatles in all probability wouldn’t have been as trailblazing as they were, and Ray Tomlinson, generally seen as the inventor of one of the most important features the internet’s ever had: the email.

But Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba can be seen both as an end and a beginning, and the closure of the Glasgow Queen Street railway station’s upper level for a renovation of the adjacent tunnel is definitely more about the future than about the past. As were the approving of the Scotland Bill (which would later in Westminster become the Scotland Act ) and the Land Reform Bill by the Scottish Parliament before its dissolution.

But I’ve no idea where belongs the news that Ben Nevis is somewhat higher than we used to think.


Printemps 2016

Vers la fin de mars, j’ai changé mes économiseurs d’écran: des images d’Écosse en hiver pour celles au printemps. C’était un peu bizzare d’avoir les images avec la neige sur l’écran.

Car le printemps est vraiment venu. Le soileil est plus fort, la température se lève, parfois, au-dessus de 20 °C, il y a plus de gens dans les rues, des insects aussi commencent à être agaçants, des plants sont en fleur …

Et l’autre jour, j’ai remarqué des genêts (au moins, que je pense sont les genêts à balais) près de l’immeuble où j’habite. Ils m’ont rappelé Glasgow …


February ’16 news

It began with another storm and when it ended we were told this had been the wettest winter on record. At least the Lamington Viaduct was repaired and the West Coast Mainline trains resumed running normally ahead of schedule.

Scottish politics was unashamedly about money: in the end, Moray Council and consequently all local authorities accepted another year of council tax freeze. And after almost a year of negotiations, the fiscal framework enabling further devolution was agreed between Westminster and Holyrood and later published. (No, I didn’t read the full text, and neither did you.)

Looking farther afield, David Cameron agreed a deal with other EU leaders on UK’s ‘special status’ within the Union and announced the date for the country’s membership referendum for 23 June. Brace yourself for the topic being from now on even more suffocatingly pervasive than the 2014 Scottish referendum was. (Personally I haven’t yet decided whether I’d prefer the UK’s leaving, for the country’s benefit, or its staying, potentially for my own.)

Looking across the ocean, all those stereotypical portrayals of stupid Yanks are being reinforced by Donald Trump’s so far astonishingly successful campaign to become the Republican candidate for US president. On the other hand, Trump is just a wealthy spoiled brat; Europe has seen psychopaths being democratically elected in the 1930s.

The saddest news was about the death of Umberto Ecco; I still remember how I enjoyed watching and later even more reading The Name of the Rose (on account of exactly those passages which for obvious reasons were omitted from the film). The death of Antonin Scalia, contrarily, kept me unemotional: the guy was an obvious bigot.

Also on the theme of endings, it was reported that The Independent would cease print editions and sell the i newspaper to Johnstone Press. Agus bhruidhinn mi mu dheidhinn an staid a chuireadh air CLÌ is Cothrom an àite eile.


January ’16 news

Weather: After the wettest month on record, both in the UK and in Scotland, there was more and more bad weather, to begin with mostly affecting the North-east and Tayside. At least they later opened a temporary road replacing the washed-away part of the A93; later still Glenridding, Cumbria was flooded for the fourth time this winter and Scotland saw yet more high winds.

World: Sweden began treating the immigrant influx more realistically, presently followed by Denmark and Germany. Unrelatedly, international sanctions on Iran were lifted; whether for good or for bad, time alone can tell.

Politics & business: IrnBru no longer pay for returned glass bottles. The Tory Scottish Secretary, David Mundell, came out as gay, only he knows why now. More interestingly, employment rate in Scotland for September to November was reported as having reached 74.9%, finally higher than the pre-recession 74.6%, with unemployment down to 5.4% (5.1% for the whole of UK).

Deaths: David Bowie (can’t exactly say I know any song of his) and Terry Wogan (apparently a household name for mainstream public).


December ’15 news

Not untypically, December was mostly about weather.

Shortly after the complete closure of the Forth Road Bridge (which would be surprisingly reopened, except for HGVs, as early as two days before Christmas) storm Desmond came and caused floods in Cumbria and elsewhere (in Scotland most notably in Hawick and Dumfries), including Carlisle despite its new flood defences. Some places were flooded more than once.

In other news, the legal action against Alistair Carmichael’s election as an MP failed; nochd aithisgean gum bidh CLÌ Gàidhlig gun mhaoineachadh o Bhòrd na Gàidhlig is mathaid gun tèid iad à bith (dh’fhoillsich iad Cothrom 4 an dèidh sin ge-tà); and a third diesel-electric hybrid ferry launched from the Ferguson Marine shipyard, saved by Jim McColl, in Port Glasgow.

Après, la Conférence de Paris de 2015 sur le climat (COP 21) a atteint un accord. Malgré des célébrations, temps plus mauvais était très près.

Meanwhile, however, Donald Trump lost his blatantly hypocritical legal challenge at UK Supreme Court; John Swinney unveiled new budget, with council tax still frozen but a new levy on purchases of second homes; the controversial Beauly to Denny power line became fully operational along its whole length; and the year’s number of illegal migrants into Europe passed one million.

And then it hit again: some areas in Cumbria were flooded for a third time; a week later storm Eva brought floods mainly to Yorkshire and its western neighbours; and the following storm, Frank, targeted primarily Scotland: once again the south, yet this time also the north-east – and in fact almost the whole country.

Some end of the year.


Kirk F Watson: The Cairngorms and Scotland, from the air

I used to think that those small, remote-controlled, pilotless aeroplanes were only used by the military and by aerobatics enthusiasts who couldn’t, for whatever reason, pilot the real thing. I stand corrected. Apparently, some people can use drones for much, much more amazing things.

(Incidentally, this makes me wonder whether some of the aerial footage I’d seen here and there and thought had been taken from ‘normal’ aeroplaes had actually also been taken using this technology.)


Leaf-fall as seen by Paul Evans

I’ve mentioned before that the ‘Country diary’ section in The Guardian is usually good, often very good; occasionally they publish something simply splendid. In summer it was John Gilbey’s Too cold for the badgers to come out; autumn was best represented by this piece:
Paul Evans: Leaves turning fiery like metal blades in a forge
If you think you can’t blend nature observation, school biology, nostalgic sentiment and philosophy, all in just seven paragraphs, and make it mellifluous instead of discordant, think again.