Mike Vickers' Blog

August 31, 2018

Jon Mccain – A Eulogy by Joe Biden

Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Personal, USA — derryvickers @ 8:59 pm

I keep being reminded this week of John McCain.
Joe Biden through the Eulogy reminds us, well me at any rate, that there is a deeply positive side to the US that McCain personified.

A side that the US is being subverted through the tweets of Trump.
Here is the eulogy in case you missed it:

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&hspart=adk&p=johm+mccain+eulogy+joe+biden#id=4&vid=0ef4037ed3d76c9c612564d0a06f9ed9&action=view

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August 23, 2018

The Handlebards

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, Music, Personal — derryvickers @ 6:57 pm

The Handlebards play this year at the Edinburgh Festival is Twelfth Night. If you have not come across them, they are four young men travelling the country on bikes performing Shakespeare (known as the Bard). They have been doing so for at least four years. They carry all their props, usually little more than a few costumes and a curtain to change behind which they do all the time, as the four of them play ALL the parts.

Their blurb states We are a troupe of cycling actors who carry all the set, props and costume needed to perform extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays across the globe’. Their diction is perfect Shakespeare and they are word perfect.

To Twelfth Night it’s a silly comedy where twins Viola and Sebastian who get shipwrecked on a small island and are parted in the Storm (a typical Shakespeare theme). The sister dresses in men’s clothes so much so that they are indistinguishable and get involved in love affairs between the two important people on the island Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia. It all finishes with Viola pairing with Duke Orsino and Sebastian with Countess Olivia. But there is much fun and confusion in between.

As usual with Shakespeare there is a second plot with the servants Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria plan revenge on Malvolio, a pompous official, with a plan to persuade Malvolio that Olivia fancies him and wishes him to show his affection by dressing up in yellow including crossed garters; Maria knows that Olivia hate all these things. Malvolio takes the bate and speaks the famous quote “’Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Suffice to say that when Malvolio appears before Olivia, she is bewildered and despatches Malvolio to an asylum.

For more on the play go to:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelfth_Night

Sorry, this all seems a nonsense play which it is; but played out by the Handlebards it is hilarious and provides for good audience participation even to dragging members of the audience on stage. When Malvolio gives his famous quote, the whole audience chanted also. Throughout the four players were constantly changing garments and when Viola and Sebastian were finally both on stage of course they weren’t, only their hats that they had worn throughout were there held by their two final partners with the actual player dancing from one to the other changing his speaking genders accordingly.

They included in this show a significant number of Shakespeare’s lyrics.

For a flavour of the Handlebards try:

https://www.handlebards.com/press-resources/

But tghe only real way to appreciate sheer joie de vivre of the Handlebards is to see one of their shows

BTW There are now the Girls Handlebards

I despair of the UK’s current government

Filed under: Brexit, economics, Left Politics, Politics — derryvickers @ 4:31 pm

In an article in today’s Guadian I find

So why would they [Fox and co]want a no-deal? A group of hard-right Brexit economists has proposed the unilateral abolition of UK tariffs, which they openly admit would see the loss of our manufacturing base. They think this would be a good thing, and propel us into a new, service-based economy. That is why Fox and Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are not concerned about crashing out on to WTO rules – they believe it would enable them to turn Britain into a deregulated free-market economy like Singapore.”

Read the full article:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/23/labour-tories-no-deal-brexit-brexiters-cliff-edge-vote?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Opinion+UK+connected&utm_term=284123&subid=29298&CMP=ema_opinionconnectuk

As I recall West Germany built its current enviable finance position by re-building its manufacturing after WW2

As I further recall the UK built its world standing position in the 19th century partly because of it Empire but the Empire provided it a preferential position to export its manufacturing.

August 10, 2018

The Edinburgh Festival

Filed under: Music, Painting, World Class — derryvickers @ 7:35 pm

Since the beginning of the international Festival we have been to:

  1. An exhibition of paintings by Emil Nolde. Nolde painted from 1900 to 1950. His paintings are full of color, but during the period he fell foul of the Nazis and his painting was ridiculed as degrading and were banished from the German galleries, though at one time he signed up as a national socialist. His paintings are now accepted, but his socialist national ties are still unfavourably remembered. The same is true, but less so of the composer Richard Strauss.
  2. Waiting for Godot by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. The game is about two old abandoned living from day to day passing the time under a tree waiting for Godot that does not show, but a young boy reports every Night that Godot will ‘ arrive tomorrow ‘. Beckett spent most of his life in Paris and some of the language reminded me of Molière.
  3. The Barber of Seville, a work of Rossini. A cheerful work where everything finishes ‘ Happy ever After’. The opera was performed by the Theatre des Champs-Elysees.
  4. Last Wednesday we went to see the Siegfried Wagner Opera. The work is the third in the cycle The Ring of the Nibelungs: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Siegfried is the hero who will save the world but is found wanting in Götterdämmerung; However the ring and gold are rescued by the maidens of the Rhein and the god Valhalla is burnt. Not quite ‘ happy ever after ‘. Wagner provided the libretto as well as the music and the operas were praised by the Nazis. Last night’s performance was given by the Halle Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder,  the music was dramatic and the singing was glorious, but five and a half hours needed attention to keep awake.
  5. Yesterday I went to Queens Hall for Leider. Ilker Arcayurek, tenor, and Simon Lepper, piano, singing Hugo Wolf and Schubert. The career of the tenor will go far.
  6. Finally, last night we went to the Usher Hall to hear a concert given by the BBC Symphony playing the music of Turbulent Landscapes of Thea Musgrave and Sea Symphony by Vaughan Williams. The first was good but the second reminded us of the last Night of the Proms.

July 23, 2018

The Shetland Bus

Filed under: Education, Orkney, Personal, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:39 pm

While visiting Burghead on the Moray coast I was reminded of the Shetland Bus.

The Shetland Bus operated during WW2 ferrying Norwegians from Norway to Shetland and materials to Norway. But as I found at Burghead – Burghead also operated a bus. To say that it was a dangerous affair was an understatement but in times of war.

You can read about the Bus at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_bus

But for the bus run to Burghead see:

The Shetland Bus

The Memorial to the Bus at Burghead

 

 

 

 

 

About the Bus to Burghead

On the plaque

 

 

 

 

I had my own personal memory while taking the photos I stepped back to include the whole memorial and fell off the edge of the quay and hit the ground hard – luckily, I survived and was very well looked after by the Burghead Sea Rescue group. Incidentally my camera kept taking movie pictures.

I attach a couple of photos of Burghead including the Well. The Well’s archaeological significance remains unknown.

Burghead from the Headland

Burghead looking South

 

 

 

Who cut the well remains unknown

The Well

The Well Description

The Well Description

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BTW when visiting Orkney two weeks ago (see previous blog) I was reminded of John Rae, the explorer seeking the North West Passage while working for the Hudson’s Bay Company. At Stromness not far from where Rae was borne there is a monument to him too.

To John Rae Arctic Explorer

John Rae

It’s good that Scotland remembers its heroes with plaques and lifelike sculptures.

July 17, 2018

Orkney Islands: 5,000 Years of Civilisation

Filed under: Orkney, Scotland — derryvickers @ 9:35 pm

We had a great 2 weeks holiday in Orkney. We focused in the first week on the Saint Magnus Music Festival.

We stayed the first week in Stromness; the author and poet George Mackay Brown spent all his life there. Stromness has only one narrow street which reminds me of the hill towns in Italy. It has a well-maintained museum which is funded as a local charity; it also has an art gallery with a specific collection of artists of the Cornish School.

A view along the High Street

Stromness High Street

The Music was played both in Stromness and in Kirkwall; Kirkwall is the principal town and is where Saint Magnus cathedral is.

The music spanned mainly classical music but there was a group from Norway that played Alehouse music in the Town Hall Stromness. They held another session in the Cathedral. And they played wholly from memory. In general, all musicians came from the Nordic countries. There was also a play by Telemann again by a couple from Denmark brought up to date in English; this play was held in an impressive new school in Kirkwall. But the best session for us were Michael Foyle (Violin) and Maksim Stsura (piano) playing Janacek, Hesketh, Debussy and Respighi in Stromness Town Hall. Surprisingly the Festival did not contain much music by Maxwell Davis founder of the Festival

We took a day trip to Rousay; a smaller island where the feature was an archaeological dig on a site at Swandro; a team from the University of Bradford is working hard to record the details of the site before the sea washes the site away (sea level rise due to climate change). We were lucky in that the Site Director gave us a personal explanation of the site. The site was occupied from Neolithic, through Bronze age to through to the Viking period. You can follow the progress of the Swandro dig at https://www.swandro.co.uk/dig-diary. There are 3 small well preserved chambered cairns and a much bigger one. I had to back the car onto the ferry; I’m not good at that! We did of course visit Skara Brea, but this was the third time; the Stromness Museum has a great display on the exploration of Skara Brae.

Swandro in Distance

Swandro approaching

 

 

 

Swandro Director

The director came and talked to us

 

 

 

Small Cairn

A well preserved cairn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large Chambered Cairn

LargeChambered Cairn: Rousay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I must mention the Arctic explorer John Rea from Stromness.  He discovered the final leg of the North West Passage a route that allowed Norwegian Roald Amundsen to make the first complete passage in 1903–1906.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Passage. Rea also discovered the fate of the Franklin Expedition for which he got no praise during his lifetime and only achieved posthumous recognition in 2013. In a recent conference on Rea, Maria Pia Casarini considers Rea as THE greatest Artic explorer of all time.

 

During the second week we went over to Westray and did a few short walks including one to the sea cliffs. We saw whole range of sea birds including puffins, I have never seen these birds before. We saw many fulmars flying and nesting; fulmars are to me the ultimate flying machine. And there are more sites.  One on the coast was explored a couple of years ago and has been covered over waiting a decsion as to cover over the dig or leave some part open

Massive dig in Westray

Massive dig that should be reburied?

to the public.

Puffins

Comfortable Puffins nesting

Fulmers - flying machines

Fulmers and Puffins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westray is very go ahead – it has had a Development Trust for 8 years which has done wonders to the morale of the island; a major source of wealth is their investment in a 750Kw wind turbine. Read the Trust’s aims at https://westraydevelopmenttrust.co.uk

Returned to the Mainland (that’s what the main island in the archipelago is called) and stayed at the youth hostel in Kirkwall. We visited another Neolithic cairn up a hill; there are many cairns on Orkney and a lot seem to have weathered the 3000 years very well. But the prize was a new discovery between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness; this is a major Neolithic village bigger than Skara Brea that is being actively explored now; the site had only been reopened for the summer digging season two days before we arrived for the second time to Mainland.  The miden is exciting too

Ness of Brogdar

The Dig at Ness of Brogdar

The Miden Ness of Brodgar

The Miden partly excavated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A striking feature of Orkney is that it has been inhabited continuously for 5000 years. You can stand anywhere and see houses in all directions. We visited brocks at Gurness on the Mainland and Mid Howe on Rousay. And the remains of Stuart Houses in Kirkwall and Birsay. In Kirkwall there are delightful modern developments: the new secondary school (opened by Alex Salmond), a lovely new Library and Archive and a new hospital is being built; there is a clear resemblance to Skara Brea!.

Kirkwall Library and Archive

Kirkwall Library and Archive

Theatre

The New School’s Theatre

Kirkwell's New Hospital

Kirkwalls new Hospital

April 2, 2018

Two Articles for Easter

Filed under: History in the making, Personal, World Class — derryvickers @ 1:10 pm

 

“Jaclyn Corin, a white survivor of the Parkland, Fla., shooting, spoke at the march in Washington, where hundreds of thousands of people had gathered. “We openly recognize that we are privileged individuals and would not have received as much attention if it weren’t for the affluence of our city. Because of that, however, we share this stage today and forever with those who have always stared down the barrel of a gun.””

http://time.com/5220093/the-whitewashing-and-resurrection-of-dr-kings-legacy/

 

Anna Campbell

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/01/anna-campbell-father-no-right-to-stop-her-fighting-syria-kurds

And a codicil from Simon Jenkins

“But no man, or woman, is an island. Humanitarian sympathy is not a defect. It is hard not to accept a father’s sincerity, and hard not to warm to the adjectives he applies to his daughter’s memory. That young people want to travel abroad and identify with the struggles of others is not to be condemned. That they can leave a comfortable country and find fellow-feeling for those in misery is good. We might wish that such passion be directed to more productive ends, but the choice is not ours to make. Ours is not to reason why”

 

January 10, 2018

Outlander Walk

Filed under: Personal — derryvickers @ 7:45 am

We have been walking and today was glorious sun.

The walk was on the south side of the Forth starting and finishing at Blackness Castle and there are a number of sites that viewers of will recognise.  The walk is short of about 6 miles – see OS Map

Thanks to OS

 

 

The walk including MidHope Castle and Blackness Castle and includes a lovely path at the top of the hill.

Just inland from Forth

Path above the Forth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And you get a distant view of tower above the House of the Binns – the home of the late lamented Tam Dalzell

House of the Binns Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The high light of the walk is Mod Hope Castle

Mid Hope Castle In Hopetoun Estate

Mid Hope Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is also beautiful church half way round, Abercorn Church, and we have a wee story

Abercorn Church

Abercorn Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we used to live in Peterborough in a rented house on the main road into the city; one day there was a knock on the front door and a lady with two horses asked could she come in as she was born in the house.  We said, of course. She and her companion were riding on horseback from Santiago de Compostela in Spain to Abercorn Church in Scotland following an old pilgrims way.  They did have a horsebox for stabling the horses at night.

It took us a few more years to come so close to Abercorn!

The Pillar Box also at Abercorn has been like this as long as we have been in Linlithgow and may have been so from Victorian Times.

Box and Rose

Victorian Pillar Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the return you pass over the Mid Hope burn

Looking out across the Forth

Mid Hope Burn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course there are excellent views of Blackness Castle on the return walk through the woods just inland from the Forth.

Black Ness Castle in Distance

Black Ness Castle in Distance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And almost returned.

Maintained by Historic Scotland

In the Castle Shop you can get an excellent coffee to warm you up.

 

 

Three Bridges Rail, Road and New

The Three Forth Bridges

Looking out from the foreshore you can see the three bridges crossing the Forth and a distant one of the 2nd Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier being built at Rosyth.

Aircraft Carrier being built at Rosyth

Queen Elizabeth 2

 

December 19, 2016

Real Politik

Filed under: Uncategorized — derryvickers @ 11:02 pm

I had to read this article twice to convince myself that was reading it correctly and I am.

‘UK foreign policy on the Syrian crisis has been branded “appalling” and “naive to the point of being totally unrealistic” by the director of one of Scotland’s leading international aid charities.

Alistair Dutton, of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf), said British interventions have served to strengthen opposition forces and prolong the conflict, now approaching its six-year anniversary.

He called on UK ministers to accept that the best option for stability in the country is for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to regain control.’
Read more at:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/world/aid-chief-attacks-uk-s-naive-stance-on-syrian-civil-war-1-4320217

I do recognise this approach as potentially saving many lives and may well have been the most appropriate real politik solution at some time in the past – but not now – evacuation of at least some of the citizens of East Aleppo is under way – let’s hope all – including the fighters.

But to me that does not excuse the West failing to undertake humanitarian air drops of food and medicine over the last six months : see my last blog. It has been argued that such an action would damage further relations with Syrian Government’  but has not the West  been bombing Syrian Government Forces in Syria as well as IS fighters and with a tacit agreement with the Russians.

December 14, 2016

Aleppo – an abject failure of the West

Filed under: History in the making, Left Politics, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 2:23 pm

It would have been quite possible to provide food and medicine to Aleppo using gps guided-parachutes. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/08/push-for-east-aleppo-aid-drops-using-gps-guided-parachutes

Even on Saturday Corbyn stood stony faced and silent why Peter Tarchell demonstrated for air drops. One expects such response from the Tories but not from Labour.

https://leftfootforward.org/2016/12/peter-tatchell-aleppo-is-todays-guernica-where-is-labour/

But I can remember the Berlin Air lift, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade, and I note a comment in Wiki as to why the Soviets did not interfere: ‘ The Soviets did not disrupt the airlift for fear this might lead to open conflict’. It is likely to have been the case with Aleppo,

Of course it was far too late on Saturday but this is likely to be a further nail in Labour’s coffin.  It could certainly be the most serious indictment of Obama’s term of Office.

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