Mike Vickers' Blog

November 11, 2016

Something’s rotten in the State of Denmark

The first impression of St Petersburg is that the city is so like any city in the West.  So many shops with Western Brand names.

The dominance of the consumer society even in ‘Communist’ Russia.

Leaving St Petersburg is even worst – just like departing Edinburgh Airport – the same maze of booze and perfume shops.

Western consumerism has even taken over Lenin’s Russia; he would have turned in his grave.

So how has this anything to do with the Trump disaster; not that I expect that Trump can in anyway live up to his despicable rhetoric? And he looks to be changing already

Consumerism is ‘The opium of the people’: it has failed in the US as it has failed in the North of England: there just isn’t any money to spend due to so many things; lack of jobs, austerity ; and those who used to, but no longer have the money, they are the ones, who are now rejecting liberal democracy.

The days of deregulation have blown the lid off so many things.

So what can we do about it and do about it we must, not for us but for our children.

Well I am coming round to Scottish Independence – I did vote for it in the Referendum but only in a half-hearted way.

Now it’s a must.

Scotland has at least set out a Future in the White Book (thought of course it is OTT) and Scotland needs to implement it.

Neither Brexit, Corbyn and Hillary have anything to say about the future: and of course Hilary failed because of it.  Trump unfortunately did have something to say and it was nasty but it appealed to the ones that had but not now.

As a start, what Scotland requires is political education in the schools.

I pick up something that came over in a recent David Hume lecture on the Big Bang

‘HB (Hamish Buchan) related to the Stewart Ivory scheme for providing education on Finance to sixth forms but this can only go so far as it is not yet an examinable subject and the scheme can only provide 100 mins per school’

Every school child and I mean every school child needs to know about democracy and what is politics, what is capitalism and what Marx had to say about it.

Religion is dead and rightly; but Consumerism is not its replacement with its basis of individualism.

There has to be something better and that is Community – which after all, was what yesterdays’ event on Scotland’s Towns Conference in Kirkcaldy was all about.

I came to politics far too late but the kids of today must be taught, so that they can take a rational and where necessary a passionate view when the time comes to act ie vote.

David Hume is reputed to have stated :

Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.

But of course Hume was a reasonable man.

BTW Kirkcaldy has a great Art Gallery including the Colourists and at present paintings and drawings by Kate Downie of the three Forth Bridges

And then again Martin Kettle’s article in yesterdays Guardian is a good read

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/10/donald-trump-voters-liberal-order

July 22, 2016

Two weeks in The Western Isles – Barra to the Butt

Filed under: Land Ownership, Lesley Riddoch, Linda Norgrove, Music, Painting, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 7:30 pm

Barra

  • Wind, Sea and Vatersay seasky
    • New road across from Barra. But there in LR’s time
      • EU supported
  • Kisimil castle – right in the middle of Castlebay
    • Get there by boat
    • Lovely restored wee castle of the MacNeils Kilmil
  • Kisimil restaurant
    • Not to be missed – need to book
  • Weather had been bad on first day and in the North saw three Twin Otters land within the hour the next

 

South Uist

  • Ceolas at Dalburgh –
  • Music Summer school
  • http://www.ceolas.co.uk/summer/
  • Ceilidh
  • Two young accordionists
  • Patsy Reid- excellent Scottish Fiddle Player
    • Did not play much at the evening we attended but she may have continued later
    • Tutor in Fiddle
  • Step dancing – people just got up one by one and danced
  • Mountains all down the East Coast
  • Machair on the West
    • glorious flower drenched in the sun
    • machair

 

North Uist

  • Balranald RSPB reserve
    • Otters but we never saw it
    • Oystercatchers in profusion, ringed plovers, dunlins
  • BB with Jac
    • Excellent house
      • Got the sun room
    • Artist – colourful landscapes
    • Views from our window great
    • Not easy to find restaurant
  • Chambered Cairn cairn
    • Unfortunately entrance recently blocked
  • Trinity Temple
    • Believed to be oldest university in Britain
    • Dun Scotus University

South Harris

  • Golden Road
    • Built in 1937 – so called as so costly to build
      • Must have been recently rebuilt
    • Harris Tweed shops and museum
    • Community café – excellent
  • Coffin Road
    • Ground too hard to bury dead in East
    • More likely because people wished to bury their dead in the cemeteries of ancestors, which were on west
      • People evicted from Seilebost in west to stony, poor ground in the east
    • Excellent walk over bealach
      • resurfaced
  • Scalpay
    • New bridge opened by Tony Blair
    • Fish restaurant – quality fish at a price – locally caught
    • No lack of small boats in small harbours with small jetties
      • Run by Community
        • A general situation in the Outer Isles
  • More Harris
    • One eagle observed from Eagle Observatory
    • Sight of St Kilda from Huishinish – Far West
    • Luckentyre – lovely beach but two cemeteries
    • North Harris Community buy out
    • Harris is very mountainous
      •  All over

Lewis

    • Lewis is flat
    • Old Village at the end of the road, Orasaigh OldVillage
    • Ravenspoint museum
      • Unbelievable collection of old documents and photos off South Lewis
    • Callanish – stones fabulous
      • Callanish 1 2 3 etc
    • Black houses occupied till 1940
    • Harris tweed made largely in Lewis
      • Calloway loom – Hattersley 60 inch now out of production
        • Complex to set up
        • To be classed as Harris tweed it must be woven at home Hattersley
      • Norman Mackenzie
      • Isle of Berneray
      • Good walk
      • Iron Age House
    • Uig
      • Mangersta
      • Restaurant
      • Glen Bhaltois – geology
    • Butt of Lewis
      • Birds
        • Gannets diving, fulmars nesting, kittiwakes, shags fishing and nesting, terns, ravens
        • Fulmars unbelievable fliers when close to cliffs
      • Lighthouse TheButtLight
      • St Moluag’s Church ButtChurch
      • Crofts not being crofted
    • Pol’s Pantry
      • Excellent food
        • Chef saved a buzzard caught in barred wire Buzzard

General

    • Roads of good quality and surface
    • Communities very much on the move
    • Plant trees, protect them and they grow
    • Difficulty of cash machines – then we find them in Post Offices but they close at 5pm
    • Great that CalMac kept the Western Isles Ferry contract
    • For a better travelogue with people read Lesley Riddoch – On the Outer Hebrides

February 28, 2016

Western Civilisation and why we need to remain part of it

Filed under: economics, Europe, History in the making, Music, Painting, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 9:01 pm

Cameron’s deal with Brussels despite Martin Kettle writing in the Guardian was ‘Much Ado about Nothing’

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/05/david-cameron-eu-deal-brussels-media-reaction

Is the deal anyway legally binding – I don’t know – I’m not a constitutional lawyer. In any case like all laws they can be rescinded. I have no doubt that if the EU Referendum result is for Out then the new Tory incumbent of Number 10 would quickly rescind any such laws; indeed she would be commitment bound to Brexit.

By the real question is why are we in Europe anyway and the same question applies equally why is Scotland in the UK. Despite what one might think from the media, Scotland voted to join England to create the UK by the Act of Union; one could argue that some duress was brought to bear but nevertheless the Union was voted through, through the then Scottish Parliament. There is duress in most unions; but the UK joining Europe was not one of them. The UK applied three times to join the then EEC and succeeded on the third attempt under the Tory PM Edward Heath – no duress here.

Looking back to the end of WW2

‘The European Economic Community (EEC) was created against the backdrop of post World War II Europe, with the aim of never again allowing human rights atrocities such as those committed by Germany.  Three Communities were founded in the 1950s: the Coal and Steel Community, the Atomic Energy Community and the Economic Community, with their own law-making institutions and flag.’

One of the drivers to setting up the EEC was Churchill who was also an instigator of the European Court of Human Rights.

We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved.’

OK Churchill was a somewhat left of centre Tory but a Tory no doubt.

And to me both the EU as successor to the EEC along with the European Court are rightful products of us as members of Western Civilisation.

Yes European Wars have been going on for 3 millennia, ever since Athens established the ground work for Western Civilisation, but since the EEC was set up there have, with the exception of the Bosnian wars, been no wars since – a real plus. I am not suggesting that should the UK Brexit we will automatically launch a war with our European neighbours; and I have little doubt that should another war take place in Europe we will go to the aid of one side. But why risk it.

An enduring memory, for me, was when lessons were stopped in my primary school days to listen to the war reporters provide on-line commentaries from the D Day landings. I prefer not to sit and listen to such reporting of this nature in my lifetime.

The EU if far from perfect; it does worry about setting up trivia rather than taking the high road; but whose fault is it that Brussels avoids the high road; certainly the UK objects to anything that smacks of central policy and direction. One of Cameron’s agreements,               that he considered key, was ’ever closer union’ is about trust and understanding, not political integration.

If ever there was a need for direction by the EU it is now with immigrants seeking asylum from the Middle East and Afghanistan, with a well structured fiscal policy rightly or wrongly based on the euro; a far better understand between Europe north and south and a mature and workable foreign policy not only with respect to Russia but with the Far East and with the US.  Why is the US pressing hard to keep the UK in Europe? It is hardly for financial reasons, for all its financial problem the US economy is far larger and stronger than the UK’s or for that matter Europe as a whole.

The UK boasts of its strong financial position with respect to Europe but ‘come the revolution’ that would evaporate; the UK has no fall back on manufacturing compared with the other states of Europe; Germany of course but France and Italy also. But it’s not the economy stupid it’s that the UK is integral to Europe, we play their music, act their plays and appreciate their art; and so does the US. The US is as bound to Europe is as the UK is; after all the US expelled its indigenous peoples and peopled it with Spanish, French, English and Scots. If the UK left Europe the US would lose its interlocutor with Europe and that’s why Obama seems so worried with a UK Out. The Marshall Plan wasn’t wholly altruistic.

Clearly the UK could exist outside the EU just as Scotland could exist outside the UK. The UK would continue to trade with the rest of the world but the UK is a minnow compared with the US and China and increasingly India. But that is not the point, for good or ill and I believe because that’s where I was brought up, for good, we are part of the Western World; a world which largely recognises and abides by Human Rights and whose governments generally act civilly towards its citizens, and I would be loathed to be outside its main stream culturally and morally.

PS I believe in local government, which is missing in Scotland, but I see no contradictions in local government being within the umbrella of a regional council which is within Scottish/ UK Government which in turn is within the umbrella of a Europeans Commission responsible to the European Parliament.

November 15, 2015

Operas and Vienna

Filed under: Music, Painting, Personal, World Class — derryvickers @ 9:40 pm

Four operas in the last 10 days: Carmen at the Festival Theatre by Scottish Opera, The Choir at the Glasgow Citizens, Cosi fan Tutte also by the Scottish Opera with a touring version around Scotland this time at the local Academy and lastly La Boheme at the Staatsoper in Vienna. All very familiar except for The Choir – a amateur choir who come together – fall out over the programme and eventually make up again – very joyous!

But to the Staatsoper – we were in a loge near the back but could see very well. The set was by Franco Zeffirelli so quite dated and the second act was with a cast of thousands on two levels. My wife didn’t rate the singing much up on the Scottish Opera. But we really went for the experience.

We also went to the Musikverein again for the sheer experience of being there – also in a loge but immediately above the orchestra with somewhat limited visibility of the orchestra – but it didn’t matter. It was an all-Beethoven night; Leonora 2, Symphony 2 and Symphony 5 conducted by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Phil. The performance, particularly the 5th, brought the House down but then its Beethoven in his adopted home town

As to Vienna, it was excellent, sunny with temperatures around 15 – 20. As my hearing aid consultant said before we went – Vienna oozes with Empire and he’s right – Vienna has come to grips with the fact it lost its empire and looks sumptuous in consequence – it’s a pity that London can’t recognise its loss of empire and settle down to be more like Vienna.
Another feature of Vienna is the almost absence of sky scrapers – and very good too.

We did the main sites; the Belvedere, the Hofburg and two contemporary art museums, the MUMOK (truly modern) and the Leopold and walked around the centre within the Ringstrasse – really quite small. I also went to the Albertine to see an exhibition of Munch woodcuts and lithographics – very good if you like Munch – which I do. But Vienna is dominated by Klimt – everywhere you go – even in our hotel room – I’m not a great fan and after so much in Vienna even less so – but in contrast Schiele is much less familiar to UK art goers but so much more interesting – the Leopold had a whole floor to him. But what was also interesting is that there are whole gamut of Austrian and German painters I have never before come across who are clearly very good.

January 8, 2012

A short coastal walk in Fife

Filed under: Painting, Personal, Scotland — derryvickers @ 7:57 am

Why is that all of us who have been brought up near the sea need to refresh ourselves by just walking along the coast.  This weekend we walked from St Monans to Anstruther via Pittenween on the Fife coast and back.  A windy cloudy day with the occasional Sun breaking through – a big change from the drenching rain and gale-force winds recently.  For those of you who don’t know this part of the Fife coast of Scotland these small towns all used to be fishing villages but unfortunately the fish has largely gone, few boats are left, Pittenween still has a fish market.  Petty towns where the houses on the quays are mainly occupied by Edinburgh commuters or as weekend retreats for the more wealthy.  The remaining fishermen are largely at the tops of the towns in Council houses.

A very pleasant places to walk through.  Just a few shots:

Anstruther

Anstruther

Pittenween’s  main street has a delightful café featuring hot chocolate and all things chocolate, open literally all the year round and there is a very pleasant artists shop next door – as you can imagine it’s a small artists’ colony.

Pittenween Main Street

At St Monans in the 1750’s, the local coal company built salt pans on the shore and used the local Fife coal to boil off the water, salt being an essential commodity for food preserving .  You can still see the remains of the saltpans – Just look at the plaque on the shore next to the remains.  Life was not easy!

St Monans and Saltpans

Saltpans Plaque

Sea birds and Volcanic Plugs

Sea birds and Volcanic Plugs

As you walk and look out to across the sea you get distant views of  the East Lothian coast with the extinct volcanic stubs of the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law and round to the right the Island of May.  On the Fife shore itself there are, at this time of year, small flocks of eider ducks, shags drying themselves, the occasional curlew and godwit with a passing cormorant; on the nearby land there are  redshanks – small waders with surprisingly red legs!  And more interestingly herring and black back gulls apparently just aimlessly flying.

I am curious to know why gulls just fly, they don’t appear to be flying to seek out food; the stronger the wind the more they fly, I understand they sleep as they fly.  It may they fly to keep warm, yet this would use up energy unnecessarily although they clearly get much assistance from the wind just as yachts do.  Or do they like us enjoy the sheer joy of being out along the sea shore.  We humans are an arrogant lot, we tell ourselves that only we have ‘consciousness’, but how do we know.

August 1, 2011

Painting as a window on the Twentieth Century

Filed under: Painting, Personal — derryvickers @ 8:28 am

Painting features high in my recent blogs and so far it’s been portraiture. Scottish and English – brought to the BBC by Peter Capaldi and James Fox.   Why, when the $ is under threat (I understand that there is a last minute compromise but may be just till the next Tea Party sally), the dreadful massacre in Norway and the almost forgotten famine and war in the Horn of Africa (I note that a local friend of mine is organising a barbecue for the famine – a sincere thanks to him).  In this Global World nothing is totally isolated but all three events are largely self inflicted.

James Fox would argue that you can’t separate good art from reality, art has always something to say and to me good art is fascinating to look at – no you don’t need to pay absurd prices for the original – good reproductions convey the essence.

So to James Fox’s previous programmes which I watched in reverse order.  I pick only three examples,   Wyndham Lewis, Paul Nash and Stanley Spenser.

First Lewis, an iconoclast who predicted the machine age at the start of WW1

Wyndham Lewis

You may have difficult to see the tiny angular characters representing people at war, raising flags or just sitting in tower blocks.  Incidentally you can see more of Lewis at this time in a Vorticist Exhibition in the Tate Gallery in London.

Then Paul Nash – personally I consider Nash as one of the greatest British painters of the twentieth century.  He fought in WW1 and was a war artist for WW2 and in between adapted surrealism to the English landscape.

We are building a New World

Totes Meer

Finally Spenser who depicted the resurrection in Cookham, a village in Buckinghamshire.  Fox considers that Spenser was attempting to bring a degree of certainty to Britain after the horrors of WW1.  Let’s hope that someone may do the same after some degree of normality returns to the Horn of Africa.

Stanley Spenser - Resurrection

Finally back to Capaldi.  I can’t resist including a late portrait by Wyndham Lewis of his wife and it’s in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow.  Lewis in my view made some of the greatest portraits of the twentieth century and for those who would like to splash out there’s a great catalogue of them published by the National Portrait Gallery of London.

 

Wyndham Lewis

As a post script James Fox interviewed David Inshaw and when I followed him up I was quite intrigued.  You can find him at www.davidinshaw.net

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