Mike Vickers' Blog

May 18, 2019

A Day in the Garden

Filed under: Gardening, Local Government, Personal — derryvickers @ 10:03 pm

To the two inevitables; Death and Taxes, add a third, Weeding.

Earlier this week I was at a meeting, at Castlebank Park in Lanark where the Aileen Campbell of the Scottish Government released a paper on Democracy Matters.
The Community has done wonders in re-establishing the gardens. They have also created a market garden, a real market garden where they grow a range of plants and vegetables for sale. I was intrigued that the growing benches are almost a metre high and I asked the workers why the height. They didn’t know but one thought for a while and said it was so much easier to work at the potting plants; and it was so obvious!

I have real experience after todays’ gardening as I have backache weeding and planting the borders!

April 27, 2019

New Sleeper – forget Brexit and arrive refreshed

Filed under: Brexit, Personal, Railways, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 8:28 pm

This post is purely personal.

Scotrail, after months of work, have now got their Sleeper Fleet together and the first journey north is from Euston tomorrow evening.

The Sleeper is the way to travel for that full day’s meeting in London or Edinburgh or Glasgow. Forget the Red Eye flight where you have to turn up at the airport at 6 am. The sleeper gets you there in comfort by 8am in plenty of time for the 9am meeting. Some may say the journey is uncomfortable and I admit I occasional wake up going through Rugby when the train slows; sometimes it has even stopped for ½ hour so as not to arrive too early but that has been the exception. But the real benefit to me is that you can board the train at 11 pm and the new service offers 10am and just go to sleep and just sleep knowing that you will be at your destination on time effortlessly.

The new service offers full Scottish Breakfast rather than the current ‘packed breakfast’.

The service is extended to Fort William and Inverness during the Summer months; which means that you can enjoy crossing Rannoch Moor from the comfort of the buffet car and even an early dram ; and if you want you can travel on from Fort William to Mallaig and Skye on the steam hauled Jacobite. Alternatively, you can go to Skye via Kyle of Lochalsh via Inverness; not so, glamourous but beautiful scenery all the same, and over the highest mainline railway at Drumochter.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-pty-pty_extension&hsimp=yhs-pty_extension&hspart=pty&p=fort+william+to+mallaig+by+steam+train#id=1&vid=9dfef8efa0bf7896e073328f8d515555&action=click

Anyway, just get a flavour of the benefits of the new sleepers at:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/27/london-scotland-revamped-train-sleeper-romance-revival

End of Personal Blog – Brexit free

April 24, 2019

The Last Supper Then and Now

Leonardo's Last Supper

Greta Thunberg talking with Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbyn at the UK Parliament on 23 April 2019.

Greta Thunberg should be encouraged to speak to the UK Parliament as a whole.

In any case, if Trump is allowed to speak to the UK Parliament in June (and I hope Bercow succeeds again in stopping him) then Greta should be invited to follow immediately afterwards.

 

April 11, 2019

Scotsman: 11 April 2019

Filed under: Black Holes, Brexit, Knoydart, Land Ownership, Personal, Scotland, Travel — derryvickers @ 10:14 pm

In today’s Scotsman: 11 April 2019

  1. Of course, the simulated photo of the Black Hole in galaxy M87.
  2. Macron unhappy with Brexit being delayed risking EU Renaissance.
  3. Varadkar (Eire President) plugs for UK to remain in Customs Union with EU.
  4. Traffic linked to Asthma.
  5. The face of Bonnie Prince Charlie (doesn’t look that bonnie to me).
  6. Borders Rail trains overcrowded and often cancelled (I’m a train buff).
  7. Another story on the Derry Girls and how true to the life of the times they are. Good TV but a few times is enough.
  8. And in Real Homes an estate in Kilchoan Knoydart is up for sale for £5m.

Number 8 particularly interests me because it is adjacent to/ south of the Knoydart Foundation where we have good friends.

For the sales blurb on the Kilchoan Estate see https://www.onthemarket.com/details/6572192/

But to know more of the Knoydart Foundation go to http://www.knoydart-foundation.com/.  The main village of the Foundation can only be got to by boat from Mallaig.

The Kilchoan Estate is a Sporting Estate; I’m not a fan of Sporting Estates but I realise red deer need to be culled but I would rather it was for meal not for sport.

It would excellent if the Foundation could buy the Estate. I can but hope.

 

BTW today is yet another day when we didn’t leave the EU; I hope there will be many more.

April 8, 2019

Munch at the British Museum

Filed under: Munch, Painting, Personal — derryvickers @ 9:40 pm

Preface to the Munch Exhibition starting next week at the British Museum

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/mar/24/edvard-munch-radical-master-of-misery-and-menace-karl-ove-knausgaard–british-museum

Of course, there is a lot about the Scream. In the main article the Scream is stated as its own emojo.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/apr/08/primal-screams-edvard-munch-british-museum-norway

But to me, Much is much more than the Stream – he is the essence of the 21st century self-exploration and doubt. His woodcuts show a whole gamut of personal emotions – and he uses the same wood cut over and over again to explore so many feelings merely through change of colour and slight modifications rto the cuts.

These articles show only a little of Munch art in pictures/prints. If you have time go and see the exhibition.

If not, you can get some idea of his prodigious output at:

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrCmmvyvKtcuhEAIYMPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–?p=Munch+art&fr=yhs-pty-pty_extension&hspart=pty&hsimp=yhs-pty_extension

But these clips do no real justice to the full-sized originals.

April 1, 2019

No April Fools Joke –

Filed under: Climate Change, Greta Thunberg, Personal, Politics, World Class — derryvickers @ 9:06 pm

I need to say no more other than ask you all to watch and do not then forget

Greta Thunberg

March 29, 2019

The Antipodes – Jacinda Arderns

Filed under: Brexit, History in the making, Personal, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:48 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/29/jacinda-arderns-speech-at-christchurch-memorial-full-transcript

“And so to each of us as we go from here, we have work to do, but do not leave the job of combatting hate to the government alone. We each hold the power, in our words and in our actions, in our daily acts of kindness. Let that be the legacy of the 15th of March. To be the nation we believe ourselves to be.”

“To the global community who have joined us today, who reached out to embrace New Zealand, and our Muslim community, to all of those who have gathered here today, we say thank you.”

What more is there to say?

I make no apology for bringing the words of Jacinda Arderns to the fore again.

New Zealand is the Antipodes in more senses than one to what is happening in the UK now.

March 24, 2019

Music to make you forget Brexit – for just a while

Filed under: Brexit, Music, Personal, War — derryvickers @ 10:20 pm

A Weekend of Music

Friday: RSNO Three pieces.

  • A new commission by Paul Chihara, A Japanese, as a child in a relocation camp in the US during WW2. The piece was called A Matter of Honor. Music and Narration. The last narration finished with “when asked in 1942 if she believed that peace and freedom were possible anywhere in the world: “Yes, with all my heart, because in this faith, in that hope, is my future, and the world’s future”
  • Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninov. The pianist was Olga Kern and required much stamina to be heard over the full orchestra which she did
  • Symphony No5 by Prokofiev. The ultimate antidote to Brexit.

How Rachmaninov and Prokofiev got by the Russian sensors in 1934 and 1942 is unclear to me as both were certainly not in the classical style of Brahms; much more ‘romantic’.

Saturday Scottish Opera performing Katya Kabanova by Janacek. The music to me is tremendous, the Scenery of based around the Volga with a bridge over was a construction to be marvelled at. All so much as to overawe the singing. Katya throws herself into the Volga at the end, not surprising as the possessive Mother in Law was demonic; not one to welcome home!

And today Sunday, a much more relaxed performance with Dvorak, Bartok and Strauss by the strings of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The Strauss was Metamorphosen. One of his last pieces and one to let the music wash over you. It was written for 23 strings but the SCO managed very well with just 7. Strauss wrote it on the back of WW2.  Will see a Musician of his calibre to write similar music on the back of Brexit; we can only hope.

March 22, 2019

Need for a Government of National Unity

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, Italian, Personal, Politics, Theresa may — derryvickers @ 12:11 am

I was fool enough to switch to Corriere della Sera late this evening and found the EU was in fighting mode; so I opened the Guardian and found a long article on what the EU Leaders had decided.  This was followed by what was going on ‘Back in the Ranch’.

The full article

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/21/mays-appeal-falls-flat-as-eu-seizes-control-of-brexit-date

We need a Government of National Unity as with WW2

Here are my experts in my Heat of the Moment

EU leaders moved to seize control of Britain’s exit date from the bloc after an unconvincing appeal by Theresa May on Thursday for a three-month Brexit delay.

In an address to the leaders described by one source as “90 minutes of nothing”, the prime minister failed to persuade leaders that she had a plan to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

….

But her appeal “dismally” failed to offer any answers as to what she would do if the deal was blocked by MPs again, sources said, provoking EU leaders into taking matters into their own hands and in effect taking control of her future.

“She didn’t even give clarity if she is organising a vote,” said one aide to a leader. “Asked three times what she would do if she lost the vote, she couldn’t say. It was awful. Dreadful. Evasive even by her standards.”

…..

It was then that the EU decided that “she didn’t have a plan so they needed to come up with one for her”, the source added.

With May out of the room, EU leaders delayed their plans to discuss relations with China and launched into a marathon late night session in Brussels.

…….

But if the withdrawal agreement failed to pass the Commons by 12 April, the UK could then request a long extension. “If the withdrawal agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European council agrees to an extension until 12 April, and expects UK to indicate a way forward for the consideration of the European council,” a draft summit communique said.

“What this model is designed for is to make it clear that no deal is the not the EU’s choice, it is the UK’s choice,” a diplomatic source said.

………………

The EU had initially looked at solely offering an extension up until 22 May, the day before European elections would be held, on the condition May had her deal pass next week at the third time of asking.

But such was the lack confidence in the prime minister following her latest performance that the EU’s member states acted in their own interest to shore up against a no deal Brexit and allow the British parliament to take control.

Back in the UK >>>>>>>

MPs, including many of those whom the Tory whips were hoping to win over before a prospective third meaningful vote next week, reacted angrily to May’s claims that they were blocking the people’s will

…………..

Does the Leader of the House agree with the prime minister’s statement last night, in which she pitted MPs against the general public?”

Leadsom appeared to distance herself from the prime minister’s words: “MPs need to be treated with respect and given the opportunity to represent their constituents and their country in alignment with their own beliefs and with doing the best they can possibly do.”

………………..

In a rare joint letter, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and the CBI’s Carolyn Fairbairn described the situation as a “national emergency”, and called on the prime minister to seek a plan B.

“The current deal and no deal must not be the only choice,” they warned, demanding a meeting with May to discuss the next steps.

Finally

Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the treasury, became the latest cabinet minister to argue openly on Thursday that a no-deal Brexit would be preferable to a long delay.

Truss must be Mad

March 7, 2019

Public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

Filed under: 'Moot' Local Decision Making, Europe, Personal, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 10:34 pm

Towards Local Decisions

I have copied below an article forwarded to me almost verbatim by Malcolm Fraser entitled Bring Back the Moot

You can find his full article at https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/13930/malcolm-fraser-bring-back-moot

Malcolm Fraser, architect and head of the 2013 Scottish Government town centre review, posited his “Town Centre First Principle”. [He believes that] Many authorities are doing good work in understanding and applying this principle, though he still reads horror stories of Councils moving colleges or “community campuses” out of town to lonely, disconnected places by the motorway.

He is now proposing four big measures within his underlying principle:

  1. Tax: buildings are an old-fashioned, easy to see and target source of taxation. They carry the burden of retail while digital sales get off extremely lightly, including dodging tax by moving sales offshore into low-tax havens. A simple change to a sales or consumption tax, adjusted to apply less to small retailers, would even out the burden between our high street and digital sales as well as ensuring tax was paid at the point of sale, not transferred offshore.
  2. Transport: the Labour Party proposed a five-point plan of which [he] particularly liked the idea of free public transport for the under 25s. Accessible, easily useable public transport is a key answer to a huge number of our contemporary challenges, including climate change and inclusive accessibility to the public services centres.
  3. Vacant Property: there’s great groups doing sterling work in revitalising their towns, including the pioneering West Kilbride Craft Town and the current work of the Stove Network in Dumfries, who are not only addressing the vacant shops in the town but the empty, former flats above. There is, apparently, so much need in Scotland for cheap space for artists and craftspeople, that vast old offices and industrial buildings are filled-up in our cities. We need to take the Craft/Stove model and set out how all our communities can apply it to their own towns, spreading their crafts entrepreneurs along our High Streets, into our vacant shops. And while there’s been great efforts to apply the Empty Homes initiatives to our housing crisis we should extend them: it might only cost £20,000 to bring back an empty town centre flat into use, whose occupier will support town centre shops and facilities, instead of maybe £100,000 for a green field new build. And we might note that, whereas there are upwards of 34,000 long-term empty homes in …., there are countless more above high street shops which are registered now as retail, ‘’’’.
  4. Local Democracy: finally, the lack of care in the health of our communities must be inextricably wound up with the lack of a functioning, empowered local democracy in Britain as a whole. Compared to our healthy European neighbours we, as citizens, are very remote from our politicians. We need to reintroduce a measure of power, and some funding, to Parish, Community or whatever-we-might-call-them Councils, and co-locate them with post offices, nurseries and other local services in parish churches, or old buildings revitalised by Community Asset Transfers, or devolved initiatives planned by local authorities. Medieval Scotland was full of public assemblies that met, often on hills – Moots they were called. Bring them back!

I am happy with all 4 measures but the one that appeals to me most is 4. on Local Democracy.  Local Democracy is sadly lacking in Scotland, even more than in England, and the UK as a whole is the most undemocratic in Europe.  I believe the people of towns and country need to have a real say in how they are governed; a cry of the heart I set out in a recent blob ‘Towards Local decisions’.

The best definition I have found of ‘moot’ is
“an assembly held for debate, especially in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times.”

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