Category Archives: Videos

Frogs, frogs and more frogs..

The frogs arrived back in our pond a week or two before the Arctic cold spell at end of February. The pond promptly iced over. Whether they were under the ice or under the snow, most of them reappeared once normal weather had resumed.

And then they got on with what they had come for….

Siberia Comes to Glasgow

It’s not often that Glasgow gets snow, snow and more snow. But it has just happened. Siberia came to us. Here’s the proof.

Things are slowly getting back to normal. Slowly being the operative word. I got my walking boots and crampons on yesterday to venture out for some milk. Nae milk to be had! McColls had none. Coop had none. And somebody told me that Sainsbury was still closed. Fortunately this morning, McColls had had a delivery and my coffee is white again.

And my car is appearing from under the 25cm of compacted snow it’s been hiding under. And she’s all charged up again, bless her!

And one from the BBC The Social YouTube channel : The Snow Day

Ciostal the Collie

In 2016, I spent a few weeks at Big on Isle of Lewis looking after my friend’s collie. His name is Ciostal. Pronounced something like Kee-shtal but he wasn’t too fussy at my not very good Gaelic pronunciation! I hadn’t been over at Uig on the Lewis west coast before. He and I had an enjoyable time exploring the local beaches and hills. Here he is

As with the rest of Scotland, if you wait for blue sky before you set off for a walk, you’ll spend a lot of time indoors! And often if you set off anyway, you might get a bit wet but the blue sky often appears later on. We had a very stormy couple of days when a Force 10 storm barrelled in from the Atlantic. 

Enjoy the videos!

Pope Francis at TED – The Future You

I’ve had this TED Talk on my list of ones to listen to for months and now just got round to it.   I don’t share the Pope’s Christian beliefs.  I could wish he didn’t quote Mother Theresa of Calcutta. But basically this is a good man’s reflections on what most helps and hinders human beings to live in harmony and look after this planet. It’s worth a listen.

“…. the future is made of yous, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others.”

Bercow, the Speaker, Speaking Some Welcome Home Truths

The Speaker of the Commons gets asked a point of information about the possibility of  Trump speaking at Westminster Hall. Speaker Bercow left no doubts about his view on that. As Dennis Skinner says at the end “Just two words, Mr Speaker. Well done.”

However since this happened Bercow is facing calls for him to resign. These calls come from Tory MPs. So no surprise there. The grounds for a resignation are said to be the Speakers make an agreement to be politically neutral while they hold the position of Speaker. 

You might say that Bercow’s words were not political neutral in that they go against the stated views of the PM in inviting him for a Royal State Visit as opposed to a Head Of Government visit. I prefer to think of Bercow giving the Commons the ethical argument for why Trump should get nowhere near Westminster Hall or the Royal Gallery.

Croig to Canna

At the end of August, I was on another sailing holiday with Skipper David Leaver on his ketch the Saltwater Gypsy. The first day we sailed from Dunstaffnage up to Croig a little harbour at the north end of Mull. Almost no wind to speak of so we used the engine all the up the Sound of Mull. The water was smooth enough to make spotting the porpoises pretty easy.

Croig harbour, Mull
Croig harbour, Mull

This is Croig on a sunny day with the mountains of rum away in the distance. By the afternoon when we were there it had started to rain….still a very beautiful place though.

Old anchor at Croig slipway
Old anchor at Croig slipway

From Croig the next morning we sailed over to Canna passing Muck and Rum on the way. It was a sort of rocking’ and rollin’ sail with a six foot swell coming across at right angles to where we were aiming for. Made for interesting spells at the helm! Some footage below. We anchored at Canna for two nights and had two walks ashore around the bay at A’Chill and up on to Compass Hill and round the cliffs on the north side of the island.

Bluetit Video Gallery

On Barra

Bishops Isles seen on approach to Barra

After our sailing trip to the Small Isles, August 2016, we took the ferry – and the car – from Oban over to the Isle of Barra for a few days. I have been on Barra once before, very briefly.

My plan for that earlier trip was to fly from Glasgow to Barra, stay in Castlebay over night, then use my Scottish Senior Bus Pass which gets me free bus travel anywhere – yes, anywhere – in Scotland for a day’s bus and ferry journey up to Stornoway at the north end of the Outer Hebridean archipelago. The bus and ferry schedules all link up so it’s a great way to travel. I’d arranged to stay a few days with a friend who lives near Stornoway before getting the ferry over to Ullapool and the bus back to Glasgow. I’d never been to Lewis before.

I did it all that except that the early morning plane couldn’t land at Barra Airport because of seafog. And then my midday flight was delayed till the first flight got back to Glasgow and by then it couldn’t land at Barra because the tide was up. You did read that correctly. The landing strip at Barra is a beach. 🙂 Which was the main reason I wanted to take the flight on the 18 seater twin engine Otter that LoganAir use for the route. They did fly us out but landed at Benbecula instead of Barra. Benbecula is four islands further along the archipelago northwards from Barra. Then they arranged transport for us back down to Barra that afternoon! See more here.

Castlebay & Kismet's Castle
Castlebay & Kismul’s Castle

This trip we were based in Castlebay  for three days. The weather was the usual  mix – sunshine, a few showers and a lot of wind. First morning was wet so we drove up to Eoligarry at the north of Barra where the airport is. And there’s a very highly recommended cafe in the terminal building. In fact the cafe takes up more space than the arrivals / departures space. We were in time to watch the midday flight from Glasgow arriving and then departing. A twenty minute turnaround!   You’ll find video of the Twin Otter below.

Barra Terminal Building


The west coast of Barra is a series of beaches and headlands and machair, the belt of fertile land just beyond the high tide mark. It’s found all over the islands, mostly on the west facing coasts. In summer it’s covered in wild flowers.  We spent two days wandering along the beaches, watching the Atlantic surf, watching seals watching us, bird-spotting. And inevitably, ended up in the airport cafe on several occasions. 

It’s the Ciostal Movies!!!

Costa is a collie who lives in Timmsgarry, Uig on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. I looked after him for a couple of weeks in the summer. He’s great!! The place is also great. Wild and beautiful. Uig is about an hour’s drive from Stornoway. Less if you’re a local and used to driving on single track roads. Ciostal (pronounced Kissh-tal) likes walks. So do I. So we explored some of the nearby beaches, hills and headlands. The result is a set of four movies starring Ciostal –

  • Ciostal Goes to Bolsta
  • Ciostal at the Radar STation
  • Ciostal Goes Hill-walking
  • Ciostal and the Storm

Here they are. Enjoy.

a visit to Monkey World, Dorset

Monkey World is an absolutely ace Primate Rescue Centre in Dorset, UK. It’s set amongst woodland in Dorset and it has 65 acres of sanctuary for over 250 primates. It was set up in 1987 by Jim Cronin to provide abused Spanish beach chimps with a permanent, stable home and now works in conjunction with foreign governments from all over the world to stop the illegal smuggling of apes out of Africa and Asia. At the park you can see over 250 primates of more than 20 different species – chimps; woolly monkeys, almost extinct in the wild; orangutans, ditto 🙁 ring-tailed lemurs; capuchins; gibbons….

Don’t think of this as mainly a day out with the kids. It is a great place to take kids but when we were there there were loads of adults without kids enjoying themselves too. A lot of them seemed very familiar with the animals’ names… they obviously watch Animal DSC_0206Planet too! Viewers of the TV series also get familiar with the staff. I guess long-standing animal keepers like Jeremy Keeling just get used to be waved and smiled at by loads of folk. Like me.

There’s a thriving trade in primates around the world, often babies whose mothers have been shot as bushmeat or just shot. Monkey World assists governments to stop this smuggling. At the Centre refugees of this illegal trade as well as those that have suffered abuse or neglect are rehabilitated into natural living groups. As far as is possible, the natural tree cover is retained so for example you’ll see the golden-cheeked gibbons swing through a stand of mature Scots Pines and the ring-tailed lemurs high-tail it up into big old oak trees.

Jim Cronin’s untimely death a few years ago hasn’t stopped the Centre from expanding and thriving…. as well as the animals, there are numerous cafes, a shop, and a fantastic Big Ape play space for Homo Sapiens and their kids!

See their website for more info: Monkey World (opens in new tab)

Mhairi Black – inspiring, wonderful and utterly wrong?

Lots of people have been waiting for Mhairi Black’s maiden Commons speech. When it came it was a cracker! Watch it here :

(If you don’t see the video appearing on this page, it’s likely because you’re using an iPad in which case use this link to go direct to ParliamentLive website and watch it there.)

There has been a hugely enthusiastic response to Mhairi Black, MP. She gained praise from all round the House of Commons which is no mean achievement in itself. Her speech has gone viral on social media. Ten million views on various online websites.

The press is giving us its views. Radio4 have done a Profile on Mhairi. I’m impressed that the presenter didn’t bother to define “blootered”. 🙂

Deborah Orr has written a piece in the Guardian entitled “Mhairi Black is inspiring, wonderful – and utterly wrong” saying that although she delivered a superb speech Mhairi failed to understand that Labour and the SNP cannot be allies. She starts off by saying:

“The hard problem, as Greece knows, isn’t promising to end austerity – it’s coming up with a credible plan to do so. If the SNP has one, and if it really wants to create an effective opposition in tandem with Labour, then it really ought to start spilling the beans on precisely what the plan is.”Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 20.46.56

This seems a tad ingenuous to say the least. In the run up to the general election, Nicola Sturgeon put a great deal of effort into spelling out just that – an SNP budgetary strategy for the UK which would allow small, 1%, but steady growth in the economy, while also making improvements and efficiencies to our public spending and diminishing the budget deficit although over a longer time period. She even went down to UCL to make the speech and in fact her criticism of austerity was fully reported in the Guardian! In a later speech at LSE , she expanded on this theme, comparing and contrasting the approach in Holyrood and in Scottish society more broadly with that in Westminster.

Orr also said

I don’t doubt Black’s sincerity in extending the hand of friendship to Labour. I share her disgust at Harriet Harman’s airy announcement that Labour will back the Tories’ benefit changes. But I also find it irritating that Black’s sincerity seems to include a sincere failure to understand that the SNP is not Labour’s most natural ally in Westminster, but Labour’s most insidious opponent. The vast majority of the UK electorate doesn’t want a Labour-SNP alliance to be the chimerical alternative to the Conservatives in Britain. And the vast majority of the UK electorate can only reject Labour to stop that from happening.”

 I think she has a point here. Rightly or wrongly, I think wrongly, the majority of English voters – and I do mean English – did not seem to want an allegiance, even informal, between Labour and the SNP. This leaves most  of us Scots scratching our heads in perplexity since there is a large overlap in policy between the two parties. And the SNP made it plain that a vote for them in the election was not a vote for Scottish Independence. And aren’t we all united in opposing the Tories?

But then consider the way the media covered this possible ‘arrangement’ before the election…FullSizeRender(2)

cartoons with Miliband in Alex Salmond’s breast pocket (this despite the fact that he had  stood down as SNP leader about six months before); of Miliband being led along on a lead by a little Scottie dog. A bit reminiscent of the Commonwealth Opening ceremony we all thought though it was drawn as if at Crufts;  of Miliband as a puppet with Sturgeon pulling the strings. Well, yes , they were funny. Actually they were very funny. But they weren’t fair. They weren’t informative. They played on undercurrents of English xenophobia. The Telegraph cartoonists enjoyed themselves. One was tweeted from Tory Party HQ.


But does all this make the SNP Labour’s insidious opponent? Is it true that  any chimerical (great word that, by the way) alliance will be rejected by English voters in the only way it can, by voting Tory. I’ve trying to answer this and come to the conclusion that it can’t be answered from a UK perspective, only from a Scottish or English one.

It can be answered from a Scottish perspective, where it’s pretty straightforward really. We vote – predominantly – for left-of-centre political parties and even the Scottish Tories are a tad more left than their English counterpart. We’re well used to that strategy being thwarted as the English vote in the Tory & Unionist Party but we put up with it because that’s how democracy works and we’re part of the UK. Up here we have a choice between Labour or SNP.  Irrespective of whether we want Scotland to become independent, we know that the SNP will further our left-of-centre aspirations. We also know they are well used to working in alliance with other parties because they have had to do that at Holyrood. (So has Scottish Labour and Scottish LibDems) In recent years, UK Labour has moved further right than we like so we’ve been voting SNP  in increasing numbers for Holyrood, to the point when, in 2011, they gained an overall majority there. No mean feat with a voting system designed to prevent overall majorities.

Add to this background context a Labour Party which spent two years in the Independence Referendum Campaign on the same platform as the Tories working to keep the UK united. They all told us we were better together and that we Scots should not just stay in the Union but come and help lead it. So said Cameron while Darling and Miliband looked on and applauded. Actually most of us up here think we’ve been leading the Union, not to mention the Empire, for centuries. Certainly we’ve been sending our most talented politicians down south for centuries. But still it’s nice to be included and appreciated, isn’t it. Of course we didn’t like seeing Labour sharing platforms with Tories. And we didn’t like the underhanded tricks they got up to. And we didn’t like the biassed media coverage. So when they won, lots of us joined SNP or Greens just to remind them not to expect us to act as if nothing had happened in Scotland over those two years.

And we’re not daft.  We understand that the English electorate are not as left-leaning as we are. We understand that Labour policy has to reflect that. We understand that in an informal allegiance with Labour in Westminster, we wouldn’t get everything we’d like. We are also well aware of the acrimony from Scottish Labour towards the SNP for having intruded into their ‘traditional’ Scottish territory. We even understand that Miliband might keep his cards close to his chest on this until the vote was over. But still it seems a no-brainer to us that SNP people we send to Westminster would be well able to support and work with a Labour government. What’s the problem? Why would an English Labour supporter consider voting Tory (or UKIP for god’s sake) to stop Labour working in a Progressive Alliance with SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru in Westminster? Not to mention the Lib Dems, poor souls.

Swapping over to a possible English perspective. I suppose it’s true that if you want to stop a Progessive Alliance involving the SNP you have to vote Tory. The FPTP voting system doesn’t allow for smaller parties, like the Greens, gaining actual representation at Westminster. There’s no English left-of-centre alternative to Labour, unless you count the LibDems. (BTW I think they’ve had a raw deal from England for all the effort they made reining in the Tories whilst in the Coalition.) All this is only relevant when support for Labour is languishing in the low 30%s of course. The other way to avoid a chimerical alliance would have been to vote Labour in hordes thus assigning SNP MPs to the sidelines of a majority Labour government.

But why were English voters so against the idea of SNP having influence at Westminster? There was a lot said about the Scottish tail wagging the English dog. Or in Ed Miliband’s case the Scottish dog taking him for a walk. But nothing said about that small minority of English swing voters, those who have no allegiance to any political party and whose unpredictable decisions can swing the outcome of an election one way or another. When party support is very close that English tail always wags the democratic UK dog. And it is the English tail because of the vastly larger number of English voters, 85% of UK as a whole. And it did again in May though it has to be said that this particular tail was considerably larger than had been thought. Poor old ‘Ed.

Which gets us back to Ed. He’s an honourable man, no doubt about that, but I think he managed to get himself promoted above his level of competency. It was easy for the Right to ridicule the notion of a Progessive Alliance just because it was also so easy to ridicule Ed as a prospective PM. But why is an informal coalition with the SNP really so awful?

Scottish nationalist voters were called a lot of things in the General Election campaign by the Engish based media: fascists, nazis, spongers. This caused a problem for some of the red top press who ran scathing headlines running down Nicola Sturgeon in their English editions and positive supportive ones for her in their Scottish editions. (Do they think we don’t have access to the internet up here?) Analyses were done of how much more public money is spent per head of population in Scotland without going a bit more deeply into the figures – all in the public domain – explaining why that is and admitting that regions of England get equal levels of spending. In Scotland if the IndyRef campaign taught us anything, it is that mainstream media support the Establishment and they don’t mind spreading disinformation to that end. So we weren’t surprised when the same happened in the GE : the misogynist cartoons of Nicola Sturgeon; the completely made-up Frenchgate story in The Telegraph leaked from the Scottish Office (now there’s a misnomer if ever there was one); the misleading financial statistics.


But getting back to the point I had in mind at the start of this post……the English antipathy to any sort of alliance that involves the SNP. And isn’t it telling that it’s so hard to discern a UK perspective on why that is? By which I mean, when there isn’t a UK perspective that adds up, then isn’t that another nail in the Unionist coffin.

Going back to that great word ‘chimerical’. If you remember the Guardian article, it came in the sentence : “The vast majority of the UK electorate doesn’t want a Labour-SNP alliance to be the chimerical alternative to the Conservatives in Britain.” Just to be clear, here’s the definition: chimerical is an adjective that means produced by a wildly fanciful imagination. The adjective chimerical is sued to describe something that is wildly fanciful or imaginative — like the chimerical illustrations of unicorns in a children’s book.

So for the Guardian a Labour-SNP alliance, or rather a Progressive Alliance of Labour, Greens, Plaid Cymru, SNP, and possibly some of the NI parties is “wildly fanciful” like a unicorn.

Interestingly, the Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland! Last word from a Scottish perspective: