The Turn of the Year . . .

Christmas came and went quite painlessly. There were only the two of us.Earlier we had anticipated visits from either of both of our sons and their partners. The Lincolnshire son is immunity compromised so the virus situation precluded any move from that direction. The Sacramento son had planned to come to us and to London quite specifically but cried off quite late on as the whole travel situation got more and more liable to disruption due to Govt. restrictions, and the likelihood of staff shortages brought about by Covid tests or actual infections increased. We had a thing called a turkey thigh which doesn’t sound much, but which in fact was was ample for two. In fact we both cried off Christmas pudding as we were full up, and we eventually ate one between us at New Year.

Over the last month we have considered getting rid of our little old Toyota Aygo.We bought it as a runabout for Mrs. S. but she never drove it very much as having got it she found that putting things into and getting things out of the back seat were difficult because of the necessity of manipulating the front seat – that is, tilting the seat back, and moving it fore and aft. We spotted this Suzuki Splash outside Wilson Motors in Kirkcudbright and have been loaned it apparently sine die, with the Toyota at the garage as a sort of security or deposit. The Toyota stunned us slightly by needing a new exhaust manifold because the old one was leaking and was a fire risk, and the Suzuki needs its alternator/battery set up to be examined as the battery warning light flashes when the car is in motion. It is frequent but intermittent so it could be a loose connection or a bad joint somewhere, but it could also indicate trouble in the electronics – the Toyota did the same, and a new part took months to arrive, no doubt due to Brexit in some way.

Nevertheless, the Suzuki is the better car and has only done about 28,000 miles (although it has had 4 owners !) so we intend to proceed with the swap, but as yet have no idea of the financial implications.

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Keep your ideas to yourself – a moral tale

A pride of lions was sleeping in the shade of an acacia tree. A lioness awoke, her ears pricked; she sat up and surveyed the area. Coming towards them was a human being wearing a khaki drill shirt and shorts with a floppy sun hat on his head. A poke from her paw, enough to kill a child, woke the lion. The growl that went with it alerted him and he too sat up and did a rapid reconnaissance of the plain with his eyes.

“Missionary ?”, he said.

“Don’t think so”, was the reply, “They went out years ago ”.

“Tourist then ?”

“They usually come in those smelly cars”.

“Hmmm”.

The pair sat and waited.

“Ahem. I hope I am not disturbing you. My name is Algernon Cholmondely Beauchamp-Witherspoon”, said the new arrival.

“I am the President of the Lower Mildew and Lichen Parva Vegan Society, and my members have asked me to tour the game parks and endeavour to persuade the carnivores like yourselves to give up eating meat and to look instead at consuming only leaves and twigs, and any edible roots you can find. I am myself a Vegan, and I find that my health has been considerably improved since I became one.”

“Hmmm. Not much meat on him”, observed the lioness quietly to her husband.

“Never look a gift meal in the mouth”, he whispered, “He walked here on his own. Saves a deal of running about”.

“How do you feel about my suggestion”, said Algernon Cholmondely Beauchamp-Witherspoon, “Do you think you might take it up ?”

“NOW”, said the lion.

The lioness dispatched Algernon Cholmondely Beauchamp-Witherspoon with one blow. The rest of the pride woke up at the smell of fresh meat, and after the lion had had first bite they all fell to.

“Bit stringy”.

“Not going to last us very long”.

“Eat up and don’t grumble”.

As they lay dozing after their repast the lion observed sleepily, “Do you know, there may be something in this Vegan business after all. I thought he had a very delicate flavour. Keep your eyes open for Vegans boys and girls”.

With which piece of patriarchal advice, he let out a loud snore and fell asleep.

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Charlotte Hughes, a doughty fighter . . .

I cut and paste below today’s entry from Charlotte Hughes’ blog. A lady I greatly admire and whom I would like to meet although that doesn’t seem likely given age, Covid, time and distance involved. Support her if you can and feel so inclined . . .

Charlotte Hughes writes . . .

“A friend of mine that volunteers at a foodbank has just sent me the below images. They asked if their anonymity is kept and of course I’m respecting this.

The photos were taken as they were arriving for their shift at the food bank. It wasn’t open for some time, but the queue was already massive, people arriving early to make sure that they’d get some food.

As you can see the queue consisted of People, all differing in their needs. What can’t be missed is the people using wheelchairs queueing for food parcels.on Christmas Eve.

Also in the queue are elderly people and families with children.

You don’t need me to tell you that this shouldn’t be happening , it’s heartbreaking.

You can always find the measure of a country by seeing how they look after the poor, young, elderly and disabled.

The conservative government is blatantly failing on this front. As a country we can’t be proud of this either.

Being proud of a country is about being proud of what it actually does right, and how it treats those in need. It’s not about waving flags and singing the national anthem.

We can however also look back on history and also be ashamed for the very same reasons. Ignoring the fact that the UK government is causing direct harm to people won’t make it go away.

Whilst the government has been focusing on ridiculous things like blue passports people are dying, thousands are becoming homeless and many are becoming ill from poverty related illnesses.

Meanwhile the public are bombarded with images of the royal family having a lovely Christmas, the people queuing at this foodbank and others won’t be able to celebrate.

Its simply not acceptable.

I messaged the volunteer that took the below images and this is what they said

It felt like a slap in the face for them too. It’s a reminder of their privilege. Because despite having their own difficulties they can sit in a warm house, with food, having just wrapped presents for their family.

They went on to say that it makes them angry and sad that this is happening, that they wished that they could do more to help. There’s more that many could do, so let’s do it.

Helping others doesn’t have to cost a penny. A kind word, saying hello in the street makes the world of difference to someone that lives alone and hasn’t spoken to anyone for a long time.

Being a friend costs nothing also, sharing what you no longer need doesn’t either. Of course I realise that many people have nothing to give to someone else.

Let’s spend the festive period and the coming year to be kind and thoughtful towards each other. We need to do this because the government won’t ever care about you.”

“Please read, share, tweet and email this blog post. This makes a massive difference and it raises lots of awareness. Thank you!

A huge thank you to everyone that has and is supporting my blog and campaign. I really appreciate it and I couldn’t do this without your support.”

Unfortunately I do not know how to copy her PayPal donation link to this blog, but if you go to her original post you will find it OK. I have used it in the past, and although I personally am not a big fan of PayPal it works OK and is quite safe.

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Seagulls – thoughts on . . .

Herring Gull

Seagulls eh ?

What would you do with them ?

Actually, since we don’t eat fish and chips outside our seagulls are no great problem to us, except that that are a bit anti-social in the matter of where and when they relieve themselves – they seem to see motor cars as public toilets, or perhaps brightly coloured cars are just useful in a utilitarian sort of way as targets for bombing practice ? We have two seagulls that use the roof opposite as a rest stop. Sometimes the rest is brief indeed, at others they settle down and have a good snooze. I have checked their activities with the local tide tables but I cannot convince myself that the comings and goings are related in any obvious way to the motions of the tides. No doubt the seagulls might tell you a different story, but since we haven’t learnt how to communicate with them yet that must remain an unknown.

These two seagulls (assuming they ARE the same two seagulls, which seems likely) have come and gone to this roof for the four years that we have lived here. Occasionally a third will join them – or try to join them but will get sent off by one of the pair – I always assume it is the male who does the shooing, but who knows ? And is this intruder a child of the family or some passing lothario picked up on the mudflats of Kirkcudbright Bay out for a quick mating ?

When the brain analyses the information sent by the eyes it obviously checks it against already learnt information. “Bird ? – sparrow, blue tit, chaffinch – must be quite small then” – so when we see our seagulls on the roof we see them as quite modestly sized creatures. But then, one will launch off from the ridge, swoop down over the tiles rapidly gaining speed and zoom past just outside our window – then we are forcibly made to realise that they are not small birds at all and have a very impressive wing span. If one came after my chips I would give him or her the lot.

I know when I’m beat.

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What a spectacle . . .

When all else fails, and boredom strikes, post a photograph. Chair-side scene during Covid.

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“Mummy, Mummy, nobody likes me . . . “

Our European friends tell it as it is . . .

‘A fire-eater who’s run out of fuel’: European press lays into Boris Johnson

Continental media are in no mood to donner un break to the British PM, sensing the ‘beginning of the end’

Jon Henley in Paris
@jonhenley
Tue 21 Dec 2021 13.08 GMT

Last modified on Tue 21 Dec 2021 14.22 GMT

For El País in Spain, his “magic has vanished”. For Libération in France he is “the only actor in the Boris Johnson show – which is, increasingly, a flop”. In Germany, Der Spiegel asked how long Britain could last being governed “almost exclusively by defiant optimism”.

As the scandals mount, the approval ratings plunge, the electoral defeats accumulate, the rebellions multiply, his trusted Brexit lieutenant jumps ship and the Omicron variant runs rampant, continental media seem – to coin a phrase – in no mood to donner un break to Britain’s beleaguered prime minister.

“Johnson says he accepts responsibility,” wrote Libération. “But for what? The spectacular defeat of his party in North Shropshire, which he himself triggered by supporting the local MP, accused of corruption? The multiple parties under his roof when the country was in lockdown?”

Does he also accept responsibility for “the total absence, for months, of any social distancing measures or masks” in the face of a rampaging virus that has killed nearly 150,000 people, the paper asked. And for “the ailing economy; the plunging foreign investments; Brexit, which still has not delivered the slightest positive result?”

Johnson, the paper’s former London correspondent, Sonia Delesalle-Stolper, said, “makes nobody laugh any more. What legitimacy does he have, today, to ask the least effort of the British people? He has repeatedly shown his moral compass is either wholly inexistent or wildly askew.”

With few friends, no real clan, surrounded by “mediocre politicians drunk on the unexpected power conferred on them by the referendum”, he is a one-man band – and his future looks far from assured, she said.

Der Spiegel said bluntly that barely two years after “the apparently glorious election victory of the political entertainer”, Johnson today resembles “a fire-eater who’s run out of fuel: no more sparks, no flickering flames, only cold smoke rising over Downing Street.”

The paper’s London correspondent, Jörg Schindler, however, concluded it was not yet certain the prime minister with “a Pinocchio-like relationship with the truth” was about to leave the stage. Despite partygate, wallpapergate and countless other scandals, Johnson had “never made a secret of the fact that he only knows one moral code: his”.

He has always been, the magazine said, “the naked emperor who cried: ‘Look, I have no clothes.’ That has made him unassailable.” Even with his polling at record lows, he will not resign. And for him to be kicked out by his party, “it would first have to recover the decency it largely lost when it surrendered to its election winner”.

But the truth of the last two years, Der Spiegel said, is that “Johnson has shaped the Tories in his own image”, shifting the party sharply to the right to accomplish “his life’s work, Brexit”, removing older, moderate heavyweights and replacing them with “young loyalists who owe their election solely to Johnson”.

Forecasting “the beginning of the end”, however, Die Welt suggested growing discontent in his parliamentary party was precisely Johnson’s biggest threat: “So far, their motto has been that Johnson’s careless handling of the truth was the price to be paid for electoral victory. But Tory MPs are increasingly finding themselves caught up in an endless loop of new Johnson scandals.”

El País said it was clear that Johnson’s “electoral magic has run out”. After a damaging parliamentary rebellion in which nearly 100 Tory MPs rejected his Covid measures, voters in North Shropshire, “tired of his jokes and fed up with a succession of recent scandals, simply turned their backs on him”, it said.

Downing Street may be confident the Christmas break “will reduce the tensions”, said the paper’s London correspondent, Rafa de Miguel, but the threat of the highly transmissible Omicron variant “points to a tough winter, and is combining with public outrage to weigh on the credibility of a prime minister that is currently in tatters”.

In an editorial, the Spanish daily said the sudden departure of the government’s Brexit negotiator, David Frost, further weakened Johnson – but would perhaps give the EU a chance to reset relations with London and a prime minister who until now had “always used Brexit as the wild card to get him out of domestic difficulty”.

Facing an “onslaught from Omicron just before Christmas, and supply chain problems exacerbated by Brexit that have left the country without truckers and with half-empty supermarket shelves”, the last thing Johnson needed, the paper said, “is a bloody conflict with the European Union”.

Spain’s ABC daily, meanwhile, said “Johnson is living through hard times”, facing several open fronts and “what could be his toughest week” since coming to power in the summer of 2019.

“In just a few days, the premier has witnessed for himself how his approval rating has plummeted to its lowest point in the polls – proof of his disconnection from normal people, and even his lifelong supporters,” it said.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant warned Frost’s departure was “a new blow for the prime minister after a rebellion by his parliamentary party and a defeat in a byelection”, adding that the problem had now become about “Johnson’s personality. His great strength was winning elections. If that doesn’t work any more, there is really not much left.”

Additional reporting by Sam Jones in Madrid

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“Splash” . . .

Of all the daft things to be doing at the present juncture, a few days before Christmas and the New Year, and with Omicron bearing down on us all, here we are trying out a replacement for our little Toyota Aygo. The latter is a two door car so that getting things into and out of the back is awkward and my OH finds the seats difficult to tip up and replace. This car, a Suzuki Splash, is a five door car and this problem does not arise. Also, it is quite well appointed compared with the vary basic Aygo and a nicer vehicle altogether.

We took it out today for a whizz as far as Gatehouse of Fleet and back -both taking turns at driving – and found it to be quite satisfactory, so I think we may be going to take the plunge, but we are not required to make a sudden decision so we will think about it for a few days.

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Linux Mint 20.3 “Una” Cinnamon – beta release

Linux Mint 20.3 “Una” Cinnamon has been released . . . HERE

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Nothing to see here . . .

We have finished our Christmas Cards and now await the cards from people we have omitted or didn’t expect. We are also fortunate in that the Postie will take items to be posted, and does not simply deliver. Thus I have been up and outside at 8.00 am on the last two days putting the cards out ready. The weather has been dry and made this possible. The dire warnings from everywhere about the ready transmissibility of the Omicron variant of Covid 19 have made us take this precaution even though I think I could perfectly well get to the post box without meeting anyone.

These same precautions make us reluctant to go to our Post Office. There is nothing wrong with our Post Office, indeed it is very good, but it is situated right at the back of a busy newsagent, stationer and wool shop. No doubt they have “social distancing” arrangements in force but I am sure these would lead to queues forming, and standing about in a queue is just not possible for me, so we cannot easily send cards that require postage calculations.

This is where Facebook Messenger, Whats App and basic SMS come in useful as if the other party is contactable by any or all of these you can send greetings speedily and at no cost except the fees you have already paid.

Our car buying or swapping adventure seems to have died on its feet. The garage was going to bring it round “on a dry day” for us to try, but hasn’t, my wife seems to have lost interest, my attempts to jolly things up a bit have run into the sand, so I shan’t mention it again.

My new camera has arrived and I have been getting to grips with it. It is certainly more complicated than I expected, but I shall enjoy using it one day – since it arrived we have had dreich weather or very cloudy days – par for the course in December – when no camera in the world can do anything but photograph greyness. A few snaps indoors have been enough to show that it all works OK, and I have succeeded in downloading and installing a firmware update, which was not the easiest thing to do.

Tomorrow is Tesco delivery day. We are now told, in the newspapers, that we must expect staff shortages as people contract the Omicron variant and thus, logically, we must expect the delivery system to be at sixes and evens.

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“Do not forget the tree . . . “

The present Pope is very good at short homilies, something I could never do. Today is my 88th birthday so I was particularly taken with these few words about “the elderly” . . .

Do not forget the tree. Never forget the elderly. A tree without roots can neither grow nor flower. Let us not discard the elderly; they are not throwaway material. They are a living memory. From them comes forth the lifeblood that allows everything to grow. Let us nurture dialogue between the young and the old, so that this wisdom which helps them grow and bloom might be passed on.

In the video on Instagram he had notes in front of him but this short piece seemed to come out spontaneously. He is not a young man (he is 85), so perhaps it came very much from the heart.

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