The Woman with the Iceberg Eyes . . .

Oriana F. Wilson, By Katherine MacInnes. ISBN: 9780750991537. Published: 07-10-2019

Another of my recent purchases from PostScript Books, and a very readable one it is too. I had never heard of the lady, but as a boy there were many tales about the explorers who tackled the Antarctic, who tried and failed, the most famous of all, I suppose, being Captain Scott, whose son Peter was so much in evidence on TV in the early days in connection with wild life, especially, birds and the wild life sanctuary he had at Slimbridge.

The best summary I can give is from the publisher’s own blurb . . .

“Captain Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic, the most famous story of exploration in the world, played out on the great ice stage in the south. Oriana Wilson, wife of Scott’s best friend and fellow explorer Dr Edward Wilson, was watching from the wings. She is the missing link between many of the notable polar names of the time and was allowed into a man’s world at a time when the British suffragettes were marching. Oriana is the lens through which their secrets are revealed. What really happened both in the Antarctic and at home? Why did Scott’s Terra Nova expedition nearly end in mutiny before it had even begun? Were the explorers’ diaries as ‘heroic’ as they appeared to be? Only Oriana can tell. She began as a dutiful housewife but emerged as a scientist and collector in her own right, and was the first white woman to venture into the jungles of Darwin, Australia. Edward Wilson named Oriana Ridge, a little-known piece of Antarctica, after her on their tenth wedding anniversary. Oriana Wilson has been quiet for a century, but this biography gives her a voice and provides a unique insight into the early twentieth century through her clear, blue ‘iceberg eyes’.”

This somewhat over eggs the pudding, as one might expect from a blurb, but puts you on the right track. In fact the book is not solely about Scott, but is mainly about her husband Ted Wilson who died with Scott in that tent on the way back from the pole. It covers their meeting and marriage and all the many, many, activities in which they were involved together or apart to get these expeditions of the ground, and what the participants specialised in, what they though they were doing. The sad thing is that they were only married for a comparatively short time – nearly 11 years – and that so much of that time they were apart as her husband was away organising things or actually on some trip or other. And, of course, when he died on the return from the pole, t was some time before the rescue operation found their bodies and the world knew what had happened.

As always, these biographical studies tell you so much about the world as it was, about society and the way it functioned, the differences between then and now, but also the fact that people is all ages are really much the same, react in the same way to evens, do the same things.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Family Gathering . . .

At the Selkirk Arms, Kirkcudbright on 1st and 2nd of August 2023 . . .

L:R Self, Robin Huw Sheppard, Gwilym James Sheppard, Christopher Michael Sheppard.

L:R Self, Christopher, Gwilym, Huw, Gillian, Sheppard, Jennifer Anne Sheppard.

The author of this blog.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Inklings . . .

A recent purchase from PostScript books. I only know a little bit about C S Lewis, and that from many years ago with books like “Mere Christianity” and, of course, the Narnia books. And not forgetting the “Screwtape Letters”, good and very clever at showing how people think in an entertaining way.

This book however covers not only C S Lewis, but Tolkien, about whom I know nothing, apart from “The Hobbit”, read many years ago and now almost totally forgotten – and two others totally unknown to me, although I often read references to a Charles Williams in the pages of the “Church Times”.

The erudition of the two authors is mind boggling. The pictures evoked of life at the end of the 19th Century, the Great War period and afterwards down to and including World War Two are both informative and nostalgic for readers of my age. This is definitely not a page turner of a book, it is not be to be raced through, but taken a section or two at a time it is a good pre-bedtime read. And at £8.99 on PostScript, who can refuse ?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Its that man again . . .

A bit behind the times, I know, but I have just started reading Shaun Bythell’s, “Remainders of the Day”. He really is a very good writer IMO, has a GSOH, and is not afraid to tell it like it is. Hilarious at times. Thank you, Shaun.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rolling along . . .

DPD arrived in the rain this afternoon and delivered an enormous box with my new toy – an Orbit Rollator walker. It was struggle to get it into the house, and then another struggle to up end it and tip it out, and then to disentangle the contants and put it all together. However, all was done quite quickly once I made a start, and I was able to test drive it.

So far, I am very pleased with it. Obviously it takes up room and you have to learn how to manage things, but the overall effect of being able to get about more easily, walking much better than that achieved by the two walking sticks, and being able to carry things is a great advantage. This gadget has a basket, a tray and a seat. It remains to be seen how easy it will be to get it into the boot of a car. It runs very smoothly indoors and so a cup of drink can be carried without fear of spillage. It has brakes to hold it at will, and they can be moved into a ‘parked’ position when the whole thing becomes a very solid and steady support.

If loading it into a car and out gain proves feasible it will make my occasional visits to the shops much easier – as long as they don’t have steps.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Irony strikes again . . .

We live up a short cul-de-sac, the equivalent of two house plots each side. Each week we are requested to take the appropriate wheelie bin down to the road for collection and emptying, and then, of course, we have to go down and fetch it back.

The Dumfries and Galloway Council web site tells us that we can apply to have the bin emptied by the collectors provided that the bin is not more than 30 metres from the road. We duly put in our application, and meanwhile I devised a method of towing a wheelie bin behind car, which, I thought, was very successful.

So, there I am, arriving at the end of our little bit of road complete with wheelie bin, and I get out to untie it and park it on the pavement – but, a man addressed in orange hi-vis gear appears and asks me my name. “Oh”, says he, “and this is how you get your bin to the road is it ?” It turns out he is the man from the Council who has come to inspect us. He is very pleasant to talk to, and it turns out that he knows all about Shingles and its complications having had child hospitalised with it for several months. I tell him I am 89, and he says I do not look like it, so I assure him that I am and that my wife is 90. He confirms that from now on the bins will be dealt with by the Council, and off I go, happy as a sand boy.

Come the day, 4th August, my vigilant wife is on the watch, and she sees the bin men deal with our neighbour’s bin – but not ours. So I leap on to the email and fire off a message to the above mentioned gent, thinking that it is now unlikely to be fixed before the next collection,

But, no !

Back comes an email to say that a bin lorry has been instructed to call and collect the bin, and even as I watch an enormous orange refuse vehicle backs rapidly up our little road and stops by our bins. Out hops a man, empties the bin, and is nobbled by my wife who has a long chat with him. “Nice man”, she says.

I reflect on the irony of our worrying and wondering for several months as to whether the Council would collect our bins and whether we were more than 30 metres from the road – when the lorry solves the question by backing up and parking within touching distance !

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Approaching Greenland . . .

Members of our family are returning to the west coast of the USA as I write this.The screen shot shows American Airlines Flight No. AA 195 approaching Greenland before its long haul across the frozen wastes of Canada and then down the west coast to California.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anecdote . . .

View of a Businessman using a smartphone with a Contact icon surrounding by app and social icon – 3d render

I wrote the following to the “In Touch” magazine, which is the magazine of the Hearing Dogs and Hearing Link Services communities.

Speech to Text Apps. In Touch. Issue 24.

“I am now 89. When I was about 8 I had Scarlet Fever immediately followed by German Measles. In those days before Penicillin etc (although I was given Sulphonamide drugs) one frequently got “complications”. Mine took the form of a middle ear infection, large abscesses came up behind my ears, I believe I became delirious, and the family Doctor sent me off to an isolation hospital that had an operating theatre where I had a double mastoid operation (I can still smell the ether !) and remained there for many weeks. My parents were told I might be deaf, but luckily I wasn’t, and indeed, in the fullness of time I was able to join the Royal Air Force as aircrew.

During the ensuing years my ear passages slowly got narrower and narrower. I asked if this might be the result of the operations and was told it might be, but that it was not certain. About 25 years ago the ENT Consultant at our local hospital said he could attempt to widen the ear canal of my left ear, but he predicted no more than 30 to 40% chance of success. I had the surgery, had a thing like a jelly bean in my ear for six weeks, but on examination he pronounced that the surgery had not been successful.

I eventually got an in-ear hearing aid for my left ear, as my neural hearing had decreased with old age, but my right ear is so closed up that nothing can be done on that side.

When I learnt about the speech-to-text app, “Live Transcribe”, I installed it on my Motorola ‘smart’ phone and was delighted by the result. I found that very few people in the Scottish NHS knew about it and were as intrigued as I was. But then, calamity ! – along came Covid and the wearing of masks. The mask on top of the accents of South West Scotland were altogether too much for it, and – as you may guess – our lovely Dentist lady, a Romanian, in her protective clothing was incomprehensible !

My other discovery was that on attending an Audiology Clinic at our Mountainhall Treatment Centre in Dumfries I sought to show off the app to the Audiologist, only to find it was totally dead. As left the building I tested it again in the car park and it worked fine, so I realised that it needed to be able to get a phone signal to make it work.

Now that the wearing of masks is less common I shall try using it again, because when it DOES work it is invaluable, and the speaker is as excited as the listener.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Welcome to Our Brave new World . . .

Aneurin Bevan.

My Father and Mother were born in 1900 and 1902 respectively, so their ages always kept more or less in step with the year. My Father did not arrive until the middle of September in 1900 so he just missed being called up in the last year of the Great War – but he was already in a Cadet Unit by that time. So having got through the War, they then got through the post war depressions, the General Strike of 1926 (in which my Father was a ‘scab’ !), then the Great Depression, usually known as “the Slump” in our house, and my Mother was wont to say during World War Two, that in the late 1930s ‘things were just beginning to improve’ and she cited various things (which I have now forgotten) that had begun to reappear as we approached 1939.

The War, of course, threw everything out of gear again, but there were thinkers and politicians who continued to look forward even in the worst years of the War, so that the Beveridge Report came out in 1942, and in 1944 the new Education Act pleased my parents no end, because it meant I could go into secondary education without paying fees. In the early years of the War I was very ill with Scarlet Fever, immediately followed by German Measles, then middle ear infections which required a double mastoid operation. All of the Doctor’s bills and my lengthy hospitalisation must have got paid somehow, but my parents never mentioned it, and never said anything at any time thereafter, so I am completely in the dark about it.

This slow continuation of the pre-war recovery came to the for as the War drew to a close. There was a sort of “now we can get on and fix things properly for good” spirit, hope drove things ahead, and this was I think why there was such a big swing to Labour in the 1945 General Election – shocking to those of us who were very fond of Winston Churchill and his wartime leadership, but nevertheless a good thing seen in retrospect – and under Clement Attlee a good many hoped for things did come about along with others which were a bit more controversial and did not last. One of these ‘good things’ was undoubtedly the introduction of the National Health Service – a tremendous advance for much of the population who either paid outright for the Doctor, or paid into some scheme or insurance in the good times to tide them over in the bad ones.

Another step forward seemed to take place with the Schumann Declaration in 1950. At last it seemed that something was happening, coming out of Europe itself, to avoid the squabbles that had led to two ghastly World Wars in a period, first to last, of 31 years with sundry minor wars also in the same time period.

As time has gone by, that generation has gone to its grave, and even the younger ones as I was then cannot be around much longer. Someone born when Japan surrendered would now be well over 77 years old, so that most of the population living today know only of the events of the first half of the 20th Century via bits of old news reels, fictional war films and hysterical accounts in the media on various anniversaries, such as that of ‘D-Day’.

Our politicians too, are of this breed and so they do not know, understand or appreciate what those post war advances meant to the wartime survivors, and they see no reason why they should not be modified or done away with. Decisions are made on the basis of expediency or political popularity, with no sense of moral obligation to those who preceded them.

Aneurin Bevan, to whom fell the task of introducing the NHS in 1946 said, “No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”, and, “the NHS will last as long as there are folk left with faith to fight for it”, and again, “What should be the glory of the profession is that a doctor should be able to meet his patients with no financial anxiety.”

It seems now, that very few people have faith in the NHS to induce them to stand up and be counted in any campaign to keep it going. They seem to be prepared for, or are perhaps ignorantly unaware, of, what life without a National Health Service would be like, and so when it finally gets destroyed by our seemingly hostile parliamentarians their new existence will come a as bit of a shock.

“I think I’ll just give the Health Centre a ring to ask about Kevin’s rash”.
“No, don’t, we can’t afford it !
“Oh, sorry, I keep forgetting.”

“How is your mother getting on ?”
“Oh, not too bad, we have brought a bed downstairs into the front room and we give her Cocodamol tablets to try to keep the pain down a bit.”
“Where do you get them from ?”
“We buy them at the Chemist’s. They say they have got stronger stuff but we would need to get a prescription from the doctor for it, and with my husband losing his job . . . “
“Shouldn’t she be in Hospital ?”
Oh, yes, but no way could we afford that, the District Nurse comes if things get very bad but she’s so expensive.”

Welcome to our Brave New World . . .

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Its that Farage again . . .

There is a deal of hooha going on at the moment about the ‘persecution’ of Nigel Farage by the banking industry. I append below an interesting and informative email, dated 26 June 2023, from “Open Britain” explaining the situation. Our Nige does not emerge (surprise ! surprise !) smelling of roses . . .


Open Britain

Dear Ian,

Nigel Farage is all over Twitter today, claiming that he may be forced to leave the UK because his bank of 30+ years has decided it doesn’t want his business anymore, and no other bank will take him on.

He says it’s pure persecution…the Remainer Elite taking revenge for his role in delivering Brexit. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Needless to say, Farage is being more than a little economical with the actualité.

He DOES admit to being a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), as defined by the Financial Action Task Force, an international body set up in 1989 to set international standards for countering money laundering and terrorist financing.

He should not be surprised, then, that as a result, his bank is obliged by UK law – the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 – to carry out robust due diligence on him and his banking activities.

From what Farage has said, it appears that the bank has done this due diligence and concluded that, for some reason or other, he represents a level of risk they cannot tolerate.

So, why might that be?

Well, the main reasons a bank might close a PEP’s accounts are:

Suspicion of Money Laundering or Other Illegal Activity: This is the most common reason for closing a PEP's account. This can result from unusual transactions, particularly those involving large sums of money or transactions that do not match the account holder's typical behaviour.

Failure to Comply with KYC/AML Regulations: All banks are required by the Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations to carry out strict checks on their customers. If a PEP fails to provide the necessary documentation or information, or if the information provided raises concerns, the bank may choose to close the account.

Reputational Risk: By their very definition, PEPs are under public scrutiny, and any scandal associated with them can potentially harm the reputation of the bank. If a PEP becomes involved in a public scandal, especially one involving financial wrongdoing, a bank may decide to close an account to protect its own reputation. (Perish the thought that Farage would ever be involved in a public scandal!)

Regulatory Pressure: Sometimes, banks face pressure from regulators to sever ties with certain PEPs, particularly in scenarios involving international sanctions, corruption charges, or other high-profile legal issues. Bad as he is, Farage probably doesn’t quite fall into this category. Yet.

Business Risk: Banks also need to consider the business risk of maintaining the account. If the costs and risks associated with maintaining and monitoring the account outweigh the potential benefits (e.g., due to high compliance costs or the risk of fines for non-compliance), the bank may decide to close the account.

Given the limited amount of actual information in Farage’s theatrical outburst, it’s impossible to know which, if any, of these was behind his bank’s decision. But none of them seems like particularly good news for him, so we will watch with great interest as things unfold…especially if it looks like he might feel the need to emigrate as a result of it. (Will he take a small boat to France, I wonder?)

All the best,

Mark Kieran
CEO, Open Britain

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment