Monday, 30 June 2014

Pedal Power

Holmfirth, Yorkshire
    The UK over the last few years has become bicycle crazy and more and more people are getting into the saddle. For some it's to keep fit, for others they're making a conscious effort to save our already over polluted environment.

    Therefore the news that, The Tour De France, one of the largest sporting events is starting their 101st  road race in Leeds, Yorkshire on July 5th, has bike enthusiasts and locals spinning with excitement.

York Minster
    Although I've never cycled the route I have visited the area several times and the roads over the hills will certainly be a challenge for the competitors.

    But for those of you, who like me would rather admire the wonderful scenery from a car, I can recommend two places, York and Holmfirth, both of which are included in Stage Two.York of course is known for the Minster and Holmfirth is renowned, as the location where, Last of the Summer Wine, a BBC popular sitcom was filmed.


     So if you're in Yorkshire this week, it's all about pedal power. However, you could just park up the car for the night and watch the race going by, whilst supping a pint of Yorkshire Bitter.



Friday, 27 June 2014

Keeping out of the Way of the Coconuts


    I've been struggling the last couple of weeks to juggle my work in progress and maintain a presence on social media, due to family commitments.

    Normally at a weekend, I plan ahead for my biweekly blogs; I jot down ideas, do outlines, maybe even go out and take some photographs. This means that the rest of the time I can get on with writing my book, or tweeting.

    But, this has been impossible of late and being someone who is an organisation fanatic, I've had to admit to myself that writing, daily tweeting and regular blogging is not achievable. I'm throwing all of the coconuts up in the air and some of them are likely to crash down on top of my head, sooner rather than later.

    Therefore, I've had to sit down and reorganise my workload. My book had to remain my number one priority, staying at the top of my 'Must Do List'. So, Twitter friends I apologise because I will only be tweeting to you sporadically. Yes, I'm planning to neglect you and I'm afraid I may continue to do so for an indefinite period. However, I most definitely won't completely forget you.

    Blogger friends I will endeavour to blog twice a week, that means see you Monday, if a coconut doesn't get me that is.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Johnsmas Eve

The coastal bonfires are lit,
  the flames spark and spit.

    We'll touch the water and jump through the fire,
    build an effigy to top the pyre.

    The scent of fennel, rosemary and rue, waft through the breeze.
   To ward off the witches, warlocks and fairies, who dance and tease.

    Because there is no room for evil here to decieve,
    on this 23rd of June, Johnsmas Eve.

Friday, 20 June 2014

What do Golf, Religion, Education and Royal Romance have in Common?

St Andrews, Links Golf Course
         For most of this week the sun has been shining, with temperatures reaching heights that we in Scotland normally associate with overseas. So, I decided to make the most of the good weather and I made 120 mile round trip to St Andrews, Fife.

Golf Course, Club House to the right

       Many of you will have heard of this wonderful city, famous worldwide for its challenging links golf course; the course where Jack Nicklaus, sank a putt on the 18th hole in the 2005, British Open,

St Andrews University
    But, in more recent years its university which was founded in 1413, has shot to fame because it's where Prince William and Kate first set eyes on each other, fell in love and there meeting will now have its place in history.

In the campus of the university

     The city, in medieval times found itself playing a decisive role in the Scottish Reformation.  Both Protestant Preacher George Wishart and Cardinal Beaton, the last Catholic Cardinal prior to the Reformation were casualties in a  bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants, that saw Scotland break away from the Catholic Church.

St Salvator's College Chapel (university chapel)
     George being burnt at the stake in the Sea Tower of St Andrews Castle and the Cardinal assassinated in the castle, in revenge for the death of George.  
Plaque Commemorating George Wishart
    However, on Tuesday there were no championship games, sizzling romances, or battles to be had; only gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery.

St Andrews Castle


Sunday, 15 June 2014

Walk on By

Ethical Traders

    We may enjoy tucking into prawns in salad, sea-food cocktail, or biryani, but it's time for us to take note of where this popular shellfish is being sourced. Following an investigation it's alleged that our love for these shrimp like crustaceans are fuelling the slave labour market in Asia. 

    Men are said to be traded like live-stock and held against their will to work on the trawlers that catch the marine-life that we love. Some supermarkets have already stopped purchasing the product from one main supplier in Thailand. Others, are a little slower to react because from a business perspective they want to buy at the cheapest price possible, in order that they can both make a profit and satisfy the customer.

    However, the consumer has to take a portion of responsibility and the way we can do this, is by checking the label before we leave the store. If our supermarket isn't guaranteeing that the produce is from an ethical supplier we shouldn't buy. We need to walk on by and choose something different for the menu.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Please Don't Take the Fun out of Storytelling

     Are fairy-tales damaging our kids, because they're anti scientific? This is a question an eminent scientist has been asking himself and a thought that he shared with an audience at a recent literary festival.

     The statement itself has caused some controversy and may, or may not have been reported out of context; however it does give us something to ponder over.

     Okay, we all know that the frog turning into a prince, Cinderella going to the ball in a pumpkin carriage, Hansel and Gretal finding a house in the wood made of gingerbread, are fanciful tales. So, why have generations of parents read them to their children?

     I believe that it's a manner in which the sometimes harsh realities of life can be explained to a child in a way that they can more easily understand. It may also even cushion the blow, when they find out that there really are people who are wolves in sheep clothing.

     But, forgetting the underlying morals that the tales often try to teach and the important stimulation that the child's mind receives; to me it's also about the fun that is enjoyed by both the adult and child in the telling of a tall tale.



Monday, 9 June 2014

100 Days Left

Entrance to Visitor Centre at Bannockburn

    There are one hundred days left before the people of Scotland vote in a referendum that could change the political landscape of the whole of the United Kingdom.   

Scottish flag

    We will be asked to vote either, Yes to Independence or, No to Independence.  Now, while I am very patriotic and love the country where I was born and bred; I think this separation could be somewhat like a messy divorce.
Exhibit at Visitor Centre

    You know the scenario; the parties involved continue to argue about who gets this, or who pays for that, inclusive of the children. There's a real power struggle going on between the parents and the one who thinks they have the upper hand comes up with the idea that they should ask the kids, "Which parent do you want to live with?"

Telling the history of the battle

    Now, one of the kids is finding it difficult to choose between his parents, he loves them both. Each of the adults are using their persuasive powers full on, short of promising the kids the World. However, the parent who promised that nothing would change in the kids day to day lives, suddenly announces that they will be moving to another town after the divorce.

Stirling Castle in the distance from Bannockburn Centre

    The undecided kid knows that things will change if he chooses this parent, he'll after all be leaving all that he is familiar with. He is ultimately being asked by this parent to give up the things that help make his life a little more safe and secure, in this already uncertain world.
    He wishes it was within his power to stop them divorcing. But, he's realistic and he knows that the divorce is going ahead whether he likes it, or not. He needs more time and his parents have given him one hundred days to make up his mind. What will he do?

Robert the Bruce

    Seven hundred years ago, the question that now faces Scotland, as a nation wasn't decided at the ballot box, or divorce courts; axes were wielded and blood was spilled. Unlike the kid in the story though, we do have the power to stop the divorce going ahead.

Friday, 6 June 2014

A Day to Reflect

Village War Memorial
    Seventy years ago today, most of us are aware is the anniversary of D-Day. A day that many soldiers and civilians alike, lost their lives in a fight for freedom.

    Unfortunately, there has been and still is bloodshed going on throughout the world; however this day in 1944 changed the course of the world in which we live in today and the map of Europe.

Korean War Memorial, Bathgate, Scotland
     Many of the villages and towns in Scotland have memorials to commemorate the courage of their young men and women who have never returned from war.

    Whether, they died in the First, Second World Wars, somewhat forgotten wars such as the Korean, or more recent conflicts; it is a day to pause and reflect on what these individuals sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for us.

Lists of those who died in Korea

Monday, 2 June 2014

Emotional Gain


    Yesterday I went to lay some flowers on the grave of some dear relatives, their deaths spanning over a number of years back. Now, I'm not planning to get all morose on you, because that's not how the individuals I'm telling you about would want me to feel when I think of them. 

    Each and everyone of them impacted my life greatly and their influences throughout the times I was able to spend with them, played a huge part in making me the person I am today. And gloomy by nature, I'm not.   

    It was a muggy day, the thundery clouds were posing a constant threat as they hovered over the nearby hills. However, the time I spent at the graveside was rainless and it didn't start to fall until I was safely back into the car and on my way home. This I was truly thankful for, as rain always wants to gatecrash the celebration of life party that I would rather have for my departed loved ones.

    Of course being human, my emotions were naturally stirred and as I wasn't driving I decided I had time to examine the emotions that I had felt in the prior twenty minutes or, so. It was at this point I thought about how important this type of situation is to writers or, budding writers.

    Everyone tells you to write about what you know when you start out and although I haven't stuck to that rule of thumb rigidly, I do believe that we can only gain creatively by taking note of our feelings in times of sadness, anger, disappointment and joy. Whether it is how we feel when our pet dog dies, or when we realised our first love wasn't really love, all these experiences can all be used in our work, after all it is something we know.