Saturday, 28 November 2015

Kingdom of the Scots

St Andrews Castle
    It's the day the blue and white saltire flag is raised to full mast and the songs, Flower of Scotland and I would walk 500-miles by the Proclaimers, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand-up. 

National Museum Scotland, Edinburgh

    Of course, it's November 30th, St Andrew's day; a day that the Scots celebrate being Scottish and all that is Scottish.
Replica of Mary Queen of Scots Tomb

    I'm off to celebrate now, have a great day!

Sir Jackie Stewart's, Tyrell racing car. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

What would RLS Think?

Forth Rail Bridge, Scotland
    We celebrated the life and works of Robert Louis Stevenson the other week and you could say following on from there I'm including some engineering favourites of the Scots.

Falkirk Wheel, Scotland
     Okay, the connection is kind of feeble but the structures most certainly are not and I wonder what RLS's family would think of them.

The new Forth Road Bridge under construction in the forefront 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Book Week Scotland

John Buchan heritage Museum, Peebles
    We know that if an adventure book is well  written the characters come alive on the page and we the reader, are transported into the author's, thrilling world. There are of course writers who do it much better than others and one such author was John Buchan.

Tweed Bridge, Peebles

    The protagonist, Richard Hannay, features in Buchan's books, The 39 Steps, Greenmantle, The Island of Sheep, The Three Hostages and Mr Standfast. The unlikely, action hero has been and still is a favourite in film and on stage, one hundred years after he was created.

Plaques to both John Buchan and sister Anna also a novelist

    Born in Perth, Central Scotland and spending his child-hood-years in Pathhead, Kirkcaldy, Buchan took his fictional character Hannay on his thrilling journey into the Galloway Hills. These hills, surround Peebles a town in the Scottish Borders, where the author holidayed and a plaque can be seen on the wall of the Bank House, in which he stayed along with the other members of his family.

Peebles High Street, Galloway Hills in background

 A couple of weeks ago I went to the Royal Burgh of Peebles, where Buchan is still a local hero and I snapped some photographs so you too, could get a feel of his  charming world. A great place to visit virtually or in reality, Book Week Scotland.

The town of Perth, Central Scotland

Thursday, 19 November 2015

What a Wonderful World it Could be

    In the early 19th-century in the UK, many of the poorest population were employed in some way or another in the textile mills. The work was not restricted to adults, but children as young as the age of five worked alongside their mothers, as well as orphans. There were no infant schools or creches for the children, just sweat shops and a life of hard labour, working in excess of 12 hours per day.

The Institution for the Formation of Character (School)

    Robert Owen, a mill manager from Wales knew that the use of children in the mills was wrong and believing that the future of society evolved around them he wanted to change this cruel practice.

    After marrying a Scottish girl, Owen moved to New Lanark, Scotland, where he became the manager of his father-in-law's mill. This is where he put his beliefs into action, he removed the children from the factory floor into schools he had built for the worker's children.
    Schools were a rarity, his nursery and infant schools were the first of its kind, a place where the children could learn and play and their mother's could go to work knowing that their children were out of harms way.

Falls of the Clyde, New Lanark

    His vision didn't stop at schools, he envisaged a community where all were treated as equals and he went about building a model village in New Lanark. Social housing was provided for the mill workers, a shop where they could buy reasonably priced food, and a fund set-up for health-care. It was a place where families could work, live in safety and generally enjoy life together.

Cotton Mill, New Lanark
    Robert Owen, who some saw as an idealist, set about trying to make it a perfect world to live in and he took his ambitious plans to Indiana, US. Here he purchased the town of Harmonie, renaming it New Harmony, however, he returned to the UK, having failed to develop his plan successfully there.

Robert Owen's Home, New Lanark

    He wrote essays on the 'New View of Society' and the 'Principle of the Formation of the Human Character' on which his ideals were based and his conception of what a wonderful world it could be.

Plan of New Lanark

Robert Owen 1771-1858     #UniversalChildrenDay

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Society's Door

    Last month was 'National Bullying Month' in the US and in the UK this week 16th-20th November its anti-bullying week. Unfortunately, bullies don't confine their unpleasant activities to the month of October or a week in November they come out to torment every day, 365 days a year.

    This subject is something that is very close to my heart, as I was a victim of bullying. Bullies, as we know like to pick on someone they know or think won't retaliate to their taunting. You're singled out because there may be something that they identify as a weakness, or just because you're in the wrong place at the wrong time. You may come across them in school, the neighbourhood you live in or happen to journey on the number 39 bus alongside them.

    In my case, my encounter with my bully was at school and I had two characteristics that were a bully's dream come true, one being I was overweight,  the other being that I had a speech disorder. I can say 'was' and 'had' because they no longer apply, however at the time it was going on, I spent many tearful days and nights. Trying to ignore the jibes, the punches and bad jokes made at my expense wasn't always easy.

    Luckily for me I could talk to my family, teachers and with the support they gave me I realized that whether I stuttered or not, this bully would be a bully anyway. Bullies now have more ways in which they can connect with their victims and as much as I think the cyber world is great, it most definitely has incredibly bad points.

    I don't think bullies are going to be eradicated in the near future, thankfully though for their victims there are many more registered charities, organizations, specialist groups now, who can help those affected.  Awareness lets victims know that they no longer need  to make their journey alone and the bullies hopefully one day will accept that the door of society isn't open to them unless they change their ways.


If you liked this post you may also like 'Sticks and Stones' my blog post, October 26th, 2012.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

All Places Sacred to the Muse

   There have been so many writers whose lives have been cut short, one such writer was Robert Louis Stevenson, who passed away at the age of 44-years-old due to bronchial problems. However, the contribution he made to the world of literature undoubtedly didn't leave us feeling deprived. 

A Stevenson Light, NMS
    He wasn't interested in making a living in his family's business of lighthouse engineering, but a man who could use his life's experiences and put them into words that resonated with the reader.

Anstruther, Fife
    Many of his books, essays and poetry brought his love of travel, Scotland and the sea to the forefront. Whatever his family may have thought about him abandoning his career within their business, the time he spent travelling and studying engineering certainly didn't go to waste either.

Harbour at St Andrews, Fife
    For example, his visits to the coastal villages and towns of Fife and other parts of Scotland were mentioned and brought to life in his works. One place being, Anstruther which was included in the Education of an Engineer, Across the Plains and another, the old Hawes Inn, South Queensferry, near Edinburgh where he was born featured in Kidnapped.
     Like Anstruther, all places were sacred to the muse.

The Hawes Inn, South Queensferry

"Anstruther is a place sacred to the muse"
The Education of an Engineer: More Random memories, in and Across the Plains - Robert Louis Stevenson


Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Price You Paid

The Peebles Quadrangle (War Memorial)

On this special day,
Many of us will bow our heads and pray.

Whether we join together and form a crowd,
To demonstrate that we are proud.
Or, quietly at home take time to reflect,
It is our way of showing respect.

You gave us our freedom.
Your courage was selfless, but the price was high for your wisdom.

The love you had for your country was proven by your refusal to yield.
Resulting you paying with your life on the battlefield.

For that, we shall always remember,
On this day and forever.

The Peebles Quadrangle (B N H Orphoot 1922)

#remembranceday #foreverremember

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Walking with the Dinosaurs

Carving of a Mammoth
    Whether you believe we were put on this planet by, something, someone, arrived in a spaceship or in Darwin's theory that we evolved from other non-complex life-forms.

    Our being is somewhat a mystery and causes much debate amongst scientific, religious and ethical communities.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

    Going along to a museum and looking at the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and then looking at the mammals of various kinds that live in the here and now with us is most definitely fuel for an author's imagination.

Various dinosaurs and mammals

Sunday, 1 November 2015

El Dia de Los Muertos

Statue in Grounds of Abbotsford House

We loved you while you were here,
We cried when we realised you would no longer be near.

Time moves on.
So does life even although you are gone.

We now want to remember you and the times we had.
It's time to celebrate without being sad.

Garlands and wreaths make a flowery bed.
We will honour you today, the Day of the Dead.